Rating: 5 stars
#CBR12 Bingo: Yellow
- 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!
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.