Review: If I Don’t Have You by Sareeta Domingo

Published as part of the #Twentyin2020 initiative by Jacaranda Books, If I Don’t Have You is a beautiful story of love at first sight and the painful realities that follow.

Ren, an Afro-Brazillian filmmaker meets Kayla, a Black British artist and journalist at a press junket in New York for his new film. Recovering from a messy break-up, Ren is unprepared to fall in love again, especially with a woman about to leave the country. For Kayla, the timing is just as inconvenient as a love affair could easily derail her carefully laid plans for her future. A searingly passionate one-night stand leads to more questions and strengthens the desire and attraction between them. But with their respective pasts and present lives threatening to short circuit what has just begun, can they and will they risk all for love?

I was taken aback by how much I enjoyed, If I Don’t Have You. The beginning was quite slow to build but the pay-off was totally worth it because I became so invested in both characters. From Ren’s naked honesty, to Kayla’s prickly Britishness (which I loved!) and focused ambition, these two held me captive to the very last page and there were moments where I just wanted to climb into the book and ‘have a word’.

The very idea of Black Love is not new, but there are too few books available on the subject, particularly in the UK. Reading a love story such as this with a Black British woman at the centre, being desired and loved, gave me all the feels. Neither Ren or Kayla are perfect but still they complete each other in ways that neither can comprehend. Their story is one that challenges the notion of not having it all but also recognises the sacrifices made to attain one’s heart’s desire be that a career, a home or the person you love.

The writing is fantastic in that it’s both believable and relatable and Domingo’s prose holds your attention to the very last word. By the end I felt like I’d survived a rollacoaster ride through a hurricane, such was the depth of my feeling, and I’m not ashamed to admit I was a bit misty eyed. It’s definitely a book I would return to and I look forward to more by Sareeta Domingo, and more Black British romances.

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