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Vani Kaushal’s Seconds Later is a riveting read. It’s fast-paced, unputdownable, and makes you want to finish the book in one go. It is an intense romantic thriller with many intriguing twists, and at its heart a deep dive into human behaviour and relationships.

The book opens with a prologue. Popular VJ Nikita is stabbed by an obsessive fan and is lying in a pool of her blood. She racks her brain to find answers as to what led to this unfortunate turn of events.

The reader is transported into Nikita’s journey from the moment she runs away from her conservative family in Bhubaneshwar and reaches Mumbai to pursue her dreams. Her show is a hit among young adults and teenagers. She becomes successful, earning instant fame and recognition. She finds a friend and a love interest in Cyrus, who is also her boss.

Gradually, Nikita realizes that fame has a dark side to it and comes at a price, a price she must pay. She is harassed by multiple stalkers-a sleazy, ex-banker who follows her everywhere, and a millionaire’s son from London who believes she is the one who can fix him.

Nikita also wrestles with her feelings for Cyrus and finds camaraderie in the most dangerous of places. Her interactions with the men in her life and their backstories form the essence of the plot that leads up to the climax. She is not perfect- she is flawed and impulsive, but that’s what makes her real. The reader empathizes with this nineteen-year-old who followed her heart and took the plunge even if it meant alienation from her family.

The book takes you to different locations- Mumbai, Bhubaneshwar, Trivandrum (my hometown!), Goa, and London. Snippets of Parsi culture and Oriya dialogues interspersed make it an authentic read. The narrative is simple and lucid, yet very structured, even when the narrator’s voice changes, sometimes multiple times, in a chapter. The detailing of the studios shows a good amount of research work.

The character arcs are well-etched. I love how Nikita grows as a person, and Cyrus learns from his mistakes of the past. The character that stood out for me was Sameer. He initially comes across as the quintessential spoiled brat, the one who throws a tantrum when denied his favourite toy. As the story progresses, the reader’s disgust is replaced with sympathy. By the end, the reader rejoices that Sameer brings his journey to fruition and rediscovers himself, bringing his arc to completion.

If I had to nitpick, I felt that Sameer and Nikita had a stronger arc and better emotional connection in the few scenes they had together, versus her and Cyrus. Perhaps Nikita has a future with Sameer in a parallel universe, one where he isn’t a creepy stalker.

Reading this book is like watching an action-filled Bollywood movie. Pick this up! You will not be disappointed.

I received this book as a part of a Penmancy giveaway.

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