Again… Another book that I read, loved and then didn’t write up. Shame on me. Fake Dating? Sign me up. I love it. In fact, I never miss it. Because I loved the Chloe Brown story so much… I had to come back and find out what happened to the other sisters. Audible didn’t disappoint. The great thing about this series… is these are all standalones.
Danika Brown is a workaholic… that makes dating hard. (There is a soft spot in my heart for hardworking black female characters like myself.) I understand the need to strive to be great for a number of reasons. Imposter syndrome is ridiculous. She is a Ph.D. student and she spends her time researching, writing, and teaching. She is a Black bisexual 27-year-old member of the junior teaching staff in literature and women’s studies at a UK university with plans to gain her professorship within 15 years (18 at most). I wish I had my life mapped out that far in advance. I think Dani is an interesting mix of self assured confidence and emotional vulnerability. I felt like I knew her.
Zafir Ansari lives with anxiety, was previously clinically depressed and is coping with grief at the sudden deaths of his father and his brother in a car accident some years earlier. I can’t imagine what that is like. But it effectively put an end to his Rugby career. He is a current romance-reading security guard based in the building where Dani teaches her classes. General anxiety disorder was explicitly talked about in this book from Zaf’s perspective and I felt seen. I was glad that Zaf was still managing. Zaf has a charitable foundation, Tackle It, which promotes mental health for youth rugby players. He started it after his own mental health tanked following the death of his brother and father. His interactions with the media at that time was horrendous (and that is an understatement) Zaf hasn’t been all that interested in trying to promote Tackle It and has avoided linking the charity with his former rugby career.
Dani and Zaf end up fake dating because Dani has decided that she ruins relationships. She has blocked herself off from love. She started a FWB with a coworker. I would not sleep with a coworker but to each his own. Jo caught feelings and wanted more than Dani could give. Dani was upset that Jo broke their unwritten contract and Jo was upset that Dani couldn’t return the feelings she had and it ended badly. So much so that Dani avoids Jo whenever possible.
Dani and Zaf have a bit of a friendship at the start of the story. She brings him a coffee every morning and he gives her a protein bar (because she always forgets to eat breakfast). He is her friend and after losing Jo as a friend, she is reluctant to risk Zaf. The funny thing is early on in the book… Dani is praying to make sure she gets a new FWB. So of course, you get what you pray for. Not necessarily in the way you think it will show up. After Dani gets stuck in an elevator/lift during an emergency evacuation drills and Zaf rescues her she begins to think the universe is giving her that hint she asked for all those months earlier. As Zaf exits the building with Danika in his arms, cellphone cameras are pointed their way. Then #DoctorRugBae is born. Damn Hashtags. They become a viral sensation. #DrRugbae provides an opportunity to get much-needed publicity for Tackle It while also making new associations so that Zaf isn’t just the rugby player with the tragic past. His social media-savvy niece, Fatima, suggests he exploit the notoriety of the viral footage for the benefit of his foundation (She’s not wrong.) and shortly thereafter, Zaf and Dani embark on a fake relationship.
It was nice to see a female character that is wary of falling in love and figuring out how she wants to go about accomplishing her goals. I was sad for Dani when she described how her past relationships didn’t work out and people didn’t really have the enthusiasm to learn about her work. (I have always thought it was odd to be in a relationship with someone and not know what they do.) She is surprised by the very simple fact that Zaf takes an interest in what she is talking about and genuinely wants to learn more.
But I was more impressed with Zaf’s character and his arc. He is a romance reading, ex rugby star. He is secure with himself. The other great thing about Zaf is he doesn’t conquer the anxiety and depression he has. He has tools to manage it and the story doesn’t set out to misinform people.
This story had a different narrator from the first book in the series. And that was both good and bad. Bad for me since I did not want to adjust but this new narrator did it justice. I guess I would have like a male voice for the Male pov’s. I always think that adds something to the contrasting POV’s but overall. 5 out of 5. Let me know what you think in the comments if you have read it.
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