Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Vegas to Varanasi: Fortytude Series, Book 1 is a contemporary romantic chick lit novel written by Shelly Hickman. Anna's first and major love had been Luke. They were best friends who went the next step, fell in love and got married. Anna, who had never been intimate with a man before, had no real reason to suppose that the perfunctory and slightly impersonal lovemaking they occasionally indulged in was anything really out of the ordinary. After their second child, however, she realized, without him saying a word, that Luke was gay. She avoided any real relationships with men after their amicable divorce, not wanting to subject their two kids to a boyfriend until they were older. Then Anna met David, a client at the physical therapy center where she worked, and their relationship grew to the point that David came to live with Anna and her now grownup children. But David, a tenured professor and aspiring novelist, became increasingly reticent and reclusive, and was finishing off a significant amount of booze while writing his great novel. Their parting seemed almost a relief to the two of them. Then there was Kiran. Impossibly lovely to look at, and still holding tight to a crush he had had on her from when they were briefly in school together years before. Too good to be true? Anna's optimism has taken a few too many bumps and bruises along the way, but Kiran is quite enticing.
Shelly Hickman's contemporary romance novel, Vegas to Varanasi: Fortytude Series, Book 1 is a heartwarming and humorous look at life after forty. There's the worries Anna has about her kids and their prospective partners, and her own fears about growing old on her own, but Hickman's Anna is more than simply a woman going through a midlife crisis. She's a genuinely likable and compassionate soul, and the reader can't help but hope that she and Kiran will get to live happily ever after. Along the way, Kiran invites Anna to travel with him to India to visit his ailing grandmother and his aunt. Anna's always dreamed of going to India and surprises herself by assenting. Reading about their experiences in India is marvelous! Hickman makes every crowded street in Varanasi and holy ceremony by the Ganges come alive with the flowing and detailed descriptions one would usually expect from a travel writer. Vegas to Varanasi is a quirky, warm, and entertaining novel that is most highly recommended.