One sultry night, a young bride overhears an extraordinary conversation. The voices speak of a plot to murder a wife who has failed to produce a child and whose family has failed to produce the promised dowry...
Megha is sick with horror when she realizes she is the intended victim. Her husband--the very man who tied the sacred necklace of marriage around her neck--and his mother are plotting to kill her! In the moment of panic, she runs for her life. Frantically racing through Palgaum's deserted streets, her way lit only by the lights strung up for the Diwali festival, her single goal is to escape death by fire. But fleeing from her would-be killers seems impossible--unless she can find someone to help her...
To approach her best friend would bring scandal to an innocent woman's doorstep, and turning to her own strict, conservative family is out of the question. Instead, with nothing but the sari she wears and a memory of kindness, Megha finds her way to Kiran, the one man who has shown her friendship and respect. Hiding her in his apartment, Kiran becomes her protector. But the forbidden attraction that grows between them can only bring more danger...
Caught between tradition and the truths buried in her heart, a dowry bride will discover the real cost of the only things worth having in life...
"Packed with detail...splendidly depicts passion, brutality, and cultures in conflict." --Dorothy Garlock
A young Indian bride flees her marriage after overhearing her husband and mother-in-law plot her murder in Bantwal's middling debut. Angry that, a year after the arranged marriage, Megha's father has not paid the dowry and Megha has not yet become pregnant, Amma, her husband's mother, wants her dead. Megha bolts and turns to Kiran, her husband's cousin, whom she remembers as being kind. While Amma searches for Megha, Megha and Kiran feel a forbidden spark. Bantwal lays on thick rich cultural detail, but it's not enough to overcome the uninspired prose and thin characters: the villains are poor, ugly, boorish and lack motivation for their cruel acts, while the heroes are rich, handsome and polite (says Kiran: "I happen to believe in things like decency and integrity, you know"). The ending may surprise, but getting to it can be exasperating.
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Kensington Publishing Corporation
August 31, 2007
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Excerpt from The Dowry Bride by Shobhan Bantwal
Her parents named her Megha, which means "cloud" in Sanskrit, perhaps because she cast a gray shadow over their lives at a time when they didn't expect overcast skies. She was an unexpected, unpleasant surprise--rather late in their lives. Her father was in his forties, her mother in her thirties. When they were desperately hoping it would at least turn out to be a boy after having had two girls, now ages thirteen and eleven, she came along--another screaming infant girl--with all the wants and needs and tribulations of a female, all the burdens of a Hindu Brahmin woman.
Her father never recovered from the disappointment. Her mother quietly accepted it as her destiny. Together they began to contemplate how they would ever manage to put aside enough money to pay three varadakhshinas. Dowries.
Some Hindus believe that if you give your child a depressing name, you can keep evil away from it. They often apply a dot of kohl on a baby's face to mar its perfection, as no one will be tempted to put a hex on a flawed child. Megha was told she was an unusually beautiful baby, bright and full of energy. She often wondered if the name Megha was her spot of kohl, guaranteed to deflect the evil eye. When asked about it, her mother said the only reason they called her Megha was because they happened to like the name.
Then there was the astrologer, a man known for his accuracy, who had cast her janam-patrika. Horoscope. He had apparently predicted a dark, threatening period in Megha's life, when a large cloud would settle over her head, and Yama, the god of death, would pay her a visit. He wasn't able to foretell exactly when . . . but the menace would come, he'd warned.
It would come. It was bound to come--sooner or later.