Literature is meant to be a depiction of society. Either directly, in an “in-your-face” capacity, or more subtly. All in all, there is always a bit of a reflective end to a literary piece. Honey and Spice is no exception. Bolu Babalola takes a rather interesting fictional route to address the most crucial aspect of any society. Relationships. To be more precise, contemporary romantic relationships.
Now, walk with me. Contemporary romance books have been the rave ever since reading was crowned an entire personality by TikTok. Honey and Spice fits perfectly into the otherwise conventional formula of any successful romance book. Rightly so, because it is from a member of the esteemed ” Sunday Times Bestselling Author” club. Therefore, it is basically from the “book royalties,” if you know what I mean. Let us dive into what makes this book THE romance book of all romance books.
If you are in any way a person who relishes romance, you know how the “fake-dating” trope is to die for. It is practically the ideal plot line for a young adult romance. Babalola served us a plate soaked in fake dates and oozing with the romantic tension we all thirst for. Boy meets girl, girl detests boy, but they somehow find themselves in an entanglement that forces their feelings to get all handsy. The entanglement is a situation that forces them to be close, such as fake dating. Sounds familiar? Of course, it does. It is THE romance storyline of a lifetime. An absolute classic. There are other subplots, including girl drama, a bit of racism, and the shallow exploration of father-son dynamics. Nothing too complex that it overshadows the epic romance between the insanely gorgeous leads, which brings me to the characters.
A good plot is always a plus, but the characters are literally and figuratively the stars of the romance genre. However, the cliche almost always finds its way into this one. A good-looking hombre and a sassy but equally gorgeous lass are the focus of an unfolding love plot. It kind of reflected the unrealistic beauty standards that are imposed on literature by society. We cannot see steamy romance propagated by mundane-looking humans like you and me. It is sad.
Anyway, back to the characters. We have Malakai. Smart, hot, player turns lover, and a deep film student. Did I mention he is hot? Basically, he is the male archetype women have been biologically designed to fall for. Especially when he says random things like, “there’s a whole universe inside her and I would be so lucky to live in it. Over and over.” So it is no surprise when Kiki falls for him. In an attempt to make female characters seem more thought out and not stereotypical, Kiki is portrayed as sassy, feministic, and not willing to stop her entire world for a man. Go Kiki. I however feel she could have been more fleshed out. Her background story is hinted at throughout the book en route to the big reveal that changes everything (spoiler: it really does not) and lacks the flare it could have.
There was a chance to explore the lines that her character could have evolved but the chance was missed. The other characters are not worth the mention, I feel like even if they were removed we would not notice. They do nothing for the plot. The supposed antagonist is a man-child, with an inferior complexity issue and a personality that makes you want to stab him with a fork, violently. He does not do much evolving either. It is to be expected though. Most of the romance books I have had the guilty pleasure of reading focus solely on the two leads and the rest just serve a social context. Unrealistic but it works.
They say love makes you do crazy things but the “happy ending” makes authors do crazier things. One of the symptoms of this ridiculous disease is rushed endings. Like three chapters to the end, the couple will fight, in extreme cases (which is always) they will break up and go through some zen self-discovery (for a chapter). They will then find some dramatic way to profess their love and get together in the end. I am pretty sure that is far from the reality of love. Malakai and Kiki’s narrative was no exception to this long-aged mechanism. They somehow managed to overcome the argument that resulted from miscommunication and ended up “real” dating. We love a happy ending. Or do we?
So like any other proper literature enthusiast, I have to think critically about the subject matter and how it reflects society. The perception of love especially in this generation is as unromantic as it has ever been. So in the quest to reflect the romance we wish existed in reality we generate happy endings to fictional situations that do not fit into reality. This is usually the case with romance books. Bolu Babalola does address a particular issue with relationships that I would be unjust not to point out. In reference to the unromantic nature of contemporary love, there is the idea of detachment. For the fear of hurt, and goodness knows we are a hurt generation, we think it is cool to not invest in relationships. We will get into them but we are not necessarily into them. Kiki does this at the very beginning with the “fork guy” aka Zack Kingsford. She is in an entanglement that she does not put emotions into. This kind of beats the purpose of a romantic relationship in the first place. This is what the majority of us do. To avoid getting hurt we remove emotional investment from the equation.
I think Honey and Spice is a worthy casual read. Malakai’s character is quite the treat and Kiki is a refreshing look into the psychology of a woman in regards to love. You can think of it as a mild cheat sheet into romance. I read it in one sitting actually and could not help but smile at the sweet budding romance between the two leads. You can add this to your booklist if you are a romance genre fanatic or you are looking to get in your feels of what could be.