I really liked Talia Hibbert’s first novel, about this book’s titular character’s sister Chloe, so I’d been looking forward to reading this book. One problem: I’m in a terrible reading slump and haven’t been able to read a romance in a very long time. But then I read another romance for a book club, and it reminded me how much I like romances. So I pulled this one off my nightstand and picked up where I’d left off over a year earlier. And I enjoyed every bit of it from then.
Dani is a PhD student focusing on … to be honest, I don’t remember. It’s feminist and I think English-related and I loved reading about it even though it never stuck in my head. I loved that she’s a hardcore researcher/academic and semi-worships another academic who’s coming to a conference Dani is prepping for (they’re going to be on a panel together, and this is Very Exciting but also Intimidating).
Zafir is a former professional rugby player who quit after going through a traumatic family event. He’s currently working as a security guard at Dani’s building while running his own charitable rugby organization that helps boys with rugby and also learn to manage their emotions to be more generally solid people.
After a fire drill where Zaf appears to rescue Dani, someone snaps a picture of them together and some social media buzz occurs, which inspires Zaf’s niece to convince him to ask Dani to start a fake relationship in order to keep the buzz up—and help his rugby organization in the process.
Neither of them knows the other one has the hots for them, but that’s where things stand. Dani agrees to the fake relationship but makes it clear it is fake and temporary, because she has zero interest in a real relationship. She doesn’t have time or patience. Zaf, on the other hand, is a romantic at heart and very much would prefer a real relationship, but he’ll take what he can get if it will help his group.
I mean, we all know this is a romance and what that means. But of course it’s the journey that’s unknown and interesting. Although we do get both points of view here, I feel like this is more Dani’s story than Zaf’s, because she has the most changing to do for the happy ever after to happen. Zaf has to work very hard to help her see that the experiences she’s had in previous bad relationship are not the only possible experiences. But Dani is stubborn (and very focused and intense in her work, which I actually loved reading about), so it’s not easy.
But of course they do figure things out. Along the way there’s some spicy stuff and great emotional upheaval, and it’s all great. If you liked the first of the Brown Sisters book, definitely check out this one, but it also totally works as a standalone.