Rebel Hard is the second novel in the Hard Play series by Nalini Singh.
Finished on: 30.7.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other novels in the series.]
Nayna has always been the good daughter, unlike her sister. Nayna even agreed to a traditional arranged marriage. But now that her parents are starting to set her up with men, Nayna starts having doubts about this. She decides to throw caution into the wind and allow herself one night of adventure with her best friend Ísa. Together, they had to a party where Nayna meets the most gorgeous man ever, Raj. Before their steamy make-out session leads to something more, Nayna inadvertently insults Raj and runs away. Only to meet Raj again the next day when her parents introduce him as a possible fiancé for her. The two of them are sure that they are wrong for each other, and they both have started to have serious doubts about wanting an arranged marriage altogether. But somehow, they can’t stay away from each other.
Rebel Hard was a fine read that I liked a little better than Cherish Hard (the first novel in the series), though not quite as much as I thought I would, given that the glimpses we got of NAyna and Raj were my favorite bits of that book. Still, I enjoyed it.
I really loved the whole set-up with the arranged marriage that basically forces Nayna to finally go through puberty (she is 28, no age creepiness). I mean, she was so busy with pleasing her family that she never got around to the part of puberty that means putting some distance between yourself and your parents to figure out where you end and they begin (and vice versa). And it was kind of nice to basically get this coming-of-age process for her at this later stage in her life, to see that her hunger for adventure was not just something that grew out of desperation, but was genuinely hers.
Singh also understands what kind of man needs to be to make the romance work. Not one who tells Nayna who she is, nor one who steps into the role of her parents (as could have both easily happened with his ideas for a traditional family), but one who gives her the space to figure herself out. This was nicely done, and made rooting for the both of them easy.
I also liked that both Nayna and Raj are deeply rooted in their families and the Indian/Fijian culture that Singh uses cleverly to model some of the things in the novel after Bollywood dramas. There are huge weddings and deathbed requests, there are evil schemers and last-second changes of heart. But all with a sense of realism that keeps things more grounded.
What made me a little hesitant about the novel is that it is maybe a tad too long. And I was hoping that Raj’s history would be talked about a little more – his adoption background seemed reduced to a single issue, I thought. Plus, there is a less tangible element where I just didn’t get as excited about it as I hoped I would. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is complaining at a very high level because I did absolutely like the novel and Nayna and Raj. Maybe my expectations were just the tiniest bit too high.
Summarizing: a good read.