Talia Hibbert’s Brown Sisters series are among the best rom-com novels I have had the pleasure of reading. They radiate positivity and love, happiness and acceptance. The heroes are swoon-worthy and the heroines kickass and relatable. Listening to them this year gave me a much-needed boost and provided a bright spot amid a hellish and stressful time.
Choosing between them might be like choosing my favorite dog (I have two dachshunds, and I love them equally) but the second book in the series, Take a Hint, Dani Brown, was an absolute pleasure. For one, the anxiety rep was on point, and the hero, former Rugby star Zafir Ansari, is a romance reader. He listens and reads romance novels as a way to relax and cope with his anxiety (much the same way I started reading/listening to romance).
When I was first listening to the book a few months ago, I was struck by this and fell in love with the book even more. I was intrigued by the idea of what Zafir’s romance novel recommendation list might be. Goddess Talia Hibbert was good enough to oblige!
Read on for Zaf’s romance novel recommendations. And be sure to pre-order Act Your Age, Eve Brown, the third novel in the Brown Sisters series. It is an utter delight, and I cannot wait to review it next month!
Zafir’s Romance Novel Recommendations
In which the brooding, emotionally intelligent hero of Talia Hibbert’s witty, diverse romcom Take a Hint, Dani Brown drops by to recommend his favourite romance novels. Take it away, Zafir Ansari!
So, there’s this book, and I’m in it.
I start the story as a hopeless romantic who’s half in love with his co-worker. Then I completely lose my mind and decide to fake date said co-worker (blame my niece for that scheme; I know I do). And then I trip and fall into my new fake girlfriend’s bed, which is absolutely excellent and makes everything a thousand times worse.
Sounds tragic, I know, but everything turns out alright in the end. Because, if a bloke has to be a fictional character with terrible decision-making skills and a crap-ton of anxiety… let’s just say a romance novel is one of the best places to do it.
And on that note—if you need a happily-ever-after of your own, here’s a few to get you started.
Ayesha at Last, Uzma Jalaluddin
I never got into Pride and Prejudice, but this modern retelling hit the spot for me. It’s funny, for one thing—the kind of funny that makes you snort in some places and laugh out loud in others. Plus, the book’s version of Darcy—Khalid—gets to share his own perspective, instead of being shown purely through Ayesha’s eyes. So it’s easier to see that he’s shy and awkward and uptight, rather than a massive arsehole.
Sweethand, N.G. Peltier
This book is enemies-to-lovers too, but it’s the kind where the enemies are more long-time rivals who’ve known each other forever. Watching Cherisse and Keiran, forced together by a friend’s wedding, grudgingly adjust their (mis)understanding of each other makes for a satisfying slow-burn. Also, Cherisse is a baker, so read this one with snacks or you’ll end up starving.
Wrong to Need You, Alisha Rai
So, this book is very angsty, which is fair. I assume it’d be hard not to angst when you’re falling in love with your dead husband’s brother? Never been there, myself. But the thing is, this book makes you feel like you are there. Especially with its loving, careful depiction of Sadia’s anxiety, which hit me pretty hard.
Soft on Soft, Mina Waheed
Speaking of anxiety, I think this might be the perfect book for anyone dealing with it. The title describes the way this story feels: like falling into a cloud of marshmallow pillows, surrounded by all the people who love and care about you the most. June and Selena are relentless in their ability to see the best in each other. And everyone needs someone like that around, right?
Destiny’s Captive, Beverly Jenkins
Okay, so, yeah: I like pirates. Especially lady pirates. Especially lady pirates who steal the hell out of their hero’s ship and really piss him off in the process. Like all of Beverly Jenkins’ books, this one brings the past to life with every tiny, fascinating detail, but my favourite thing is how real the characters feel. And my favourite line is the part where Noah says, “I demand that you release me!” and Pilar, tying him up, says calmly, “We all have our dreams, Mr. Yates.”
Learn more about Take a Hint, Dani Brown on Talia Hibbert’s website.