Lauren, Christina. The True Love Experiment. Gallery Books, 2023. 416 pp. ISBN 9781982173432 $27.99
Wisecracking, fearless romance novelist Felicity Chen, the best friend sidekick made of charisma, witchcraft, and bad judgment from The Soulmate Equation, has lost her mojo, and agrees to star in a reality dating show on her terms: the gents have to represent popular romance archetypes, and none of this forced proximity secluded crap, she wants her friends and family to have input and insight, just like in real life. The eight Heroes assembled represent tattooed bad boy, hot nerd, and vampire, but it’s the sexy British producer Connor–a total Cinnamon Bun–that Fizzy clicks with. It’s rewarding to see the novelist and Tinder queen thrown for a loop over feelings that she’s never experienced before. The ante is upped when the men all take River’s cutting-edge matchmaking genome sequencing test with GeneticAlly. The audience will vote on who Fizzy should end up with, and then the match results will be revealed. Will the science or heart rule?
More tension is created as Fizzy continues to fight writer’s block, Connor is actually a documentarian who doesn’t want to be producing reality television, he doesn’t do short term and she only does short term; her family doesn’t take her work seriously and she’s still perceiving pressure to settle down, get married and have a baby. And then, Fizzy is the one who makes a terrible error and has to win back her man. Some of the ground covered is that while we are influenced by our pasts, past actions do not have to define us. There’s also not so subtle commentary on continued derogatory attitude thrown at the romance genre.
Family and friends remain important in the story and character development. One of the best parts for me was the reappearance of grumpy hot nerd River, who keeps walking into rooms to her his wife or Felicity utter something outrageous…and walks right back out again. Connor’s daughter Stevie and Jess’s daughter Juno bond over hot boy band Wonderland. Felicity’s brother Peter is getting married, and since she has an agreement to not see any of the potential matches outside the show, none of the competitors can be her plus one…but Connor can, and does. The glamorous and expensive festivities that blend traditional and modern Korean customs add background and rich multicultural detail.
The dating adventures are entertaining, and the relationship between Fizzy and Connor balances both hot and sweet; the combination of funny banter, smart writing, juicy detail, and swoony romance are what we’ve come to expect from Christina Lauren, and this one does not disappoint. The drama at the live season finale and big reveal is palpable and perfectly paced and executed.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #TheTrueLoveExperiment from #NetGalley.