Review

Review: Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev (2021)

The Rajes, Book #3

Review of The Rajes Book #1, Book #2

Heat Factor: This book is like 90% pining. The other 10% is political stuff and a few kisses. 

Character Chemistry: “We had an immediate connection, but then you ghosted me, and now you’re engaged to someone else, but I still have feelings for you.” 

Plot: After Yash survives an assassination attempt on the campaign trail, his family encourages him to learn some meditation techniques from India to help him get back in the saddle. Too bad nobody knows that he and India had one beautiful day of connection many years ago. 

Overall: I’ll be honest, it took me a while to settle into this one. It doesn’t help that the characters don’t even start interacting until solidly a third into the book.


In reading this book, I came to the conclusion that Sense and Sensibility is challenging to translate into a genre romance in a way that both really captures the original and meets the expectations of today’s readers. Austen’s original is really about the relationship between Eleanor and Marianne (or perhaps, the contrast in the ways they view the world). Retellings, therefore, either have weak romantic plots, or they choose to focus on only one sister and lose the contrast. In this case, the Marianne / sensibility plotline is shortened, and Dev focuses on the Eleanor / sense arc, which sort of bums me out because I love Col. Brandon (but let’s be real, mainly because of Alan Rickman). 

On the other hand, Dev has achieved what I had always assumed was an impossible feat: she made me sympathize with the Edward Ferrars stand-in. 

So, basic premise. Yash Raje is running for governor of California. Some jerk tries to shoot him and his bodyguard takes the bullet, all of which leads to a bit of a personal crisis—which is so not what his campaign needs right now. Enter India Dashwood, yoga teacher, wellness coach, and his sisters’ friend. Also, the one woman with whom he has ever felt a deep and true connection, except they had one beautiful day together and then he never called her. (Classic Edward Ferrars move, if you ask me.) Also of note: he’s been engaged to his best friend Naina for years, except, whoops, this is a fake engagement of convenience. Obviously, India feels hurt by this, but she still feels the connection and won’t turn someone away who needs her help, so she swallows her pride and starts teaching him to meditate. 

There is a lot of angst here. And a lot of pining, because they both feel the connection, but they can’t be together. Yash can’t break up with Naina right after she was photographed crying over his wounded body, and he *definitely* can’t admit to the world that he’s been lying about their relationship for years. And he can’t have an affair, because he can’t cheat on his fake fiancée. All of that would be bad for his political career—but his political career is tied up in his family and his identity and his desires to make the world better. Dev really successfully teases out the pressures that Yash faces and his internal conflict, such that he comes across as sympathetic rather than as a spineless weasel. 

India is more immediately sympathetic, in that she’s longing for this man that she can’t have (she doesn’t know the engagement is fake). She does have some self-abnegating tendencies, but that’s to be expected, given the source material. Sidenote: casting the Eleanor character as a yoga practitioner who purposely works through her meditation practice to calm her emotions makes complete sense.

You might have noticed that I’ve used the words longing and pining and angst in this review. This is definitely a sloooooooow burn, where the sexiest thing that happens is a touch fraught with emotion. While Yash and India have decent chemistry when they finally get going, it took too long to get there for my taste. 

India’s sister China does fulfill the role of headstrong Marianne, and her story is cute if a bit cursory. However, the contrast between the two sisters is less thematically central than in the original, which makes China’s arc feel a bit crammed in. 

Overall? There were some lovely bits in this book, but it’s not my favorite of the series. 

PS: I can’t wait for Naina’s redemption story. I see you, Knightlina. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.


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