The Brown Sisters, Book 2
Heat Factor: Unapologetically sexy
Character Chemistry: Zaf is a book boyfriend.
Plot: Friends → Fake Relationship → Boning → Meltdown
Overall: This book made me melt.
Now that I’ve read 2/2 books in The Brown Sisters series, I feel comfortable saying that Talia Hibbert is very good at crafting a narrative that is emotionally gripping but also not filled with red-flagged emotional mess protagonists. I’d say that they’re emotionally mature, but in this case Dani Brown is not especially emotionally mature, although she’d certainly like everyone to think so. Basically what I’m saying is that we are not dealing with a full blown “psst, falling in love ≠ therapy, and you need therapy, honey” situation.
It goes a little something like this: Zaf has had a crush on Dani for a long time, and they’ve been friends for all that time, too. But when an evacuation drill results in a viral video of Zaf superhero carrying Dani out of the academic building where they both work, leading the world to believe they’re Relationship Goals, they agree to use the free publicity to promote Zaf’s non-profit. Thus begins a fake relationship. And as we all know, fake relationships lead to real kissing. And real kissing leads to catching feelings. And Dani Brown does not do feelings.
Zafir Ansari, briefly: He’s got his issues, namely lifelong anxiety and, more recently, grief and depression after the unexpected deaths of his father and brother, but he is so emotionally woke I can’t imagine how anyone wouldn’t fall in love with him. He’s totally a cinnamon roll, though not in a saccharine sweet sort of way. In part, it’s that he’s totally checked in to his own emotions because he had professional help dealing with his anxiety and depression. Also, he reads romance novels, so prepare to get meta. But mostly, it’s because he loves Dani exactly the way she is, molding his actions to show he cares in ways that work just for her, without putting any expectations on her at all. Does he want her? Yes. Is he going to push it? Absolutely not. And of course he’s also sex on a stick. It is a romance novel.
So, Zaf has to love Dani exactly the way she is because she is a hot, uncompromising mess where her romantic life is concerned. I identified with Dani in many ways: she works compulsively, she struggles to interact with other people in sociable, empathetic ways, and she maintains rigid control in her life so she can not worry about things. I did not identify with Dani’s militant aversion to romance, but Hibbert got me there in the end. And, without Dani’s emotional struggle, there wouldn’t be much of a story. So there’s that.
I’ve read so many books this year that I’m about 0% excited about the “love ruined me so I’m going to focus on my career goals, and love is a waste of my time and energy” narrative (seriously). I mean, I love a friends to lovers trope, and I love a fake dating trope, but I totally eye-rolled at Dani early in the book. BUT Zaf is adorable and Hibbert’s writing is totally fun, so I was able to get past that initial hump and into the meat of the story, and that’s where things really get good. When all is said and done, this narrative is about an experienced hurt, and a person dealing with that hurt in a pretty human sort of way, and then getting to the point that she is able to course correct to an emotionally healthy means of interacting with romance. Dani Brown is absolutely terrified of being a bad girlfriend, and she can’t see that she’s been a truly wonderful girlfriend to Zaf for their whole relationship, without even trying.
I was not in alt or having my feelings tossed this way and that for most of this book. It was warm fuzzies and sexy sexy. But by the time we’d peeled away layers and layers to get to the heart of our protagonists, everything in the narrative pulled together beautifully, and I melted into a puddle of love goo on the floor of my study. What a great read!
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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