Monday 3 August 2020

#CBR12 Book 54: "Take a Hint, Dani Brown" by Talia Hibbert

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 5 stars

#CBR12 Bingo: Yellow

Official book description:
Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his... um, thighs.

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

While this is the second book in the Brown Sisters series, you don't strictly speaking need to read Get a Life, Chloe Brown in order to understand or enjoy this one. It works perfectly well on its own, but the first book is also a very sweet and enjoyable romance, which I would also highly recommend. 

It's so much harder to review books that you really love, isn't it? I can't even put into words entirely why I adored this book, maybe it was just the right book at the right time for me? Nonetheless, I will try to put down some bullet points about why I am certain this book is going in my top 10 at the end of the year, and quite possibly in my top 3.

Things I loved:
  • Zaf. Zafir "Zaf" Ansari used to be a professional rugby player (not like national level or anything, but he still had a promising career ahead of him). Then his father and beloved older brother died in a car accident, and Zaf's world imploded. The press got wind of the accident and the extra attention combined with his crippling grief caused him to spiral into anxiety and depression. Now, years later, Zaf is trying to use his knowledge both of mental health issues and athletics to teach young athletes to get in touch with their softer side and combat toxic masculinity. His sports charity isn't exactly going too well though, as Zaf could be better at social media than he is, and he's also deeply reluctant to advertise his past as a professional player, worried that his tragic back story is going to be brought up again. As well as being a super guy who volunteers to work with angry youths, Zaf is a loyal friend, great son, brother-in-law and uncle (I adored the relationship he had with all of them) and he reads romance novels in his spare time! He's also tall, and strong and fit and has a gorgeous beard. How can you not love a hero like that?
  • Dani. While Danika "Dani" Brown is a much harder nut to crack, being super focused on her research, her Ph.D and her goal to becoming a professor. When she's focused on work, she can forget to sleep or eat, and certainly about things like a significant other's birthday or anniversaries and such. Due to a series of bad relationships, Dani has become convinced that she is utterly unlovable and that she has neither the time for or need of softer feelings like love and affection (despite the fact that she clearly loves and is deeply loved by her two sisters, her grandmother and her best friend Socha). She wants a no-strings-attached, purely sexual relationship with someone, but nothing involving mushy things like hand-holding, cuddling, spending the night together or the like.
  • The various friend and family relationships in this book, both on Zaf's and Dani's side. There's an amazing cast of supporting characters here. With the exception of Sorcha, Dani's best friend, I'd "met" all of the ones on Dani's side before, in Get a Life, Chloe Brown. Dani's older sister Chloe; Red, Chloe's boyfriend; Eve, Dani's younger sister and their rather eccentric grandmother all appear to lend support at one point or another. On Zaf's side, there is his lovely mother, his best friend Jamal, his sister-in-law Kiran and his snarky niece Fatima (who is also one of Dani's students). These characters felt completely real to me. There's a tiny secondary romance happening behind the scenes between Jamal and Kiran, which I would also happily read a whole book about.
  • The relationship between Dani and Zaf, even before they agree to 'fake date' and are just flirting and trading quips every morning. The way Dani is concerned about Zaf and his feelings, even when she claims not to care about anyone else. The way Zaf is utterly fascinated by all of Dani's knowledge and academic expertise and not at all threatened by the fact that she is brilliant and driven and has very clear career plans. The scenes where they are forced to play a 'newly-weds' type game on the radio, unexpected, and discover just how much they know about each other, even though they're only pretending to be a couple, is lovely and very funny.
  • The grand gesture that Dani performs in order to prove to Zaf that she actually cares about him (and the secret she reveals that she's been working on in the epilogue - such squee!)
  • Slightly spoilery - NO pregnancy epilogue, because for a lot of people, having babies is NOT the goal!
I love this book so much and while Eve, the youngest sister, sort of annoyed me in the first book (she has a tendency to use the wrong word for things and get annoyed when others try to correct her - it drove me mad), I am now really excited and hopeful about her book as well. Based on the first two books in the series, Talia Hibbert has my complete trust and I'm so glad I've discovered another contemporary romance author to enjoy.

Judging a book by its cover: While I'm normally not the greatest fan of the cartoon cover trend, for some reason I'm charmed silly by the ones on Talia Hibbert's books. The little cartoon Zaf carrying Dani, with her bright pink hair, and the little pile of books in the background, it all works for me. I also really like that while the first book in the series was a pretty boring white, this is a cheerful and distinctive bright yellow.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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