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Obinna Udenwe

Sometimes I wonder how people who do not read at all manage to live and exist, because one of the things good books do is that they transport the reader to places far away – they open up the imagination, providing some kind of satisfaction akin to having been pleasured by a lover – and no book does this better than romance fiction. Of all kinds of fiction, romance fiction is one with the ability to make you fall in love or out of love, sometimes while reading, you could cry or laugh out loud.

Ola Awonubi’s Love Persuasion is one romance fiction that transported me back to many years ago, reminding me of the first romance/erotic novel I read – Elinor Glyn’s Three Weeks – but unlike Three Weeks, Ola Awonubi has written a nostalgic tale of a charged relationship between two young people in their twenties, without the strong erotic acts found in Three Weeks. It has the amorous powers of El James’ Fifty Shades of Grey but without the sexual scenes that make Fifty Shades of Grey pornographic.

In Love Persuasion, a handsome, intelligent and elegant Accountant, Tony Okoli has just returned from the UK to take over his family’s City Finance, a multi-million dollar business. He is appointed the new Assistant Managing Director, and a Christmas reception is organized in his honour. At this party Tony bumps into Ada Okafor – a trainee Accountant/Receptionist in City Finance. The ...

Sometimes I wonder how people who do not read at all manage to live and exist, because one of the things good books do is that they transport the reader to places far away – they open up the imagination, providing some kind of satisfaction akin to having been pleasured by a lover – and no book does this better than romance fiction. Of all kinds of fiction, romance fiction is one with the ability to make you fall in love or out of love, sometimes while reading, you could cry or laugh out loud.

Ola Awonubi’s Love Persuasion is one romance fiction that transported me back to many years ago, reminding me of the first romance/erotic novel I read – Elinor Glyn’s Three Weeks – but unlike Three Weeks, Ola Awonubi has written a nostalgic tale of a charged relationship between two young people in their twenties, without the strong erotic acts found in Three Weeks. It has the amorous powers of El James’ Fifty Shades of Grey but without the sexual scenes that make Fifty Shades of Grey pornographic.

In Love Persuasion, a handsome, intelligent and elegant Accountant, Tony Okoli has just returned from the UK to take over his family’s City Finance, a multi-million dollar business. He is appointed the new Assistant Managing Director, and a Christmas reception is organized in his honour. At this party Tony bumps into Ada Okafor – a trainee Accountant/Receptionist in City Finance. They are introduced and quickly, they become friends, discovering their common love for books.

The reader is introduced into a powerful description of a modern office romance –Ola Awonubi doesn’t just tell a romance story, she introduces the reader into the corporate world – into the funny and witty lives of some staff working in a general-office setting: we read and revel in the gossips and back-biting and discussions about men – we are introduced to different kinds of people, including a male gossip, a jealous colleague and the office sexual molester.

Ola Awonubi gently and subtly reintroduces the dying conversation on sexual assault in the Nigerian workplace – we are reminded of how company executives and authorities treat this menace with laxity, leaving the victims, mostly young women to suffer shame and psychological trauma. In Love’s Persuasion, Mr. Obi, one of the directors in City Finance lusts after Ada – several times he tries to win her heart, promising her jewellery, comfort and money. When the young lady declines, he forces himself on her. The author holds the reader spellbound with her ability to explain this assault in grand details. Mr. Obi is relieved of his duties and he goes all out to rub Ada’s name in the mud by alleging that they were lovers, and like many other Nigerian girls, Ada cannot do anything to clear her name, she is handicapped by the Nigerian system that forces a rape victim to admit that she is at fault.

Unlike in many other romance fictions, Love’s Persuasion employs other literary techniques to make the story appealing – throughout the story, the reader is in suspense. One of such times is when Mr. Obi broadcasts an email alleging that Ada is his girlfriend and that he had not attempted to rape her, Ada is summoned by her managers; Mrs Oseni and Mrs Solenke – the reader’s heart beats frantically, waiting to find out Ada’s fate. The reader waits strongly, heart pounding when Ada is summoned by Tony, the man she loves, the man who saved her the day she was assaulted.

While reading Love’s Persuasion, the reader’s mouth water as the author describes foods – one of such moments is when Ada visits Tony’s apartment at Banana Island, the author describes the meal Tony made for her in these words: “The aroma of spices assailed her senses and she turned her attention back to him as he fried the rice, spices, prawns and vegetables in a large pan, adding some soy sauce and stock cubes as he worked….”

Ola Awonubi shaves off male-chauvinism – she reintroduces the age-long argument on how Nigerian men are not gentle – how Nigerian men do not open the doors for their women, cook for her, take her out on dates, and respect her boundaries by not demanding sex when she is not ready, unlike Tony who can do all these and even know when to restrain himself. The author masterfully builds the story to a climax as few obstacles are placed on the paths of the characters. Ada is faced with challenges as she strives to see her stubborn young brother through school, while at same time caring for her aging father, emotionally she struggles with either giving in to Tony entirely or waiting a while before allowing him the pleasure of her body. There is the problem of Tony’s wealthy family who will not allow their son marry a low-class. There is Tony’s sister Samantha, who can’t comprehend her brother dating a low-class receptionist, and who must protect Gloria, her brother’s childhood sweetheart. Finally, Ola Awonubi brings to the picture, the elegant, educated and wealthy lawyer, Gloria, who intimidates Ada, standing on her path to becoming Tony’s sweetheart and wife.

Love Persuasion has brought new vigour into Nigerian literature, with the way the story is narrated, the setting and the richness in the attributes of the characters. Ola Awonubi did not resurrect the early romance fiction styles of the Pacesetters Series, but invented modernity and passion – making the modern reader to feel the energy in the story and the characters: their lifestyle, fashion, gadgets, the music they listen to and the cars they use, including the conversations they have.

It is important to note that as expressive as Love’s Persuasion is, there is the wrong use of the Igbo expression: “Ike Ka eji anu ogu” explained as “destitution breads disdain” instead of “Wars are fought with strength” or the more figurative meaning “Great things are achieved with perseverance or strength”. I also wondered why the characters would still be reading Cyprian Ekwensi, Achebe and Buchi Emecheta, and discussing these works more than the modern classics. There is also a little problem with the structure when Tony visited Gloria for the first time after she returned to Nigeria, and Gloria jumped straight into telling him about her plans to leave him, without first navigating around the issue a little. It is also not plausible that Gloria would call the man who had impregnated her, the man ‘I LOVE’ in front of Tony, while she was still asking Tony to pretend to be her lover in the presence of their families until she left Nigeria: “…we can attend the birthday party together and after that I’ll fly to Washington and be with the MAN I LOVE. Tony, please do this one thing for me….” And when Ada meets Richard Balogun in London and he informs her that Tony’s book launch is next Saturday, the reader would be surprised when the book launch is wrongly placed in two weeks time.

However, it is important to note that Ola Awonubi is skilled in the art of romance writing– Love Persuasion is one book in the Ankara Romance Series that is enriched with suspense, tingling romance, beautifully written dialogue, and is evocative of the African family and life. It is a book with characters so strongly created that they jump out of the pages and become real and picturesque. Most importantly, the author spiced the book with lots of humour; pure unadulterated Nigerian humour and slang words that make the reader feel at home:

“…you have no time for all this sme-sme, jare….” Sme-sme being an Igbo street word for dulling, fooling-about, un-seriousness, stupidity, messing-up etc., which sounds so cool when used in a sentence.

Love’s Persuasion is a perfect example of how modern romance fiction should be written.

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