Naledi Smith is an epidemiology grad student who’s being targeted by email scammers trying to convince her she’s a long-lost princess betrothed to an African prince. Thabiso is that African prince, who’s unaware that his assistant has located his long-lost betrothed and has been emailing her and getting nothing but rudeness back. When he finds out Ledi is alive, he heads to America to get her back… and does a terrible job of it. Seriously, this dude is great at prince-ing but not so great at anything else. Sparks very much exist between them, though, and lo, there’s also an unexplainable illness in Thabiso’s country which an epidemiologist might be able to help with…
All of which sounds fluffy and tropetastic and hilarious, which is sometimes is, but there’s also so much complexity and emotion here. Ledi is a black woman in STEM and the book doesn’t shy away from showing exactly how that can play out with racist and sexist colleagues. Her life as a former foster kid is not easy even though she works her ass off, and being babysitter / emotional anchor for her best friend Portia doesn’t help. Thabiso’s screwups in getting to know her cause real pain, and forgiveness isn’t quick or easy. At least once during the book, when Ledi finds the family she’d thought lost (vague to avoid spoilers), I literally cried for her.
I was so pleased with this STEM gal and her HEA, and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.
I’d like to highlight my favorite passage in the book, because it’s one of the most queer-friendly bits of a non-queer romance that I’ve ever read:
“That beard made her fingers itch to stroke it, or to grab her smartphone and photograph it for posterity… she’d rack up a million liked within the day, for sure, if not some kind of award for heroism on behalf of male-attracted humanity.”
"Male-attracted humanity." YES! In a typical non-queer romance, this would say "women." I’ve seen that kind of thing a bazillion times. The problem is that saying “women” ignores - and this is just my starting list - lesbians, ace women, and non-binary folks and men who are attracted to men. "Male-attracted humanity" is a phrase that recognizes those people exist, describing the world as it is, rather than with heterosexist blinders on. It’s a jolt of inclusion instead of exclusion.