Recapture that holiday spirit with ‘Romance in Zanzibar’

What Happens on Vacation retails for R325.

What Happens on Vacation retails for R325.

Published Jan 14, 2024


Durban — Nothing screams holiday as much as a good romance novel, and who better to dish it up than award-winning author Jo Watson?

What Happens on Vacation, released in 2023, is the perfect book to keep you company by the poolside or when you need something interesting but easy to read – or want to recapture the holiday spirit.

A classic rom-com, the book centres on “serious journalist” Margaret May who is eagerly awaiting the annual office Quiz Night so she can win an all-expenses-paid trip to Zanzibar and take her mom along.

Everyone knows that with her impeccable general knowledge Margaret always aces the quiz but she didn’t factor in a challenge from her nemesis and the guy who shares her office cubicle, Jagger Villain.

Named after Mick Jagger and with just as much swagger, he is the quintessential bad boy, the yin to Margaret’s yang, and the only person who manages to get up her nose.

While Margaret hates surprises and writes serious stories about South African politics, Jagger writes about dating apps and d*** pics, gets terrible tattoos and checkerboard hair cuts just for stories which go viral on social media.

Not only does Jagger drive her crazy by calling her Maggie May instead of Margaret, but his constant fidgeting drives her to “construct a wall” between their chairs and fantasise about stabbing him in the knee with her pen.

Then the office quiz ends in a tie between the two and Jagger manages to get the luxury holiday downgraded so they can each bring a partner along.

Margaret arrives with her mom and Jagger with his dad, and the two very hippie parents with body piercings, tattoos and belief in the power of crystals fall madly in love, much to Margaret’s dismay.

When Margaret stumbles across their parents romping in the room she shares with her mom, and with no other rooms available, she is forced to share a bed with Jagger, with a wall of pillows constructed between them (of course).

Throughout the story Margaret seeks ways to ridicule Jagger, avoid him at all costs and chastise her mother for falling in love with a stranger when her husband has only been dead for a year.

From the start you can’t help but fall in love with Jagger, who only wants Margaret to see how much he loves her, that he’s not a playboy, and that under the bad boy façade lies a gentle giant in search of true connection.

On one of those dreadful nights when Margaret is forced to spend time with Jagger, she ends up indulging in cotton candy cocktails and suddenly he becomes rather appealing, and they end up in bed without the pillow wall.

While their parents end up marrying on the beach surrounded by a hundred flickering candles, Margaret (who is rather annoying) has to let go of her fears, long-held beliefs and her need for order and control, before she realises that Jagger is the man for her.

The book is funny, sweet and romantic with lots of depth.

It explores death, divorce, marriage and second chances. With its corny jokes and laugh-out-loud moments, it’s not just an easy read, but an unputdownable book that you have to finish in one go. You can see someone you know in all of the characters.

What Happens on Vacation retails for R325. Watson is the award-winning author of more than 10 books, including The Destination Love series, and her young adult debut, Big Boned.

Independent on Saturday