Having never read Mills & Boon (but I did watch a very interesting series a few years ago about the men behind it) or even Nora Roberts, I think A Heart to Mend, Myne Whitman's debut novel might be my first romance novel ever read. And I was pretty excited that my first was set in Nigeria (Lagos to be exact), because so many times romance/love and Africa are words never used in the same sentence.
Gladys, twenty-something, has just moved to Lagos after completing her compulsory one-year National Youth Service in Enugu. She has secured an interview and test with a company in Lagos and has been invited by her estranged aunt to live with her. Edward, thirty-something self-made business tycoon, is instantly attracted to Gladys the first time he sets eyes on her. But there's a problem, Mr. Ice does not give his heart to anyone - he's had a bad past and doesn't trust anyone with his heart - but his attraction to Gladys makes him want to be around her, and have her. They eventually get together, but Gladys and Edward have a few hiccups in the beginning of their relationship - he's closed and doesn't share much about his past; he wants to have sex, and she's not giving it up that easily Mister; he's rich and she's poor, so is she all about the money - but with time he begins to open up and Gladys is able to melt his stone-cold heart. Just when you think Gladys and Edwards relationship is going well and nothing can stop them, Edwards past comes up to ruin it all, with Gladys in the middle of it all. With his self-made business on the line, as well as his and Gladys relationship, will their love survive such an obstacle?
I do not tend to read romance novels, but I was also curious to read a romance novel set in Nigeria. And I was pleasantly surprised. I don't want to say this novel paints a different side of Nigeria, because it already exists, so instead I would say it shows a side of Nigeria that is rarely ever portrayed in novels - that of a wealthy African who has made money the right way and is living the good life, and a young Nigerian woman who has worked hard despite her humble background to get where she currently is. So I really liked that about the novel. It was also nice reading about dinner dates at Sheraton, or movie dates at Silverbird, and just really the things most people do when they're new to a relationship and getting to know one another. For business lovers out there, there is also the added touch of having business speak - there's a lot of finance, trading, stock market talk going on. I don't know much about all of that, but Myne Whitman wrote it in a way that kept me engaged (and not confused or bored) - I am one to usually blank out when things get too finance-y. Gladys and Edwards relationship also wasn't perfect. They were two people from two different backgrounds navigating a relationship in an environemnt where for instance young not-so-well-off girls usually get with men like Edward for money, and where society assumes that you might only be with that wealthy man because you're a "gold-digger". Relationships are already hard as it is, but how do you deal with that added uncertainty? Having never read a romance novel I have nothing to compare it with, but I do feel like their relationship was written very realistically.
So whether it's your first time to read romance novels, or this is your genre of choice, or if you're just interested in love in a different geographical setting, I would definitely recommend A Heart to Mend.
4 out of 5