cover image Honey and Spice

Honey and Spice

Bolu Babalola. Morrow, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-314148-3

Screenwriter Babalola follows up the collection Love in Color with a vivacious and romantic debut novel about a young Black British woman. Kiki Banjo is a second-year student at Whitewell College, and though Kiki zealously guards her own affections, she isn’t afraid to dish out relationship advice to members of Whitewell’s African-Caribbean Society (jokingly dubbed “Blackwell”). Her campus radio show, Brown Sugar, meanwhile, blends Kiki’s brand of spicy, sharp-tongued wisdom with the perfect R&B song for any amorous dilemma. But the ambitious Kiki may have met her match when her favorite professor suggests she pair up on a collaboration with transfer student Malakai Korede. Malakai is an aspiring filmmaker whose undeniable talents (and stunning good looks) hardly make up for being cocky and annoying, but she eventually proposes the two of them pretend to pair up romantically as well, their fake relationship serving as fodder for both of their professional projects. Suffused with music and pop culture references (thanks in large part to Kiki’s vast musical knowledge and her talent for puns), their repartee is quick and clever, with the verbal sparring heightening their physical attraction and making the sexy and effervescent story emotionally intimate and hilarious in turn. Babalola’s expert handling of the messy vulnerability and joyful exuberance of young love makes this a winner. (July)