Five years after the car crash that stole the love of her life, Nigerian American artist Feyi Adekola finally wants to start living again. Her grief over her husband’s death is still sharp, but she is determined to try. So Feyi and her roommate, Joy, go to a grand party in Brooklyn, and their night out is an unqualified success. Feyi drinks, dances and meets a handsome man, Nasir Blake, who wants to sweep her right off her feet.
Nasir is a patient, kind and determined (slightly) younger man with the resources of a minor prince. He invites Feyi to visit his Caribbean island home, where he’ll introduce her to his art collector father and the curator of a group exhibition of artists of the Black diaspora. It’s just the break Feyi needs, but five minutes after their plane touches down, she knows that the man she’s drawn to isn’t Nasir. It’s his elegant, gorgeous father, celebrity chef Alim Blake. Like Feyi, Alim is an artist who lost a spouse too soon, and while their connection is enriched by this common ground, their attraction is elemental.
In You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty, National Book Award finalist and Stonewall Award winner Akwaeke Emezi has written a lush, high-stakes romance novel that diehard romance loyalists and genre newcomers alike will appreciate. Emezi’s literary range is legendary, having succeeded in memoir, poetry and literary fiction for both adult and young adult readers, but it’s still a wonder that they’ve pulled off one of the most sensational and taboo tropes in the romance genre: falling in love with the parent of your romantic partner—in this case, the hot dad or “DILF.” For me, as for many readers, family boundaries are sacred—or, from another perspective, radioactive. Emezi conquers these reservations with palpable chemistry and gorgeous prose, offering an indelibly poignant portrait of a second chance at love for two people who have suffered searing loss.
Emezi’s novel is notable for respecting the conventions of the romance genre while imbuing Feyi and Alim’s story with a distinctly progressive sensibility. The lovers are finely drawn, modern and specific. Both are Black, queer and sexy, and descriptions of their beauty are worth the price of admission alone. Feyi’s artwork is experimental and edgy, with a secret ingredient I won’t spoil.
Another lovely element of the novel is Emezi’s departure from the implicit rule that a romance protagonist can’t hook up with anyone but their one true love. Feyi experiments sexually, makes a risky choice or two and isn’t punished for it. Her freedom and sex positivity shouldn’t be rare in romance novels, but it is.
The list of admirable qualities of You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty is long, but I’ll end with this: Emezi executes their first romance with creativity and deep respect. Come for the swoon; stay for the passion.