Release Date: Jul 23, 2020
Series: The Brown Sisters
Heat Level: Scorching
Imprint: Avon Books
#DrRugbae is hot AF
Hibbert is quickly climbing my list of authors and on the way to an auto buy. From characters that jump off the page to low angsty romance that still provides a lot of depth the second book in the Brown Sisters series only continues with this trend. I found this one easy to get sucked into and one chapter without any effort turned into six.
Let’s get into what I loved and it starts with characters.
Dani is in graduate school, a teacher on her way to doctor status, who’s an expert in women’s studies and not just general studies, from the mouth of our illustrious hero and Dani’s shocked response:
“Race and gender in the West after slavery,” Zaf said.
At which point, Dani released a garbled sound of astonishment, one that sounds like a cross between a cough, a burp, and a squawked. “What?”, into the ears of the entire city.
Zaf shot her a look of concern, as if he suspected she’d accidentally swallowed a passing pigeon…
Also, I love how Dani is a witch and wears black all the time. This woman could have her fashion show of black attire and if she did I’d be there for it. Add in Dani’s fierce self-confidence and I dream about being friends with Dani Brown.
On the flip side, there is Zafir Ansari, grumpy ex-rugby player who works security on Dani’s college campus. He starts out as just an average, every day, flirt. He brings Dani a granola bar, she brings him coffee. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that spirals out of control after Zafir carries Dani out of a building during a fire/safety drill. Especially when their moment becomes fodder for social media. Hello #DrRugbae and cue the fantastical fake boyfriend/girlfriend trope.
Then it’s all about the way this relationship unfolds and how adult situations are handled. Romance is an escape and part of that whisking away for me comes in the form of reading stories with active communication and people learning how to be honest about their feelings. Zafir and Dani both have some baggage from their pasts, and it does interfere with things, as it should in every good romance, but it’s figured out and discussed so damn well.
The romance is swoon-worthy, and side note, our hero reads/listens to romance. So when Dani tells him she’s not ‘good girlfriend’ material and that she doesn’t pay enough attention to partners or put their needs before her career and family Zafir’s response is perfect.
“That’s not how relationships should be,” he finished, thrown a little off-balance. She’d said those words with such flat, empty hopelessness, as if this was a lesson she’d learned the hard way. As if it was a simple fact that love would ask too much of her, and so she wouldn’t or couldn’t try. He wasn’t sure if the look in her eyes was weariness or an echo of something sharper, harsher. Either way, he didn’t like it.
“I know,” she told him slowly, as if explaining something to a child. “I don’t do things right, and a I don’t think I want to. It all seems awfully dull and inconvenient. That’s why I’ve chose to abstain.”
“No, I meant—priorities that don’t match, punishments for being yourself, that’s not how a relationship should be.”
Another absolute joy is the secondary characters with purpose. Full flesh and blood people that engage with both Dani and Zafir, enriching the story as they go. From Zafir and Dani’s best friends, Jamal and Sorcha, individually they are part of the web that keeps the protagonists from falling apart. Separately there are small stories unfolding for each of them. Also, Dani’s sister Chloe and her fiancé Red show up. If you haven’t read the first book it won’t kill the reading experience, but I highly encourage a purchase of the first story, Get A Life, Chloe Brown.
Finally, real goals that aren’t grandiose. Sometimes in romance, okay a lot of times, especially with contemporary romance, we see big story lines with super high stakes and that’s supposed to be what draws in the readers. This didn’t have those grandiose gotta save my job/house/life and I still got sucked in. Not because I need the high stakes, but because the stakes weren’t that high, and the players still played. In the real world it’s not always about the biggest possibilities but sometimes the little steps (which equal big things) to an individual person. For Zafir it’s about gaining a little traction with his charity and for Dani it’s about nailing her role on a panel with her idol.
This is the perfect read for those who want a romance to get lost into, filled with modern day tech and fun. Hibbert in her dedication of the book mentions bleed for the words and the jokes, but ultimately everything is brilliant. Her writing style is reminiscent to me of other beautifully crafted stories, including one of my favorites Sherry Thomas. I can’t wait for Eve’s story and will continue mining Hibbert’s backlist until then.
For readers who enjoy Sally Thorne.