One of the reasons I enjoyed Take a Hint, Dani Brown so much was undoubtedly nostalgia for my student days. I attended seminars led by people as sharp and uncompromising as Danika, in campus buildings as forbidding and draughty as Echo, guarded by security staff as gruff yet good-humoured as Zafir.
Of course, this only goes to show that one of the real strengths of Talia Hibbert’s writing is her characters, who manage to be vivid, distinct and yet familiar. Their backgrounds are handled sensitively and genuinely, and their personalities and mannerisms are cemented in a few short pages, the third-person personal narration providing an insight into their thoughts and the way they see things.
This narration is conversational, self-aware and liberally sprinkled with humour, but the funniest parts of the book are in the dialogue between characters. Dani and Zaf are clearly well acquainted with, and fond of each other from the start, and although nothing has previously happened between them their witty exchanges are up there with those between Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing (other Shakespearean romantic protagonists are available).
Hibbert shows admirable creativity in how Dani and Zaf are brought together and how things develop between them. Each is hugely driven, Danika by the search for professional fulfilment in a competitive field and Zafir by his heart for the rugby-based non-profit he has set up. The pair’s sudden social-media stardom, driven by an apparent romantic relationship between them (which doesn’t actually exist for most of the book!) leads to a huge increase in publicity, donations and interest for the latter, with which Danika is happy to assist despite the stress she faces in the run-up to a key symposium.
Zafir’s fondness for romance novels provides a pleasing metatextuality as well as further opportunities for comedy, and this book shines as a romance as much as any other genre in which one might class it. It is tender, gripping, sometimes steamy and always the right side of believable. It is worth reading however familiar you are with literary academia, rugby, witchcraft, mental health, social media or romantic relationships.
Rob Jones studied English with Creative Writing options at the University of Leicester and completed an MA in Victorian Studies there. He lives in Sileby with his wife, sings with Leicester University Chamber Choir and dreams of working in heritage.