Friday, May 10, 2019

Blog Tour: HER PRINCE CHARMING by Sundari Venkatraman

(Prequel to The Malhotra Bride)
Sundari Venkatraman


It’s instantaneous attraction when Tanuja Bhatia from Delhi meets Raj Malhotra from Bombay at the Bombay Central Station.

The mutual attraction soon blossoms into love over the next couple of meetings. 

Tanuja and her simple father fail to see the crisis brewing in their own home. Her not-so-nice stepmother Gurinder is totally against the idea of Tanuja meeting her Prince Charming which would make her step-sister Harpreet seriously envious. By the way, Harpreet’s main aim in life is to simply make her half-sister miserable. 

While Raj’s parents and Tanuja’s father try to arrange a marriage between the two with a help of a mutual friend, the evil stepmother comes up with a plan of her own—to marry her stepdaughter off to Sonu, a good-for-nothing idiot. 

Can Her Prince Charming lift Tanuja out of this life of drudgery and boredom and give her the happiness she deserves?

*A prequel to THE MALHOTRA BRIDE, this book is also available in paperback in India.

Read an Excerpt:
Tanuja stood at the entrance to the bogie, guarding the luggage as the train slowed down to enter Bombay Central Station, excitement in her heart as her eyes devoured the sights. It had been a long time since the Bhatia family had gone on a holiday, all together. It had always been her stepmother and her half-sisters who went on bi-annual trips, leaving Tanuja and her father at home. But, of course, both of them appreciated the peaceful times while the other three were gone. In fact, Tanuja considered those interludes the best holidays ever.
Just before the train stopped, she caught sight of a tall man in pristine white trousers and half-shirt, holding a placard which read, ‘Talveer Bhatia’. Her charcoal black eyes went wide when they met the dark brown of the man’s bold gaze, a soft blush tainting her cheeks before she turned away to address her father who was standing behind the three suitcases. “Papa, the car driver’s here, I think. See that man over there,” she pointed a slim index finger in the direction of the man as her father craned his neck to look out, “he’s holding a cardboard placard with your name on it.”
Talveer nodded his head at his eldest daughter, a soft smile on his tired face. “Let’s get the luggage out,” he said, watching Tanuja get off on to the platform. The father-daughter duo shook their heads at the porters who offered to take their luggage as Talveer handed the suitcases one-by-one to Tanuja.
“Have you got all the suitcases out?” asked Gurinder in her usual harsh voice, a frown on her face as she glared at her step-daughter and husband.
“Yes, aunty,” said Tanuja, taking the large bag that Gurinder was holding in her hands, before helping her out of the train.
Harpreet and Jaspreet giggled as they watched their plump mother struggle to step down onto the platform, not bothering to help her. They each held a tote bag carrying their make-up articles and other fancy stuff which they naively believed were absolute necessities in Bombay.
Talveer lifted his head to see Raj Malhotra walking in their direction with the placard, waving to him. “I’m Talveer Bhatia. Are you the driver who has come to pick us up from Malhotra Cabs?”
“Yes sir. My name is Raj,” said Raj, shaking Talveer’s hand, forgetting that drivers may be considered too menial to shake hands with customers who hired cars from their company, his gaze taking in the family of five even as it lingered for a few seconds longer on Tanuja’s beautiful face.
Gurinder glared at him. “You are the driver who will be driving us to Mahabaleshwar?”
Haanji ma’am.”
Apni aukat mein raho. What’s with the shaking hands? Can’t you do a namasteKyunji,” as she frowningly glanced at her husband, “can’t you tell the man that instead of shaking his hand?”
Tanuja felt highly embarrassed by Gurinder’s harsh words. What was wrong if the man had shaken her father’s hand? Why did her stepmother have to shout for such a trivial thing?
Before her father could open his mouth, the driver said, “I’m sorry, ma’am. Please forgive me. It won’t happen again.” 
Gurinder looked the man up and down before ordering, “Chalo, take all the suitcases and let’s go to the waiting room.”
Without asking a question, Raj lifted two heavy suitcases in both his hands before turning in the direction of the first-class waiting room. Tanuja bent down to take the third one, giving him a shy nod, a small smile touching her lips. Her mouth had the appearance of a rosebud to the man who walked ahead of her.
It took the Bhatia family about an hour to get ready. Raj waited patiently as he read the day’s newspaper before Talveer walked out from the men’s waiting room. Tanuja was the first to get ready and she also walked out to the platform on seeing her father. She couldn’t help being fascinated by the handsome driver as she studied him from the corner of her eyes from time to time, not saying anything while she watched her father chat with him.
“I am also from Delhi, Talveerji,” said Raj, answering the other man when asked.
Talveer smiled widely. “I did wonder about the accent,” he said, patting the younger man on his shoulder.
They chatted some more about their hometown but mainly in Hindi. “If you are educated, how come you are working as a driver?” There was curiosity in Talveer’s dark gaze as he looked up at the driver who towered over him by many inches.
Raj was careful enough to speak English exactly the way his drivers spoke. Shrugging, he said, “I am setting up my own business.” Okay, it was a slight variation from the truth as his garment factory was already set up and running smoothly. But he couldn’t very well tell the client that. “In the meanwhile, this is a good way to make money, without having to work under someone.” It was with difficulty that he managed to keep his gaze on Talveer Bhatia and not let it stray to the young woman who, he presumed, must be the man’s daughter. She was simply too beautiful for words.
Talveer nodded his head vigorously, thoroughly approving of the other man’s sentiments. “So what business are you setting up?”
“Manufacturing of garments, Talveerji.” No, he had no plans to tell them the magnitude of his business, that he had invested almost ten lakh rupees and only twenty percent of the total had been raised through a bank loan. The rest was entirely from his own savings. Raj had slogged from the day he arrived in Bombay five years ago. He had refused to use his father’s money and had earned his own money starting from scratch. He had led a comfortable life but it wasn’t half as luxurious as the one he was used to at his home in Delhi. He had converted all the leftover money to gold. When he began purchasing gold in 1971, six months after he moved to Bombay, the price for ten grams had been less than Rs. 200. Over the last five years, the price had risen dramatically to Rs. 540. He had also persuaded his father to buy small bungalows in Mahabaleshwar and Matheran.
So, at the age of twenty-six, where a lot of young boys are still whiling away their time, Raj had set up his very own garment unit. And there was also the flat that he had purchased in Matunga, where he lived now.
Talveer nodded, even as his eyes kept turning towards the women’s waiting room, wondering about his wife and daughters. He looked at his eldest born and said, “Tanu, why don’t you go and find out if everyone is ready?”
Theek hai, Papa,” said Tanuja in a soft voice before walking towards the waiting room, her steps dragging. As if the three of them would care.
“Madam, it would be nice if you could tell them that we have to travel for eight hours before reaching our destination.” Raj called out to Tanuja’s retreating back.
She stopped in her tracks, wondering if she had heard right. Had he called her ‘madam’? She turned around with a smile, her cheeks dimpling when her gaze caught his dark one, a dark wing-shaped eyebrow raised in query. “Were you talking to me?”
Ji! It will take us eight hours to reach Mahabaleshwar,” said Raj, looking into her black gaze and rapidly found himself drowning in them, unable to stop the answering smile on his face.
Why was he addressing her as if she was fifty years old? Tanuja realised that she didn’t like it at all. But then, she didn’t want to say anything in front of her father. She nodded her head before turning away from him to continue towards the waiting room door.
After ensuring her father’s gaze was turned away from him, Raj looked at her retreating figure encased in a salwar kameez which faithfully hugged her slender body. She could have passed off for an apsara from heaven, he thought. 

Author Interview

TBC: What made you decide to write the story of the previous generation?

Sundari Venkatraman: As you must have noticed, I enjoy writing series and books that interconnect characters. Over the past couple of years, I have been toying with the idea of writing historical romances. Actually, I wrote a bit about the 1940s in my book called Rose Garden International. It was then that the idea came into my mind: Why not write a story about Akshay Malhotra’s (the hero of my first book The Malhotra Bride) parents, Raj and Tanuja Malhotra, who are so obviously in love with each other? I also found the idea exciting because I was personally young in the 70s, (in school, actually) all dreamy and dewy-eyed about romances. Hence, setting a story in that time was so much fun. And that’s how Her Prince Charming was born. 

TBC: What difficulties do you face when you write a series?

Sundari Venkatraman: Oh yes! While I love writing series, there are some difficulties that I do face. To begin with, I try to create a vague plot for the second or third book in the series. Believe me, the plot is vague because I don’t know how to plan my story too much in advance as I flow along with my mind while writing, go wherever the characters take me. After that, I go back and read the first book from beginning till end. I also have a list of the basic features of each character listed on an excel sheet under the book title. Each time, it’s extremely important to make the connection seamless.

Let me share an example from Her Prince Charming. I had planned this as a love match between Raj and Tanuja. When I read The Malhotra Bride, I came across this dialogue between Raj and Akshay, when the former tells his son that his marriage to Tanuja was arranged. I had a minor dilemma in my hands. I didn’t want to let go of the idea of it being a love marriage. But then again, I couldn’t let my first book become a lie. So, I decided to create a love-cum-arranged marriage for the protags of Her Prince Charming

Hence, the main thing is to ensure that the connection between the stories is smooth. For that, I need to keep an eagle eye out while creating a sequel or prequel as in this case. It’s easier if I write the whole series in one shot, one after the other. Imagine writing Her Prince Charming nineteen years after I wrote The Malhotra Bride! It was a challenge, definitely. Though, I think I’ve done a good job in tying up the loose ends. 

TBC: Your cover is beautiful; has an old-world charm. Please tell our readers how important is the design of a cover.

Sundari Venkatraman: Thank you so much. A lot of people have appreciated the cover, especially for this novel set in the 1970s. As for the importance of having a great cover, well, we have millions of books out there, especially on a website such as Amazon. How will a reader zero in on one particular book? What will make the reader click on that particular link? I strongly believe it’s the cover. Once the cover catches their attention, they will want to check the blurb and then the sample chapter. But to get to that point, there is a need for a great cover that will grab a reader’s attention. And that’s the reason I pay a lot of attention to this particular part of my books. 

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About the author

Sundari Venkatraman is an indie author who has 42 titles (38 books and 4 collections) to her name, all Top 100 Bestsellers on Amazon India, Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada and Amazon Australia in both romance as well as Asian Drama categories. Her latest hot romances have all been on #1 Bestseller slot in Amazon India for over a month.

Even as a kid, Sundari absolutely loved the ‘lived happily ever after’ syndrome as she grew up reading all the fairy tales she could lay her hands on, Phantom comics, Mandrake comics and the like. It was always about good triumphing over evil and a happy end. 

Soon, into her teens, Sundari switched her attention from fairy tales to Mills & Boon. While she loved reading both of these, she kept visualising what would have happened if there were similar situations happening in India; to a local hero and heroine. Her imagination took flight and she always lived in a rosy cocoon of romance over the years. 

Then came the writing – a true bolt out of the blue! And Sundari Venkatraman has never looked back.

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