Love in Colour transports you into a better world. It makes you question your definition of love. It challenges you to be loved loudly and unashamedly. This is clearly a writer who understands romance and it is evident just how much she loves love. Bolu wants readers to know that to love is to see and to be loved is to be seen: it is the action of acceptance, the acceptance of others and the acceptance of self.

Love in Colour: Mythical Tales From Around the World, Retold is an anthology that reworks black and brown love stories, exploring various cultures and themes. It celebrates women, giving them agency and a platform to be seen. Traditional stories are woven with modern perspectives or settings and a contemporary voice that blends the past and present with expert ease. This blend captures the timeless and transcendental essence of love stories, making them accessible to readers.

Romance is, you guessed it, white. While some literary snobs turn their nose up at romance and reduce it to a genre for lonely housewives, it is one of the highest-grossing genres in the literary market. To not have black and brown people see themselves in these stories about love, desire and passion is exasperating and leaves out a large chunk of romance fans. Publishers have finally started to give us love stories starring black and brown characters: Joya Goffney, Jasmine Guillory and Talia Hibbert have been very successful in writing romances with a diverse cast. Their stories have warmed the hearts of many and proven that these stories are very much in demand. In Love in Colour, Bolu Babalola—author and self-styled ‘romcomoisseur’—gives us a collection of myth and fairy tale retellings from around the world. 

“It makes you question your definition of love. It challenges you to be loved loudly and unashamedly.”

Love in Colour transports you to a better world full of true love and fiery passion. It makes you question your definition of love. It challenges you to be loved loudly and unashamedly. Being loved should make you feel seen and to be in love is to see yourself through a different lens. This collection centres the theme of being seen by focusing on its female characters, giving them the centre stage and ensuring that we (like their love interests) see them in their highs and lows. These characters are sensual, full of life and colour, and each story feels like a comforting hug. 

This is clearly a writer who understands romance. Romance is not all highs. Romance is not a fairy tale, and the wrong coupling can not only dim a woman’s light but also put her in danger. Bolu gives us these warnings in stories like “Yaa”. Yaa invests her all into her relationship with Kofi, becoming a vessel for him to pour his emotions, dreams and frustrations into whilst not having the same receptacle for herself. Like Yaa, the women in these stories have their insecurities and just want to be seen for who they are beneath them. 

In fact, the idea of being seen threads the collection together. “Naleli” explores this idea in a striking way as it follows a character who sees her own beauty in spite of living in a society unable to look past her vitiligo. In “Osun”, Osun’s relationship with Sango is one where she is not seen: he does not even know how much she loves to dance. “Osun” is a Yoruba mythology-inspired retelling that sees a goddess find love with a human named Erinle who sees, accepts and shows Osun she deserves everything she desires.

“This is clearly a writer who understands romance…it is evident just how much she loves love.”

Bolu gives us a roster of women who are alive and full of colour. These relatable women could very well be our friends, sisters, mothers, aunties and all the other special women in our lives. Love in Colour is an anthology that not only celebrates love but womanhood and sisterhood. Every single one of these women has a story to tell outside of their romantic relationships, backstories that will easily trigger your curiosity. We have black and brown women who are not only strong as we are used to seeing, but they are also sensitive, chaotic, at times awkward and always charming. Bolu gifts these characters agency, making them the heroes of their own stories and the architects of their own destinies.

As is the case with many anthologies, there are some stories that stand out more than the others, however, Bolu accomplishes what she sets out to do and it is evident just how much she loves love. Bolu wants readers to know that to love is to see and to be loved is to be seen: it is the action of acceptance, the acceptance of others and the acceptance of self. “Love is tender, tentative, brutal and bold…but when we allow ourselves to trust like this, there is a freedom that we can attain—a glory.”

By Hani Abdihakim

HANI ABDIHAKIM is an editorial assistant from London. She graduated with a master’s degree in Literature and Culture and is an avid reader of fantasy and romance books. Her previous publications include “The Hijab is Not Up for Grabs” (Black Ballad) and “Mother Africa: A Brief History of Africa’s Queens and Female Warriors” (The Move). You can find her on Instagram @bookmarkedbyhani.

BOLU BABALOLA is a British-Nigerian woman with a misleading bachelor’s degree in law and a masters degree in American Politics & History from UCL. She feels it is important to state that her thesis was on Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and she was awarded a distinction for it. So essentially she has a masters degree in Beyoncé. She is the World Literacy Foundation’s Global Ambassador and in 2021, she was named in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List. You can find her on Twitter @BeeBabs.

To love is to see, and to be loved is to be seen: Love in Colour by Bolu BabalolaLove in Colour: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola
Published by Headline on 24 June 2021
Genres: African, Black British, Contemporary, Debut, Folktale, Literary fiction, Retelling, Romance, Short stories, Women's fiction, Historical romance, Womanism
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Afrori
Goodreads
four-stars

A high-born Nigerian goddess, who has been beaten down and unappreciated by her gregarious lover, longs to be truly seen. A young businesswoman attempts a great leap in her company, and an even greater one in her love life. A powerful Ghanaian spokeswoman is forced to decide whether she should uphold her family’s politics or be true to her heart. In her debut collection, internationally acclaimed writer Bolu Babalola retells the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology with incredible new detail and vivacity. Focusing on the magical folktales of West Africa, Babalola also reimagines Greek myths, ancient legends from the Middle East, and stories from long-erased places. With an eye towards decolonizing tropes inherent in our favourite tales of love, Babalola has created captivating stories that traverse across perspectives, continents, and genres.