Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola // Book Review

I recently picked up Honey and Spice after hearing a friend rave about it. She’s a big “romance with a bit more story” kind of reader like I am, so when she suggested it and gave it five stars, I had to check it out. I’m so glad I did. Thanks to Libro.fm for the gifted copy.

Here’s more about Honey and Spice

Sweet like plantain, hot like pepper. They taste the best when together…

Sharp-tongued (and secretly soft-hearted) Kiki Banjo has just made a huge mistake. As an expert in relationship-evasion and the host of the popular student radio show Brown Sugar, she’s made it her mission to make sure the women of the African-Caribbean Society at Whitewell University do not fall into the mess of “situationships”, players, and heartbreak. But when the Queen of the Unbothered kisses Malakai Korede, the guy she just publicly denounced as “The Wastemen of Whitewell,” in front of every Blackwellian on campus, she finds her show on the brink.

They’re soon embroiled in a fake relationship to try and salvage their reputations and save their futures. Kiki has never surrendered her heart before, and a player like Malakai won’t be the one to change that, no matter how charming he is or how electric their connection feels. But surprisingly entertaining study sessions and intimate, late-night talks at old-fashioned diners force Kiki to look beyond her own presumptions. Is she ready to open herself up to something deeper?

A gloriously funny and sparkling debut novel, Honey & Spice is full of delicious tension and romantic intrigue that will make you weak at the knees.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

My thoughts

The story follows young Kiki. She’s close to finishing her time in university, runs a successful radio show called Brown Sugar, and gives practical dating advice to the young women within her school. However, she’s been a bit out of the game and some folks are wondering how valid is the advice of someone who doesn’t participate in the dating/social circles? Alongside that, she’s also trying to raise the ratings of her show in hopes of getting an exclusive internship in New York City.

However, Kiki is not excited about the dating pool at her university and her life of casual encounters doesn’t inspire her to start a real relationships. When newcomer-on-campus, Malakai, comes along, Kiki is right away against him. He’s a “wasteman,” the very type of man that she warns the women on campus to stay away from. The type that will love you and leave you picking up the pieces of your heart in a couple of months. He’s also the perfect subject to fake date while she works to improve her show’s ratings as well as steer clear of the man whom she’d been dating.

This story definitely felt like the kind of drama you see in a young adult romance, but set in college. While many folks may not like that particular part of the story, I loved it. It was the perfect backdrop to the wild and crazy dating life of university in England. Late nights at Nando’s picking up food and hanging out after raging all evening, being invited to exclusive parties, hanging out with the “cool” kids. It’s obvious that university is where the high school drama reaches the next level; less parenting, more freedom, and you’ve got the perfect plot for a lot of drama. And this book brings it all. It felt surprisingly accurate and while my college years were spent mostly studying and trying to raise my GPA, I can imagine somewhere out there amongst the study body this was also happening. However, the book definitely did that thing where I wondered if anyone went to class, but the level of Kiki’s commitment to her radio show and making it the best that it can be really beat the more realistic situation of going to class everyday.

Aside from that, the story also featured a lot of modern social issues to make it more realistic connecting with young people today. Speaking of young Black lives and how it’s different for them in an institution that mostly admitted white students, it brought a level of reality to the story making it much richer in themes and plot.

I loved Kiki! She was such an intelligent young person who’s definitely very vulnerable at heart. She wanted to let people in, but her past traumas kept them at arm’s length. I loved watching her change and unfold as we read along and really getting to know how special she is. I wanted so much for her and hated the men that broke her heart constantly. Malakai was the same way! While he came off as a “wasteman,” he was such a deeper human with lots of emotional baggage he’s working through. They seemed like the perfect fit, helping each other with their projects and working to make their dreams come true. Honestly, they were that pair that you knew were going to be alright because their chemistry was so synced to each other.

While the story was supposed to be enemies to lovers with some fake dating involved, it felt more like friends to lovers. I loved the care put into Kiki and Malakai’s relationship. Malakai seemed like the knight in shining armor and while Kiki was no damsel in distress, Malakai gave her something that no one else has; unconditional love and affection.

Overall, this was such a wonderful romance filled with dynamic world, interesting characters (omg, I could go on about all the side characters. They were all so interesting and different and I loved their feature in the book), and a heart-melting conclusion. I recommend this to anyone who wants to escape the drama of their own lives and read something with a bit of a happily ever after.

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