Priyanka Menon is my friend. Priyanka Menon is a romance writer. Priyanka Menon is a romance writer and my friend AND an accomplished spoken-word poet in her own right, but the one thing that pleasantly surprised me as I started reading “The One That Got Away” was that she is a GOOD romance writer. Friend pride and prejudice aside, a good story can only hold your attention and interest and The One does all that and more.
Meet Mithi. She is an artist living in Paris who’s come down to Aamchi Mumbai for her besties’ – Geet and Karan’s – wedding. They have all been friends forever (since school) and the fourth point in the quartet is Jairam Nair. Mithi’s best BFF in school and someone she hasn’t seen since the last day of.
I call Shyamita Bose, Mithi, just like Jai does, because she is sweet and nice and fragile. The fragile is backed up by a spine of steel when necessary, as any heroine should be but mostly I call her Mithi cuz it is such a happy sound. Points for that, Priyanka.
Anyway, Mithi and Jai, (national bestselling author, all-round hunk) meet at the wedding. An awkward first meeting ensues in which both are not just tongue-tied but actively seeing each other as desirable people. This process is helped by not being in touch for more than a decade and thus, not having to deal with the minutiae of facial hair, waxing, having boobs and chest hair and what not.
Their chemistry is palpable but shocking, not to anyone but themselves.
In the grand tradition of a big, fat, Punjabi wedding we are slowly and quietly introduced to the single point break of what had been an unbreakable friendship. The painful teenage yearning of falling in love for the first time (and the last) is expressed beautifully and contrasts nicely with the tumult of falling in love all over again.
And then we come to the very adult problems facing Mithi and Jai: aka Commitment Phobia. Yes, there is heat, chemistry, sexy love-making and long, soulful glances but Handsome Jai (I call him that in my head, Priyanka) cannot do the one thing; the only thing Mithi wants: Admit to his feelings for her, for damaging and totally valid reasons of his own.
And Mithi with her steely spine under the delicate Madonna exterior holds firm on this one point, even as she tries to help him banish his demons and love him with all her heart.
The primary love story has a life of its own and Priyanka, like me is a fan of two characters coming full circle (get back to me on this, readers), but what completely enchanted me was the way all the secondary characters gelled in the story. Given full screen time and treated like the individuals they were and not just props to the main hero-heroine-conflict resolution.
In particular I love Mrs. Nair, the wise mom who has endured so much and still maintains a serene heart and Geet Chaddha – bubbly, headstrong and with a heart a mile wide that you cannot help but root for her as she tries to knock some sense into her chaddi-buddy Jai.
The writing is pacy and exquisite in a few places and the story holds its own on a second reading too.
If I would take away anything from The One and its author, it would be Mithi’s crying. She cries. A LOT. It’s not healthy. Priyanka, next time make your woman kick ass. And also, write me into a book where I, the bestselling author gets to live in a penthouse with my very own Handsome Jai.
Four and a Half Stars (Half a star taken for the crying)
Till next time
Updated: A previous version of this post called the book The One Who Got Away