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Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.5k followers
July 22, 2021
the immersive quality of AJs storytelling is what i loved most about ‘the henna artist’ and what made me want to pick up this sequel.

‘the henna artist’ is wrapped up pretty nicely, so i was wondering what sort of direction this story would take, and its very much just a check-in with the characters. this isnt really a continuation of the previous novel, per se, but more of a glimpse into the lives of the characters and what they are doing 12 years after the events of the first book. yes, there is a little mystery/investigation plot regarding a collapsed balcony, but this novel is predominately about the characters. and the setting.

oh, the setting. once again, i was immediately transported back to india in the 1960s. all of the descriptions about the clothing, jewellery, henna, food, buildings, and city made me wish i had a time machine. it just feels so tangible and i love that sort of power AJs writing has, as i could vividly see the characters living their lives.

overall, i do appreciate another book revolving around this group of people, especially malik. he was such an adorable boy in ‘the henna artist,’ so it was really lovely seeing him grow and create a place for himself.

the cast and atmosphere definitely have me wishing for a third book.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,263 reviews2,439 followers
March 30, 2023
In this second part of The Henna Artist trilogy, Lakshmi is now married to Dr. Jay in Shimla. Abbas Malik was educated in the prestigious Bishop Cotton School and is now a young man who is working on a modern cinema theatre project in Jaipur. The story is set in the latter half of the 1960s.

The cinema’s balcony collapses on its inaugural day, and several people die. Is there any darker secret behind this predicament of Malik and the cinema? How will Malik face this difficult situation? Alka Joshi answers these questions through this book.

What I learned from this book
1) What should you do if people are not valuing your honesty and trying to take advantage of you?
The author tells us the importance of honesty and why we should continue to be honest even if the whole world is behaving in a dishonest manner. Karma is real. It is true that we have to face the consequences of our dishonest practices before we leave this world.
“The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway. —MOTHER TERESA”

2) Why is henna important in a woman’s life?
The author tells us the importance of henna in henna artists and every woman’s life.
“To me, henna is a way for a woman to find a piece of herself she might have mislaid. When I used to apply henna for a living in Jaipur, it was so satisfying to watch the change in women after their skin had been oiled and massaged and decorated with a cooling henna paste, after they had whiled away a half hour telling me stories about their lives, after they’d seen the reddish glow of a custom imprint as the henna dried and flaked off. They emerged calmer, happier, more content. ”

3) Why people in India respects books so much?
Books are given the highest amount of respect in Indian families. The author tries to explain the divine relation between books and people in India.
“Books contain magic, they say. If we so much as stepped on a book or on a piece of paper, we were punished. I trace the letters with my finger, and mouth out the words in the book, just as Lakshmi taught us to do. She spends an hour reading with Rekha and me every afternoon. ”

My favourite three lines from this book
“Every accident can be avoided, Lakshmi. That’s why we call them accidents. If everything had gone as planned, there would have been no mishap.”

“The ideal outcome is always the preservation of integrity. It’s painful when the consequence of the outcome is so severe.”

“Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars. ”

What could have been better?
The plot was not as interesting as in the first book.

3.5 /5 I felt the first book was better. Still, this is somewhat a decent sequel to the first book.

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Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews3,324 followers
June 29, 2021
Alka Joshi’s debut novel, 2020’s The Henna Artist, had the benefit of Ms. Reese Witherspoon shining her book club sunshine upon it, resulting in almost 80,000 ratings on Goodreads to date. Here’s hoping all those readers follow its characters to this second installment in a planned trilogy… even if a celebrity’s logo isn’t slapped on the front cover this time.

What I loved most about The Henna Artist was its protagonist Lakshmi, who I found to be a wonderful example of a strong, independent, resilient woman. I was so pleased to discover that The Secret Keeper of Jaipur doesn’t shift its focus completely away from her, even if it picks up many years later and integrates the secondary character of Malik more prominently in its storyline. Don’t get me wrong, Malik is a treat. But for me Lakshmi is the bread and butter.

I did find the action of this follow up to be more external and adventurous, as the characters here deal with gold smuggling and a scandal involving a collapsed theater. Fortunately, Joshi’s writing never makes any of this action feel too over the top. Readers just get easily swept away in the vibrant sights and sounds of late 1960s India.

As I mentioned in my review for The Henna Artist, this trilogy has already been optioned for a TV series starring Freida Pinto that is being described as a lush production akin to an “Indian Downtown Abbey.” I look forward to that, along with the third and final book!

I received a printed advance readers copy from Harlequin/Mira Books, which includes an index of characters, a glossary of terms, and even a few recipes. Those who might prefer the audiobook format can find both The Henna Artist and The Secret Keeper of Jaipur on the Hoopla library app for immediate download.

Profile Image for Debbie W..
760 reviews566 followers
July 3, 2021
Although I have never been to India, I love reading stories about its history, culture and customs. The Henna Artist, and now The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, both by Alka Joshi, truly added to any knowledge I had about this exotic country in a most delightful way!

Positive points about this book:
1. Plot: corruption is incorporated into the story-lines involving gold smuggling and the mysterious collapse of the newly-built Royal Jewel Cinema, both inadvertently affecting the lives of the main characters as well as keeping me in suspense;
2. Characters: I loved the return of main character, Lakshmi, her assistant, Malik (now a 20-year old apprentice) and newcomer, Nimmi, a 23-year old tribal widow with two young children from the Himalayan region to the north. Other characters from The Henna Artist return as well, including my favorite, the feisty Dowager Maharani Indira;
3. Details: I could deeply visualize the graphic descriptions of the clothing and various settings, including Lakshmi's Healing Garden - many of the plants mentioned grow well in my own personal flower garden;
4. Audiobook: the 3 narrators are very realistic in their roles! Direction to a webpage is also included to view a map of 1955 India, list of characters, glossary, two essays about Indian gold and food, and two recipes; and,
5. Book Covers: the gorgeous cover designs of both books are breathtaking!

The only teensy issue I had with this story was Malik's constant preoccupation with Sheela's body.

Otherwise, I am really looking forward to Book #3!
Profile Image for Holly  B .
849 reviews2,014 followers
October 20, 2021
Lakshmi is back, along with many of the characters introduced in book one, The Henna Artist. I would recommend reading these books in order, because this is a trilogy.

It is twelve years later, and we get caught up on everything that has happened with Malik (my favorite from book one) and others. He gets involved in a scandal back in Jaipur where he is an apprentice. While he is away, he pines for his love interest, Nimmi, who is back home in Shimla.

While the writing is engaging, I thought the new "plot" would be more gripping. For me, it was pretty bland, with just a hint of suspense and no real "bombshell" moments.  It was interesting enough to keep reading, but I didn't feel any emotions or connection with anyone. I think the problem was that I just didn't really care and was just reading to see how it concluded or if there were any cliffhangers.

Many have loved this book, just another "okay" read for me.

A bit disappointed, I was expecting more drama, a juicy scandal, and something that left me feeling like....... "I can not wait for the next one."  Maybe the third will have me singing its praises, but I'm not sure if I'll read it. 

Library loan/ Read October 2021
Profile Image for Jayme.
1,188 reviews2,249 followers
August 28, 2021
The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is the second book of a planned trilogy (The Henna Artist #2)
and this audio was brilliantly narrated by the cast of Sneha Mathan (Narrator), Ariyan Kassam (Narrator), and Deepa Samuel (Narrator) 11 hours, 8 minutes

It’s the Spring of 1969, 12 years from where we last left off and Lakshmi, our renowned Henna Artist from book one, has married Dr. Jay Kumar and is now living in Shimla, State of Himachal Pradesh, India, with our favorite Alexandrine parakeet, Madho Singh. The two now work side by side at the Community Clinic, where she is now growing herbs in her own healing garden.

Her protégé, Malik, has completed his private school education, and has fallen for the young widow named Nimmi, who sells them the best flowers from her stall at the Shimla Mall. He reluctantly leaves her and her two small children behind, when Lakshmi arranges for him to intern at the Jaipur Palace, whose latest project is a state of the Art Cinema.

It tragically collapses on opening night.

Blame is placed where it’s convenient-on those without the money or influence to defend themself-but Malik is determined to expose the truth.

Meanwhile, Lakshmi, reluctantly accepts that Malik has fallen in love with Nimmi, and she takes the illiterate woman and her children, under her wing, finding trouble of her own.

The narrator who portrayed Nimmi did an excellent job of portraying the conflicting emotions of the young woman who was both equally grateful and suspicious of Lakshmi, the woman who sent Malik away. It will take time for her to understand that Lakshmi will do anything for those she cares for, and that her loyalty has no bounds.

Once again, the author’s vivid, lyrical descriptions will transport you to India, as the journey of these wonderful characters continues.

My personal taste has me slightly partial to the first in the trilogy, “The Henna Artist”, as my interests lie more with Henna Art and the always polite but calculated conversations between the women that we were privy to in book one.

BUT, this was a worthy sequel which has me eagerly awaiting the final installment, due in 2023!

There is NO DOUBT that Alka Joshi is talented author, and I will auto-request ANY book that she puts out!

You can read it as a standalone, as events from book one will be shared by both Lakshmi and Malik, but I HIGHLY RECOMMEND, reading the books in order so that you can appreciate EVERYTHING that led us to this point.

Both books are available now!
Profile Image for Marialyce (on our way to Venice).
2,038 reviews710 followers
June 2, 2021
This was a fine continuation to the author's The Henna Artist. In it we meet once again, Lakshimi, the natural healer who is now married to Dr Jay Kumar. Lakshimi's protege, Malik has finished his private school education and is ready to embark on a career. He meets and falls in love with a mountain girl, Nimmi, who is a widow with two young children, who can't read or write. Lakshimi is somewhat disappointed in his choice, but comes to realize Malik is his own person.

Meanwhile, there is a tragedy as the balcony of the new constructed Royal Jewel Theater flls to the ground and people are injured and killed. Malik had been hired at the Facilities Department, a part of the Royal Palace, so he is sent to assess the damages. He discovers something amiss, something he believes caused the tragic collapse of the balcony. He and his family are placed in danger as his discovery has several hidden agendas that involve the illegal transportation of gold, a much sought after commodity in India, and perhaps a very wealthy family in Jaipur. Will the guilty be punished or will all of this be swept away because of power and money?

Once again, Alka Joshi has filled her story with vivid scenes of India, ones that encompass the beauty of the country as well as ones who show the poverty and class structure that seems to still be in effect. Her words transport the reader into the sounds and smells of the Indian culture and even includes some recipes at the end for the Indian foods she incorporates into the book.

I very much enjoyed this second book in The Henna Artist series, and hope to read more of this family and its love and care for one another. A definite recommendation for this one.
Thank you to Alka Joshi, Mira Books, and NetGalley for a copy of this story due out June 22, 2021.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews593 followers
June 28, 2021
Audiobook…Hoopla download….
Narrated by Snha Mathan, Ariyan Kassam, Deepa Samuel
….11 hours and 8 minutes [The Jaipur Trilogy Book 2]

Author Alka Joshi….was born in the desert state of Rajasthan in India.
She earned her BA from Stanford university and an MFA from California college of arts in San Francisco. Prior to writing “The Henna Artist”….. (a breakout-terrific-New York Times best seller….and Reese Witherspoon book club pick), Alka ran an advertising and marketing agency for 30 years. She has spent time in France and Italy and currently lives with her husband on the coast in Northern California.

I don’t commit to many trilogies….or series….but with Alka Joshi’s name on the book ….I didn’t hesitate….(even when I had no idea that having read “The Henna Artist” ‘was’ planned for a trilogy).

Beauty illuminates throughout…. It’s intimate at once, and stylistically a ‘tour de force’. ( I rarely say that term about books)… but it possesses so multiple many layers of magnificence storytelling…
…that I just don’t know how else to express it. Other than also say it’s a very engaging story - with both splendor and affliction.
There is family…mystery…and even a little glorious romance. And of course it goes without saying it’s sensual in every sense-of-the-word….
with yummy foods, flowers, gardens, smells, culture, ambience & imagery, with imperfect captivating characters that charm us - move us - and contribute to our thoughts of justice: class, identity, and worthiness.

“The Secret Keeper of Jaipur” is sultry…..perhaps even better than “The Henna Artist”……it’s a lushly woven tapestry for the many hopeful possibilities- from the past to the future….
NOTE…. Personally it took me a few minutes to feel committed to the audio-format, (I came close to switching to the ebook)…but then suddenly….I was hooked …enchanted with the voice-readers reaching into my soul reading Alka’s words.

The one thing Alka Joshi could not have known when she wrote this novel, was about the horrific tragedy of the Florida Surfside building collapse….and that some of us readers were smack in the middle of grieving - (knowing friends and family still missing), ….when we came upon a balcony collapse - in a new Cinema theater - that Alka wrote into this story….[my body shivered for a few minutes]….

….Lakshmi is the director of “The Lady Reading Healing Garden”, and is now married to the physician Dr. Jay Kumar.
….Malik is twenty years old…( having graduated from a prestigious Bishop Cotton School for Boys), is a new apprentice in the facility offices of the Jaipur Royal Palace.
….Nimmi is a widow with two small children. She falls in love with Malik.

We learn about gold trafficking….and The Gold (Control) Act in 1968.
I found the history so interesting — not knowing much about it - that I looked up more information on google.

This story is dazzling, sparkling …powerful…and totally fresh.

Alka Joshi’s strength is her mastery in *storytelling*- depicting our tender hearts.
Highly recommended it to anyone who has a passion for the love and textures of India.
Profile Image for Whitney Erwin.
199 reviews
May 8, 2022
I really enjoyed this one! The Henna Artist was amazing, and I loved it, so I was looking forward to reading this sequel. I was not disappointed! I loved seeing how Malik has grown and prospered into a man. I also enjoyed his newfound relationship with Nimmi. Highly recommend this series!!
Profile Image for PorshaJo.
466 reviews672 followers
August 8, 2021
Rating 4.75

I really enjoyed Alka Joshi's first book in this series, The Henna Artist. I happened to see the cover which drew me in but once I started the audio I loved it. And when I saw she had another book in the series coming out, I was so excited. I patiently waited and requested the audio. And I have to say, I liked this one even better.

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur allows us to visit again with Lakshmi, who runs a healing garden in Shimla where she is dabbling with her herbs and potions again. She is now married to Dr. Kumar. Her faithful friend Malik is also there, now grown into a wonderful caring man who is still devoted to Lakshmi. There are two stories that are intertwined here and it took a bit of time to figure out how. One is the main story of the luxurious Jaipur Royal Palace, a state-of-the-art cinema that is having it's opening night. The fanfare is short-lived when the place collapses. Prior to this, Lakshmi has sent Malik to Jaipur to study the art of building buildings in the hopes of having him succeed. But what he finds himself in is an investigation into how the building collapsed and who is responsible for this. I don't want to say anything about the second story to give anything away. The book is told from three character points of view: Lakshmi, Malik, and Nimmi, a young mountain woman in Shimla who both Lakshmi and Malik have taken a liking to (well, Malik a bit more). The story also bounces between Jaipur and Shimla and how the stories of all are intertwined.

Honestly, when I saw there was a book 2 coming out while very excited I was also worried, would it hold up, where would we see these characters go. But I ended up loving this one even more than the first. Much of the same cast of characters are in this one (though one main from book 1 is absent). I loved the audio, each of the narrators did a wonderful job and just whisked me away to 1969 India. I had to knock it just a bit for how easily these two stories fit together but that's just me being picky. I still have all these characters in my head, can still hear the audio narration and to me, that's a sign of a really good book. Highly suggested for those who want to hear a wonderful story and immerse themselves in Indian culture. For me, I can't wait for the next book in this series (hoping that there is one!).
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,390 reviews4,908 followers
August 25, 2021

3.5 stars

This is the sequel to The Henna Artist and revisits the characters from that novel. It's not necessary to have read The Henna Artist to enjoy this story, but I'd strongly recommend it.


It's 1969 and Lakshmi Shastri and her now 20-year-old apprentice Malik, both of whom left Jaipur 12 years ago......

......are happily settled in Shimla, in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Lakshmi is married to Dr. Jay Kumar, who works at the Lady Bradley Hospital and directs the Community Clinic.....

......while Lakshmi runs the adjacent Lady Bradley Healing Garden, where she grows plants used to make natural medications.

Lakshmi and her helper Malik make the acquaintance of a young illiterate widow named Nimmi, a mother of two who gathers flowers from the Himalayan foothills and sells them on the side of the road.

Malik is attracted to Nimmi, which doesn't sit well with Lakshmi, who wants Malik to have a successful career and to (eventually) wed a well-educated woman.

For this and other reasons Lakshmi sends Malik back to Jaipur, to learn the construction trade. Malik becomes the apprentice to Lakshmi's friend Manu Agarwal, who oversees building projects for Jaipur's royal family.

The royals have commissioned the construction of a movie theatre called the Royal Jewel Cinema, and Ravi Singh (the rich teenage bad boy from The Henna Artist), who's now a Yale-educated architect, is in charge of the project.

The grand opening of the cinema is a HUGE big deal, attended by film stars and high society.

Tragically, a balcony collapses during the film's intermission, killing two people and injuring many others (not a spoiler). Malik's mentor Manu Agarwal is blamed for the disaster, but Malik is sure Ravi Singh used inferior building materials and skimmed the profits. Malik makes it his mission to prove this, but it's very hard to go up against the rich and powerful.

Meanwhile, back in Shimla, Lakshmi uncovers a gold-smuggling operation run by savage bandits. The smugglers conceal the gold in the fleece of sheep, which are guided to their destination by shepherds.

If a shepherd doesn't deliver the goods, the smugglers kill the shepherd's family. This threatens people Lakshmi knows, so Lakshmi takes it upon herself to fix things, which is a dangerous thing to do.

As the story unfolds, Lakshmi and/or Malik touch base with various characters from The Henna Artist. These include Ravi Singh's (now) wife Sheila - who disdained Malik when he was a barefoot child, but doesn't recognize him now; Ravi Singh's father Samir - who gave Lakshmi her big break as a henna artist and businesswoman; Lakshmi's sister Radha, who married a Frenchman and lives in Paris; Radha's biological son Nikhil, who she had at the age of 14 and (reluctantly) gave up for adoption; Maharani Latika - who was pulled out of a depression by Lakshmi's herbs and ministrations; the dowager Maharani Indira - who has terminal cancer; and more.

During the course of the story I learned a bit about Indian culture and food, and I enjoyed broadening my horizons. I wish I could have tasted snacks like chili peanuts, pani puri, and potato samosas;

Chili Peanuts

Pani Puri

Potato Samosas

and tried dishes like chicken tikka masala, lauki ki sabji, palak paneer, and palak gobi sabzi.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Lauki Ki Sabji

Palak Paneer

Palak Gobi Sabzi

For me, this book isn't quite as good as The Henna Artist, in large part because the plot isn't as engaging. In addition, there are long chapters about accounting practices in the building trade, which I found dull, and there are scenes where Sheila 'teases' Malik with her sexy body, which made me squirm (and want to push him out the door).

Nevertheless, I found the story interesting and look forward to the next novel in the trilogy.

You can follow my reviews at
Profile Image for Provin Martin.
266 reviews35 followers
June 30, 2021
Oh how I did not want this book to end – now I sit eagerly awaiting the third book in the series!! I really hope this series is picked up for film or TV. 🥰

It is 1969 and 12 years have passed since our introduction to Lakshmi in The Henna Artist. Lakshmi and Dr. Jay are married and working together at their hospital in Shimla. Malik is out of boarding school and working on his future. He has met a beautiful young widow (Nimmi) with two children who he wishes to marry. Lakshmi and Dr. Jay invite Nimmi to come work at the hospital herb garden (which is how Lakshmi got her start at the hospital).

One day several children show up at the clinic with an ‘uniquely’ injured sheep. Nimmi not only recognizes the sheep‘s wound as a gold smugglers hiding place, but she also recognizes the tattoo in the sheep‘s ear as one of her brothers flock. She and the children leave immediately to help her brother.

Meanwhile, Malik now works with Ravi on his new construction/architectural projects. Ravi has built a huge new theater similar to the ones in the United States. During the intermission of the first show at the Royal Jewel Cinema, the balcony comes crashing down. Were shortcuts taken during the construction of the new theater?

Another beautifully written work of art that sweeps the reader away to the sounds, sights and smells of India. Filled with a beautiful storyline, mysterious plot and well written characters, this book is sure to become another favorite!
Profile Image for Lucy.
455 reviews86 followers
June 29, 2021
"There are so many secrets in our world, aren't there?"

After reading Book 1, The Henna Artist, I was looking forward to this book. Once again, I was transported to India with the author's storytelling. The writing is lyrical and vividly descriptive. The narration is fantastic. I really enjoyed the audiobook and highly recommend it.

This story takes place 12 years from where Book 1 left off. We get to follow up on all the characters in the previous story. We're also introduced to a new character, Nimmi. She's a brave woman who's the mother of two young children and Malik's love interest. It's 1969 in India, and secrets abound around all the characters. Some secrets you hope will be uncovered, others you hope won't.

This is a great story about family, loyalty, and new beginnings. I'm now looking forward to Book 3!

For a map, list of characters, and recipes:
June 30, 2021
I loved the cover of The Henna Artist, but the cover of Alka Joshi's follow up book is even more vibrant and beautiful than the first. The Secret Keeper of Jaipur picks up in 1969, 12 years after The Henna Artist, and it was easy to fall right back into step with these characters. This time the story is split between Malik's time in Jaipur as well as Nimmi's and Lakshmi's story in Shimla. This book revolves around a balcony collapse of a new Cinema theater in Jaipur and trying to find the root cause of this terrible accident, but it also introduces the reader to gold smuggling during this time period which I found interesting and led me to read more about The Gold Control Act of 1968.

As with her first book, this one is rich with cultural references and vivid descriptions of the food which made my mouth water and had me craving Indian for dinner tonight. It felt good to be reunited with some of my favorite characters from the first book, especially Lakshmi, Malik and the Maharani Indira all of whom I adored in the first book. The introduction of Nimmi, another strong female character, and her back story added another layer to the story which I enjoyed. Joshi's writing is beautiful and eloquent, and I look forward to reading the third book. If you are considering the audiobook, the narration by Sneha Mathan, Ariyan Kassam and Deepa Samuel is fantastic. 4 stars.
Profile Image for NILTON TEIXEIRA.
890 reviews304 followers
August 10, 2021
Rounded up to 4 stars.
As I was a big fan of “The Henna Artist”, which will be adapted for a TV series, I was super excited when I heard of the release of this follow up and that a third book is also planned to complete a trilogy.
This book did not engage me like the first one. During the first 20% I was (most of the time) bored. I even stopped reading it and started a different book because I had lost interest.
Then I picked a second book and I stopped at 24% because I was feeling guilty for not finishing this book.
Originally I obtained a copy from the library, but at the end I purchased a hard copy, to give me some motivation and also because the cover is gorgeous (the disadvantage of ebooks is that the cover will likely change, especially when it becomes a TV show or a movie. I already can see Freida Pinto all over the front page).
Anyways… back to the book.
I did enjoy the writing, the 3 POV and the plot. This is a plot-driven story that happens 12 years after where The Henna Artist ended, and I what I missed the most was the characters’ development, which was very strong in the first book and where I felt connected with them. This one offers less drama and more mystery.
It did take some time to win my heart, and I’m glad that I decided to finish it.
The conclusion was nice but too easy.
Overall I really enjoyed it.
I’m looking forward to reading the 3rd book and watching the TV series, once released.
July 19, 2021
4 ⭐️!
I thought this was an incredible follow up to The Henna Artist and was excited to see that Malik had more of a focus in this book than last. He was my favorite character in The Henna Artist so it was neat hearing his own story.
I thought the few new characters were great additions as well! I learned so much about women of the Himalayans. I love a book that can truly teach me something.
Minor complaints: I wish Nimmi and Malik’s relationship was a bit more built out before Malik left for Jaipur. It seemed a bit forced and rushed to appreciate their love story.
There were a few portions of this story that made me question Malik’s choices and character. For him being a main protagonist, his downfalls definitely disappointed me.
All in all great story with imagery that takes you to a new place!
Profile Image for DeAnn.
1,355 reviews
August 15, 2021
4.5 Storytelling Stars

I loved this one and it was like returning to my best friends to see what they've been up to!! This one picks up about a dozen years after the first book and features Lakshmi and Malik, who is now a young adult.

This one has the same lush descriptions of India, but I found this one to have more elements of intrigue. Lakshmi is still a strong female character (which I love) and she is now married to Dr. Kumar and living in the mountains in Shimla. She continues to grow her herbs and other plants to heal local people.

Malik is living with Lakshmi and meets a local woman who might just capture his heart. Soon he is sent back to Jaipur at Lakshmi’s request to learn more about the building trade. It was fascinating to return the world of the Jaipur Royal Palace, both from Malik’s perspective and Lakshmi later in the story.

A tragedy strikes and there is a hunt to figure out what happened. Malik is in the thick of the mystery and I enjoyed his point of view.

About six months ago, I had the chance to participate in a online book club with the author, Alka Joshi, about her first book. I got a deeper appreciation of her writing, and it was fun to ask her questions!

I hope there are more Henna Artist stories to come and I've heard rumors of a movie!

Thank you to my local library for the loan of this one.
Profile Image for Zoya.
109 reviews12 followers
June 18, 2021
UPDATE: 18/06/2021
This review will contain spoilers for ‘The Henna Artist’

Alka Joshi has officially become an instant-buy author for me. I adore her writing and I love her characters. I’d like to thank Harper Collins for sending me an ARC of The Secret Keeper of Jaipur!

Set twelve years after the events of The Henna Artist, this installment follows three protagonists. We encounter Lakshmi once again, we meet a new character, a young tribal woman named Nimmi and of course my most beloved character from the first book, Malik. Set in the towns of Shimla and Jaipur, Alka weaves a mystery that connects our three characters from across the states, from snow to sand, from person to person. Each idea ties in perfectly with the next, making it a pleasurable experience to solve. All the threads come together perfectly.

While it isn’t necessary to read the first book before picking up this one, I would highly recommend it. Having read The Henna Artist provides depth to the characters that the reader will be unable to experience.

‘The Secret Keeper of Jaipur’ sucked me in almost immediately. Contemporary fiction usually takes me a few chapters to get involved and interested in, but within the first few chapters of this book, I was engrossed in knowing how the characters had grown, what they were doing, how their lives had progressed. The writing remains soft and simple which is wonderful because you get to focus on the intrigue of the plot and the journey of the characters. The narration is able to create vivid imagery and the descriptions are almost visceral yet softened by the simplicity of the writing.

“Pearl and ruby bangles, now too large for her thin arms, threaten to slide off her wrists. “

It’s one of my greatest fears that Indian authors brought up in America or who live in America will try and appropriate Indian culture in their writing. One of the prime examples for me was a show that came out on Netflix called ‘Never Have I Ever’ or a book that came out earlier this year titled ‘Cast in Firelight’. But all of Alka’s writing is well researched. You can tell that she takes the time to do the research regarding Indian culture that she might be unaware of, and she mentions as much in her book. The customs of Nimmi’s tribe are brought to the front with tact, she researches the construction techniques that would have been used in 1960’s North India, she researches smuggling in India. All of it is well thought out. Where The Henna Artist spoke about poignant topics regarding domestic abuse and the slow climb out of poverty, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur explores relinquishing emotional custody of someone you have raised as a child, friendships between women who might once consider each other rivals, and affairs and sex. This book depicts Alka’s range.

What I really loved though aside from the way the plot tied together and the narrative style, were the characters. I really enjoyed seeing Lakshmi again! While the romance between Malik and Nimmi was negligible, I enjoyed the romance between them. It was barely there, and yet there was something soft and safe about it. At the same time, Lakshmi is now married to the handsome Doctor Jay from the previous book and yet we experience angst within her well-established romance, what with the reappearances of old flames and doubts. It was interesting to see how all the relationships evolved towards the end and how all the old relationships from the first book tie into this one. Range, range, range!

All in all, I loved this book, and while I have mulled over it I can’t honestly decide which of the two I like better. Perhaps a reread is in order.

Spoilers will be added to this review on June 29th!

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur will be available to purchase on June 22nd!

Update (06/06/2021): Brilliant. Absolutely freaking brilliant. Alka Joshi is now an instant-buy author for me. A spoiler-free to review to follow in this coming week and a complete review ripe with spoilers to follow one week after public release.

I absolutely cannot wait for Malik's story! Counting down days...
Profile Image for Avani ✨.
1,637 reviews342 followers
July 8, 2021
4.5 stars
Loved it more than the first book
Profile Image for Marilyn.
855 reviews276 followers
July 1, 2021
I listened to The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi on audiobook. It was brilliantly narrated by Sneha Mathan, Ariyan Kassam and Deepa Samuel. Their voices and interpretations of the characters really brought this book to life. I remember how impressed I was with Alka Joshi’s debut novel, The Henna Artist. At the time, I was not aware, or simply forgot, that The Henna Artist was the first book in a trilogy that the author planned to write. The Secret Keeper of Jaipur was written as the second book in this trilogy. It portrayed Malik, Lakshmi’s trusted and loyal assistant. The Secret Keeper of Jaipur was Malik’s story just as The Henna Artist was Lakshmi’s story. Many of the characters in The Henna Artist once again found their way onto the pages and into the intricate plot of The Secret Keeper of Jaipur along with a few new ones. The Secret Keeper of Jaipur picked up twelve years after The Henna Artist left off. Alka Joshi cleverly transported the setting from Jaipur to Shimla, nestled among the Himalaya Mountains. Greeted with new sights, fragrances, sounds and cultures, Shimla and that part of India were easily identifiable and vivid. The recording of this audiobook was a little over eleven hours. It was fast paced, intriguing and suspenseful and I did not want it to end.

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur immediately revealed that a tragedy of catastrophic magnitude had occurred at The Royal Palace Cinema on opening night. There had been so much hype and excitement for the grand opening of the Royal Jewel Cinema in Jaipur. Everyone that could attend its opening was there. Among the guests was Malik, Lakshmi’s young assistant, now grown up and a man of twenty years of age. He had been commissioned as an apprentice to the Singh-Sharm Construction Company. Malik had completed his schooling and had graduated from Bishops Cotton School for Boys and was not sure what he wanted to do with his life. He had recently met Nimmi, a beautiful young widow with two young children. Malik liked Nimmi a lot. He had been living with Lakshmi and her husband, Dr. Jay Kumar in Shimla, when Lakshmi arranged this apprenticeship for Malik. Was Lakshmi just trying to help Malik with a career choice or was she trying to put distance between Malik and Nimmi? In either case, Malik traveled to Jaipur and began his apprenticeship. Malik would never go against Lakshmi’s wishes. Although he wanted to remain in Shimla with Nimmi, Malik traveled to Jaipur as Lakshmi had wanted. Almost immediately, Malik found himself fully involved with some of the aspects of the construction of the Royal Jewel Cinema. It had been carefully constructed by the Singh-Sharm Construction Company and meticulously checked and oversaw by Manu Agarwal, Lakshmi’s good friend’s Kanta’s husband. After the balcony tragically collapsed on opening night, killing two and injuring many, all eyes were cast upon Manu, since he was the main engineer and signed off on all the materials used to build the cinema. Malik has his own suspicions though. An investigation was started and the evidence was piling up against Manu and all fingers were pointing at Manu as the person responsible for this tragedy. When Lakshmi heard about what had happened, she did not hesitate and traveled to Jaipur to try and help Manu and Malik. Would Lakshmi and Malik be able to gather enough evidence to clear Manu’s name and reputation and find out what really caused the balcony of the Royal Jewel Cinema to collapse?

Woven between Lakshmi’s and Malik’s search for the truth about the collapse of the balcony, a beautiful love story between Malik and Nimmi was starting to develop. There was also the subplot of gold smuggling that emerged within the pages of The Secret Keeper of Jaipur. Gold smuggling became more prevalent after the Gold Act was enacted in India. Nimmi discovered that her brother had been involved in smuggling gold. She found him close to death on a mountainside with bricks laden with gold sewn in the wool of his flock of sheep. Just before Nimmi’s brother took his last breath he directed her to a piece of paper with a name on it. Nimmi knew immediately that the bricks that were hidden in the wool of his flock of sheep and were hiding quantities of gold and had to be delivered to their next destination so that nothing bad would happen to her brother’s family. Lakshmi and her husband, Jay, helped Nimmi accomplish this very dangerous and complicated act. Could Nimmi and Lakshmi discover who was the mastermind behind the smuggling of gold in and around Shimla?

It was hard for both Malik and Lakshmi to return to Jaipur. They were met with ghosts of the past. Strong class differences still existed. Old grudges and bad feelings were hard to forget. Temptations were present. Obstacles still existed and old alliances hadn’t faded. Secrets were still kept but would they be revealed?

I loved The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi as much as The Henna Artist or if possible even more. Alka Joshi has written not one but two five star books. I look forward to the next installment in this trilogy which I believe will be about Radha, Lakshmi’s younger sister and will be published sometime in 2022. The Secret Keeper of Jaipur can be read as a stand alone book but I would recommend reading The Henna Artist first. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for MicheleReader.
745 reviews130 followers
July 3, 2021
Alka Joshi’s beautiful and lush new book, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, is book #2 following last year’s wonderful debut, The Henna Artist. While this latest book serves well as a standalone, I would recommend reading book #1 first so you can get the backstories of its characters in more depth.

When the book begins, it is 1969, twelve years after the last book ended. Everyone in Jaipur is celebrating the opening of a spectacular movie house, commissioned by the palace. During its opening night, tragedy occurs as the balcony collapses. The story then goes back two months before the collapse to the town of Shimla, in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. Lakshmi, the former henna artist, is married. Malik, her ward, is now well educated and lives with Lakshmi and husband Dr. Jay Kumar. Fearing he is susceptible to the criminal activities of the area, including gold smuggling, Lakshmi arranges for Malik to return to Jaipur, the city where he was born, to learn about the construction business. While interning, he uncovers irregularities in the construction of the new Royal Jewel Cinema.

At the beginning of the book, the author provides a list of all the characters and their descriptions. It seemed a daunting task to keep track of so many people. But the talented Joshi has written such an engaging book that every one of these fascinating characters fell perfectly into place. The Secret Keeper of Jaipur offers a fascinating look into so many different types of people from different levels of society in India - from the royal family to the tribal people who live in the mountains tending sheep. Lakshmi continues to be a pillar of strength to all and a very wise woman. Malik is an endearing character. He was an orphan, a street urchin and in this book, a responsible young man discovering himself and where he fits in given his humble beginnings.

I highly recommend getting immersed in the writing of Alka Joshi. She has already revealed a third and final book in the series is forthcoming. Great news!

Rated 4.5 stars.

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Profile Image for Faith.
1,898 reviews535 followers
July 2, 2021
“The Henna Artist” was a wonderful glimpse into a part of Indian society in the 1950s, the restrictions faced by some women and the way that Lakshmi managed to independently navigate in that society working as a henna artist. I was really looking forward to this second book about Lakshmi.

The focus of this book is split three ways, and that was one too many for me. In 1969, Lakshmi is married to the doctor she met in the first book. Her ward Malik is working as an apprentice at the Facilities Office of the Jaipur Royal Palace. The Palace has sponsored the construction of a movie theater that has a partial collapse on its opening night. Malik begins to suspect that the collapse was not due to overcrowding but to shoddy construction. Malik and Lakshmi try to prove his theory. This is a different view of India, the India of gold smuggling, bribery, corruption and privilege. I preferred the plot of the first book, but my larger problem was the third character whose point of view is presented. Malik is involved with Nimmi, a widow with 2 young children. I found her annoying and thought her presence was completely unnecessary to the book.

This book might work as a standalone since the author repeatedly rehashes events from the first book. However, I suggest reading the first book because it is a better book and you might as well get the details as they were originally written. 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Kathryn in FL.
716 reviews
August 3, 2021
3.5 Rounded Up Stars on a Tough Act to follow.

This is the second installment in the trilogy of The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi and her writing talent is on full display in her creating engaging characters, plotting and storyline. She touches on themes such as how we define family and the power of loyalty and honesty in the face of corruption and tragedy. A nice assessment of people's character when adversity strikes.

Again, we see the cast of characters as in the first installment reimagined as the story begins now 12 years later. Lakshmi is the main narrator, with Malik (her former assistant and foster child) also contributing greatly and as well a new character to this installment, Nimmi, who is navigating her life in a big city after growing up as a tribal nomad. Nimmi share her thoughts on her hesitancy to trust strangers and her interactions with Lakshmi once her connection and subsequent love relationship develops with Malik. Malik plays a more prominent roll in this one but Lakshmi (who I adore as well) is still very much a positive influence on the lives of all around her. The culture of India in the late 60's shines as Lakshmi begins to realize her dreams and India's participation in the world economy on an even grander scale is displayed.

While I preferred the first installment greatly, Joshi continues to prove herself as an author to watch. Hindi words are sprinkled throughout the text to give it even greater authenticity, just as it had in the prior story. Don't let this stop you from reading the book as a large dictionary is provided in the back part of the book to clarify the context (unfortunately there were approximately 5 or so words missing but I could either ferret out the meaning or use Google).

One thing that I know will remain with me is the lovely brocade Joshi creates as she describes the lush surrounding in each location of the story's settings. I can smell the fragrant chai and my stomach growls as food is prepared and served. The flowers and the rugged mountains are before my eyes one moment and next I am a large city hearing the sounds of the building of an exquisite cinema. It is utterly captivating!

I read this while quite sick, so perhaps that diminished my pleasure and is due more stars? I still enjoyed it immensely and I do hope that film makers will take notice of this story series. I think it would easily translate to the big screen. Bollywood or Hollywood, this is seriously good literature and perhaps worthy of the funds for a feature film. I have always been obsessed with the Indian subcontinent pursuing any good fiction or nonfiction sources my entire adult life, be it in stories or film (unfortunately, certain things I would really like are sometimes hard to come by in the U.S.) despite my efforts. Hopefully, that will change in the near future?
Profile Image for Judy.
1,151 reviews
May 17, 2021
This is the second book in the series, and although I had not read 'The Henna Artist', this book could stand on its own easily. The story was told in several points of view, and gave a view of life in India with its rich culture and politics.

The story involved sheep herding, architecture/building, and gold smuggling. It involves people from many stations in life from the royal maharanis, to middle class, to lower caste. There's definitely a mystery to be solved and the unwinding of the tale reveals hidden secrets and deception.

The characters are rich and believable. I really liked Lakshmi who seemed to be trying to help everyone. I was impressed by Malik for his moral character and his intelligence and curiosity. I admired Nimmi for her strength and courage. I enjoyed this book and will try to pick up The Henna Artist and read that as well, to provide the background - I've heard good things about it.

Thanks to Mira and HARLEQUIN – Trade Publishing through Netgalley for an advance copy.
Profile Image for  Bookoholiccafe.
686 reviews107 followers
June 4, 2021
The Secret Keeper of Jaipur was the one I was waiting for months to read since I loved The Hana Artist, and it was my 2020 top 10 books. I simply could not relate to the story. At the same time, I cant wait to read the third one.
I have to add the narrators were amazing, however, I was not able to connect with the characters as much as I did in the first book.
Profile Image for Maureen.
347 reviews83 followers
August 31, 2021
The a secret Keeper of Jaipur is the 2nd book in a series.
It is now 1969, Lakshmi is now married to Dr. Jay Kumar and living in Shimia. Malik is twenty years of age and has completed his education.
We meet a new character Nimmi, who is a young widow with two children and sells flowers. Nimmi is falling in love with Malik. Lakshmi doesn’t approve.
Lakshmi sends Malik to Jaipur to apprentice with Manu, who is working with the Royal Palace. They are building a state of the art cinema. On opening night the balcony of the theater collapses, causing death and injuries.
Malik discovers irregularities with the construction of the building. All eyes are on Manu. Can Malik find the truth?
Meanwhile Nimmi misses Malik very much and wishes for his return.

As with the Henna Artist this book is rich with vivid descriptions and details of the surroundings. The writing is just beautiful.
Wonderful historical fiction novel.
Profile Image for Wendy.
1,681 reviews568 followers
September 28, 2021
The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is the 2nd novel in the "Henna Artist" trilogy. The story begins 12 years after The Henna Artist ends, fondly allowing us to revisit characters familiar to us.
Lakshmi and Malik are now living in Shimla with Dr. Jay. Circumstances have Malik returning to Jaipur to learn the construction business while a new state of the art cinema is being built. He leaves behind Nimmi, a young widowed mother of two children, who he has become quite close to.
Drama unfolds when the balcony of the newly constructed cinema collapses.
Author Alka Joshi is a wonderful storyteller. She had me completely immersed in the captivating characters and gave me an incredible sense of place.

Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,452 reviews2,398 followers
January 14, 2023
Got nothing nice to say about this book. Loved the first one so much. Am a bit sceptical about the third book now.
Profile Image for Eva.
473 reviews25 followers
February 7, 2021
Oh how lovely it was to revisit the rich characters from The Henna Artist in Alka Joshi’s new novel The Secret Keeper of Jaipur.

Lakshmi’s helper Malik is now 20 years old and apprenticing at the palace in Jaipur to learn the building trade. When an errant figure is found on a set of building invoices, Malik’s sharp mind knows there is more to this than a simple accounting mistake. His investigation leads him to revisit some old friends including Samir, Parvati and Ravi Singh from the earlier story.

In Shimla located in the Himalayas another story involving Lakshmi, the henna artist from the original story, plays out. Lakshmi now works out of a clinic with her husband Jay and overseas the healing garden on the property. She hires a tribal woman, Nimmi, who sells special flowers in the market stall to work with her in the healing garden. When two children come into the clinic with an injured sheep, Lakshmi and Nimmi set out on an adventure that may have connections to the mystery Malik is trying to puzzle out.

I adored revisiting the characters from The Henna Artist and found they carried forward seamlessly. The tension in this book was moved up a notch from the previous book resulting in my wanting to get back to reading this book every time I had a few minutes. While I would call this a stand alone novel, it is enriched by having first read The Henna Artist as most of the characters are established there.

Visiting a different part of the world through my reading and being invited to experience the culture, food, politics, and traditions is very special and I urge other readers to take this trip.

Clever, warm and hearty, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is going to be a hit when it publishes June 22, 2021. Thank you to @_mira_books_ and @this_is_edelweiss for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Catherine.
336 reviews93 followers
August 15, 2021
After reading The Henna Artist, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there was a second book following one of its other main characters, Malik, and was very eager to read it. However, this book did not live up to its predecessor.

This book’s redeeming quality for me was that it was educational. I love historical fiction because oftentimes, it teaches me something about a time period, a culture, or both, and The Secret Keeper of Jaipur did just that. Beyond that though, I felt a little bit underwhelmed.

This book is advertised as being about Malik, and although he has some chapters from his perspective, it did not feel like it was about him at all. The chapters switch between Malik, Lakshmi (who was the main character in the first book), and Nimmi (a new character). Nimmi barely had any parts, and the parts with Lakshmi made it feel like she was once again the main character. Although there is nothing wrong with that, I didn’t really like how the synopsis misled me to believe it was all about Malik; I think the story would have been better if he narrated it throughout. Additionally, this is a personal preference, but I prefer when books are character driven as opposed to plot driven. This one was more plot driven than the last, so I felt a disconnect from the characters, which is strange considering I previously knew and loved most of the recurring ones. Unfortunately, even though a good plot can keep me engaged, I wasn't in love with this one.

Was this a bad book? No. Was it as good as I expected? No. I liked it, but I didn't love it, so 3 stars seems fair. I just found out there is going to be a third book, and while I am still undecided on if I want to read it, I think that after this one, I am not too eager to get my hands on it.
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