Days ago, I discovered and binge-watched EbonyLife TV’s Love Lounge. One of the episodes dealt with finding The One and relationship expert, Joro Olumofin, was one of two guest speakers. When asked the best place to find a partner, Joro answered, “Church…Wednesday midweek service”. People, I died of laughter. You know, I’ve heard about looking for love in fancy churches like House on the Rock, but even that search was restricted to Sunday services. That being said, I do realize that he was joking. Love can be found anywhere and with anyone, even a sex worker.
Don’t shudder just yet.
Sinmisola Ogunyinka considers this a workable relationship as her book titled “Even the Lawful Captive“ explores this kind of love in all its uncertainty. For y’all who saw sex worker and Julia Roberts popped into your subconscious, I’m not talking about a mushy love story featuring a golden
hearted haired hooker.
Picture your momma selling you at age four. Your buyer—a politician whom everyone calls Chief— waits till you’re the ripe, lush age of twelve before you begin to “service” him and his friends, a bunch of high-ranking government officials and famous men looking for
cheap pricey thrills.
All your needs are met. You get a grand room, fancy clothes, food, healthcare, and enough sex to drown your non-existent worries about the failing economy. You even live in a fancy little estate (Hidden Glory) with other girls and thugs in Chief’s employ. But with all these perks, there’s no leaving Hidden Glory except for parties and trips where you pay your dues. You want to get married? Forget it! You’d rather be a banker? Poof! You’re gone, girl.
Our protagonist, Afoma, now 22 years, has grown up in a gilded cage with no idea of how it feels to be loved. Because of this, she’s pretty suspicious when someone professes love to her. It doesn’t help that the guy, Nimi, is one of Chief’s most ruthless thugs.
Using Afoma’s suspicion as a focal point, the author stirs the story through the psychological effects of human trafficking on victims. From this book (and subsequent research), I’ve learned that it’s easier to ignore or even recognize that something is wrong when you’re introduced to this lifestyle as a child. Traffickers have also learned that isolating their prey from society eliminates dissenting voices that might encourage mental reorientation.
In opening herself up to love, Afoma realizes that her idea of love and self-worth are tied to having satisfied “clients”. That’s a dicey situation if you consider how that could make falling in love difficult, especially with someone who doesn’t see her as a sex object. However, I commend Ogunyinka for expertly manoeuvring through that concern by easing in situations that help Afoma connect with her emotions. When she finally falls for Nimi, they do not have an easy story. This is a spoiler-free zone, so you’d have to read the book to see if their love survives Chief’s craziness and the temptations of Hidden Glory.
With the book’s setting, I expected a lot of raunchy scenes, but it was surprisingly tame. So no, this is not your typical Mills & Boon romance. It’s more profound, tangible. With how it ended, I see that it’s meant to be a thought-provoking read, maybe one that could lead a soul or two to Christ Jesus. Does this explain the book’s title? Yes? Good. You may now calm your raging hormones.
Chiamaka Onu-Okpara is a freelance editor with experience editing fiction, creative non-fiction, and academic documents. Her stories have been published in Ake Review, Apex Magazine, and The Kalahari Review amongst other places. Her first poem is forthcoming in Strange Horizons.