Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Girl at the Wedding : Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Puvattur, March 17, 2007

Kishore woke up to the persistent chirping of a single sparrow at his balcony window. Unlike the pigeons that daily created ruckus outside his window in Sharjah, this little songbird didn’t annoy him. Its song served as a reminder that this morning was different. One of leisure. Today he wouldn’t encounter ready-mix concrete trucks or concrete pumps or rebars. Nor would the unforgiving desert sun scorch him.
Kishore pulled the cotton blanket over his head and sank back into the bed. He would sleep a little more. Heck, he had earned it.
For the last two years he had been forced to cancel his vacation in favour of work. His company had rewarded him with a three-month break this time. He would enjoy it to the fullest.
Hours later, the scent of hot coffee wafted into his room along with the familiar smell of neer dosa and kadala curry. His stomach growled and his eyes flew open. His mother knew exactly how to wake him up. He dragged himself up and plodded into the bathroom to shower.
After thirty minutes, Kishore was wolfing down neer dosas in the kitchen. He hadn’t even waited for his father and brother to join him, or bothered to sit at the dining table. Instead, he sat on a low wooden stool next to the wood-burning stove where his mother stood making the dosas. Exactly the way he used to during his school days. The position had two advantages. One, he could chit-chat with his mother as she worked. Two, he could get piping hot neer dosa served right onto his plate without any delay.
Wrong move. He shouldn’t have.
He realized it only after the damage was done.
“You are eating like you haven’t seen neer dosa in years,” said Uma, his mother, as she served him yet another hot dosa.
“I haven’t. Who has the patience to make neer dosa? I mostly ate burgers for breakfast.”
“But you said there were good Malayalee restaurants in Sharjah and Dubai. You could have eaten from there.”
“I could have. But who has the time?”
His mother had no idea how hectic his days were. When the company vehicle came to pick him up at six in the morning, breakfast was the last thing on his mind. He would have attended at least ten phone calls by then, consulting with the night-shift engineers or dealing with their clients. By the time he reached the site office, there would be papers to sign and emails to send. That would be followed by visits to their construction sites. Mid-morning, his office boy would pop in to ask if he needed breakfast. On his nod, he would fetch a burger from the nearby cafeteria, and place it on his desk along with some hot tea. That was the only breakfast he had been accustomed to in Dubai. On Friday, his off day, he would sleep till afternoon. Then he would end up at a friend’s or colleague’s home for a pre-arranged brunch. Being a workaholic, he hadn’t truly missed the noisy and sumptuous breakfasts at home.
“That is why I said you should get married,” Uma said and then wiped her eyes with the loose end of her saree.
God! How could she jump from food to marriage so fast? Time to flee. But the prospect of eating a few more neer dosas prompted him to talk his way out of the situation.
“Please, Mom. I told you. I can’t get married now. Not at this phase in my career. It would be difficult for the girl as well. I leave at six in the morning and arrive back at ten at night.”
“That is perfectly fine. Your father is never at home. Have you seen me complaining? We, women, are resilient. We adapt to any situation, unlike you men!”
“Mom, what if my wife couldn’t cook?”
“It’s okay even if she doesn’t know. You need a companion to make you eat on time.”
“But Mom—” Kishore began, but Uma cut him off.
“I don’t want to hear anything. You’re not going back this time without getting married. Do you hear that?”
Kishore knew it was prudent not to argue further, especially as she might stop making the dosas if she got upset. So, he sat there and allowed her to nag him. Once his stomach was full, he fled from the kitchen.
He found his brother Vishal in the living room, engrossed in the replay of a cricket match. They were discussing India’s chances in the ongoing cricket world cup when their mother ambushed their peaceful get-together.
“Knock some sense into his head. Unless he gets married, you won’t be able to marry,” said Uma, addressing Vishal. Clever! She knew exactly which button to push.
Vishal immediately changed his allegiance and joined his mother’s side. The cheater. “Yeah. Get married. Clear the way.”
“You can’t get married for another two years. Who will marry you? You will need to complete your MD for any girl to consider you as a prospective husband. You get that?” said Kishore. Vishal was doing his MD in paediatrics at the nearby medical college.
“Want to bet? If I put my mind to it, I can find a willing girl tomorrow. You don’t know your brother’s star value,” challenged Vishal.
“Enough. Not another word,” said Uma, swatting Vishal on his upper arm. Perhaps she was scared her younger son might bring a girl home, just to prove his point. Then she turned to glower at Kishore. “You are getting married this time. That’s it. I will tell Amma to look into the matter. She has already shortlisted a few good girls.”
A groan escaped Kishore. Her Amma, their grandmother or Ammamma as they called her, was Cupid himself in disguise. She was the mastermind behind every arranged marriage in their family. Once she took it upon herself to take away the freedom of some hapless chap, she rested only after the guy had given up every ounce of his freedom.
But Kishore loved his Ammamma. She was an award-winning poet and writer. All his friends adored her because of the love she showered on them. He didn’t want to be deprived of her company just because his mother wished her to be his marriage-broker.
“Mom, I promise. Give me a few weeks to enjoy my vacation. After that, you may drag me to any number of houses in search of a wife,” said Kishore. Uma beamed at him.
After two weeks, he was going on a backpacking trip to Europe. He wasn’t going to tell her that. Vishal cleared his throat as he knew Kishore’s plan. Would the traitor give him away? Kishore narrowed his eyes at him. Vishal extended his left palm towards him and then smacked his upturned right fist on it twice. He was signing discreetly for money.
 Kishore mouthed “Okay.”
 Vishal went back to watching the cricket match.
 “Okay. Don’t think we are going to sit idle till then. Let me go and call Latha. She might know some girls,” Uma declared and then walked away.
His mother had two sisters and all three were close. If his mother declared her mission to them, they would jump in without blinking an eye. Kishore let out a long sigh.
“Give me my money. Or…”
“Go tell, loafer,” Kishore snapped. He wasn’t in a mood to fight. So, he picked up the car key and walked out of his home.
His classmate Anil was getting married the next day. To Kishore’s neighbour, Lena. One more deluded young man was getting sacrificed at the altar of love.

Time to visit him.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

BOOKSPOTLIGHT: Sweet Surprises ( Inn Love) by Devika Fernando


A fiercely independent interior designer from America - A charming Italian man with a secret identity - An old villa with its own secrets

Italy has always fascinated Victoria. Now that the interior designer from America is there to help convert a grand old villa into an inn, it feels like a dream come true 
 even more so when she falls head over heels in love with the handsome gardener. The few precious days she shares with Riccardo make her rethink every decision shes ever made in life. But just when Victoria is ready to take a leap of faith, she learns that her irresistible Italian isnt who she thinks.

Riccardo Moretti is the heir to a marble empire fortune and definitely not relationship material. But when the fascinating American woman overseeing the villa
s transformation mistakes him for someone else, he seizes the opportunity. With her, he can truly be himself, removed from scandals and from his familys claws. Hes lost his closed-off heart to the talented, outspoken foreigner - but will their love be enough to overcome all the obstacles and secrets in their way?



Riccardo glanced at the woman walking next to him, wondering why he felt this strong pull towards her. It wasnt merely attraction, though he found her utterly beautiful. His body was reacting way too powerfully to her nearness. That moment when hed had his arm around her and her curves pressed close, he had felt such longing that it was almost a physical ache. Another second of her in his embrace and hed have done something as foolish as kissing her.
Idiota, he mentally scolded himself, sei spazzo. It was crazy to think she would welcome such advances. They were basically strangers, and she had no idea about his true identity. And yet, he yearned with every fiber of his being to get to know her better.
He grabbed her hand to stop her in her tracks. His short cut had taken them through a small thicket of trees that loomed like ghostly shapes in the moonlit semi-darkness.
Theres a small stream running through here, he explained and saw her lean forward to check why he had stopped her from strolling on.
Oh, youre right!
Acutely aware that he was still holding her hand, Riccardo had to push himself to focus on the here and now.
Its very narrow here, just a few meters. There are stones you can step on to cross it, but you have to know where to set your foot. He turned to her, feeling her fingers tremble in his hold. Im sorry, it was stupid to lead you this way but its the short cut I am used to. We can either walk back a bit and take the normal route or you can let me help you across.
She peered at the inky expanse of water, trickling slowly rather than rushing like a proper stream. Ah well, whats a night stroll without a bit of a risk? With a chuckle, Victoria shrugged. Was she aware that she hadnt pulled her fingers out of his grip yet? Lets do this. But I have a feeling you did this on purpose, so you can be a gallant knight in shining armor without seeming chauvinistic.
Yet again, she surprised him. Riccardo laughed, giving her fingers a squeeze. No, I swear. I took this familiar path automatically, I wasnt thinking. And how could he think straight when being near her scrambled all his brain cells? Shall we?
Lead the way, fearless knight.
With another laugh, Riccardo oriented himself and then pointed at a dark shape by their feet. Here, see. This is the first stone. Theyre all big enough to get a grip but they might be a bit slippery. Just follow in my footsteps.
At her nod, he took the first step and led her cautiously across the few meters of water. She let go of his hand as soon as they had crossed the brook, and he felt oddly bereft.
Only five more minutes, then were there. He nodded ahead, at where the lights were much brighter and closer now.
Great. She gave a single shiver, hugging herself.
You are cold. Im sorry. It can cool down rapidly here at night.
He had no idea why he was apologizing for something clearly out of his control and not his fault. Reacting on instinct, he slipped out of his leather jacket and draped it around her shoulders. His hands lingered on her arms for a precious second or two, feeling her lean into the touch before he stepped away.
Thank you, she mumbled, her voice quiet and wobbly. Was she as impacted by their closeness and the tension shimmering around them as he was?
Calling himself a fool again, Riccardo lengthened his stride. The sooner he got her home, the better, or he would really do something stupid and invite her for dinner and a glass of wine.


This small-town romance series features novels that each revolve around a bed & breakfast in a different country. The books are sweet romances, set in countries like England, Canada, and Italy. They can be read separately as stand-alones with a happy ending and are great for fans of Nora Roberts. No cliffhangers, no cheating, but some mild swearing.

Book 1: Tantalizing Temptations (England) |
Book 2: Hidden Hopes (Canada) |


Almost as soon as Devika Fernando could write, she imagined stories and poems. After finishing her education in Germany and returning to her roots in Sri Lanka, she got a chance to turn her passion into her profession. Having lived in Germany and in Sri Lanka with her husband has made her experience the best (and the worst) of two totally different worlds - something that influences her writing. Her trademark is writing sweet and sensual, deeply emotional romance stories where the characters actually fall in love instead of merely falling in lust.

What she loves most about being an author is the chance to create new worlds and send her protagonists on a journey full of ups and downs that will leave them changed. She draws inspiration from everyone and everything in life. Besides being a romance novel author, Devika is a faithful servant to all the cats and dogs she has adopted. When she's not writing, she's reading or thinking about writing.