Does Love Still Exist?
By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar author of Love Comes Later
St. Valentine may be horrified by the cherubs touting candy, flowers or jewelry. The overemphasis of eros, or romantic love, may have merged out of rampant marketeering. Between Christmas and Easter, after all, is a lot of retail silence. In modern society, with women marrying later, and partners divorcing earlier – not waiting for children to grow up – does love still exist?
I had a great idea in 2009; I would write a book about how a modern person with traditional values would find love. I didn’t think this would be so difficult. After all, I’d managed to resist the pressures of my own South Asian culture until the spinsterly age of 26, when, as my father put it, “to find a good man who would make a commitment to me” even if he wasn’t Indian.
Fresh from an unlikely, whirlwind romance in the desert, I sat down to explore in fiction the difficult choices facing young Qatari men and women amongst the myriad dilemmas of love, choice, honor, and duty.
The Qatari characters were based on a meld of dozens of stories I knew of real people; but the insertion of a South Asian girl into the love triangle was all my own.
I put Abdulla, the male protagonist, and Sangita, the unexpected loved interest, in a small London apartment. And waited for sparks to fly. In a Disneyesque-romantic genre, move, they were on a countdown; three days.
But nothing was happening. There they were; young, attractive, in close proximity, and I couldn’t believe that they were falling in love. All the elements were there but the emotions were missing.
I started asking everyone: “How do people fall in love?”
My older Indian friends were surprised.
“Didn’t you have a love marriage?” They asked me, products of the arranged marriage system. “Don’t you know?”
“Seems so long ago,” I muttered, well out of earshot of my husband.
“I loved your book,” another friend said. “I’ve never known what love is…” she said, with a dreamy look in her, having been arranged to her husband.
“It’s all the same after a while,” I said to her dryly, watching our husbands on their mobile phones while we mothers ran after our children.
“But how can they fall in love,” I asked my Qatari friends, growing desperate for realism as the book entered a seemingly endless cycle of revisions.
“She has to be hot,” one of my male beta readers said, in all honesty.
Chemistry. Right. I forgot that part, somehow, settling into comfortable domesticity.
Abdulla and Sangita did eventually find their way in the story. The sequel to the book is in progress and explores an equally murky area: what happens after the spark? Are the chances for survival of ‘falling into’ love greater?
I grew up with the idea that no, falling in love did not guarantee romantic success; making allegiances between well researched partners was stacking the cards in your favor. My parents’ anti-falling in love argument was the 50% divorce rate in America.
We’ll see what happens for Abdulla and Sangita as they try to grow their spark into a fire to heat their home.
What do you think? Do you fall in and out of love? Or do you choose to love?
Winner of Best Indie Book Award, Romance, 2013
Semi Finalist, Best Novel, eFestival of Words, 2013
Finalist, New Talent Award, Festival of Romance, 2013
“…a deliciously tangled plot and insight into life on the Persian Gulf.”
Blurb: When newlywed Abdulla loses his wife and unborn child in a car accident, the world seems to crumble beneath his feet. Thrust back into living in the family compound, he goes through the motions—work, eat, sleep, repeat. Blaming himself for their deaths, he decides to never marry again but knows that culturally, this is not an option. Three years later, he’s faced with an arranged marriage to his cousin Hind, whom he hasn’t seen in years. Hard-pressed to find a way out, he consents to a yearlong engagement and tries to find a way to end it. What he doesn’t count on, and is unaware of, is Hind’s own reluctance to marry.
Longing for independence, she insists on being allowed to complete a master’s degree in England, a condition Abdulla readily accepts. When she finds an unlikely friend in Indian-American Sangita, she starts down a path that will ultimately place her future in jeopardy.
The greatest success of Rajakumar’s novel is the emotional journey the reader takes via her rich characters. One cannot help but feel the pressure of the culturally mandated marriage set before Hind and Abdulla. He’s not a real Muslim man if he remains single, and she will never be allowed freedoms without the bondage of a potentially loveless marriage. It’s an impossible situation dictated by a culture that they still deeply respect.
Rajakumar pulls back the veil on life in Qatar to reveal a glimpse of Muslim life rarely seen by Westerners.
About the Author: Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had a baby, and made the transition from writing as a hobby to a full time passion. She has since published seven e-books including a mom-ior for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me, a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies, a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories, and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace.
Her recent books have focused on various aspects of life in Qatar. From Dunes to Dior, named as a Best Indie book in 2013, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. Love Comes Later was the winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013 and is a literary romance set in Qatar and London. The Dohmestics is an inside look into compound life, the day to day dynamics between housemaids and their employers.
After she joined the e-book revolution, Mohana dreams in plotlines. Learn more about her work on her website at www.mohanalakshmi.com or follow her latest on Twitter: @moha_doha.
Could You Give Up Your Independence For Love? Guest Post by Julie Belfield (@Jabelfield) #blogtour #Eternal
In celebration of Independence Day here in America, I thought it would be sorta fun to lasso UK native author, Julie Belfield for a guest post on the basic theme of Independence. Ms. Belfield, always a good sport, readily agreed to stop in and share her thoughts on independence as it relates to her upcoming release, Eternal.
Without further ado and delays, I present you with Ms. Julie Belfield.
COULD YOU GIVE UP YOUR INDEPENDENCE FOR LOVE?
Well, could you?
How about if that loss of independence was what kept you safe?
I’m talking about paranormal romance, of course.
I mean, a human woman meets a supernatural dude and suddenly finds herself thrust into a world where she’s seriously weaker than most she encounters … it would a dangerous situation to find yourself in.
And if said supernatural dude is worth his salt, he’d do his damnedest to keep you safe.
But just how much of the reins would you be willing to hand over to him when it came to protection? To lay that amount of your trust in one person would undoubtedly strip away a little of your independence, right?
But what if that was your best chance of staying alive?
What if that was the only way you could stay with the one you love?
It wouldn’t have to mean flinging yourself into his arms like a damsel in distress at every sign of danger. It wouldn’t have to mean being locked in a padded cell to avoid all possible self-damaging situations. Nor would it mean never seeing the light of day again, or being denied the right to pick up heavy boxes, or being refused time in the kitchen lest you break a nail, or answering the front door should somebody call, or getting to go shopping and spending quality time with friends or family …
However … just supposing you’d become the only female, living within pack of male werewolves who would go to the ends of the earth to protect you like the prized gem you are?
Meet Jem Stonehouse. I’ve just described her life. Yet, somehow, she’s still happy.
Could you be?
Or would living by rules you didn’t get to make drive you nuts?
Happy (belated) Independence Day to all the American folks, by the way.
Makes you want to add the book to your Goodreads TBR pile right this second, doesn’t it? Well, what are you waiting for? Here’s the LINK — DO EET!
Thanks for visiting with us, Julie, and much success with the new novel in the Holloway Pack series.
You can learn more about Julie Belfield, and her fabulous books on her website.
It was our first Mardi Gras since moving to the Deep South from Ohio, and I was in the midst of an epic case of culture shock. I couldn’t understand why-oh-why the wives of the parading mystic society members wore hats, heels, pearls and fur coats to a parade. It was seventy degrees outside!
We’d been to a number of parades and had a great time mingling with other average Mobilians, but on this day, one of the older, more prestigious societies was rolling. Usually the wives sit in the grandstands provided for them. We ended up next to a group who chose to watch from the street, for whatever reason.
Our kids were quite young—our daughter was one and our son was four—and very cute, which means they got a crap-ton of stuffed animals and other throws tossed their way. When we got too much stuff, we made sure to share with the other people around us. It’s an unwritten rule in Mobile that you take care of the kids near you so everyone has a good time.
The fur-coated ladies next to us had apparently not gotten the memo. They hogged all the throws and when one suggested they share, I overheard the other tell her, “No way!”
Now, what on earth does a wealthy, middle-aged woman need with several pounds of beads and trinkets that are clearly meant for children? She was so rude that I took a picture of her from the back so I could remember that moment.
She stayed with me and I began to ask myself questions: How insecure is she that she flaunts her fur coat in tank-top weather? How bitter must you be to refuse to share with a bunch of little kids? What secrets is she hiding under that coat and big hair? What is her husband like? Her poor children?
And this is where my character Julianne was born. Her mother is so preoccupied with keeping up appearances that she can’t see how dysfunctional she is and that she’s transferring it to her children, especially her gifted seventeen-year-old daughter. Add in a father who’s unplugged, a brother who’s left the nest for college, and a mentor/grandfather-type whose sudden illness turns Julianne’s world upside down, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster … or a YA book.
Back of the Book: Julianne counts the days until she can pack her bags and leave her old-money, tradition-bound Southern town where appearance is everything and secrecy is a way of life. A piano virtuoso, she dreams of attending a prestigious music school in Boston. Failure is not an option, so she enlists the help of New England Conservatory graduate Isaac Laroche to help her.
She can’t understand why he suddenly gave up Boston’s music scene to return to the South. He doesn’t know her life depends on escaping it. Julianne must face down madness from without, just as it threatens from within. Isaac must resist an inappropriate attraction, but an indiscretion at a Mardi Gras ball-the pinnacle event for Mobile’s elite-forces their present wants and needs to collide with sins of the past.
Will Julianne accept the help she’s offered and get everything she ever wanted, or will she self-destruct and take Isaac down with her?