Cover Image: A Holly Jolly Diwali

A Holly Jolly Diwali

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

My first by this author and now I’m going to have to Go through the backlist because this was everything I wanted in a rom-com holiday book. 

Truth bomb, I have a soft spot for South Asian authors and their books. I always get sucked right in to the richness of the Indian culture and the idea of a woman finding her voice within a caste system that has historically stunted them. 

Author Lalli created both characters that were rich and a love story full of banter and fun. Sam and Niki were a contemporary love affair that just allowed me to sink into a book without watching the time go by.  

I so enjoyed this one. Thank you to Berkley and Netgalley for the gifted copy in return for an honest review!
Was this review helpful?
I wanted to love this book, but the writing just didn't hook me. It was a slog getting through it. There was nothing wrong with the book per se, but it was just a bit dull. I think it was more about the writing style than the content of the book itself.
Was this review helpful?
The journey our heroine goes on in this book was lovely and sweet. I liked our hero overall, but this romance is definitely an instalove. Because of that, some of the things felt a bit too unbelievable for me to fully buy into the romance. It didn't necessarily do anything wrong. Just ended up not really being my taste.
Was this review helpful?
Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli

Twenty-nine years old Niki Randhawa makes safe choices, practical ones that give her stability but no butterflies. When she's laid off from her boring but supposedly safe job, she throws caution to the wind and books herself a flight to her friend's Diya's wedding. This is where she meets free-spirited Sam, helping her get in-touch with herself once more.

Sonya Lalli is a wonderful writer, but to classify her books as romance isn't quite right. The focus isn't on the romance, it's more as self-discovery journey with romance interlaced. So there was definitely a lack of romance in this one for me. However I did love it! I love how the author crafts such interesting and complex character, full of depth. I think my favourite part was the relationship between the sisters, I loved how they worked through it together, understanding how complex their relationship had been up to this point and finally seeing each other. Sam was not as free-spirited as he first appeared, and I wish we had more time with him and his own character arc. I loved how they explored their compatibility and decided not to complicated things with sex, how they focused on building a strong foundation, even if the temptations were hard to resist. (This was a closed-door)

Thank you to @berkleyromance for gifting me an advanced reader's copy via @netgalley . As always all thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.
Was this review helpful?
I simply loved this book! Type A, always by the book and afraid to let her hair down, Niki has been let go from her job. She always looks to date the “right guy” not the guy who gave her any feelings. After her life plan is thrown off course she decides to throw caution to the wind for once in her life and impulsively books a trip to India for her friend Diya’s wedding.
Arriving in India right in time for the festival of lights, she is transfixed with the beauty of it all and drawn to Sameer. As Sam and Niki join on the group honeymoon it is clear there is more going on here but can Niki veer off the careful course she has set herself?
This is such a fun one! I loved these two and both sets of parents. I loved how type A Niki finds balance in easy going Sam, plus there is a pool scene with a famous celebrity which is downright hilarious. Add this to your holiday reading list!
Thank you @berkleyromance for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This was cute! Very vivid, loved the main character and loved the loved interest. It also still felt adult even though there wasn't a ton of steam.
Was this review helpful?
Sonya Lalli’s new contemporary romance, A Holly Jolly Diwali, follows Niki Randhawa, a young woman who has just been let go from her job and is trying to figure out what to do with her life.  Niki has always considered herself a rule follower and a very practical sort of person and is really bummed that living in such a way clearly hasn’t gotten her anywhere.  She is also being gently pressured by her parents, who think she really needs to live a little and start dating. She reluctantly agrees to go on a date with Raj, a young man her parents approve of, and surprisingly, it is this young man who convinces Niki to do the most spontaneous thing she has ever done – pack her bags and head for Mumbai, India at the last minute to attend her friend Diya’s wedding.

I loved this journey for Niki because she really breaks out of her comfort zone by going on this trip.  It’s also a wonderful time for her to connect with her roots and learn more about her Indian culture and particularly about the Diwali celebration since she doesn’t really know as much about it as she feels she should.  Niki’s trip gets off to a bit of a bumpy start since she is so unfamiliar with Indian customs, but after a few awkward encounters, she starts to really embrace the experience and enjoy her time with family and friends.  I really enjoyed this aspect of Niki’s journey since it allowed me to learn about Indian culture and customs right alongside her.

My review wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t touch on the romance.  While watching a band perform, Niki becomes somewhat infatuated with one of the musicians.  When an Auntie offers to set her up on a date with her son, Sam, Niki is about to refuse until she realizes that Sam is actually the hot guy from the band she was watching.  Sam and Niki cross paths later that same evening and it becomes clear that the attraction between them is mutual.  Their connection only grows when they join the married couple on the group honeymoon they have booked in beautiful Goa.  By the end of the vacation, Niki is so invested in her relationship with Sam that she’s conflicted – does she follow her head and go back home to Seattle where Raj, the perfectly nice guy her parents already like, is waiting?  Or does she follow her heart and do the less practical thing – move to London where Sam lives and start a new life there?  Niki and Sam were really cute together so I was rooting with all my might for her to follow her heart.  I always enjoy stories that involve that head vs. heart debate since it’s such a relatable situation for so many people.

I’ve been hearing good things about Sonya Lalli’s novels for a while now and was eager to try them for myself.  I’m so glad I did too because A Holly Jolly Diwali is an absolute delight!
Was this review helpful?
This book has all the hallmarks of a great romcom with aspects of self identify, growth, and reconnecting with your roots also thrown in. As a fellow first generation American Indian, I related a lot to Nikki even though I'm a lot more in touch with my roots than she is. I see a lot more of Nikki in my younger sister. I think Sonya Lalli handled the conversations of classism, socioeconomic status, colourism, and rape culture extremely well and had some extremely nuanced conversation about these issues and how it shaped Nikki's life and identity. 

I personally felt as though a lot fo the facts about Diwali, history, culture, and language was unnecessary. I've never applied the term "info dumping" to a contemporary romance but that's honestly what it felt like to me. I think it might feel less like "info dumping" to non Desi people/ Desi's that aren't as in touch with their roots, but it was definitely something I unfortunately could not get past. I also wish the emphasis on Diwali night was heavier. The only significance Diwali held was that it's the day that Nikki and Sam meet <spoiler>and at the end, it's the day they tell their parents they're moving in together</spoiler>.

Despite that, I do think this was a solid romcom and would still highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fast, cute read.
Was this review helpful?
A Holly Jolly Diwali was an instant request for me! I love Christmas books and love India couture and book so i was so excited to read.

Sonya Lalli did an amazing job with this book! The story was perfect and just what I was looking for! It was sweet, magical and just plain amazing! I literally wanted to jump into this story. The characters were perfect and just so entertaining. Sonya Lalli literally had me rolling. I can not wait to read more from Sonya!!!
Was this review helpful?
After sticking to her conservative no-frills life plan all her life, getting a nudge from her folks to live a little on the romantic front and a hard shove out the door from her employer sees a woman chucking the life plan and living a little.  I’ve seen this author’s books before and thought they looked like fun romantic comedies with a South Asian flavor so I grabbed up this latest set during an Indian holiday in Mumbai.

Niki is the good, rule following younger daughter and her sister Jasmine is the one to tout the rules and do what feels good.  Niki never questioned their roles in the family until losing a mid-level management job after doing everything right rocks her back on her heels.  It is her blind date with a parent-approved doctor who gets her to loosen up and change her mind about her best friend’s wedding.  So Niki goes for it, taking a plane by herself from Seattle to India for the first time, and lands in Mumbai just in time for Diwali celebrations and Diya’s wedding.

Little time separates the moment Niki reluctantly agrees with Asha Auntie to see her son, Sam and falling head over heels for him.  Sam’s in a traveling band and made the decision early on to follow his dreams by moving to LA with his sister and giving his music a go.  They are opposites it seems.  In truth, it was a fast moving romance, but I adored Sameer and wanted them together.  They really clicked especially in the beach resort city of Goa.  Sam was a charmer and brought Niki to life.

While this is a delightful Rom-Com, I also felt it was a bit Chick Lit because it’s Niki’s late-blooming journey to find herself.  Does she go back home, take the good job offer, and date the doctor who was also a decent guy or does she chuck it and follow her heart?  Plus there was a rich, complex layer of Niki getting in touch with her roots.  She’s never been to India, can barely speak her family’s language or the other local languages, and she is constantly encountering customs that surprise or confuse her.  India is as complicated culturally and socially as America in its own way.  It might seem like the author was bashing it, but I felt she was showing the balance between the beauty and the part that needs to change to show an authentic picture.  The Diwali holiday was in the background and felt like the Indian version of Christmas with the celebration, time with family, and gift-giving as part of it.

All in all, it was a fun, heartwarming, and sometimes thoughtful read.  I enjoyed the author’s writing and descriptions, and now I’m sad I waited so long to pick up one of her books.  I can recommend it to those who want diversity and holiday atmosphere in their romcom.
Was this review helpful?
Sonya Lalli sweeps readers away from rainy Seattle to bustling Mumbai to the beaches of Goa in A Holly Jolly Diwali. More than a romance, this is a story of our heroine, Niki Randhawa’s personal journey. It’s a love story, yes, but also a story of family, friends, culture, and finding your own path.

Niki is at a crossroads in her life at the beginning of this story. She just lost her stable, unexciting job, and is wrestling with wanting to be the “good daughter” while resenting the life her sister has by not tying herself to their parents’ expectations. After being laid off, Niki impulsively books a trip to Mumbai for her best friend’s wedding. She arrives just in time for Diwali and it’s then that her journey begins. A Holly Jolly Diwali is very much about Niki’s personal journey. She’s doesn’t know that much about her parents’ homeland and when she travels to India she’s full of questions and observations. She’s bright, inquisitive, and – most importantly – imperfect. Her experiences in Mumbai and Goa are colored by her own biases and I liked that Lalli showed Niki’s growth and recognition of that.

On Diwali, Niki is swept off her feet by Sam, a handsome musician based out of London. I liked Sam and the glimpses we saw of his character. He was funny and perfect, but Lalli kept giving out bits and pieces of Sam’s own journey and family history that made me want more. The book is exclusively in Niki’s point of view which didn’t always work because we missed out on some much-needed depth that Sam’s perspective could have helped provide. The romance was where A Holly Jolly Diwali faltered for me. Niki and Sam have instant attraction and the sweeping, rom-com type situations they find themselves in don’t necessarily made the “I love yous” feel organic. Parts of the love story felt shallow (even though I liked Niki and Sam together) and it’s possible this was on purpose to show how Niki building castles in the air was a problem. I liked that it was presented as such but there was still something missing for me in the resolution of the romance; I wanted a bit more depth to mix in with the fantasy. Still, even with this issue I liked A Holly Jolly Diwali. Lalli ended the story with a great mix of following your passion while keeping a foot in reality. I really liked where Sam and Niki ended up and I’m looking forward to Jasmine Randhawa’s story.
Was this review helpful?
When I found out there was a new South Asian romance featuring both Diwali and Christmas, I knew it was the perfect book to get me ready for the holidays, albeit a little early.
What I really appreciated in this book is how the main character explores why we celebrate Diwali  in different cultures and religions in India. Our MC Niki is Punjabi and Sihk and when she asks her mom why they celebrate Diwali, they end up Google-ing it. I found this scene so relatable because as I was starting to read this I asked my mom why Bengalis don't celebrate Diwali, and she told me that in Bengal we call it Kalli Puja. Funny enough, when Niki in the book meets her Bengali love interest Sam, he tells her the same thing! 
I was definitely a little concerned when I first starting reading that Niki worked at a tech start-up in Seattle (since I actively avoid interacting with those girl bosses irl), but I liked how the book explored her journey of being laid off and questioning if she even liked her job. And of course, at the heart of this story is a romance that takes place when she attends her best friend's wedding in India. So we quickly escape her girl boss lifestyle and get immersed in wedding festivities and beachy vacations in Goa.
In terms of the romance, I was definitely rooting for Niki and Sam. I do think there was a bit of insta-love, but I found their challenges of being long distance very realistic and relatable. Since Sam is from London and Niki is from Seattle, Niki is constantly questioning if their time together is a fling or not. 
I actually have a lot of thoughts on this book, so I'd love to talk about it if you've read it. Overall, I breezed through this book, especially after we meet the love interest, and I'm so glad this South Asian romance during the holidays exists.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Berkley for my copy of a Holly Jolly Diwali! All thoughts are my own. 

When I saw the cover of this book, I KNEW I needed to have it. As a huge Christmas lover, I’m always looking to learn about other holidays that are celebrated in communities I am not a part of. A Holly Jolly Diwali did not disappoint in that aspect!

This is a perfect read if you want a little holiday magic but aren’t too interested in anything too festive. It’s a sweet, closed door romance about waking up in your late twenties and feeling like you’re not at all where you want to be.


“Twenty-nine-year-old Niki Randhawa has always made practical decisions. Despite her love for music and art, she became an analyst for the stability. She's always stuck close to home, in case her family needed her. And she's always dated guys that seem good on paper, rather than the ones who give her butterflies. When she's laid off, Niki realizes that practical hasn't exactly paid off for her. So for the first time ever, she throws caution to the wind and books a last-minute flight for her friend Diya’s wedding.Niki arrives in India just in time to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, where she meets London musician Sameer Mukherji. Maybe it's the splendor of Mumbai or the magic of the holiday season, but Niki is immediately drawn to Sam. At the wedding, the champagne flows and their flirtatious banter makes it clear that the attraction is mutual.When Niki and Sam join Diya, her husband and their friends on a group honeymoon, their connection grows deeper. Free-spirited Sam helps Niki get in touch with her passionate and creative side, and with her Indian roots. When she gets a new job offer back home, Niki must decide what she wants out of the next chapter of her life—to cling to the straight and narrow like always, or to take a leap of faith and live the kind of bold life the old Niki never would have dreamed of.” —NetGalley

What I Liked: 

The Setting—I LOVED getting to visit India with Niki. It was a cool vehicle for the reader since Niki had never visited before so it was like we were experiencing the magic and wonder for the first time together. 

Learning about Diwali—I admittedly did not know a lot about Diwali before reading this book. I’d heard of it before, thanks to my love of Mindy Kaling, but I didn’t know about why it was celebrated or how. I really loved learning about it and getting to add a book about a different holiday to my holiday book collection. 

The Character Arcs—I can really relate to millenial stories of starting over right now and when Niki was dealing with coming to terms on the state of her personal and professional life, it hit me right in the feels. I love being able to connect with a character like that. 

What Didn’t Work: 

Didn’t Love the Romance—It was a little Insta-Lovey for me, but I suppose that’s to be expected in a holiday read. 

Pacing— I feel like things moved a little too quickly and I didn’t really get a chance to get to know all the characters. 

Content Warnings: 


Character Authenticity: 3.75/5     Steam Rating: 0/5     Overall Rating: 3.5
Was this review helpful?
This is my second book by Sonya Lalli, and, unfortunately, I think it will be my last. I didn't particularly enjoy either of them, and I think it comes down to a writing style which doesn't resonate with me. Each have been more women's fiction than romance, and are oddly short but drag. There was nothing in this book that really kept me enthralled or made me root for the main characters. 

This book, in particularly, I think suffers from a serious case of misbranding. Billed as a seemingly light-hearted holiday romcom, this book is far from it. There's not the typical charm and wit you see in romcoms, and the holiday references, while present, don't make up the overall vibe of the book, mostly because it spans such a long period of time. The book starts with Diwali and ends with Christmas, basically, and most of the story happens in between. 

The book has great representation, and I loved how it took me to India and showed me different parts of the country, but unfortunately that doesn't make up for the overall plot. Ultimately, I just didn't particularly enjoy reading this book, and given the consistent style with her previous book, I don't think I'll try her work again. 

Thanks to Berkley for my eARC! All thoughts and opinions are my own.

3 stars - 5/10
Was this review helpful?
I'm always hunting for Holiday romances NOT centered around Christmas and was so happy to find A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI! 

I lived in an area for a few years that had a large Indian population, so I already knew a fair amount about this magical holiday. If you are less familiar with it, you will love reading this book since the author does a great job of incorporating it into the story without it reading like a textbook.

Niki and Sam are SO SWEET! I loved their story! They had great banter, sizzling chemistry, and a wonderfully real relationship that never felt too rushed or unrealistic. Niki is a female working in STEM (yay!!! Happy dance!) who is practical to a fault. I love a female lead who is the more "serious" one. While Sam is chasing his dreams, passionate, and much more open to fun.

A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI also gives the reader a perfectly executed peek into the Indian culture, as a society and within families. Again, this information is woven into the story without feeling preach or heavy-handed. We get to witness the Indian-American heroine changing some of her preconceived ideas about her own culture as she visits India.

Now, for the good stuff! This book is really steamy WITHOUT having much steam! Whooo-Wheee! Are these two sexy, even without the sex. You won't be left wanting more (okay, maybe you will) because the chemistry and kisses are pretty great.

A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI is such a great holiday read! It's smart, sweet, and swoony!

Emilie, RateTheRomance
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this book. It's a coming-of-age story with a large smattering of romance. I love stories where the characters are growing from one phase to another and discovering new parts of themselves. And that's exactly what Niki is going through.

I had so much fun reading Niki's story. I loved her romantic nature and could really relate to her responsible ways. I also really liked Sam, and the way the two interacted was really sweet.

I have to be honest, I knew nothing about Diwali before reading this book, but I loved learning about it. It sounds like a beautiful celebration.
Was this review helpful?
enjoyed reading Sonya Lalli’s Serena Singh Flips The Script and was super excited to get approved for A Holly Jolly Diwali!

The title of the book itself has so much spark in it! Diwali is the biggest, brightest and beloved festival celebrated by most Indians regardless of where they are residing. To add to it there were literally fireworks between Sam and Niki! Oh my! their chemistry and flirting had such intense pull and immense spark!

I loved this book very much and could not help but visualize each and every scene in my head as if this was a movie! Thank you Sonya Lalli for giving us this firecracker right when Diwali is around the corner!

Thank you @berkleypub and @netgalley for the gifted galley of this fun, sparkly romcom that could be picked up at your nearest bookshelves as of Oct 5, 2021!
Was this review helpful?
This romance novel took me on the perfect holiday adventure to India , & I loved every minute of it! 

I also loved how it wasn’t just a novel about romance, but also about family, friendships, culture, and self discovery. I really appreciate the detail and insight into the South Asian community. I definitely learned a lot about Diwali and the culture surrounding the festival. 

Another thing that I loved was the insta love between Nikki & Sam. Right away I saw the chemistry between them, despite their differences. If you enjoy feel good romance/holiday romance, then you need to read this! I absolutely recommend it, & I plan on re-reading for Christmas time !
Was this review helpful?
The concept of this book is cute and the idea of a romance centered around a winter holiday that’s not Christmas is much needed, but this felt more like women’s fiction than a love story so it fell flat for me.  There are positive things about this book but I wouldn’t suggest this to hardcore romance fans or if you are looking for a holiday themed read.

The good things first. The main theme of the novel focuses on the growth of a young woman and the discovery of what she wants in life and who she wants to be and I am here for it.  It’s executed well, even though there were times I wanted Niki to be a little stronger and surer of herself but part of the conflict comes from her learning to be her own person.  One of the strongest aspects of this book was the strength of the female relationships, whether it was Niki and Diya, Niki and her sister Jasmine, or when Niki opens herself up to new adventures and befriends Masooma. These relationships do a great job showing the reader who Niki is and what she finds important in life.  The representation in this book is needed and welcome and I liked that it was about a holiday I knew nothing about and the differences between the various families. Niki’s feelings about not belonging in her Indian family while also not belonging in her American family felt authentic and I loved the conversation she had with her parents about the motivations behind their choices when they moved to the States and why they treat their daughters the way they do. Their relationship was sweet and their concern for Niki provided some comic relief and heart to the story. And even though I didn’t love the romantic relationship, I liked that Sam and Niki were foils of each other; she is flailing in life after spending most of it doing what she thinks she should and not having fun while he is flailing after spending his life pursuing lofty dreams and finding himself at a crossroads. This was a fun take on opposites attract that worked well with the story.

Now the things that didn’t work for me. Diwali is in the title of this book so I expected the holiday to be a more prominent part of the story but other than a few times in the very beginning and a mention at the very end, Diwali isn’t a big part. One of the plot points is that Niki doesn’t know why Diwali is celebrated so she asks various people why they celebrate and…we never really get an answer. Most of the people tell her what they personally think but nothing about the holiday is explained.  The end of the book would have had more of an impact on me if the holiday had played a larger role in the story. My main issue with the book was the romance. To me, this isn’t a romance book, it’s women’s fiction. Yes, there is a romance plot running throughout but this is an insta-love story so we don’t get a lot of time to find out why Niki and Sam fall for each other so when the conflict is introduced, I didn’t feel anything.  There wasn’t enough on the page to convince me that Niki would make life changing decisions for this relationship and because this is told from her point of view exclusively, we don’t know how Sam is feeling and his actions didn’t convince me he loved her. We get a few kissing scenes and that’s it for the heat level as well so the lack of physical heat combined with the insta-love didn't work for me. I was more interested in Niki's journey to personal acceptance than the love story, which would have been perfectly fine had I not expected something completely different.

This was a well written book that had likeable characters and a good story, but it wasn’t what I expected, and the romance fell flat.  It also didn’t feel very holiday to me and that was one of the reasons I picked it up. Despite these issues, I would read another book by Lalli and I would recommend this book to someone but with the caveat that it isn’t a romance.  Give this one a read if you are looking for a story about a woman changing her life for the better and discovering her true self but not if you're looking to get into the holiday spirit.
Was this review helpful?
My favorite book by Sonya Lalli yet! Such a well written book, a romcom. The way family, and friendships are explored in relation to finding yourself. perfect 10/10 would recommend! As always I love how well the culture permeates the whole book.
Was this review helpful?