Cole makes her Avon debut with a romance that draws on familiar genre tropes only to upend them.
An arranged marriage, a mistaken identity, and a handsome prince from an imaginary country are just a few common tropes in the first book in Cole’s (An Extraordinary Union, 2017, etc.) Reluctant Royals series. But with ironic nods to Disney and Mills & Boon, Cole gives 21st-century twists. Naledi, a graduate student in epidemiology, juggles lab work, a waitressing job, and a drunken mess of a best friend. Being raised in foster homes has given her the toughness she needs to succeed as a black woman in an often hostile world but also a vulnerability. Naledi hasn’t been lucky in love, and she wonders whether she’s “like a faulty piece of Velcro; people tried to stick to her, but there was something intrinsically wrong in her design.” When she gets an email addressing her as the long-lost betrothed of Prince Thabiso of the small (fictional) African country of Thesolo, Naledi hits delete. Little does she realize that the incompetent new waiter she's been trying to train is, in fact, the “Playboy PanAfrique,” come to New York to check out his intended. Thabiso insinuates himself into Naledi’s life, and they become friends and, soon after, lovers. Thabiso’s big ego and sense of entitlement are tempered by his exposure to working-class realities, while Naledi discovers how wonderful it can be to open up and connect. Of course, catastrophe is just around the corner, and its resolution comes only after they journey to Thesolo, where Naledi can discover her roots while at the same time working to stop an outbreak of a mysterious disease.
A delightful and sexy take on love between a suave African prince and a nerdy epidemiology student.