REVIEW: The Ex-Wife: A Muslim Romance by Lyndell Williams
She wasn’t looking for love, but it found her.
Zaynab flees a dysfunctional marriage, saving herself from an emotional breakdown. After two years of therapy overseas, she returns to reconnect with the son she left behind. She is not interested in remarrying, but then a sexy firefighter pulls her from a car wreck and catches her interest.
Xander moved to town for his new job at the fire department. He thrives at his new job but struggles for acceptance in the local Muslim community. When he pulls Zaynab from a wreck, he’s just doing his job. Soon, sparks fly between them.
As Zaynab and Xander start digging each other, family and community threaten to snuff out their kindling desire for each other.
Dear Ms. Williams,
There is a lot packed into this novella. White Firefighter Xander is a recent convert to Islam and has issues with acceptance (especially from one older man at the masjid) because of the tattoos he has and brothers questioning whether or not he’s actually Muslim. His mother accepts that he’s converted (though I get the feeling she’d rather he convert back) and Xander’s old girlfriend suddenly wants him back but keeps saying Moozlem.
Zaynab agreed to the arranged marriage her parents pressured her into that then fell apart under the day-to-days of actually being married plus Zaynab’s GAD and postpartum depression. Her Om and Abo aren’t happy about the about divorce and want her to get remarried but Zaynab isn’t listening to Om’s entreaties as they had no contact with their grandchild while she was in Kuwait. Now she’s trying to rebond with her toddler son. Oh and there’s a throwaway reference to colorism due to the skin cream her mother has urged Zaynab to use.
It’s nice that Zaynab’s ex-husband realizes she was in a bad mental space during their short marriage and is trying to help her rebond with Beni. His new wife works with Xander and both of them quickly zero in on the sparks that are zinging everywhere when Xander and Zaynab (arriving separately) eat Iftar with them at their house. I can understand why both Xander and Zaynab are initially reluctant to act on their feelings but yay for romance stories with helpful friends who gently push until they’re ready to discuss marriage contracts and meet family members.
I kind of guessed what would be the two sources of conflict (the resolutions of which were a little quick) at the end and booyah for Zaynab stepping up and stating her intentions and claiming the man she wants in the face of all opposition. There are also sexy times (including just a mention of cuffs) and a quick on page (though thought out in action) happy reconciliation between Zaynab and her son. I thought some of the issues were nicely – although lightly, due to space – handled while I ended with questions about others including why one character loathed Xander for his tats without ever talking to Xander about when he got them and one character was absolutely fine with it. B