The blogger Amy McKie recently reviewed Kiru Taye’s novella His Treasure (Men of Valor) published by Breathless Press here. I must say that I am not a fan of romance novels; they don’t really do much for me these days in my middle passage. Amy recommended it to me and I remembered I’d bought it a while back where it currently languishes on my iPad Adunni’s Kindle. This Christmas weekend I have had a lot of time on my hands – my lover had fled the coop and traveled out of the country and the kids were out of the house along with my wallet buying stuff they don’t need, in the name of Christmas.
Well, I am glad I read the book. It is a very short read – about the equivalent of 50 pages. The book takes us to a pristine village in pre-colonial South Eastern Nigeria where we follow the story of a young lady Adaku who although in love with an Igbo prince (Emeka), is made to marry someone else (Obinna) by her family. At first she is unhappy in this arrangement as she pines for her real love. Obinna proves to be quite the gentleman; understanding, caring and – to Adaku’s pleasant surprise, a hopeless romantic and every young woman’s dream in bed.
I won’t lie; the book got my ancient heart racing. It is peppered with lusty, steamy love scenes tastefully done. I can see how the author will develop a cult following among young adult readers. It is an easy and pleasant read thanks to the well-paced, well-written prose. It is a page turner also; I kept reading hoping to run into the next love scene; this was a busy couple, their nights creaked all night long. Do not read this alone if your lover is nowhere nearby, you might have to take long showers in between chapters. Thankfully or sadly the book was rather short.
I would recommend this light reading to anyone; it is certainly a nice break from the heavy overly serious stuff we are fed by many African writers lately. There are no wars, no rapes, none of the usual African story of gloom and doom; here, everyone seems well fed (you would need to, all that lovemaking!) and Taye is a careful writer; so there are precious few editorial issues in the book.
To be clear, this is not great literature as purists know it. The dialogue was sometimes stilted. Taye situates the novel in pre-colonial Nigeria; however much of the sexual activities would appear to be common with contemporary Nigeria, and so there are historical issues here to be addressed. Taye’s characters engage in robust and wide ranging sexual activities you would ordinarily not find in the characters of traditional African stories. I think it is refreshing; however the book could have benefited from research on sex and sexuality in Nigerian communities of that era. Here are some examples:
“She gasped and his gaze came up, locking on to her and pinning her to the spot. His eyes were filled with a desire she couldn’t explain. His tongue moved down her skin, searing a path to the spot at the center of her palm before licking it. Then he released her hand, and she realized she was trembling. She felt a need pulsating in her core, leaving her confused. All he’d done was lick her fingers. Yet it seemed to turn her into a trembling mass, yearning for more of his touch.” (Kindle Locations 129-132).
“When his tongue darted out and swirled around her swollen nub, she gasped out loud. He loved the taste and sound of her. She’d surrendered herself to him. Willingly. He could give her pleasure as he’d yearned to do for months. Totally. Taking her hardened nub into his mouth, he suckled on it, lapping at her nectar as it flowed freely. She writhed beneath him, and he moved a hand onto her flat stomach, holding her down. With the other he thrust his fingers into her, playing out what he yearned to do with his manhood. Even after she’d screamed out his name in her climax, he continued licking her until her body went limp beneath his touch. It was only then he pushed his throbbing manhood into her warm depth. He kissed her again soundly. She came alive, responding promptly and clinging onto his shoulders, her legs wrapped around his hips.” (Kindle Locations 437-443).
Was oral sex a common practice in the villages of pre-colonial Nigeria? Was kissing, common and standard sexual practice today, an indigenous practice in Nigerian communities at the time? How was sex enjoyed at the time? I honestly do not know these things. However in the absence of these answers, the book comes across as a contrived formulaic imposition of Western practices on a traditional Nigerian village. As a near-aside, one of the suitors is described as a “Prince”. The Igbo like to say proudly that there’s no monarchy in Igboland. There were no kings and queens before colonialism in Igboland. So a Prince Emeka “who looked regal in rich patterned clothes and jeweled gold crown” seems, well, fictionalized. There is a conversation to be had obviously about the place of history in fiction and vice versa. Still it did not stop me from enjoying the book. I missed my lover, many thanks to the book. Let me leave you with what one of my Facebook friends called “sweet torture.”
“His body reacted the same way it always did since the first time he’d seen her. His heart rate picked up. Heat flooded his body, stirring his manhood, hardening it. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Tall and slender, her flawless skin of darkest ebony, she had an oval face, dark-brown eyes fringed by long, black lashes, a small nose, and a pair of juicy lips. Her hair was twisted in braids and adorned with beads. The decorative markings on her body identified her as the daughter of a titled man. He ached for his wife. He longed to go to her as she stood drying her body. He wanted to taste her sweet lips, feel her softness against his skin, and sink into her warm depths again and again. Yet he didn’t move, but stood there, watching her get dressed while he wanted to undress her. This is madness.” (Kindle Locations 87-93).
So now, you know what I did on my Christmas break. Now, back to my regularly programmed activity – bashing writers who take themselves too seriously (including me!).