“I can’t believe you are reading Mills and Boon,” chuckled Hubby giving the little Ankara Press book in my hand a side eye as we lay in bed one night last year. “It’s not Mills and Boon” I huffed, side-eyeing him back, “It is Ankara Press actually,” offended by his accusation that I would be reading the much-maligned romance series.
Ankara Press, an imprint of Bibi Bakare-Yusuf’s super successful publishing house Cassava Republic, on the other hand, is different – it is a new kind of romance, one that is both so close and yet from faraway lands. Launched in December 2014, Ankara Press is dedicated to publishing easy-to-read, purse-sized books with African settings, storylines, and characters, challenging romance stereotypes and providing an outlet for romantic fiction written by African authors.
As I cosied up with “Black Sparkle”, “Finding Love Again” and “Love’s Persuasion” over three nights, I got to know Mira, Kambi, and Ada, and in them I found a touch of my Nigerian girlfriends. There was not a rosy cheek, heaving bosom of Western damsels in distress in sight; here were women I could identify with more in settings I had come to accept like home.
Here was Mira – the PA to the ruthless editor of a top Nigerian fashion magazine – who talks of Deola Sagoe and Jewel by Lisa, lives in Lekki Phase 1, driving a Kia Rio, as opposed to a Range Rover. Here was Ada, a trainee accountant at a Lagos firm, who can switch from pidgin to Queen’s English in a second, can reference Ebenezer Obey and John Legend in a matter of five minutes and reads Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Here was Kambi, jilted at her own wedding when her groom runs of with her ‘maid of dishonour’.
Here were the soft sand beaches of Badagry, the fume-filled streets of Victoria Island, the lush getaway of Obudu Mountain Ranch.
Here are love interests called Dominic Odogwu, Tony Okoli, half Nigerian Beba.
Of course, Mills and Boon style flowery purple prose is aplenty – such as “her midriff quivered”, “pleasure ran through her veins”, “her lips parted at the bulge strained against the cotton fabric of his sweatpants”, “her hips grinding against the throbbing bulge near her inner thighs” – but hey, it is romance after all. However, with stories that march to the beat of their own African drum, and that’s the charm.
If you want an easy romance read with a difference to relax with, look no further than Ankara Press. There are currently six titles in the series which were published on Valentine’s 2016. You can find out more and purchase here.