“To wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect.” – Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
When done well, there’s nothing better than a smart spin on a Jane Austen classic, and Sonali Dev is a master at this craft. I gobbled up every morsel of Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors and Recipe for Persuasion, so of course I had high hopes when I heard that the third book in her Rajes series was inspired by Austen’s first novel—and my personal favorite—Sense and Sensibility. My expectations were already astronomical, and Incense and Sensibility exceeded them.
Incense and Sensibility gives us a front-row view into the life of Yash Raje, California’s first Indian American gubernatorial candidate. A treasured oldest son and lifelong overachiever, Yash has always known what his goals are and exactly what it takes to achieve them, even if it means keeping his emotions in check. When a hate crime triggers anxiety attacks that threaten his ability to get back on the campaign trail, his family turns to a trusted source: India Dashwood, his sisters’ friend and the foremost stress management coach in the Bay area. While the grounded India is used to helping clients from all walks of life connect with their innermost selves, Yash’s reticence and reservations about opening up pose a challenge—and there’s also the matter of the magical spark that ignited between them all too briefly a decade ago.
Much like the work it’s drawn from, Incense and Sensibility is at its core a novel of emotions—the ones we restrain, the ones we give too willingly, and the ones we can’t help but follow. Yash and India are the perfect pair of protagonists, crackling with electricity at every turn, and both their individual paths and the journey they take together left me besotted. With each chapter, I fell for them more and more, and by the final pages, I was breathless. As with the previous books in this series, this story and its characters stand firmly on their own, wholly original from the Austen classic, but fans of Sense and Sensibility will treasure the brilliant links to the source material. The fresh spin on the Marianne-Willoughby-Colonel Brandon triangle had me squealing with delight, and I also loved Dev’s take on Lucy Steele.
While you don’t have to read all of the books in the Rajes series in order to enjoy this one, you’ll love it all the more if you do. Not only was it so fun to catch up with my favorite characters from the earlier novels, getting to know the real Yash and tap into all of his complicated layers after seeing him as the polished and infallible older brother was so rewarding. All of these pieces blended together to make this book my favorite of the series so far.
If you love Jane Austen, this book is for you. If you love compelling romance, this book is for you. If you love family stories, complex characters, or tales about the importance of being true to who you really are, this book is for you. Oh, and one more thing.
Yash Raje for Governor!
Incense and Sensibility is available now wherever books are sold! Pick up your copy from Bookshop.org, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or wherever you buy your books. For more on Sonali Dev and her wonderful books, visit sonalidev.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.