Men of Valor, Book 1
Heat Factor: moderate
Character Chemistry: They’re already married, so there’s not a ton of development in this arena
Plot: Withholding sex out of spite results in all the unrequited love misunderstandings
Overall: This woman needs to take ownership of her own life
Obinna has been in love with Adaku, like, since he met her. Unfortunately, Adaku’s family serves the royal family, so she’s kinda sorta out of his league. Also, she’s in love with the prince. But when she’s caught in a compromising position, her parents marry her off to Obinna against her wishes. Out of spite, she declares that she will never sleep with Obinna. Being a loving and forward-thinking sort of man, Obinna decides he will only sleep with her if she actually wants it.
Fast forward to the beginning of the story, when Adaku and her friend are walking to the market, and she finds out her friend, who married around the same time as her, is pregnant. This is the trigger that spurs her to rethink her marriage. Setting aside her own feelings, the social pressure for her to have children is HUGE. If Obinna takes a second wife, and the second wife has the first son, Adaku would lose her authority position as first wife.
There’s a little situation that occurs toward the end of the story that draws us to the conclusion that Adaku loves Obinna for himself, but the vast majority of her decision making is dictated by her feelings about her social status. For his part, Obinna has the patience of a saint. But of course this story is set in pre-colonial Nigeria, so the third person narration has that distant quality that often comes with stories set in the more distant past. Because of this, and because the length of the novella doesn’t allow for deep dives into some of the content, it’s hard to empathize with the characters as they go through what is, at its core, an extremely angst-inducing situation. Also of course, because of the temporal setting and because our protagonists are effectively going into an arranged marriage, communication is lacking something fierce throughout the story, and there’s really no opportunity for trust to grow.
This isn’t my favorite trope, and the fact that it was a novella doesn’t help, but I did enjoy reading a romance in a pretty unique setting, and Taye’s prose was engaging. I think I’d like to try some of her full-length contemporary romance sometime.
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