Honey and Spice by Bolu Babola

When I was 15-20 years old I devoured romantic novels, sometimes hiding them under my bed so that no one else knew that I was reading them. What would I have done without Mills and Boon? It felt like a guilty secret to like these books and it was not a genre that I continued to read once I needed to read for work.

Honey and Spice has been available in our library for sometime, often displayed, and it would seem, rarely borrowed. It is on the Best of 2022 lists and on Reese’s Book Club so I decided to borrow it and see if I still like a good romance.

It turns out that I don’t! From about the quarter of the way in it started to feel very samey – melting, glancing, touching and sparking etc but I do understand that this is quite a well-written version of the genre.

It’s main theme is don’t settle for anything less than someone who has respect for you and treats you as you should be. A very strong message for everyone no matter what age.

The story follows a usual pattern – two people who are attracted to each other but can’t get together for personal reasons. They are forced together through work, pretend they have a relationship for work purposes and in the process fall in love. There is then a split and a final, public coming together at the end. Nothing different there. But what is different is that this is set in a university, mainly white, but is about young Black people and their lives and culture so it does touch on racism in parts – some obvious like a young Black man hassled by the police and others less so. There is a particularly searing commentary on young White people undertaking voluntary work in Africa and wearing a necklace of African art in an attempt to show his solidarity with the people he was working with and as a badge of honour back home.

It’s good that people write about romance from their own point of view – too often it is set in a white world. It makes this book a refreshing change.

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