THE PLOT: Who’s Loving You is an anthology of short stories by British women of colour. From a refugee washing up on shore to a girl visiting Iran for her mothers’ funeral, these stories cover a vast range of topics, but the one thing that unites them is love. The concept for this book was to allow space for women of colour to write about romantic love in all its guises. While some stories have a speculative fiction aspect whereas others are straight-up ‘girl meets boy’ (or ‘girl meets girl’ or ‘boy meets girl and has a meltdown because she’s trans’), these stories cover the multiplicity of love, which is so often underrepresented in traditional romantic fiction.
RATING: I am a huge fan of the concept for this anthology and really enjoyed the core plot of each story. However, I’m not sure whether each story was written / edited to the same standard. Some of the stories were absolutely four stars, while some felt less polished. Therefore, I’m giving this collection three and a half stars. There are some great gems for short story lovers and fans of these authors, but it’s not my favourite collection published this year.
GOOD BITS: My favourite stories were ‘Long Distance’ by Varaidzo, ‘Brief Encounters’ by Sara Collins, ‘Rani’ by Amna Saleem, ‘No One is Lonely’ by Rowan Hisayo-Buchanan, and ‘My Heart Beats’ by Dorothy Koomson. If you’re a fan of any of these authors, I’d encourage you to pick up this book. I liked all of these because the voices of the protagonists and the obstacles to their love stories felt real.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: Some of the stories felt too long and I could sense myself trying to edit them as I was reading. I think a heavy-handed editor would have helped bring out more in them, ensuring the writer focussed on the plot so readers don’t lose focus. In general, I also feel like a straight-forward love story about two people who are cosmically destined to be together is interminably dull. If two people fall in love within no obstacles, or overly contrived obstacles, I find myself losing interest.
I know I like to keep these reviews short, but if I had to quickly sum up what I felt was lacking in each of my least favourite stories…
‘The Waves Will Carry Us Back’ by Sareeta Domingo – The connection between the lovers didn’t feel grounded in reality. The story glossed over the messy, cruel and rough side of being a refugee. Including some grit and a reason why the two characters fell in love would have made it feel more real.
‘Motherland’ by Sara Jafari – This was well-written and well-edited, but the core premised was a tad boring. It felt like a Disney romance with no real obstacle or reason for the two characters to fall for each other – he was just a handsome prince who swept into her life.
‘Rain… Doubtful’ by Kuchenga – This story had real promise. Written from the POV of a black man who falls in love with a transwoman, I think the idea had potential. Unfortunately, I hated the execution as it’s written in the form of a letter to his mum. The narrator tells the story in a way that includes details no-one would write down, especially not to their parent, and his voice sounds like a teenager (which doesn’t fit his character as a 30+ professional). Also, the insertion of dialogue doesn’t fit the epistolary form so the story doesn’t commit to the style.
‘The Row’ by Danielle Dash – This story was way too long and needed to be cut down. It started well but was extremely slow, which served to develop the romance but needed more action to move the plot forward. The ‘twist’ was extremely obvious and didn’t need the dreams to hammer it home.
OVERALL: If you’re a short story lover or are a fan of any of the authors, I’d say to give this book a go. It wasn’t my favourite but certainly isn’t bad, plus you can skip over the stories you don’t like. I’d recommend it to fans of ‘Love in Colour’ by Bolu Babalola or ‘How To Love A Jamaican’ by Alexia Arthurs, but I preferred both of those books. Overall, I do think this is a great concept and much-needed representation of romantic love featuring women of colour.
This book arrived on my doorstep back in February 2021 with no note or press release. I’m yet to figure out who sent it (be it publisher or friend), and I don’t think it was a pre-order, but thank you!