A wobbly beginning belies a unique and enjoyable romance set against a compelling Kenyan landscape.
The premise of Burning Embers immediately hooked me in, simply because it seemed contradictory and potentially problematic. I know—that’s a terrible reason for wanting to read a book, but it’s the morbid curiosity I have. A contemporary historical? Set in 1970s Kenya? With a book cover using the most clichéd imagery to signify ‘Africa’? From a publisher that acquires Twilight fan fiction? So much could go wrong, as much as it could go right (not that I intentionally look for stories to rant about, mind you!).
It just so happens one of my favourite romance tropes is the 1970s/80s exotic encounter, complete with foreign locale, young, innocent Anglo heroine, and dark, smouldering hero (usually Mediterranean/Hispanic/French/North African), accompanied by a secondary line-up of quirky and/or villainous ‘natives’.
Yes, the casual sexism and racism and other -isms in these stories are bothersome. Yet for all their unsavoury colonial attitudes, I find these stories irresistible in their naiveté and datedness. Go figure.
So how would a book by a contemporary author recalling old-fashioned times hold up with a reader with modern-day sensibilities? Surprisingly well, in fact. And better yet, this story did not smell at all Twilight-esque, even though the cover literally looks it…
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