Sailing the Seven Seas of Romance Reading Challenge: August Update

At last count, there are now 75 books and 26 countries as part of this international reading challenge! This is all thanks to you for your endless help with finding international romance novels. Thank you!

This month I managed 3 books, and here are my thoughts on each!

All In
A | BN | K | AB
I’ve had my eye on All In by Simona Ahrnstedt for a while now, so it was the first book I went for when starting this challenge.

Billionaires shouldn’t exist, but I am often full of contradictions. The rules are different in romance, apparently. All In is set amid Sweden’s financial elite and uses the enemies-to-lovers-to-serious-enemies-to-committed-relationship trope.

It was reviewed on the site and was given an A grade – something I heartily support! I like that you know the ‘dark moment’ is coming from the first page, so there’s no third act surprise at least in that respect. There are some surprises! Including some surprising sex!

I really enjoyed the supporting characters and will definitely be reading the rest of this series when I’m done with this challenge.


The first book I picked for India was Sheryn Munir’s Falling into Place. ( A | BN | K ) It turned out to be too much of a slow burn for me. It’s a sapphic romance and at about 25% in, the protagonist was still happily in love with her live-in boyfriend and the supposed love interest was very much just a friend. As I said, too slow of a slow-burn for my reading tastes.

So I tried another book: The Other Man by Farhad J. Dadyburjor. ( A | BN ) I struggled with this one, too, but I’d already bought it and so pushed through to the end. All of the conflict in this book could have been resolved with some honest communication between the protagonist and his loved ones. At the time the book was set, homosexuality was still illegal, but

Show Spoiler

…the protagonist’s dad was dropping supportive hints about knowing that his son was gay, so the door was opened for him. The love interest asked repeatedly what was bothering him. His (female) fiance was turning into a friend that he could have been honest with. But he kept silent and in so doing hurt the people he loved.

Overall, it was a distinctly average book.


Category romance and I have a rocky relationship. Sometimes love, sometimes hate. Sometimes category romance can be a little too formulaic for me, while at other times, it is precisely the comfort of that formula that I need.

The Earl’s Egyptian Heiress by Heba Helmy firmly falls into the love section. I cheated a bit because this book is set in Egypt and London, but within the first page I was absolutely hooked and could not put it down – rules be damned! I loved this book so much, especially as I got deeper into the story and the issues of race, class, colonisation, workers’ rights, gender and power came through more strongly.

The Earl’s Egyptian Heiress
A | BN | K
While the major source of conflict between the characters is kind of swept under the rug and barely dealt with by the end, the plot gave me so much to think about, and the writing was so immersive I couldn’t stop reading. This was a bracing sort of story that gifted me with rich historical detail paired with the wistful hopefulness of two people falling in love.

With the exception of two characters who ended up being caricatures of Whiteness at its most evil, the book operated from a place of progressive morals for the most part, but with no attempts to rewrite history. For example, the need for workers’ rights is discussed frankly in the book – much as we would expect them to be discussed today – but there are limited moves available within the book to improve working conditions. There are small voices speaking loudly to improve things. This is romance in spite of circumstances, not a fantasy situation in which romance rights wrongs. The two leads tentatively explore their love for each other, but very much on our strong female lead’s terms. The moral of the romance plot is that the liberation of the oppressed, liberates the oppressor, too.

Next Up: South Africa!

So far this challenge has definitely broadened my romance horizons and made me reflect upon my reading choices. Looking ahead, I’m going to dive into a book set in my home country, South Africa.

What books have you read lately that were set in different countries?


General Bitching...

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  1. Syntha says:

    Love in Color: Mythical Tales From Around the World by Bolu Babalola is amazing, she is British-Nigerian, I ahve not yet read Honey and Spice, her full length Novel

  2. Musical Trees says:

    I second LOVE IN COLOR! I’m not usually a short story person, but each of these was a beautiful little gem. The stories are riffs on myths from around the world minus the problematic misogyny and racism.

  3. Musical Trees says:

    I also enjoyed ALL IN, which is a total soap opera. There’s extreme wealth, revenge, nouveau riche vs. old money. Infidelity. Deep family secrets. It’s bonkers.

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