Hazelwood, Ali. The Love Hypothesis. Berkley, 2021. 384 pp. ISBN 9780593336823 $16.00
Awkward, sweet, lonely Olive is working towards her Ph.D in biology, and her research focuses on early detection for pancreatic cancer. When her best friend Anh falls for Jeremy, the fellow grad student that Olive has been sort of dating, she’s more than happy to step aside, but Anh won’t believe her until Olive invents a fake relationship. Desperate for proof when she lies about a date, she spontaneously kisses Dr. Adam Carlsen in a hallway. Who kindly kisses her back, says he didn’t have a chance to consent (even though she asked) and teases her with a Title IX threat. It turns out the professor, known for being antagonistic, unapproachable, and maybe even down right mean due to his rigorous approach–has a sense of humor, is passionate, and has an ulterior motive of his own. His research funds are frozen, because he has no roots at Stanford and has been deemed a flight risk; having a local girlfriend might convince his funders he has no plans to bail from CA. The two plot out a series of coffee dates, get to know one another, and inevitably become friends. When Olive gets invited to present on a panel at a conference in Boston and her friends make alternative housing plans under the assumption that she will room with her “boyfriend” — you can guess what happens next.
Science + romance is often a win-win for me–the author perfectly captures the pressure (and broke-ass-ness) of graduate school, and the academia and research details give depth to the story and shouldn’t be lost on anyone who completed their required high school biology lab. This romance also gently pokes fun at itself with a healthy awareness of fake dating and just one bed tropes, Hallmark movies and bad YA novels. The characters are the best of stereotypes: fit, smart and beautiful people, but real; Adam is practically Clark Kent, in a pushing a giant truck out of the way moment. They are also healthily nuanced, with very human flaws, backstories with a dose of trauma, and sometimes unsavory behaviors (lies and deceit!). They are also very funny, and seem to share the same sense of humor (she teases his about his age, he calls her a smart ass). Every word of the book serves to further the plot and build character. The sex is languorous, as in goes on for chapters–vulnerable, detailed and includes check ins and consent, but not condoms. Finally, I think Olive is of a orientation not often represented: she doesn’t feel attraction, and cannot engage in physical intimacy unless she completely trusts her partner and has developed emotional intimacy. And when she is able to be unguarded and honest with Adam, he is gentle, respectful, and responsive to her demisexuality.
Triggers for some may include parental loss, sexual harassment, and misogyny, none of which is far fetched, gratiutous, or rewarded; in fact, a villainous and dastardly colleague, but he gets his comeuppance in very satisfying way.
I received a free advance reader’s copy of #TheLoveHypothesis from #NetGalley last year, devoured it, and forgot to write a review. It was just as excellent on the re-read through Libby.