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No Strings Attached

I have based my romance in Bangalore. My hero Samar Pratap Singh is one of the country`s top lensmen.  My heroine Nina Sabharwal works in the Marketing section of the Bangalore branch of a fictitious daily called India!

There is much passion of the going-up-in-flames kind, there are doubts, misunderstandings but ultimately love triumphs, as it always does.

Samar and Nina’s story unfolds amidst all the colour, drama and excitement that living in a modern Indian city holds. It’s not so much about how exotic and different life is in India as about how similar women are under the skin, when it comes to our jobs, our thought processes, our search for that Special Man, as also our intensely passionate,  no-holds-barred response to that man.

Since Nina is only half-Indian, sometimes she has the faintest feeling of being an outsider. Consequently, her narrative is explanatory at times, given that she cannot take for granted the many things most of us can and do.

Buy the Book Online

The book is now available in all leading bookstores both online and offline.

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NSA was released on 14 July 2017 at Atta Galatta, Koramangala, Bangalore by actor, theatre-person, poet Padmavati Rao. Here are some photographs from the event.

One hundred people turned up. So overwhelmed that all I could offer was this bemused smile. 

Padmavati Rao had the audience at hello. Here the lovely lass poses with NSA.

The photo-op before we settled down to a Q and A.

Here the author talks of the travails of writing a romance. For some reason, it seemed               to crack both Pinty and the audience up.

Kalyani Kumar does a dramatized reading from the book.

One family photo. 

And here are the videos. 


A year-end mention in a Books 2017 round-up  by Shreekumar Varma in the Sunday Herald                                                                   

Sheila Kumar follows Kith and Kin with an M&B romance, written intelligently. No Strings Attached is a plain and (maybe not-so) simple love story that celebrates the author’s twin loves, Bengaluru and journalism. It isn’t just a fun read but a good read, delighting and surprising.

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A reading at the Urban Solace Book Club moderated by Marianne Furtado de Nazareth.

               

Moderated the Urban Solace Book Club today, just to help out a friend. Small crowd but lovely and interesting people and Sheila Kumar and her book ‘No Strings Attached’ had the crowd asking all sorts of questions. Pics by Geeta D’souza.

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A piece in The Hindu`s Metro Plus segment

                                              

Return to frontpage

ENTERTAINMENT

Every book finds its reader

 
Author Sheila Kumar talks about her journey as a writer and her second book No Strings Attached

Sheila Kumar’s childhood was filled with the humour and irony of Georgette Heyer’s novels. Can anything else be a better way to nurture one’s writing skill than this? She says, “I think the kindling was in place from way back. I come from a family that reads voraciously. My maternal grandmother introduced me to Georgette Heyer and Leslie Charteris. I was writing stories for my school magazine when I was in the fifth grade at St Felix, Pune, including rather unoriginal stories about a detective named Macburger.” Coming a long way from there, she has now reached the turbulent romantic tale of Samar Pratap Singh and Nina Sabharwal in No Strings Attached.

Her latest offering evolves through the complex atmosphere of the present day newsroom in Bengaluru. “No Strings Attached is my love song to print media, long may it live! This love story has twin pivots as the backdrop: life in a newspaper office, as well as life in Bengaluru,” says Sheila.

“It was a long-term dream to write a true-blue romance. Not a psychological, fantasy or paranormal romance; not even a sufi romance or a rom-com or anything else from what I now know to be a jaw-dropping long list. Basically what I am offering is an interesting love story told in an intelligent manner; a story that will entertain as well as inform,” she indicates on how No Strings Attached differs from the other novels of this genre.

Development of characters through a blend of witty, humourous situations and complex relationships can be the distinctive writing style of Sheila. She reveals the mental preparation she had to do for the development of her characters. “Would it sound facetious if I said these characters just walk themselves into my stories? Ammini Amma in my first book Kith and Kin was a composite of several Malayali women of substance I have known over the years. In No Strings Attached, I have this Rajput man as the hero and this exotic mixed-blood girl as the heroine, and for the life of me, I don’t know how that happened. I’m an instinctive writer so I just wrote up what seemed fine.”

In No Strings Attached, we come across different shades of Bengaluru. “My family came here in the early 70’s. Obviously, that was another Bengaluru, at least in the Cantonment: a time of innocent, quiet lanes, fragrance of freshly baked bread, much greenery and perennial cool breezes. That town has now transmogrified into a city and with it has come all the attendant assets and liabilities of city life. As an army brat first and an army wife later, I have lived in places across the length and breadth of the country. But there really is no place like Bangalore. Put simply, I heart Bangalore.”

From a staff reporter to a freelance journalist and now a novelist too, Sheila is conquering heights as a solo warrior to achieve her dreams. “It has been quite a few hats donned through the years, and all of it has involved words in some form or the other. Of course, it took time for me to get to the position of a writer, via advertising, journalism and manuscript editing. But I got here eventually. It has been one grand ride,” she looks back pleasantly to her quest for the love of writing.

http://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/every-book-finds-its-reader/article19490884.ece

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An NSA reading at the iBrowse Book Club:

The invitation

iBrowser Jacqueline Colaco`s account of the event

sheila kumar author of ‘no strings attached’ who shared at ibrowse last evening declared that as a young girl it was her ultimate wish to write a mills and boon novel and then she could die!
well, thankfully her publisher has categorised this book as an independent romance different from an m&b so we shall enjoy sheila for decades more… 

in any case dear readers, this novel smacks of love all the way as sheila told us with a delightful tale of the two lovers around who the story revolves. i’ve not read so it is to be read to feel the thrills and excitement, the racy romance coupled with the old time cupid who strikes his bow…
sheila has been at ibrowse before with her book of short stories titled ‘kith and kin’. a veteran journalist, her byline is so often in the newspapers with a critique or review on several issues, books, films and much else. in addition she is an expert tai chi exponent, army wife and mom, blending a cheerful, smiling personality and a brain that’s still cooking up new books. she promises us a non fiction one soon…cheers sheila and thank you for the delightful chocolate cake courtesy you at ibrowse yesterday!


greg de nazareth stood in as moderator for marianne who had a sore throat and with his wry humour thrust a few tricky questions at the author! there was a large audience with much interaction and sheila had a lot of words of simple advice for budding writers of how to get on with the abcs of writing…


get yourselves a copy of ‘no strings attached’ by sheila kumar!

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A video by Nishanth Naidu

nishanth naidu 2.mp4

https://wetransfer.com/downloads/c54543ebd2097334e5d53fcddd54552920170925113444/d723ee50ce81b63fceb296baad929f0b20170925113444/e7a4d2

Some photos

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A website review :                                                                                               

BOOK REVIEWS, ARTICLES AND ORIGINAL SHORT STORIES

WEDNESDAY, 2 AUGUST 2017

Book Review: No Strings Attached by Sheila Kumar

Reading a Mills and Boon novel has been on my bucket list for the last twenty years or so, ever since I knew enough about books to be snooty about them. No, No Strings Attachedhas not been brought out by Mills and Boon, far from it, but hey, I can recognize the real McCoy when I run into it, especially because the author Sheila Kumar has dedicated her latest book to her M & B gang.

Keep your prejudices aside, I had strictly instructed myself before I waded in and was hit with two perfect human specimens. Half English Nina Sabharwal is everything a hetrosexual man would look for in a woman and Samar Pratap Singh is a case of Adonis meeting a young version of that chap from Bridges of Madison County, with a big dose of royalty thrown in. Yes, Samar Singh, aka Heartbreaker  Singh belongs to a royal family from Jaisalmer and is rolling in money and does not really have to work hard for a living (as a world famous photographer), but he does.

At times I did wonder why two perfect human specimens who are engulfed in love, desire and admiration for each other have to put themselves through so much trauma and grief, delusion and self-deprivation before they do the only sensible thing in the given circumstances, but hey, love does conquer all, but one should expect hurdles on the way. A lot of hurdles.

No Strings Attached is written in simple English, without too much frills, the sort which gets you to the meat of the story, very much akin to the way Samar and Nina strip each others’ clothes off and ….

I believe Sheila Kumar used to be a full-time journalist and No Strings Attached is set in the world of Indian journalism. If you are familiar with this world, you may recognize a few characters, but that shouldn’t distract you from enjoying this splendid romantic thriller, which is dying to be made into a classy movie, a Hollywood movie – the sensibilities are too sophisticated for Bollywood.

A review in The New Sunday Express…

                                                     Sunday, July 23, 2017

Love and newsprint; Sheila Kumar’s No Strings Attached  reviewed

By Anjali Alappat  |  Express News Service  |  

We all know this formula. It’s the ultimate pick-me-up in literary form, the classic love story. Boy meets girl, they fall madly in love (or lust), they are thwarted by society and circumstances, but true love conquers all.

So why read No Strings Attached? Because though Sheila Kumar doesn’t claim to have invented the wheel, she has definitely given it a charming new spin.

Using an easy style, she draws up a heroine and hero, who though blessed with movie star good looks, oodles of talent and sundry other wonderful qualities, are actually likeable.

You might not know a half-Brit, half-Punju beauty named Nina Sabharwal, but you want to. Nina is neither a fainting damsel in distress nor a driven go-getter. She, like many other 20-somethings, is looking for her niche.

 When our tale begins, she’s an integral part of the marketing department of a newspaper with the catchy name, ‘India!’ and like every other woman on staff, is crushing madly on our hero, the hot Rajput noble-turned-photographer Samar Pratap Singh. Madonna-esque Nina (think classical art, not the queen of pop!) is the self-possessed M&B protagonist we all want to be.

As for Samar, he’s courageous enough to put himself on the line for love. He loves his elderly interfering relatives and is willing to put his life on hold to look after them. Though the two protagonists are fun, the real draw, in my opinion, are the quirky cast of characters who serve as foil for this love story. I especially enjoyed the various employees of India!

Of course, every piece has its villain, and there has never been a more delicious nemesis than Karishma Jhala, she of the stunning outfits, fabulous jewellery, perfect hair and flawless pedigree. I loved to hate this neurologist who could turn a simple introduction into a character assassination. Perhaps the best part of the book is that Nina’s perspective is so unique.

Though she was raised in England, she confidently navigates Bengaluru roads in her beat-up car, tackles the creeps, writes stories about potholes and Chinese belly dancers, and struggles to eat sambhar with her hands.  Hers is the perspective of someone who not only accepts the unique madness of India but loves it without judging it. We need more visitors like Nina. Hell, we need more Indians like Nina!

http://www.newindianexpress.com/lifestyle/books/2017/jul/22/love-and-newsprint-sheila-kumars-no-strings-attached–reviewed-1631373.html

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NSA finds mention on the Unboxed Writers website…

No Strings Attached

nsa

`Me, too,` she said aloud.’

`Me too, what?` asked Samar  lazily from behind her. She hadn’t heard him come into the room but now that familiar scent, part him and part something subtle from a designer bottle, drifted across to her, affecting her as it always did.’

HarperCollins presents a romance, No Strings Attached by Sheila Kumar.

About the author:  Sheila Kumar is an independent writer and manuscript editor, as well as author of a collection of short stories titled Kith and Kin, Chronicles of a Clan (Rupa Publications). Her webpage link is www.sheilakumar.in

About the book: No Strings Attached is a love story set against the backdrop of a newspaper in Bangalore. The heroine, Nina Sabharwal works in India!`s Sales and Marketing department and the hero Samar Pratap Singh, is a photojournalist at large
for the same publication. (Pages 183/ Rs 199)

http://unboxedwriters.com/no-strings-attached/

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…and in the Deccan Chronicle.


Sunday Herald, 16 July 2017


Writer Sheila Kumar’s second tryst with the pen is a turbulent romance between two professionals,  set in Bengaluru. Here is a no- holds- barred interview with the author of No Strings Attached, which released on July 14 at Atta Galata, Bengaluru.

Your first collection of short stories Kith & Kin, were slice-of-life stories about a Malayali clan. How did the transition to romance happen?

No Strings Attached is a true labour of love, the culmination of a long-held desire to write a romance. While the stories of Kith and Kin fell into my head more or less complete, NSA was a planned affair in every sense of the word. I had to know if I had it in me to write a full-fledged romance.

Tell us about No Strings Attached. What were the inspirations behind the story and characters?

NSA had its genesis in a short story I wrote for a romance anthology edited by Anuja Chauhan, a couple of years ago. It was about a girl of mixed blood, half Punjabi, half English, who falls in love with an Indian boy. Sparks fly every time they meet but they have this huge obstacle… no, not of race, culture and suchlike, as you might imagine … but of misconceived notions they have about each other. Ultimately, love triumphs, of course.

The story was chosen by Ms Chauhan, it ran in the anthology and I thought I might as well develop it into a full book.

Both the heroine and the hero are interesting people, they deserved a whole novel to themselves. Also, they work for a newspaper in Bangalore, so this is my paean to print media, my cocking a snook at those who have been predicting the demise of newspapers for years now! In actual fact, newspapers have chopped and changed and adapted to the changing times, and so, are doing fairly well for themselves, at least in India.

How different is the experience of writing a novel compared to short stories? What are the changes that you made in your approach?

The short story is definitely more challenging to write, given the limitation of length and the necessity to tell the tale briefly, concisely, pithily, in just so many words. With a novel, you get more freedom to move the plot along, join the dots at a measured pace while keeping the tension just so all along. Having said that, it’s not the easiest thing to write a romance. Boy. Girl. Boy meets girl. Things happen. Then what? There are multiple strands to a love story that need to be wielded in a dexterous fashion to keep everyone, the boy and the girl, the reader and the writer, interested in the unfolding tale.

From the time that Mills & Boon covers used to be wrapped with newspapers and read in secret, to the present, how has the perception of the romance novel changed over the years?

Truth to tell, it had been a while since I’d picked up an M&B, having graduated to reading independent romances instead, and intermittently at that. I found that now it was less talk and all action…and boy, some hot and heavy action at that! Then again, romance while still being the crux of the plot, now melds well with other contemporaneous elements, spawning a wide range of different romance genres like the romance thriller, the vampire romance, the erotic romance, fantasy romance, paranormal romance, gay romance, the rom-com novel. Good fun, how the character of romances has evolved with the times.

What would your advice be to a budding novelist?

As someone or the other once said, an editor’s deepest wish is that the writer sends them something perfect. So read a lot, write at least 400 words every day. Read what you have written and critique it. Do it once again. Give your finished work to an impartial, critical Beta reader. Keep it away for a bit, then go back to it; if it still reads well, then send it to a publisher!

Featured Image: Sheila Kumar

No Strings Attached

Published by Harper Collins India |Price: Rs. 199

http://thegoodcity.in/love-in-the-times-of-commitment-phobia/


In June, I wrote a humorous piece on My Life as a Romance Writer for The Ladies Finger.

My Long and Winding Road to Writing a Mills & Boon-Style Romance Had a Plot Twist Waiting

By Sheila Kumar

The romance bug bit me when I was in class eight and it bit hard. I became addicted to Mills and Boons. Back then only M&Bs qualified as true-blue romances. Oh, there was Barbara Cartland, but no self-respecting girl would admit to reading that grand dame`s sagas of lisping lissome lasses and rakish roués (who invariably carried a whip around… go figure). And yes, the libraries also stocked quiet love stories interwoven with history, passion, humour and pain by writers like Denise Robins, Victoria Holt, Georgette Heyer and the incomparable Daphne du Maurier, but they got slotted as literary romances. Besides, no teen wanted to read a storybook with a dictionary/thesaurus at hand to solve the mystifying allusions on every page.

The M&B, in sharp contrast, was a work of art: compact, concise, usually read through in one sitting and then loaned to grateful friends. Long before Elena Ferrante, we had intense discussions on whether Anne Mather (bestselling author of 160 M&Bs) was a man, on the admittedly slim evidence that she always began her stories with the man’s point of view. Long before book clubs became de rigueur, we argued about whether Violet Winspear (author of 70 M&Bs) had indeed married an Arab sheik, because how else did she get her deep insights into the mindsets of those robed males? We agreed sometimes that Janet Dailey`s heroines deserved one tight slap for being cringingly subservient to her heroes. We never had to argue about why romance readers absolutely revered Charlotte Lamb and unofficially anointed her as the queen of M&B writers. Our impromptu book gatherings were more giggle-fests than bitch-fests. Well, those were uncomplicated times, calling for uncomplicated plot points.

Then life intervened in the plot, as it always does.

I grew up, got a job, switched some careers, got married, had a kid, but the M&B love lasted. And whichever small town my army husband was posted in, I`d seek a library and get my fix. Every time I`d chance upon a book exhibition and sale or a second-hand bookstall, I`d pick up a pile of Peter Mayle, Alistair MacLean, Oliver Strange… and yes, a few M&Bs written by my favourite authors. One highlight in my life was heading to the frequent book fairs on Commercial Road in Ooty, when we lived in the Nilgiris, where I’d always score piles of Charlotte Lambs.

I owned my love for M&Bs most happily. Nothing stealthy or furtive about my love, thank you. This, when those romance imprints suddenly acquired a less than favourable reputation, with people spitting out the word `’M&B’ like it was an epithet. As if it stood for all things unreal, superficial, escapist — veritably the dumb blonde of the publishing world.

Me, I didn’t buy that nonsense; I read Shakespeare, Wodehouse and James Joyce and also read an M&B (or four) alongside, quite happily. If occasionally, the book jacket was a particularly lurid bodice-ripper, then it was read concealed in a larger brown-paper covered, innocuous book. But it was read. And along the way, I got to know my romance grain from the chaff, the gold from the dross. My respect and admiration for the aforementioned Charlotte Lamb grew. Lamb had imbued the common or garden romance with much emotion, much delving into the human psyche, some walking the darker paths and much hot romance, but of course. Her heroines were not sunny, vacuous women who rode on pure emotion, the way many M&B heroines did. Instead, they were imperfect, afraid of their own feelings and sexuality. Her heroes were not the archetypal macho studs; they battled with their emotions just the way their women did.

By the time Lamb reached her apex with the six-book set Barbary Wharf set, which encompassed six individual love stories set against one common backdrop of a newspaper in London’s Canary Wharf, I was a committed fan.

In 2012, I wrote my first book. It was not a romance, though;  it was a set of slice-of-life short stories that went out into the world to a very warm reception. After which, I tapped my inner  Charlotte Lamb: I now wanted to write a romance. I wanted to write a Mills & Boon.

Also Read:  How to say Happy 85th to Nancy Drew: Our Three Recommendations

I’d have liked to be the first Indian M&B writer, but my friend Milan Vohra had already got to that momentous milestone before me in 2009. No matter, I told myself, I was going to write one helluva romance, one which the M&B folk would grab with glee. And after that, it wouldn’t matter (to me, I mean) if I didn’t write another book in life.

The first check came at my desktop. I had some sort of basic story but writing it proved rather difficult. What I had in mind was, in local parlance, simplagi ondhu love story. No slashers lurking at the nukkad. No murk or mystery to solve even as X found a soulmate in Y. No spells of deep depression or manic mood swings to negotiate alongside hot dates. Basically, an uncomplicated plot point in our complicated times.

Then, I had grown up on a diet of romances where men proclaimed, women declaimed… much words, mostly of a descriptive kind and a little action, neatly wrapped in suggestions and euphemism. But romances now were mostly action, and hot and heavy action at that. This meant writing up a love story in the era of 50 Shades of you-know-which-colour. I’d heard of instructions on how to write an M&B on their website but hey, I wasn’t going there; I was confident I could write a bodice-ripper without any assistance, thank you!

 Truth be told, amping up the passion in my story was a piece of chocolate ganache cake, so sue me. What can I say, my hero was toe-curlingly gorge, the girl was irresistibly lovely, and together, they burnt up the sheets! If at all roses nodding their heads together featured in my story, it… no wait, no roses, standing or nodding, feature in my story!

The problem arose as a tussle for control. My hero and heroine acquired decided minds of their own. I wanted my photojournalist hero to squire some ravishing women to haute parties but he decided to go off, every chance he got, to less-than-exotic spots, chasing drug mule stories! I’d have liked my lovely heroine to have had at least one — calibrated but heart-wrenching — meltdown in the course of her tumultuous course d’amour but she turned out to be possessed of much commendable calm, definitely not the type to have meltdowns of any kind.

I eventually managed to finish the book and looked at my manuscript with slightly surprised pleasure. I had written a dashed good romance! Exciting storyline, humour, a plot that progressed at a good pace, conflict, sizzling conflict resolution, it was all there. The sexual tension was simply amazing, modesty be damned. As for the title, I felt that it was all things to all readers: catchy, intriguing, almost self-explanatory, a winner, modesty be damned again.

I emailed my spiffing romance to the publishers of M&B, and waited. And waited. And waited some more.

No response. Maybe they hadn’t received it? I got my manuscript spiral-bound and sent it off like a questing arrow to the same lot, requesting acknowledgement of receipt. You guessed it: no response.

By this time, I was spending hours online, scrolling the M&B website, looking for a cosmic clue. Finding what I thought was one, I mailed a synopsis and three chapters to an online address and what do you know, received a response! Except, it was not the response I was looking for. It politely told me that since my hero was Indian, I needed to send it to M&B’s Indian HQ.

Grateful to be sent any kind of direction, I emailed the first three chapters of the book to the website of people who published M & Bs in India, and settled down to wait. I was convinced they were going to revert immediately and tell me they loved the book… well, the first three chapters at least! Weeks passed, months passed. No response, again.

In the interim, I nearly suffered a heart attack when I was scrolling the racks at my local library, and came across a book with the same (catchy) title I`d so happily given mine! My heart settled only when I saw that it was a manual for physics students studying the String Theory. Another unpleasant shock came at a handicrafts fair when I came across a boutique stall which had yes, the same name … and had to stop myself from scowling fiercely at the poor girl behind the counter. Yet another bad moment happened when one evening, I switched on FM radio and heard  of an acoustics programme that went by That Name. The whole world was using my title, damn it!

By this time, I had also taken to reading my daily horoscope in fervent fashion, looking for words like ‘receive…good news…hear back… long awaited news…closure’ Every time I saw Snoopy waiting for word from his publishers for that manuscript which began: It was a dark and stormy night, I would feel a sharp pang of empathy.

I also switched my Facebook password to the name of my hero. Some months on, in a dismal moment of revelation, I realised I had, along with those three chapters of my magnum opus,  provided an email address that had expired a decade ago! A fresh set of chapters with the correct email address went out.

Months passed. Then voila! The curtain briefly parted. Someone from the publishers told me they`d received the MS and would forward it to ‘the person concerned.’  Thereafter, more months of silence.

Then, a Backlist Editor got in touch and a kind of pattern developed. I’d wait out what I deemed was a decent period, then send her a gentle non-nagging (or so I thought) reminder; she would say she hadn’t started on it or that she had just started it, that she had moved it to the Head Honcho`s table, that no decision had been taken on it yet. The silver lining in this dark cloud was that the aforementioned Backlist Ed said she quite liked the story. In my spare moments, I’d wonder what exactly backlists were and why my freshly-minted manuscript qualified to be on a backlist. Many sleepless nights, as you can imagine.

Along came a book launch and with it, along came the Head Honcho, to my town. Did I buttonhole her? Yes I did, dear reader.

Head Honcho was able to instantly recall my manuscript  and told me she had really liked it. She talked of the book as a done deal and went off, and the old silence descended. By this time, I was making like Pico Iyer and befriending silence in as calm a manner as I could; alas, not being possessed of the commendable calm of my heroine, I was having quite a few meltdowns.

Many months later, the denouement happened so quietly that there was no reaction time. Yet another editor at the publishing house got in touch with me, said she liked the story a lot and bingo! My dream had turned into a reality.

All’s well that ends well, you say? Nah. Things chugging along well enough, I asked my Ed when my M&B was debuting: was it going to be a full-moon-in-June evening?  Did I have to show up with a red rose between my pearly-whites? Would I have to giggle girlishly?

M&B, she asked. It’s not an M&B, it’s an independent romance, she said.

Ah, this dish had been long in the cooking and now the end result was a little different from what I had envisaged. Then again, it was still a delectable dish, modesty be damned for the third time! And so, I was happy I didn’t spend much time pondering on the twist in this tale.

Why not, you ask, dear reader. Well, read on.

To reference the Bard, a romantic kind of fellow if you recall, what’s in a name, anyway? A romance by any other name than M&B will still read as sweet. That I promise you, on my stash of Charlotte Lambs.

Sheila Kumar is an author who always wanted to write a romance. The name of her soon-to-be-out romance is No Strings Attached.

http://www.sheilakumar.in/2017/06/feature-the-ladies-fingermy-life-as-a-romance-writer/


Sunday, July 09, 2017

This monsoon, it’s raining romances for readers of popular fiction

NEW DELHI: Brutally sidelined by critics, made fun of by several headline authors and even rejected for its “average and below-average” standard of writing, the continued rise of popular fiction in India is a story of optimism against an elitist point of view.

While there can be no denying the fact that all books, particularly fiction, must maintain a high literary standard, it is also true that the Indian readership in English is in its infancy. With a 74.04 percent literacy rate on paper, a large chunk of the population cannot read and write, and for even those who can read and understand English, books of high literary standard are not always the first choice.

The role of popular fiction is thus very significant in the Indian context. The rise of authors like Chetan Bhagat and Durjoy Dutta are case studies, which provide sufficient reasons to believe that there is a much greater demand for such books than those of high literary standards.

Another significant aspect of popular fiction is the fact that it helps create first-time readers. A larger portion of the hundreds of thousands of readers of Chetan Bhagat, studies have shown, were first-time readers, who gradually moved on to read the next level of books.

“It is a continuing process, you see,” says bestselling thriller writer Ravi Subramanian. “Once a first-time reader finishes a simply written, romantic or, you know, a story that he can relate to, he is elevated to the next level. It is not going to be the end, but a mere beginning of his tryst with reading.”

As monsoon sets in, it’s raining romances for readers of popular fiction as four promising titles that may soon land up in the bestseller lists have already hit the stands.

The protagonist of the first novel “What Kitty Did” (HarperCollins/ Rs 299/ 306 pages) by Trisha Bora has more troubles than she can count on her fingers. “Her love life is wonky, her paycheck is shit. She has badly behaved hair and struggles with a sugar addiction. To top it off, her pushy mother has set her up with a gorgeous but stuck-up guy who is sending her mixed signals,” mentions the summary of the book.

When a diplomat’s celebrity wife, Roxy Merchant, falls dead during dinner at their posh central Delhi bungalow, Kitty’s boss gives her a chance to write a profile piece and the hint of a promotion. She’s on to something big, and it can, perhaps, change her current life forever. But Kitty also has a knack for bungling things up.

The second novel, “No Strings Attached”, by Sheila Kumar (Harlequin/ Rs 199/ 182 pages) is about Samar Pratap Singh and Nina Sabharwal, who can’t seem to keep their hands off each other. Yet, they don’t quite trust each other either: He thinks she’s eyeing bigger fish; she’s convinced he’s a heart-breaker.

Both of them have decided that falling in love is simply not an option — no strings attached is how they roll. Only, the fact that they have to see each other at work every day makes situations stickier and the more their lives become intertwined, the more they realise that love — a real and lasting love — is just a leap of faith away.

And then there is “Man of Her Match” by Sakshama Puri Dhariwal (Penguin/ Rs 299/ 254 pages). Kicked off the team for a series of misdemeanours, Indian cricket’s bad boy Vikram Walia finally has a chance at redemption. The only problem: It involves collaborating with his childhood best friend-turned-sworn enemy, Nidhi Marwah.


READERS REVERT:

Vrindha Nair: Hi Sheila. Even though I got your book some time back,  I was not able to read it until now. Half the ladies in our building borrowed my copy and read it before me! Finally I had to put my foot down and say,  guys I haven`t read it, please give me back my book. They all said it was a lovely romance.I understand now after reading what they meant…I would say,  a hot romance. Loved it!

Medha Purandare-Sondur: NSA is a beautiful, contemporary love story which hits you in the gut with its raw, passionate and real emotions. And it`s from the girl  who first introduced me to the magical world of romantic fiction! I so enjoyed reading this engrossing romance with its dashing prince who makes the reader a bit weak-kneed;  it brought back that wonderful world to me. I totally recommend NSA as a must read for all who believe in true love!

Brig Gangadharan: It was a breezy read. Romances are not really my cup of tea and so I wondered, are these people real?! But the build-up to each love scene was interestingly done…the male in me enjoyed that!

Jayanthi Prakash: Thank you bringing the nice sweet romance back. Loved the book, it was so lovely to go back to our days of Mills and Boon. It was extra- special because of the setting, the familiar Bangalore feel. Enjoyed Nina, such a lovely young girl and Samar, omg….. tall, dark and handsome (drooling .. !!!)

Rohit Gopalan: I’ve managed to finally read your No Strings Attached book.
It was interesting and a very enjoyable story. I think it’s worth a
screenplay for a movie… just need to think of the Bollywood actors
who can best portray all of the roles.

Vatsala Mohandas: 
I just finished NSA  yesterday . It was enjoyable and a page turner !!
Congratulations and I am so proud of you.

Keerti Ramachandra: It`s a fine line between hot romance and soft porn but youve walked that line beautifully, Sheila. Good show!

Jazz Singh on Good Reads. (She gave it a rating of ***** stars!): No Strings Attached by Sheila Kumar is a romance in the good old -ashioned tradition of Mills and Boon.

Sasmita on Amazon. (She gave it a rating of ***** stars!) :  After  procrastinating for couple of months,  finally I decided to buy this book. No melodrama when the girl decided to end up things. And the guy walks away with his dignity intact. Loved the way this particular scene was crafted. It was really different and stands apart. Glad that in the end they decided to give priority to their feelings rather than misconceptions. As all the Harlequin books go on, its nothing if not sensual. Great job author,  for the riveting romance.

Vinamrata Chaturvedi Liked No Strings Attached. Thank you!

Manjul Madampath Menon: NSA, set against the background of a newsroom – Sheila is a journalist of many years standing and has some impressive media houses on her resume –  is a fun read.

Arunima Singh: Loved every bit of NSA! It was hard to put down once I started. Brought back the memories of schooldays and reading M & Bs! I loved how you described the Nilgiri Hills, and Bangalore served as the perfect backdrop for the story, simple yet so perfect. And as a sucker for #happilyeverafter,  I really loved the way it all ended.

Achla Sawhney: Hello… got my copy of NSA and read it, made me wish I was back in my teens….I was  reading  one of these after many decades. Samar Pratap Singh does make one go weak in the knees! Honestly speaking, I read it only because you had written it  but once I picked it up, I found it racy and fun, and liked the background story of the newspaper office.

Mallika Ramachandran: Just finished No Strings Attached and it was like listening to you. Your voice came through loud and clear all through the book, unlike in Kith and Kin where I felt the writer had distanced herself from the story. Nina Sabharwal is not you yet is you!

Gita Iyer: I finished it from cover to cover, including Acks! I’m happy to say that I didn’t burst into flames, although, many times I had to put it down and go chill for a bit. Excellent writing, Sheila Kumar. Nina Sabharwal is one hot girl! And I love your  no-inhibitions, no-emotions-barred kinda writing! I love the suspense, the characters, the emotions, the real feel Bangalore atmosphere…. you are an awesome writer. Oh, and I think NSA is the perfect candidate for the next Bollywood movie.  I especially loved the very elegant ending – all through a back- flashing epilogue. Lovely read. You must sign my copy for me.

Peggy Devraj: What fun it was, Sheila! And you actually got me reading a romance after years!

Deepa Das: Truth to tell, I`m not much of a romance reader but I found NSA a fun read. As always, your language and descriptive powers  kept me interested right through to the end.

Reena Gupta: Hello ma’am. Read your book  No Strings Attached. It was more than  just a love story, the descriptions were awesome and so was the language. Got another book of yours to read, Kith and Kin. I feel so proud to have been your student back in Kapurthala.

Nina Rawal: Just finished, and thoroughly enjoyed NSA! Honestly, more than the central characters , I really liked all the other ancillary ones. They made the story entertaining. And I loved the locales. ..Coonoor, Bangalore.  Then I loved the newspaper background. From my days in advertising, especially media planning, the eternal marketing vs editorial battles are so familiar. All in all, I so enjoyed myself reading it.

Nirmala Vasudevan: Just finished No Strings Attached and really enjoyed the read. Well done! You have done well in this genre too. Our grandmother, an M & B fan, would have been really proud of the way you have churned out a great romance! Looking forward to many more of your books.

Sandhya Gangolly: The Bombay rains, a cup of great chai and a great desi romance novel! Just can`t beat this combination, I assure you. Enjoyed No Strings Attached!

Robyn on Good Reads (She gave it a rating of ***** stars!): I randomly picked up this book a few days ago and really enjoyed it. It was a quick and easy read with a seriously hot hero! I liked the writing style a lot too… waiting for more books from the author!

Lea Pillai on Good Reads (She gave it a rating of ***** stars!) : I picked up this book on a whim and boy! was it a good move. It`s a love story set in a newspaper office. That intrigued me, a newspaper office in the times of broadcast media! But the hero a photojournalist was incredibly hot, the heroine in the marketing team of the newspaper in Bangalore was sweet and their romance was simply terrific! I`d like to read more of this author, if she has written more romances.

Maayaa on Good Reads: It’s really a nice book for all those who love this genre book … 💜💜💜💜
Being an Indian author Sheila Kumar has written it in an international style. Use of words are just so good … overall liked it and I may read more books of hers …. 😊😊😊😊😊😊

Rachna Rallan: Loved reading No Strings Attached, read it at one go without putting it down till I`d finished. It was both romantic and raunchy and took me back to the good ole M & B days. Way to go, Sheila! I hope to read more such stuff penned by you. And oh, your book has had me catching the romance stories bug again!

Suchitra Iyappa: Loved No Strings Attached, Sheila! All through the book, your voice was a clear and fascinating one. The local flavour made it all the more interesting for Bangalorean readers. It was as if  we were sitting on the steps at Mount Carmel`s and you were telling me all about Samar and Nina!

Marianne Furtado de Nazareth:  Sheila Kumar, I sat down and could not put thy book down till I was done! Thoroughly enjoyed it with all the Sheila Brit ‘isms in it — You rock girl!

Arpita Basak: I am now reading your book… NO STRINGS ATTACHED…. I am in love with it…. thank you for writing such a wonderful novel….😊

Jayanth Kodkani: Congratulations, Sheila, on No Strings Attached…a racy read! Some parts were so familiar!

Shreekumar Varma in Deccan Herald: Sheila Kumar follows Kith and Kin with an M&B romance, written intelligently. No Strings Attached is a plain and (maybe not-so) simple love story that celebrates the author’s twin loves, Bengaluru and journalism. It isn’t just a fun read, but a good one.

Sujatha Karun: Finished your book at one go, Sheila. Delightful read. The best compliment I can give you is that you have done Charlotte Lamb proud. Loved the insights into how a newspaper works. The side characters too were drawn very well, Rohan Varma being my favourite!

Devaki Menon: I  have just finished reading the book, Sheila, and really enjoyed the read.  It is very well written. I liked the latter half more than the first half. I thought it was more romantic,  and more in the style of the old Mills & Boon books. Of course,  this  is the opinion of an octogenarian who used to be a big fan of M & Bs back in the old days, and I`m happy to say your book ranks among the best of those romances!

Sarita Hegde: Enjoying NSA, Sheila! It has all the hotness of an M&B but also your talent for characterisation shines  through! Great going,  Sheila! Hope this is a first in an India! series!

Ritu Choudhary: Wow! This book sure was worth the wait! Beats Anne Mather, Charlotte Lamb, Ann Hampson, Rebecca Stratton, I promise you!

Lina Krishnan,  in an FB post: Dear gals of my teenage days, plus some others who might be interested, here’s a rocking M&B style book by my friend Sheila. Already selling like hot cakes, this book, so this is NOT a plug; just that I had much fun reading it and  thought you all might,  too!  

Smita Desai: Just finished NSA in one sitting. Brought back memories of the good old days. Loved your book, Sheila, it was a great read. Now look forward to the next one because I`m a fan!!

Andaleeb Wajid: Just finished NSA, Sheila. Really enjoyed the story. It was in such a perfect M & B mould, yet Indian, a little exotic, lots of steamy stuff. Also, Samar offers to drive Nina to Electronics City? Shes a fool for not realising that it can`t be anything other than love! 🙂

Dhanashree on Amazon (She gave it a rating of ***** stars!): Loved reading this captivating story. It’s interesting right from the start. Lead characters, along with secondary ones, keeps you hooked till the end.

Kalamma Ganapathy: Congrats, Sheila…the book took me back to my 1 st PUC and M& Bs.
This was truly an Anne Mather read for me! Having lived in Wellington, I loved your  description of the drive from Mettupalyam up to Coonoor.And of course the little Bangalore touches, like the Indiranagar flyover and the famous potholes of Namma B`lore …and that Devaiah character, too!
All the best for your next one!

Geeta DSouza:Just finished NSA…superb! Loved it! It rekindled the romantic in me. Thanks for Samar and Nina`s hot love story.