Most people think the term a “Muslim romance author” is an oxymoron, but Islamic history reveals that stories of a romantic or sensual nature are very much a part of our tradition. After all, sexuality, love and marriage are as much a part of a Muslim’s humanity as they are of any other person, be they religious or secular. As the Muslim community in America grows, so too is the American Muslim romance subgenre burgeoning. This is why altMuslimah would like to introduce you to Lyndell Williams (Layla Abdullah-Poulos), whose work often includes Muslim protagonists navigating faith, love and sensuality. Williams chose this genre as her focus because she considers romance literature not only a form of entertainment but also a way to look at how people explore and apply an essential human sentiment—love. She recently published her first book, My Way to You, the first in a romance series, which will include four Muslim romances.
Wade’s stomach growled so loudly at the smell of coffee and pastries that his companion glanced downward and chuckled. “Long day of fasting getting to you, brotha?”
He rubbed it and stepped along with her on the line. The barista and glass case holding delectable treats seemed so far away. “Well, it’s 16 hours. I guess you’re not bothered at all?”
Adeelah turned and looked at him, an endearing glint of amusement in her eyes. “Oh, I’m starving.” Her smile faded as she leaned to peer past his arm.
“Don’t worry, sis. He’s gone.”
She straightened. “Bad habit, I guess. It comes after 2 years of—never mind.”
“I doubt he made bail in the past 20 minutes. If he ever comes around, I’ll handle him. I’m not going to sit by and let anyone hurt my Muslim sister.”
“Yeah, well, you won’t always be around.”
“Maybe I will be.” It made no sense, but the need to protect a woman he just met surged through him. He scratched at his tattoos when she began to stare at them. “I know, not very Muslimy. I got them before I converted.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh, sorry, but I was just looking at that Celtic cross. Are you Irish?”
“No.” He ran his fingers through his hair.
“No?” Adeelah gasped. “Does that mean—”
“Line’s moving.” He jerked his shirt sleeve; if only it could grow in length to cover the ink permanently staining his skin with a past he’d already purged. “You know what you want?”
“Yeah.” She turned and leaned against the counter. “Hi, I’ll take a large coffee, half and half, light sugar.” She craned her head up towards the menu on the wall behind the clerk. “I also want a spinach and feta egg sandwich and a bear claw.”
“That sounds good,” Wade moved next to her and pulled out his wallet. “I’ll have what she is but make that 3 sandwiches and no bear claw.” He passed his debit card to the clerk and cocked an eyebrow at Adeelah’s smirk. “What?”
Adeelah tittered. “Nothing, just respecting your appetite.” She took the tray with her order.
Wade grabbed a couple of water bottles and sat at an adjacent table as promised. Adeelah perched in a chair, closed her eyes and raised her hands. He followed suit, resisting the temptation to wipe the tear meandering down her cheek when he finished his dua. He picked up and demolished half of the first sandwich in one bite. He met Adeelah’s surprised expression.
He finished the sandwich and rubbed a napkin across his mouth. “I work up an appetite.”
“May I ask doing what?” She made a dainty bite into her sandwich while he tore into his second.
“Wait a minute,” Adeelah laid her sandwich on the paper and pointed at him, her eyes enlarged with realization. “I’ve seen you on posters.”
“Yup.” Her gaze traveled up and mouth hung opened as a baritone voice with a thick Spanish accent sprung from behind him. “He’s an awesome fighter.” Wade crammed the rest of his second sandwich in his mouth and stood to embrace Diego. “As Salam Alaykum.”
“Wa alaykum salam. Diego Martir, this is Adeelah Bilal. She agreed to break fast with me.”
“Really?” One could almost hear a ting as Diego flashed pearly-white teeth and a Hollywood smile. “What a kind woman to take pity on this sad, lonely man.”
Adeelah beamed, bent her head and fiddled with the red fabric draped over the back of it. “I think he’s nice.”
Diego laughed “That he is. If you’ll excuse me; I haven’t broken my fast yet.” He slipped between tables and stopped in front of the counter. His immediate effect on the simpering barista was apparent from across the shop.
When Diego returned with a heaping tray of food, Adeelah giggled and crossed her arms. “Let me guess, another MMA fighter?”
Diego cocked an eyebrow. “No, I’m an attorney.” He removed his suit jacket; his muscular physique strained against a white dress shirt.
“Diego trains with me but doesn’t fight.” Wade crumbled the paper from the last sandwich. “He’s too busy suing big bad corporations that hurt the little guy.”
“Really,” Adeelah slowly batted her dense eyelashes and played with the flap of her coffee cup, “that sounds so noble.”
Diego smoothed his tie. “Mashallah, it can be very fulfilling.”
“Your accent. Are you Puerto Rican?”
Diego raised his square chin and puffed his chest. “Sí, born and raised in Ponce. I’m impressed by your accuracy.”
“Yeah, it’s a gift.”
It was hard not to notice the electricity surging between them. I don’t believe this. I fight off her jackass husband, and he just swoops in with his accent? Wade drained the first water bottle.
Diego muttered a dua and began eating. “So, Adeelah, what do you do?”
Adeelah took a sip of coffee. “Presently, I’m serving as Wade’s damsel in distress.”
Diego stared at his friend. Wade slowly lowered his lids and shook his head. “I’m honored to be your hero.” He rose. “Do you have a car? I’ll walk with you.” Time to get her away from the Muslim Don Juan.
“Don’t worry. It’s right across the street, and you’ve done so much already.” She passed a hand over her khimar. “After all, you chased the dragon away, right?” She slowly blinked. “You’re wonderful, Wade Reid.”
Heat rushed up Wade’s neck and face. The spark between them hadn’t faded. He held out his hand. “Can I have your phone?” Confidence burgeoned through him when she obliged. “Here, call or text me to let me know you got home okay.”
“If you don’t mind.” Diego popped a black business card between them. “I would also like to know you’re safe and sound. Brothers must protect their sisters.”
Wade glared at his soon-to-be former buddy.
“Thanks. Alhamdulillah. I guess I have two heroes now?” She rounded some diners and headed for the door. “As salam alaykum.”
Wade dropped his forced smile as soon as she was gone. “Damn you and your corny accent, you—”
“Brother,” Diego sat with a smug grin, “it’s Ramadan. Why all the anger?”
Wade’s seat creaked and shook under his weight. “I saw her first.”
“Normally, I would respect that, but not with her. She’s no ordinary woman.”
“Yeah, I noticed,” Wade’s chair shot from under him and crashed into a couple of empty ones, “which is why I will not be bowing out gracefully.” He picked up his tray and stormed to the trash can. They’d been fast friends since Diego moved to the city, but he was ready to rethink the whole brotherhood first idea for a girl like Adeelah.
Diego dumped the paper remains of his food and followed Wade outside. “How about we let the lady decide?”
“Fine.” Wade’s phone buzzed.
Adeelah: As Salam Alaykum. I’m in the car. Jazakallah for everything. I’ll never forget how great you were to me. Let me know about your next fight. I think I might like to go.
Wade held the phone in front of Diego before tucking it into his pocket and spreading a triumphant smile across his face. “I think she’s made her choice.”
You can find the complete short story here: https://laylawriteslove.com/short-stories/
Lyndell Williams (Layla Abdullah-Poulos) is the managing editor of the NbA Muslims blog on “Patheos.” She is also a cultural contributor for Radio Islam USA and a writer for About Islam. She received 2017 The Francis Award from The International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR).