Given a weakness for bhangra music and Indian food, also a hot cover, I was eager to read Nisha Sharma’s first adult romance, The Takeover Effect, the first of a trilogy. I wasn’t keen on its corporate setting and it turns out there’s a lot of “corporating,” but I hoped the, sadly because scarce, unique Sikh ethos would make up for what it lacked in premise. Hemdeep “Hem” Singh, estranged son of Deepak, returns to the family fold when his father’s digital empire, Bharat, Inc., is threatened by a hostile takeover; hence, the title. Hem finds his family in disarray. Deepak has suffered a heart attack and Hem’s brothers, CEO Ajay, and West coast R&D, Zail, are scrambling to deal with the crisis. Into this critical period in their company’s future walks heroine, Mina Kohli, hired by the board, as a neutral party, to oversee the takeover details. What the Singhs do not know is that Mina’s Uncle Sanjeev has told Mina she’s to rule in favour of the takeover, thus serving his nefarious interests. What does Sanjeev hold over her?
The desire to make partner in the firm her deceased, beloved mother founded. Mina is appalled at her uncle’s unethical request and refuses. Her uncle reminds her of career and personal goals to honour her mother’s memory and dangles the threat of an arranged marriage “or else” over her as well. I was glad Sharma didn’t make this potential flashing-Broadway-lights betrayal by the heroine over the hero the narrative crux. Mina has too much integrity to be party to Sanjeev’s ambitions.
From the moment Mina walks into Bharat, Inc.’s offices, Hem is smitten … with lust. It only takes a few paragraphs to see Mina in the same state of panting desire. Hem and Mina suffer from what I call a lack of lustful-self-regulation, also known in romance circles as “insta-lust.” Which, in this case, segues into love without rhyme or reason other than the “hots” Mina and Hem have for each other.
Beyond an adroit avoiding of a morally compromised heroine and great food (sadly, no bhangra), Sharma’s romance is terrible. Hanging over it like a miasma is poor writing, poor taste, lack of character development, and distasteful love scenes. Let’s start with the writing, which, in pursed-lips-English-teacher disapproval, has that teen-age penchant for telling over showing. In other words, Sharma is a lover of the declarative sentence. While I’m not quoting directly, Mina and Hem’s relationship develops along the lines of they-went-for-a-walk-ate-dinner-drank-a-glass-of-wine-and-had-sex. Their not-quite-growing relationship is summarized rather than explored. Mina and Hem’s overblown physical attraction turns to love-bird-cooing-status without any sense of how or why they’ve fallen in love. With corporate takeovers and machinating uncles, it’s hard to get to know each other. The most Mina and Hem have going for them is in joining to defeat the unethical corporate baddies.
What we do get to see of Mina and Hem’s relationship consists, when it’s not in the boardroom, of the bedroom. Early on, there is a stomach-churning drinking game scene that finds Mina vomiting over Hem’s shoes. He takes her home and takes care of her, thank goodness, considering it’s his Neanderthal drinking-game antics that put her in this state. He also doesn’t fall upon her like a ravening sex-beast, so “one point” for consent-consideration. However, the beast stops here because what followed was anything but appealing. Hem is made of growls and said-grufflies; he exhibits unreasonable jealousy and possessiveness. Against Mina’s wishes, Hem buys clothes, lingerie, and creams and unguents for her to keep in his apartment, stamping her with his possession. Even though he says it’s because he likes to do it and she concedes after having many a the-lady-doth-protest-weakly moments. The idea is that she *sekretly* likes it.
To the love scenes: suffice to say I found them crude and hurried, as if Sharma wanted to make them explicit but not dwell on them too much. Hem and Mina seem to explode with pleasure, many solar systems are born, and much hurried vigorous action brings them about. As for consent, there are scenes where Hem is pushing Mina, who *sekretly* loves it, for amorous action à la shoulder-toss-bed-bounce that I balked at. In sum, Hem is a chest-thumping brute and Mina is a screechy enabler. I knew I was in trouble when Mina expressed admiration and love for Sylvia Day’s Gideon Cross novels, which, in retrospect, Sharma emulates in a Sikh-lite setting (most disappointing, I was hoping to see more of that ethos in the characters, but other than Hem’s kara clinking on table-tops, it’s the only K, of the five that make the major edicts of the Sikh faith, we witness.) If you loved the Cross novels, then you’re going to wax poetic over The Takeover Effect. If you, like me, didn’t, then you’ll have to run like the wind from this one. With Miss Austen, we’d say while expectations were high, hopes were dashed. In Sharma’s The Takeover Effect, we found “rubs and disappointments everywhere,” Mansfield Park.
Nisha Sharma’s The Takeover Effect is published by Avon Impulse. It releases today, April 2nd, and may be found at your preferred vendors. I received an e-ARC of The Takeover Effect from Avon Impulse, via Edelweiss+.