Alright, I read Get a Life, Chloe Brown last year (ish) and fell just as much in love with Hibbert’s writing as it seems the whole world has. It’s so freaking smart and sarcastic, which is my personal favorite combination for communication. Plus, it was just really refreshing, as far a diversity of romance leads (culturally and emotionally) and incredibly, wonderfully steamy. So yea, I knew I was going to read the rest of the series as they came out. And yea, I know I’m behind cause I’m just know getting to this second one as the third one is hitting shelves. But also, yea, it was worth the wait because if I thought the first one was that good, this second one took it to a whole other level!
“Because the world wasn’t split into unhappy endings and happily ever afters. There were blessings everywhere and a thousand shades of joy all around him. Every shade should be savored.”
Danika Brown is a PhD student, dedicated (obsessed?) with her work and research and with a one-track mind for her career. Her previous relationships have shown that her work ethic doesn’t match with being a good partner and has decided that friends with benefits, no feelings allowed, is her ideal. Zafir Ansari is a gruff former rugby player and current security guard in the building where Dani works, one with a secret romantic side and a “tragic past” he’s trying to separate himself from. When Zaf “saves” Dan during a fire drill gone wrong, and the heroic rescue goes viral as #DrRugbae, he asks if she’ll be willing to play along as a publicity stunt to get attention (and funding) increased for his nonprofit Tackle It. Dani agrees (it’s for kids!), but despite all their rules about “the relationship is fake” and “there’s an end-date” and then “it’s just sex,” it turns out neither one is able to fight the feelings that’re growing between them.
There is literally so much, everything, to love about this book that I am not even sure where to start or how to coherently organize it. I’m just gonna word vomit it all here and see what happens – join me for the ride! Ok so the smart, sarcastic writing, if anything, is even better than in the first. I don’t think I’ve snorted/laughed at anything I’ve read as often as I did while reading this. It started with the very first line and was woven into every scene, description, plot-line and dialogue interaction (even the serious ones) in a way that was incredibly authentic, totally entertaining and in no way took away from the “real” parts of the story. Fabulous. The unexpected and casual bi rep from Dani is everything. Period. The sex scenes are great! Steamy and sexy and smoothly humorous (just like everything else) AND I don’t know what it is about Hibbert’s writing/word-choices exactly, but there were no cringe-worthy descriptions for me, ever (which is a sort of small miracle in romance novels, to not have a single part cause me to give a little wince). I’ve seen countless (like, actually more than I can count) reviewers talk about and list Zaf as best book boyfriend and ok I know everyone has different things they look for but like, I totally get (and am now bought into) the hype and I would not be surprised if it was nigh on universal (for the peeps out there who are into men) because the man is seriously *heart eyes and deep sighs* all around.
Love the sibling connection and importance and support here. I feel like Chloe and Eve were more background in this one than the first, but that could be misremembering and also potentially because Dani was clearly a more guarded person (emotionally) for most of the book, but the parts where they do show up are everything I wanted. Zaf’s family and his relationships with them, especially his niece (I loved her) and best friend Jamal, were just super heart-warming. Overall, the plot and pacing were freaking spectacular. Everything unfolded and built/released tension in all the right ways. I especially loved the “break” towards the end (I don’t know what this is called, but all romance does it – the final big hurdle that seems to push the characters apart for good but it’s romance so you know by the end they’re gonna make it back to each other). I think a lot of romances overwrite or overdramatize this section, making something small into something way bigger to fit the expected formula, but what happened in this novel was SO genuine, for both characters. And I so appreciated that they both thought through it like adults, sought help from friends/family, and made choices about handling it with both their own and the other’s good in mind. It wasn’t the typical “break” point, but just a natural bridge that was eventually going to have to be crossed and it was handled so well by Hibbert.
PHEW. If you’re still with me, there is one more, major, thing I want to recognize. As with the last novel, Hibbert gives a CW before the novel starts, mentioning in this case, the topics of anxiety and death of close family members, that she addresses. And wow, does she address them so well. Plus, as with Chole Brown, she gives the male lead the mental/emotional trauma that is so often reserved for just women and ignored in men. The presentation of grief and anxiety disorder and depression in Zaf, and the perfectly vulnerable and sensitive (yet still flawed and human) way that he deals with it all is beautiful and relatable in its struggle. On the flip side, Dani’s emotional suppression is something more often presented for male characters, so again, I appreciate, so much, Hibbert’s ability to represent the breadth of experiences with all of these real-life issues. Again, too, the way it’s handled is so real, in it’s difficult-to-process causes and truths. The way Dani and Zaf complement and hold space for and respect and support each other in growing through their emotional extremes is so lovely to see. I do have to be honest and say that, even though it covers so much insecurity/hurt, and I absolutely hate that for her, I do love the extremity of Dani’s self-confidence. Like hardcore her outer vibe is #goals.
Well, Dani Brown just vaulted itself into my top favorite romances of all time (up there with Well Met and You Had Me at Hola and Red White and Royal Blue and The Kiss Quotient). I loved everything about it and personally, deeply, felt the overarching message that you shouldn’t HAVE to compromise who you are or your lifestyle/preferences for a relationship but in finding the right person, you realize you sort of WANT to (to a certain, healthy, degree, of course). If you’re like Dani and look for signs from the universe…here’s yours: take the hint and go read this already!
A few quotes/passages that I loved:
“Bright and beautiful and wild and terrifying, just like a forest fire.”
“Major or minor, if something keeps you human when pressure makes you feel like a volcano, hold on to that thing by whatever means necessary.”
“Just book after book about people facing their issues head on, and handling it, and never, ever failing – at least, not for good. I felt like my world had already ended unhappily, but every book I read about someone who’d been through worst and found happiness anyway seemed to say the opposite. Like my story didn’t need to be over if I didn’t want it to.” (on romance)