Review: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Love Hypothesis
Author: Ali Hazelwood
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: September 14, 2021
Source: Book of the Month subscription
Recommended for fans of: Emily Henry and Christina Lauren
Content Warnings: sexual harassment, cancer, death of a parent

SYNOPSIS

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.

MY THOUGHTS

Is this my favorite romance of 2021? It’s definitely top 3.

I could not stop grinning while reading this book. It checks off all my favorite romance trope boxes: Meet cute. Fake dating. Enemies to lovers. Grumpy/sunshine. I loved that the main characters are scientists in an academia setting. They are smart and doing important work. The book is also HILARIOUS and had me laughing as much as an Emily Henry or Christina Lauren book. And knowing that this story originated as Reylo fanfiction made it very easy to cast the characters in my head.

Like the best romcoms, there is so much more to this story than romance. The story includes important perspectives on misogyny and sexual harassment in STEM and power dynamics in academia. There are some amazing (and not-so-amazing) friendships. And we see how both Olive and Adam’s childhoods shaped them into the people they are today.

I could gush about this book all day. I absolutely ADORED it, and I want everyone to read it!

Review: Gods and Monsters by Shelby Mahurin

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Gods & Monsters
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Series: Serpent & Dove #3
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Audience: YA/NA
Format: Hardcover
Length: 624 pages
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: July 27, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: ACOTAR, From Blood and Ash

SYNOPSIS

The spellbinding conclusion to the New York Times and IndieBound bestselling trilogy Serpent & Dove. This stunning fantasy take on French witches and forbidden love is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas.

Evil always seeks a foothold. We must not give it one.

After a heartbreaking loss, Lou, Reid, Beau, and Coco are bent on vengeance more than ever before—and none more so than Lou.

But this is no longer the Lou they thought they knew. No longer the Lou that captured a chasseur’s heart. A darkness has settled over her, and this time it will take more than love to drive it out.

MY THOUGHTS

The best thing about this series is the characters. I absolutely adore the found family and the romance, and I’m sad my time with them is over.

Despite my love for the characters, I had a few issues with this conclusion. I was not a fan of a particular plot device that created unnecessary conflict between Lou and Reid when there were so many other potential sources of conflict that could’ve been explored. Considering the length of the book, the story should’ve been way more epic. Even though the book was building toward a final battle, the journey felt disjointed, and the final battle didn’t completely make sense to me.

I would give the plot three stars, but the way Shelby Mahurin writes characters deserves four. The epilogue gave me all the feels. This isn’t a perfect series, but I recommend it to readers looking for a witchy fantasy romance that’s perfect for spooky season!

Review: Meet Me in Paradise by Libby Hubscher

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Meet Me in Paradise
Author: Libby Hubscher
Genre: Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 328 pages
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: March 23, 2021
Source: Once Upon a Book Club VIP influencer program
Content Warnings: terminal illness, death of a loved one, grief

SYNOPSIS

Marin Cole has never:
Seen the ocean
Climbed a mountain
Taken a risk on love
….But if her sister’s plan works, she just might do all three.

Ever since her journalist mother died on assignment, Marin has played it safe, refusing to set foot outside the state of Tennessee. Her wild-child younger sister, Sadie, has trotted the globe as a photographer, living off of art and adrenaline.

When Sadie returns from a tough assignment abroad and looks a little worse for wear, Marin reluctantly agrees to a sisters’ spa weekend on the tropical island of Saba. But her lifelong fear of travel is affirmed when Sadie misses the flight, Marin’s luggage gets mixed up with another passenger’s, and an episode of turbulence sends her hurtling into the lap of Lucas Tsai, the handsome stranger who stole her sister’s seat.

For the first time in a long time, Marin has to step outside of her comfort zone as she explores the island with Lucas and learns what she’s been missing out on. With each breathtaking new experience, Marin gets closer to her real self, the man she’s falling for, and the heart-wrenching truth about why she’s there in the first place.

MY THOUGHTS

On the surface this seems like a fun vacation romcom, but it will gut you in the feels with surprisingly heavy topics. I may have cried a few times before the end, but I also laughed a lot. I don’t think this book did the best job of balancing the funny and serious moments.

Marin was a relatable MC who likes to play it safe. I loved her journey of self-discovery and how she learned to stop holding herself back for the sake of others and finally pursue her dreams. However, Sadie was actually the worst. She was so incredibly selfish, and it took away from that sister relationship.

I also wanted a bit more from the romance between Marin and Lucas. It started off strong, but overall it was meh. The pacing of their relationship was inconsistent, and there were some unnecessary obstacles in their way! The ending felt a bit rushed, but it was overall satisfying.

Thank you to Once Upon a Book Club for sending me this book in a gifted subscription box.

ARC Review: If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: If the Shoe Fits
Author: Julie Murphy
Series: Meant to Be #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: eARC
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Avenue
Release Date: August 3, 2021
Source: Netgalley
Recommended for fans of: Disney princesses
Content Warnings: death of parents

SYNOPSIS

After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion.

Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration-and love-in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.

MY THOUGHTS

If the Shoe Fits reimagines Cinderella as a contemporary romcom about Cindy, a plus-size shoe designer fresh out of design school competing reality dating show called Before Midnight. It is such a sweet story!

This is a very quick read that I finished in half a day. The sincere characters, vibrant descriptions of fashion, and easy-to-read writing kept me turning pages, and I applaud the representation for plus-size and queer characters.

One of my favorite twists on the original fairy tale in this retelling is that Cindy has a positive relationship with her step-family. It’s not all sunshines and rainbows, but they support each other and share the grief of losing Cindy’s father. Also, the fact that the talking mice from the film appear as Cindy’s triplet half-siblings!

I do wish there were more depth to the conflict and romance. It’s hard to avoid superficiality with a Bachelor-inspired story, and some of the plot lines were a bit simplistic.

I haven’t actually read any of Julie Murphy’s young adult novels yet, but I enjoyed her adult debut with this clean, Disney romance.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC.

Review: Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Life’s Too Short
Author: Abby Jimenez
Series: The Friend Zone #3
Genre: Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Christine Lakin and Zachary Webber
Length: 9 hours (384 pages)
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Source: Library
Content Warnings: terminal disease (ALS), addiction, unwanted pregnancy, hoarding

SYNOPSIS

A brilliant and touching romantic comedy from the USA Today bestselling author of The Friend Zone and The Happy Ever After Playlist.

Vanessa lives life on her own terms — one day at a time, every day to its fullest. She isn’t willing to waste a moment or miss out on an experience when she has no idea whether she shares the same fatal genetic condition as her mother. Besides, she has way too much to do, traveling the globe and showing her millions of YouTube followers the joy in seizing every moment.

But after her half-sister suddenly leaves Vanessa in custody of her infant daughter, she is housebound, on mommy duty for the foreseeable future, and feeling totally out of her element.

The last person she expects to show up offering help is the unbelievably hot lawyer who lives next door, Adrian Copeland. After all, she barely knows him. But as they get closer, Vanessa realizes that her carefree ways and his need for a structured plan could never be compatible for the long term. Then again, she should know better than anyone that life’s too short to fear taking the biggest risk of all. . .

MY THOUGHTS

So cute! I love the way Abby Jimenez addresses serious life-and-death topics in her romcoms, in this case ALS. This is the third book in her Friend Zone series, and while each focuses on a different couple and acts as a standalone, I recommend reading this series in order to avoid spoiling major events from the first two books that are referenced.

Vanessa and Adrian’s neighbors-to-friends-to-lovers romance was so swoonworthy. I appreciated how the book didn’t just focus on the leads, but also shined a light on Vanessa’s family and their mental health struggles.

I was very frustrated by the miscommunications between Vanessa and Adrian! She made a lot of assumptions about how much he knew about her personal life from her YouTube channel, and he came off as a bit oblivious. But overall this was very funny and heartwarming, and I highly recommend it!

Review: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: One Last Stop
Author: Casey McQuiston
Genre: Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Natalie Naudus
Length: 12 hours
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin; Macmillan Audio
Release Date: May 31, 2021
Source: Libro.fm ALC

SYNOPSIS

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time.

MY THOUGHTS

I enjoyed this, but it did not live up to my expectations. The story was unnecessarily long, and the pacing suffered.

There were a lot of good things in the story: I loved the plan to save the pancake house with a fundraiser drag show. The investigation into the mystery surrounding August’s uncle’s disappearance was intriguing, if a bit predictable. I love stories with a supernatural twist, and the ties to NYC 1970s history helped to ground the story. August’s roommates stole the show, and I need a spinoff about them. While I liked these elements individually, it was a lot going on and the pieces didn’t all quite come together for me.

I also was not invested in August and Jane or their romance. August was probably the least interesting character in the book, and she’s the main character! I also was not a fan of the way their romance developed with the strategy they used to help Jane recover her memories.

I still enjoyed Casey McQuiston’s writing, but I don’t think this story was nearly as good as Red, White, & Royal Blue.

Thank you to Libro.fm and the publisher for the ALC.

Review: If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆.5
Title: If I Never Met You
Author: Mhairi McFarlane
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Sar Novak
Length: 11 hours (432 pages)
Publisher: William Morrow; HarperAudio
Release Date: March 23, 2020
Source: Library

SYNOPSIS

If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real?

When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend…

MY THOUGHTS

This book was just meh for me. I typically love fake dating books (especially when paired with the opposites attract trope), but this took awhile to make me swoon. The book spent A LOT of time focused on Laurie’s grief and trauma from her breakup before moving on to the new romance. It’s realistic, but it’s not what I want from a romcom. I just didn’t enjoy the pacing, and some scenes were a bit dramatic. It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly why I didn’t love this book, but it just wasn’t my favorite.

Review: The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Soulmate Equation
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Patti Murin
Length: 10 hours (368 pages)
Publisher: Gallery Books; Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: May 18, 2021
Source: Libby

SYNOPSIS

Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents–who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno–Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands. At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess–who is barely making ends meet–is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist–and the science behind a soulmate–than she thought.

MY THOUGHTS

Super cute! I totally empathized with the challenges of online dating. I appreciate that the female lead is a single mom since most romcoms tend to feature young single women.

This romance employs this enemies-to-lovers and grumpy/sunshine tropes. Jess and River’s chemistry was undeniable, regardless of their compatibility score, and I loved their nerdy romance fueled by a shared love of science and statistics.

This story also holds up really well beyond the romance. Felicity is the perfect best friend character. Jess’s family drama was very well written. I did think that the fall out with the company could’ve been handled better, but overall this is a win from Christina Lauren!

Review: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Bringing Down the Duke
Author: Evie Dunmore
Series: A League of Extraordinary Women #1
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Elizabeth Jasicki
Length: 12 hours (368 pages)
Publisher: Berkley; Penguin Audio
Release Date: September 2, 2019
Source: Libby
Recommended for fans of: Bridgerton; Jane Austen

SYNOPSIS

England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring…or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke….

MY THOUGHTS

Watching Bridgerton put me in the mood for more Regency romance. I have no experience with the genre, but I’d seen a lot of good reviews for this book so I figured I’d give it a try.

The romance reminded me a bit of Pride & Prejudice since it is between people of unequal social standing (but the characters are very different). I enjoyed the progressive political aspects of the story, such as the early suffragist movement and women at university. I really liked the Duke’s character. I also thought the romance got pretty steamy, especially considering the era.

While I found this story cute and enjoyable, I didn’t find it particularly memorable and I never got sucked into the story.

Review: The Dating Plan by Sara Desai

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: The Dating Plan
Author: Sara Desai
Series: Marriage Game #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Soneela Nankani
Length: 11 hours (352 pages)
Publisher: Berkley; Penguin Audio
Release Date: March 16, 2021
Source: Library
Content Warnings: domestic abuse

SYNOPSIS

Daisy Patel is a software engineer who understands lists and logic better than bosses and boyfriends. With her life all planned out, and no interest in love, the one thing she can’t give her family is the marriage they expect. Left with few options, she asks her childhood crush to be her decoy fiance.

Liam Murphy is a venture capitalist with something to prove. When he learns that his inheritance is contingent on being married, he realizes his best friend’s little sister has the perfect solution to his problem. A marriage of convenience will get Daisy’s matchmaking relatives off her back and fulfill the terms of his late grandfather’s will. If only he hadn’t broken her tender teenage heart nine years ago…

Sparks fly when Daisy and Liam go on a series of dates to legitimize their fake relationship. Too late, they realize that very little is convenient about their arrangement. History and chemistry aren’t about to follow the rules of this engagement.

MY THOUGHTS

I loved this enemies to lovers, fake dating, second chance romance. It was so funny and heartfelt.

I really liked the different portrayals of complicated family dynamics in this book, which fleshed out the backstory and provided depth to this rom com. Daisy comes from a large, close-knit Indian family who are always in each other’s business but full of love, whereas Liam came from an abusive home, was estranged from his family, and had a tense relationship with his brother.

I also loved the business and self-worth plotlines. I love when the female protagonists in romances are strong independent women who work hard to live the life they want!

Some of the events toward the end were a bit ridiculous, but I still just loved the characters and story so much.