Welcome to Bingo, where I finally start playing catch up on my stack of unreviewed books I’ve read this year! For Bingo counting purposes, they count as follows:
A Princess in Theory is Far and Away. Not only does Prince Thabiso rule the fictional African nation of Thesolo, but the back third of the book requires our heroine, Naledi, to follow him there.
Once Ghosted, Twice Shy is Own Voices. Alyssa Cole is a brilliant black woman writer creating a novella about two fantastic black women in love.
These two are part of a series, The Reluctant Royals, which I expect to read more of going forward. They all center around the romantic lives of fierce, independent and full developed women of color. I’ve read a lot of romance novels in my day; they’re my favorite kind of fluff. This is, I’m sad to admit, the first time I’ve read a series that was clearly written by and about women of color. I *loved* being exposed to a different viewpoint, especially through the lens of a genre I consume so regularly. I’m only sorry it took me so long to seek out.
A Princess in Theory is the story of former foster kid and current epidemiologist, Naledi Smith. She’s too busy working multiple jobs and completing grad school to pay any mind to some scam email claiming she’s the betrothed to an African prince, and who could blame her? The Nigerian scam is famous for a reason. In this case, though, the spam is actually anything but. Prince Thabiso comes to New York to claim his bride, but instead finds a rare opportunity to just be Thabiso and toss his title aside for a bit. The two have smoking chemistry and a delightful flirtation, but will it last once the truth is revealed?
The answer to this, of course, is yes. It’s a romance novel. The journey to get there is fun and interesting, with a mix of African politics, science, and personal revelations that keep things interesting. I enjoyed all of the characters in this immensely, which is good news for the series, since all of the later books feature characters introduced in this one. The writing is a little redundant at times, but generally the prose is fine. My biggest complaint comes in the form of the ending. I don’t love the way it wraps things up regarding the reasons Naledi left. I could have used some confrontation with the person responsible as well. That said, it’s still a really fun read!
Once Ghosted, Twice Shy is about Thabiso’s incredible assistant, Likotsi. She was one of the best parts of A Princess in Theory, keeping Thabiso in check and being the best kind of lesbian representation. In that book, she has a brief affair in the background of the main story, one that leaves her heartbroken. This novella not only fills in those blanks, but brings her and the object of her affection, Fabiola, together again. After being unceremoniously dumped without any option to ask why, will Likotsi be able to open her heart to Fabiola a second time?
Again, the answer is yes. This one reads as much as a love letter to my beloved New York City as to the couple at its center. Both the memories of the past and their reunion in the present are designed around experiencing the city, which I may have loved more than their relationship. Another thing I enjoyed about it, however, was that it focused on a queer relationship, which often gets sidelined in romance. I wish this were a novel instead of a novella, as I could have used some more character development, as well as a little breathing room for the plot. Still, another fun read.