ARC Review: Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

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?

CW: Anxiety, on page panic attack, talk of death of loved ones and depression in the past

To be honest, I knew I was gonna love this before I even started reading – not just because I’ve only seen rave reviews, but I just was expecting it after having so much fun reading Chloe Brown a few months ago. And it totally didn’t disappoint.

The author is amazing at writing sassy sarcastic dialogue and banter, and it’s on full display here. I was cackling for the most part and I totally needed that in my current state of mind. But there are also moments of quiet reflection, communication, pining and absolute love – and it all tug at my heartstrings. What beautiful writing. And on top of it, she deftly mixes up my favorite friends to lovers trope with fake dating alongwith some viral social media video (which seems to be theme in many recent romance novels but I can’t say I’m a fan), and it was all just a delight to read. There is a decent amount of angst but not so much that it frustrated me (thank you very much) and the conflicts are also resolved very organically without dragging them out which I really appreciated. To top it all, I adored the use of text messages and Instagram comments interspersed throughout the story because they were so hilarious.

The characters are definitely the highlight of this book. I would usually start with the female MC especially because she is the titular one here, but I want to talk about Zafir because he completely stole my heart. He is the definition of gentle giant, a retired pro rugby player who has anxiety and runs a charity to teach young boys how to take care of their mental health. He is extremely kind, compassionate, lovable and protective and just the perfect book boyfriend material. And he loves romance novels 😍😍😍. There’s one line he says in the book about how an HEA is not a spoiler but a safety net, and I related to it so much – it perfectly encapsulates my feelings about why I love this genre.

Dani on the other hand is a workaholic academic who is confident and sexy and knows it, has high ambitions professionally, but is also insecure in relationships because of past experiences. I just loved how much she valued her work and worked hard to achieve her goals, but it was also nice to see her realize the importance of finding a balance.

Both the characters grow a lot through their friendship, from Zaf learning to process his grief to Dani letting go of the baggage from her past relationships. Every scene of theirs together was adorable to read and I just loved their dynamic.

All the side characters were also such caring and considerate people, and I loved all of them. The Brown sisters have such a fun supportive relationship that it makes me miss not having any, and both the MCs respective best friends are awesome. I particularly loved Zaf’s Pakistani family who are all sassy and lovely and again, made me miss home.

To conclude, I know I’m repeating the word fun a lot but what can I say, that’s the overwhelming feeling I’m left with after finishing this book – fun and delight and joy. I highly recommend this to any romance genre lover, and in particular to anyone who wants to find an unforgettable book boyfriend.

PS: Thank you to Netgalley and Avon for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.

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