STARRED REVIEW
June 23, 2020

Take a Hint, Dani Brown

By Talia Hibbert
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Talia Hibbert is quickly becoming a contemporary romance powerhouse. Her return to the adventures of the Brown siblings with Take A Hint, Dani Brown is an easy contender for best book of the year.

Zafir Ansari and Dani Brown couldn’t be more different. Zaf is a former rugby player turned security guard whose weakness is reading romance and who has a passion for destigmatizing mental illness. Dani is more tightly wound—a Ph.D. student who can barely stop working long enough to eat a decent meal. She certainly doesn’t have time for romance. Friends with benefits? Surely, but nothing that requires careful cultivation and patience navigating emotional bombshells.

After a fire drill goes haywire, Zaf’s gallant rescuing of Dani becomes a viral sensation and both realize they can use the situation to their mutual benefit. Dani can get her friends with benefits scenario with hunky Zaf, and Zaf can get closer to his crush, Dani, while using the exposure to help his sports nonprofit for children, Tackle It. What seems like a win-win scenario quickly becomes messier; in romance, fake dating rarely stays fake for long.

Hibbert knows how to deepen and complicate her characters, meticulously peeling back layer upon layer as the story goes on. Zaf’s past includes a devastating personal tragedy that changed his life and set him on a course to advocate for athletes experiencing mental health issues. Dani’s more than just a flighty commitmentphobe; her passionate studiousness comes from fear, because she’s never known love and career to exist harmoniously.

What makes Take a Hint, Dani Brown a superlative example of the romance genre as a whole, and not just a gem in the contemporary category, is that Hibbert gets to the essence of what a happily-ever-after means. It’s not about love as the antidote to a couple’s problems, but love becoming a foundation on which the couple understand one another better and a soft place to land when times are tough. While they’re quick to tumble into bed, Dani and Zeb are both guarded, but through lovely, stick-to-your-ribs home cooking on Zaf’s part and Dani’s ability to make those around her feel like they can achieve anything, they fall in love little by little. It’s not a romance of grand gestures, but a slow burn made up of small, simple moments.

Fans who loved the first book in the Brown Sisters series, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, may feel that it’s a tough act to follow. Fear not. Take a Hint, Dani Brown possesses the same amount of charm, grit and, certainly, sex appeal as its predecessor. Zaf is the emotionally competent, buff hero of our dreams. Dani is the heroine we all aspire to be: confident, feminist, sex-positive and driven. Read this romance immediately, and then read it again.

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