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Book Critique: Rebel Hard (Hard Play Series #2)

For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation:  Another eye candy kind-of plot that not only pleases the primary senses of the readers, but also touches the romantic hearts who want a happy ending, despite the serious family dynamics.

Rebel Hard is the second book in the Hard Play Series by Nalini Singh published in September of 2018. The primary plot revolves around Heera Nayna Sharma - an accountant and friend of Isalind Rain - and Raj Sen - the hot guy Nayna meets at a party.

This series focuses on the Bishop-Esera clan that we met in the second book, Rock Hard, in the Rock Kiss Series. A family that totally revolves around Rugby, love, friendship and above all deep emotional family bonds. We had seen Gabriel "Gabe" Bishop's, the oldest son of the clan, story in that book where he falls in love with Charlotte "Charlie" Baird. However, in Rock Wedding, Nalini Singh mentions that since she hadn't given a proper wedding for Gabe and Charlie, she would create a spin-off on the Bishop-Esera clan leading upto their wedding. Which means we will have more books coming up soon, and perhaps we will see the Schoolboy Choir Band members again. Although this time Nalini veers off a bit from the Bishop-Esera clan, but nonetheless a story connected to them.

We met Nayna Sharma in Cherish Hard, as the strong but shy accountant friend of Isalind "Isa" Magdalena Rain-Stefansdottir. In that book, Nalini Singh had given us a sub-plot involving Nayna and a certain Raj, who happened to be friend of Sailor "Sail" Bishop, now Isa's husband. And now we have their story here.

Nayna Sharma realizing that a traditional marriage would be her personal nightmare, decides to take herself off from the arranged-marriage market. But then Raj Sen's proposal comes to her family. Raj on the other hand is deeply rooted in traditions and wants strong family ties. Will Raj give her the much needed freedom despite being her husband? Or will Nayna run away from him even knowing that he would be the best thing to happen to her, for the want of freedom?

When I was reading Cherish Hard and Raj/Nayna's sub-plot, I had a feeling that Nalini would spin a tale for Nayna and Raj, similar to how she had penned Rock Addiction and Rock Hard - stories of Fox and Molly in Rock Addiction; and Gabriel and Charlie in Rock Hard - where the timelines intertwine and readers get to see the same scene from two different points of view. That's exactly what she did here as well.

Another similarity Nalini has with the Rock Kiss series is that the second book in both the series veer away from the central group the stories are made off, giving us a bonus story of pairs that are connected to the central group. With Rock Kiss series, we got Rock Hard, and here we get Rebel Hard.

Another similarity that Nalini brings in from the Rock Kiss series is the background of Raj Sen, more around his birth and childhood. It resonates with what Zachary Fox was portrayed with in the first book Rock Addiction. Wonder why Nalini puled in so many similarities between both the series.

Although the entire plot in general also reminded me some of the drama from the 2002 hit British romantic sports comedy Bend it like Beckham. May be because of the wedding drama in that film as well that we see here in this plot twice. 

Nalini Singh takes us through the dynamics of Indian families, the chess play of arranged-marriage drama and the gossip world of Indian Families who like to put their nose in everyone's business - sometimes it’s good and sometimes it's bad. Took me back to my years in India when I was living with my parents.

Nalini also gives a peek into the extravaganza of Indian weddings, the hoopla around it and the drama that thoroughly entertains everyone along with music, dance, festivities and fun. She also brings in the Indian-Fijian culture and cuisine into the mix. 

The entire plot touched a chord for me very deep. I could relate to Nayna so much. Her story is exactly how I wanted things to go, and in fact some scenes I had envisioned myself to happen or dreamed about. Back when I was in the arranged-marriage market, I craved for someone who could see me as me as opposed to either child bearing machine or a child bearing machine plus money earning one.

I wanted someone who would take the pains to know about me before getting tied down; blend his plans with my plans for future rather than overwrite my plans; someone who gave me the freedom I want. I am glad Nalini gave a very happy ending for Nayna. Very surprising that 18 years later Nalini penned something that was exactly happening to me other than the outcome that is different for me compared to Nayna. May be I was born some 18 years early in life, who knows. 

Nalini has each chapter with a funny title, just like how she had done with Rock Hard plot when she was weaving the story around Gabriel and Charlie. Perhaps this is the theme she would follow for the Hard Play series. 

There is subtle comic relief between Nayna and Raj as they date and get to know each other. They argue over Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy characters from Pride and Prejudice which brought a huge smile for me. Although Nalini mentions that Nayna has never heard a male point of view on the book, but I have heard it. If you remember, in the 1998 hit American romantic film You've Got Mail, there is a scene between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan that begins with argument on Pride and Prejudice. Tom Hanks has some serious opinions about the characters there. Check it out below.

Just like her other books, the plot is heavily loaded with romantic scenes, but there is a strong base to the plot keeping it away from it becoming just a juicy plot. She adds a lot of inconsequential details and sub-plots which would clearly become main plots soon. There is a bit of repeat paraphrasing.

Another eye candy kind-of plot that not only pleases the primary senses of the readers, but also touches the romantic hearts who want a happy ending, despite the serious family dynamics. Looking forward to see the stories of the rest of the Bishop-Esera Clan.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Heera Nayna Sharma's family includes - her parents, Gaurav and Shipa Sharma; her grandmother Aji; her erstwhile flighty sister Madhuri. Aji has a boyfriend Mr. Tawhiri Hohepa. 

b. Raj Sen's family includes - his adopted parents Jitesh and Sangeeta Sen; step-brother Navin and his wife Komal; step-sister Aditi. Aditi shows very deep interest in Harlow Chan, her friend, who happened to be step-brother to Isa Rain.

c. In Cherish Hard, we had seen that at the end of the plot, Nayna was working as CFO for Sailor's upcoming Landscaping business with a twist. In this plot we see that she becomes an independent CFO for start-up companies, getting them to a stable situation before moving on. Very lucrative job indeed.

d. In the epilogue, we see that the Sen-Sharma family have their next generation cropped up - Madhuri and her husband Dr. Sandesh have twin girls; Navin and Komal have a son and a daughter; while Raj and Nayna have a son named Aarav.

e. At one point in the plot, Nalini mentions about a past for Komal, the evil sister-in-law, concerning Taveuni, an island off the coast of Vanua Levu. But she doesn’t elaborate on what that is. Although she gives Navin and Komal a happy ending. Will she have his as a short story in a newsletter perhaps? Have to check that out.

f. Aditi, Raj's sister and Harlow, Isa's step-brother, is shown to have sparks between them. However, Nalini doesn’t show a happily ever after yet. May be will be sub-plot in a future book in the story or novella / short story for them.

2. Sub Plots:

a. From the Rock Kiss Series:

i. Members of the Schoolboy Choir Band: All of them get married to their chosen partners in Rock Wedding.

1) Zachary Fox - lead singer. Married to Molly Webster and their story told in Rock Addiction.

2) David Rivera - the drummer. Married to Thea Arsana, their publicist; and story told in Rock Courtship.

3) Noah St. John - the guitarist. Married to Kathleen "Kit" Devingy and their story told in Rock Redemption.

4) Abraham "Abe" Joshua Bellamy - the keyboardist. Remarried to his ex-wife, Sarah Bellamy; has a son, Theodore "Theo" Gregory Bellamy, at the end of Rock Wedding, which gives their story.

ii. In Rock Courtship, we are introduced to David Rivera's two brothers. But Nalini Singh mentions only name of one brother - Zeke - but doesn’t give the name of his second brother. Which she doesn’t do even at the end of the series. However, she does hint at plausible love stories between Thea's sisters and David's brothers. May be Nalini will bring them back in a different series spinning-off from this series

iii. In Rock Wedding, Nalini has a hot pink Ferrari with diamantes and pink fur on the foot pedals. I wonder who it belongs to. Nalini doesn’t explore that further in the plot although she does indicate that she has two new short stories on her website that will give the readers more insight into the pink Ferrari and other little inconsequential scenes she has given us all through this plot.  Have to soon find those newsletters and read to satisfy my curiosity.

b. Bishop-Esera clan that were introduced to us in the Rock Hard book of the Rock Kiss Series:

i. Joseph and Alison Esera - parents of the clan, adopted father to Gabriel and Sailor.

ii. Gabriel "Gabe" Bishop - First son of Alison and Brian Bishop; falls in love with Charlotte "Charlie" Baird. Story told in Rock Hard. However, in Rock Wedding, we are intimidated that they are married, a wedding we hope to see in this spin-off series.

iii. Sailor "Sail" Bishop - second son of Alison and Brian Bishop; married to Isalind "Isa" Magdalena Rain-Stefansdottir and daughter Emmaline "Sweetiepie". Story told in Cherish Hard.

iv. Jacob "Jake" Esera - third son, step-sibling to Gabe and Sailor through Joseph Esera; has a daughter Esme, wife shown as deceased. In Cherish Hard, it is shown he has a girlfriend. Could this be the deceased wife?

v. Daniel "Danny" Esera - fourth son, step-sibling to Gabe and Sailor through Joseph Esera; unmarried still as of Rock Hard.

vi. Brian Bishop - Gabriel and Sailor's birth father who abandoned them as kids. 

c. Isalind "Isa" Rain's step-siblings have their own sub-plots going on:

i. Cate uses prosthetic legs since she lost her legs in an accident as a child. She and Danny Esera seem to have a fire going on between them. They are a mere 13 and 14 years in this plot, but will Nalini spin a plot between them eventually when they grow up. We have to wait and see

3. Grammatical / Character / Plot / Geographical / Historical / Mythological Errors:

a. On Pg. 181, Line 7, it should be "…code of silence…"

b. On Pg. 191, Line 4 from bottom, it should be "…came here were not…"

c. Nalini while talking about the traditional Indian Saree, only on one place (Pg. 295, she has the blouse accompanied called as blouse. Everywhere else she calls it as kurta. Wonder why so. 

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