African romance novels are popularly read because of their emotional connectivity to a phenomenon that people always want to experience; love. Romantic novels are essentially based on love that went sour, wasn’t reciprocated, didn’t come alive, or was ravishingly enjoyed. The theme of love and the exhaustive discussion of it through characters and narration stand the love for romance genre out of other genres of literature.
African romance novels are widely read for their representation, diversity, escapism, education, and emotional connection. These novels offer a unique perspective on love and relationships that resonates with readers around the world. For lovers of the romance genre, here are African romance novels your imagination may want to savour:
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This novel is no doubt one of the best African romance novels out there. It tells the story of Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman who moves to the United States for university, leaving behind her boyfriend, Obinze. Years later, she returns to Nigeria and must confront the life she left behind.
‘Americanah’ is a novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, published in 2013. The novel tells the story of Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman who emigrated to the United States to attend college, and her experiences as an immigrant and a black woman in America.
As Ifemelu adjusts to life in the United States, she becomes increasingly aware of the complexities of race and racism in America. She starts a popular blog in which she writes candidly about her experiences and observations, and becomes a prominent voice on issues of race and identity.
Meanwhile, Ifemelu’s boyfriend in Nigeria, Obinze, also dreams of emigrating to the United States, but is unable to secure a visa. He ends up moving to the United Kingdom, where he faces his own challenges as an undocumented immigrant.
The novel explores themes of race, identity, immigration, and relationships, and is a commentary on the experiences of African immigrants in the United States and Europe. It was critically acclaimed and won several awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 2013.
Happiness Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta
This collection of short stories explores the lives of Nigerian women and their experiences with love, family, and identity.
‘Happiness Like Water’ is a collection of short stories by Chinelo Okparanta, published in 2013. The stories are set in Nigeria and explore the lives of women as they navigate relationships, family, and societal expectations.
The first story, ‘Wahala!’ is about a young girl named Nnamabia who is caught between her mother’s traditional beliefs and her own desires for a modern education. In ‘Story, Story,’ a young woman named Ijeoma grapples with her sexuality in a society that does not accept homosexuality. ‘Tumours and Butterflies’ follows a woman named Ada who must confront her past and make peace with her father’s death.
The stories in ‘Happiness Like Water’ also touch on themes such as loss, betrayal, and the struggle to find a sense of belonging. The characters in the stories are complex and well-developed, and Okparanta’s writing style is both lyrical and engaging.
Overall, ‘Happiness Like Water’ is a powerful and thought-provoking collection of stories that offers a glimpse into the lives of Nigerian women and the challenges they face in a rapidly changing society.
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin
‘The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives’ is a novel written by Nigerian author Lola Shoneyin. The book tells the story of Baba Segi, a wealthy and polygamous man in modern-day Nigeria, and his four wives: Iya Segi, Iya Tope, Iya Femi, and Bolanle.
Baba Segi is a successful businessman and has always been proud of his ability to provide for his family. However, he soon discovers that his wives have been keeping secrets from him. Bolanle, the newest and youngest wife, is the catalyst for the unraveling of the secrets. Her education and aloofness from the other wives make her a mystery to them, and Baba Segi is curious about her.
As the story progresses, we learn about the lives and struggles of each of the wives. Iya Segi, the first wife, is fiercely protective of her position in the family and her children. Iya Tope, the second wife, has a secret love affair with Baba Segi’s driver, while Iya Femi, the third wife, hides a devastating secret from her past. Bolanle, the fourth wife, is a university-educated woman who is not content with just being a housewife and wants to pursue a career.
As Baba Segi tries to navigate the secrets and lies within his family, the tensions and conflicts between the wives escalate, leading to a dramatic and unexpected climax.
The novel deals with themes such as patriarchy, gender roles, infidelity, family, and societal expectations. Shoneyin’s writing is witty, engaging, and insightful, providing a unique perspective on polygamy and its complexities. The book has been widely praised for its portrayal of women and their struggles in a patriarchal society, as well as for its nuanced and multi-dimensional characters. It is no doubt one of the best African romance novels out there.
The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
Set in Sierra Leone during and after the civil war, this novel tells the story of three characters whose lives become intertwined: a British psychologist, a young surgeon, and a local woman.
The novel is one of the best African romance novels to read. It is divided into three parts and is narrated by three different characters. The first part is narrated by Adrian Lockheart, a British psychologist who has come to Sierra Leone to work with survivors of the war. Adrian becomes fascinated by the story of a man named Kai Mansaray, who is a former surgeon and now lives in a mental institution. Kai’s story is told in the second part of the novel, which is narrated by him. The third part is narrated by Adrian’s colleague, a Sierra Leonean woman named Agnes.
As the novel unfolds, we learn about the characters’ pasts and how they have been affected by the war. Adrian becomes increasingly involved with Kai’s story and learns about the atrocities that were committed during the conflict. Kai’s mental state is fragile, and he struggles to come to terms with what he has experienced. Agnes, meanwhile, is haunted by her own memories of the war and the loss of her husband.
The novel explores themes of trauma, memory, and the legacy of violence. It also examines the complexities of postcolonial African identity and the tensions between Western aid workers and local communities. The Memory of Love is a powerful and poignant novel that offers a glimpse into the lives of those affected by war and how they attempt to rebuild their lives in its aftermath.
In dependence by Sarah Ladipo Manyika
In Dependence is a novel by Sarah Ladipo Manyika that was first published in 2008. The book follows the story of Tayo Ajayi, a Nigerian man, and Vanessa Richardson, a British woman, and their relationship over several decades.
The novel begins with Tayo arriving in England in the 1960s to study at Oxford University. He meets Vanessa, a fellow student, and the two begin a relationship. However, their relationship is complicated by the racial and cultural differences between them, as well as the political turmoil in Nigeria, where Tayo is from.
As the years go by, Tayo and Vanessa’s relationship faces many challenges, including infidelity, illness, and distance. Tayo struggles with his identity as a Nigerian living in England, and Vanessa grapples with her own feelings of insecurity and loneliness.
Throughout the novel, Manyika explores themes of identity, culture, and love. She also sheds light on the experiences of Nigerian immigrants in England during a time of significant social and political change.
In Dependence is a beautifully written and thought-provoking novel that explores the complexities of love and the challenges of navigating cultural differences. It offers a nuanced portrayal of the experiences of immigrants and the impact of colonialism on both the colonized and the colonizers.
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
‘His Only Wife’ is one of the best African romance novels to read. It is a novel by Ghanaian author Peace Adzo Medie, published in 2020. The novel follows the story of Afi Tekple, a young woman from a small town in Ghana, who is asked by her wealthy aunt to marry a man named Elikem Ganyo. Elikem is a successful businessman who lives in Accra, Ghana’s capital city and is known for his many romantic relationships.
Despite her reservations, Afi agrees to marry Elikem in order to provide financial support for her family. However, she quickly realizes that Elikem only married her to appease his mother, who wants him to settle down and start a family. Elikem continues to carry on with his affairs while Afi is left to navigate her new life as a wealthy woman in Accra.
As Afi struggles to adjust to her new surroundings, she begins to question whether or not she made the right decision in marrying Elikem. She also becomes increasingly aware of the gender inequality and societal pressures that exist in Ghana, particularly for women. Throughout the novel, Afi navigates her own desires and aspirations, while also dealing with the expectations of her family and society.
‘His Only Wife’ explores themes of marriage, gender inequality, class, and family. The novel has been praised for its engaging storytelling and compelling portrayal of contemporary Ghanaian society. It is without a doubt one of the best African romance novels out there.
Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
Stay With Me is a novel by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, published in 2017. It is a story set in Nigeria, which revolves around the lives of Yejide and Akin, a married couple who are struggling with infertility.
The story is told from the perspectives of Yejide and Akin, alternating between their points of view. Yejide is a successful businesswoman who runs a hair salon, while Akin is a banker. Despite their professional successes, they are unable to have children, which puts a strain on their marriage.
Yejide is desperate to have a child, and she goes to great lengths to achieve this, including consulting traditional healers and undergoing fertility treatments. She is also under pressure from her mother-in-law, who wants Akin to take a second wife to bear him children.
As the story progresses, secrets from the past are revealed, which further complicates the already complex relationships between the characters. The novel explores themes of family, tradition, motherhood, and the impact of societal expectations on individuals.
Overall, Stay With Me is a poignant and thought-provoking novel that offers a glimpse into the complexities of Nigerian society and the human experience. It has received critical acclaim for its powerful storytelling and vivid portrayal of the characters and their struggles.
Love’s Persuasion by Ola Awonubi
‘Love’s Persuasion’ is one of the best African romance novels to read. It is a novel by Ola Awonubi that explores themes of love, identity, and cultural conflict. Set in the 1980s in Lagos, Nigeria, the story follows the life of Funmi, a young woman who is struggling to find her place in the world.
Funmi is torn between two cultures: her Nigerian heritage and the Western influences that she has been exposed to. Her parents want her to marry a man from a wealthy Nigerian family, but Funmi is in love with Andrew, a British man who works in Nigeria. As she navigates the complexities of her relationships with Andrew and her family, Funmi must confront her own fears and insecurities and find the courage to follow her heart.
Through Funmi’s story, Awonubi explores the challenges that arise when cultures clash and the importance of finding one’s own voice in a world that often tries to dictate who we should be. The novel is a poignant and thought-provoking look at the complexities of love and identity in a changing world.
Changes: A Love Story by Ama Ata Aidoo
‘Changes: A Love Story’ is a novel written by Ama Ata Aidoo and published in 1991. It tells the story of Esi, a modern Ghanaian woman who is unhappily married to a wealthy businessman, Oko. Despite her successful career and independent nature, Esi struggles to find fulfillment in her marriage and decides to leave Oko and pursue a relationship with a younger man named Ali.
The novel explores themes of gender roles, cultural identity, and the challenges of balancing tradition with modernity. Through the experiences of Esi and the other characters, Aidoo highlights the complexities of relationships in a changing society and how individuals navigate conflicting expectations and desires.
At its core, ‘Changes: A Love Story’ is a powerful portrayal of a woman’s journey toward self-discovery and self-realization. Esi’s decision to leave her husband and pursue a relationship with a younger man challenges traditional gender roles and expectations, and reflects the changing attitudes and values of modern Ghanaian society. Throughout the novel, Esi grapples with the tensions between her personal desires and the expectations placed on her by her family, her culture, and her society.
Through Esi’s experiences, Aidoo also explores the complexities of cultural identity in a rapidly changing world. Esi is caught between the traditions of her upbringing and the pressures of modernity, and her struggle to find a balance between these competing forces is a central theme of the novel. Ultimately, however, Esi’s journey towards self-discovery and self-realization represents a triumph of the individual spirit over cultural expectations and norms.
Overall, ‘Changes: A Love Story’ is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that offers a compelling portrayal of the challenges and complexities of relationships, gender roles, and cultural identity in modern Africa. Through its vivid characters and richly detailed narrative, the novel offers a powerful commentary on the forces that shape our lives and how we can navigate those forces to find our own path toward happiness and fulfillment. It is no doubt one of the best African romance novels out there.
Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola
‘Honey & Spice’ is also one of the best African romance novels. It is a collection of interconnected stories that explore love, desire, and identity through the lens of mythology and folklore. The novel is written by Bolu Babalola, a Nigerian-British writer and storyteller.
The stories in “Honey & Spice” take place across different periods and locations, from ancient Egypt to modern-day London. Each story features a different protagonist, but they are all linked by themes of love and desire, as well as by recurring motifs and symbols drawn from mythological and folkloric traditions.
The stories in the book include “Nefertiti,” which reimagines the story of the famous queen of Egypt as a love story between her and a female sculptor; “Oshun,” which tells the tale of a young woman in Nigeria who falls in love with the river goddess of love and fertility; and “Psyche,” which retells the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche as a story about a young woman who discovers her own strength and identity through her trials and tribulations.
Throughout the book, Babalola weaves together elements of myth, legend, and history to create a vivid and imaginative world that explores the complexities of human relationships and the power of love to transform and transcend.
In conclusion, African romance novels offer a unique and diverse perspective on love and relationships in Africa. These captivating stories of love and passion are gaining popularity worldwide, and we can expect to see more talented African writers adding their voices to this vibrant tradition. So why not pick up an African romance novel today and experience the beauty and richness of these stories for yourself?