Another catch up read from my beach vacation – and what is better for the beach than a lighthearted contemporary romance?
From the publisher marketing:
When a fake relationship between scientists meets the irresistible force of attraction, it throws one woman’s carefully calculated theories on love into chaos.
As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.
That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding…six-pack abs.
Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.
He’d clearly never seen a rom-com or read a romance novel in his life.
I broke a couple of my own rules for this one – I read a bestseller, and it contains two of my biggest personal triggers – a dead mom and pancreatic cancer. But. I’m unashamedly a Reylo stan (Rey & Kylo Ren from the most recent Star Wars trilogy) and, well, look at the cover. Adam just looks like Adam Driver. So here we are.
I’m not much of a romance reader, I read one or two a year because sometimes I just want a book that I don’t have to think about, so I’m not particularly up on the tropes of romance but I believe this is a fake-dating and miscommunication trope heavy romance. I’m not big on miscommunication tropes because I think it leads to a depiction of an unhealthy romance but given the personalities and quirks of the characters involved, it fits.
Olive is a pretty endearing spunky heroine and Adam is a pretty warm and fuzzy brooding professor love interest. Both have some pretty neat friends who are always welcome additions when they pop up in the story, but I was so disappointed that this book does not pass the Bechdel test. While Olive does have a named BFF, Anh, their conversations are exclusively limited to the men in their lives which is tremendously disappointing as they are both Ph.D. students with many shared interests that they can discuss. Most of what we learn about Anh is through Olive’s POV sharing details to us as readers about their friendship.
However, Olive and her friends are a pretty tight group and they all support each other, especially after a very foreseeable and predictable sexual assault. Yes, this lighthearted contemporary rom-com has a sexual assault but you can see it coming from a mile away. It doesn’t make it any easier to read, but it does, I think, prepare the reader for its eventually. It also greatly affects the plot and muddles things in understandable, and not so understandable, ways.
There’s a very awkward to read sex scene (compared to the ones I’ve read in other contemporary romances) which starts a bit of the downward trend for the book. The miscommunications grow larger, the stakes higher, and the plot devolves into a mess that isn’t really cleaned up by the end.
Overall, though, I enjoyed Olive and Adam’s relationship, for the most part, but the secondary characters wind up really stealing the show. It’s an enjoyable read, it depicts women in STEM which is a very welcome addition to publishing in general, and made my Reylo stan heart very happy. As a last side note, I’m really loving the plethora of trade paperback romances that have been published in the last five years as avid romance readers now have lots of options and a great deal more diversity! I also really appreciate that this is a millennial romance – perhaps the publishing industry is finally starting to get a handle on new adult now that all of us millennials asking for it are pushing (or over) 30 or just writing it ourselves?
Rating: 7 out of 10
Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through BookShop or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon. Click the image below to add the book to your StoryGraph!