Book Talk: If I Don't Have You by Sareeta Domingo

I bought this book for myself to support the brilliant work Jacaranda Books are doing, and particularly because last year they published 20 Black British writers in a year! You can find out about all the amazing books published as part of that initiative, plus the other awesome titles on their list here.

If I Don't Have You is romance fiction, a genre which I don't read a huge amount of outside of YA. The story switches between the two protagonists; Ren, an Afro-Brazilian film maker, and Kayla, a Black British journalist. They meet when she interviews him for her website, and the story progresses from there, through the inevitable miscommunications, twists and turns and ups and downs to the conclusion. There is an astonishing amount of honesty and vulnerability between Ren and Kayla, while also being a constant low level of deception throughout. It's an interesting combination, and Sareeta Domingo does a great job at exploring the ways that people can be instantly drawn together while at the same time having to continue to deal with their pre-existing reality.

The book switches between viewpoints with alternating chapters, which I sometimes find to be a jarring experience but it was very well utilised here, giving a great insight into the inner workings of each character's mind, and meaning that although they were at times confused by each others' motivations, I never really was. This did mean that I spent a large chunk of the book internally yelling 'just be honest with him/her!' at the page, but that kind of engagement with the story is what I'm looking for in a great, immersive reading experience.

As I've said, I don't read a huge amount of romance fiction, but the plot of If I Don't Have You was just the right mix of predictable and unusual and I ended up reading it in the space of a couple of days and staying up late to finish it, and really hoping that Ren and Kayla would be able to get it together in the end. It's possibly my Catholic upbringing that means I notice sex scenes so much, but there are several in this book (unsurprisingly for a romance book), and they are well done - treading a line between being intense and not too graphic. There is no fade to black here though - we experience the character's experiences with them, from start to finish!

If I Don't Have You is very much a story that deals with characters and their relationships and emotions, weaving together different people and plot strands and filling in back story until by the end of the story all of the blanks have been filled in. It's done with a steady hand and although there were a few small things (mostly character quirks that didn't quite ring true for me) that I found a little bit annoying, overall this was a really enjoyable reading experience.

We have a copy of If I Don't Have You currently available in our bookshop!


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