Fair warning that this review does contain spoilers, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum.
Where to begin with this book? I bought The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood sort of on a whim after hearing just about every romance reader I follow fawn over it and seeing a tiktok video about how the main character is demisexual. That right there had me sold because I rarely see acespec characters in mainstream romance books. Shortly after that I learned the story originally started as a Reylo fanfic and that had me even more interested. Now, don’t misunderstand; I was never a Reylo shipper. I was firmly in the camp that Rey and Ben Solo were separated siblings like Luke and Leia and that’s why they had such a strong connection. I was wrong, but a girl can dream, right?
Quick synopsis: Olive fake dates a biology department professor when a small lie gets out of hand.
Review: I devoured this book in less than 3 days. I think I started it after midnight on January 2nd, read a few chapters, went to sleep, woke up, read all day, stayed up ‘til 4:30 am on January 3rd, read even more, and then finished it around 4 pm on January 4th. I could not put this book down. It’s been a good while since that has happened and I’m glad I’m starting the year off strong. The banter in this book is frankly TOP TIER. (Yes, the all-caps is necessary.) It had me smiling from ear to ear, grinning like a doofus, laughing out loud, and biting my lip to try to contain my joy. The fluff factor is spectacular. TLH combines my favorite things: fake-dating, grumpy-meets-sunshine, slow burn and forced proximity. I’m not always fond of an age-gap romance, but this was done in a way that it wasn’t predatory or creepy. It does have a professor/grad student relationship, but Olive isn’t Adam’s grad and they made sure their fake relationship wasn’t going to be breaking any Stanford ethics guidelines. (Adam checked. 😉)
Throughout the book we see Olive talk about how she’s doesn’t experience sexual attraction unless it’s with someone she knew and trusted deeply and that was something she had only recently figured out. This was the first time I had ever seen a demisexual character talked about in such a way that wasn’t a big deal. There’s a bit of acephobia from Olive’s best friend Anh a bit later in the book, which, as an ace person myself I know all too well. We don’t get Adam’s point of view at any point during the book (which is a total shame), but from the way he talks/acts, and what we learn from his childhood best friend Holden, it seems that Adam may also be demi. Which, total win for me and my ace ass. (There’s a bonus chapter if you sign up for Hazelwood’s newsletter and it confirms that Adam is also demi.) I loved seeing bits of myself represented in a character in a romance book because I’m so very often not the target demographic as a sex-averse ace.
The writing style had me hooked from the very beginning. It was easy to follow and the story felt natural. You can tell that the author is a science academic herself and that she really knows what she’s talking about. My only complaint is about some of the word/descriptor choices during the sex bits, but that’s generally my complaint with all romance books so far.
I absolutely love how Adam begrudges Olive her choices in coffee-like beverages and food. You can tell that he’s really besotted with her, even from early on in the book. The way that he lovingly calls her a smart-ass and how she calls him an old man (34 really isn’t that old). I loved everything about it.
I would rank this pretty low on the spice factor, though chapters 16 and 17 were definitely steamy. One thing I will say that sets this apart from the other handful of romances I’ve read is Adam made sure he had Olive’s enthusiastic consent every step of the way. There was even a point where he said something along the lines of “I know you said yes before, but you can absolutely change your mind at any point in this process.” I really vibed with that. At one point he could tell that Olive was really not having a great time with what he was doing, so instead of forcing things he changed course to get her more relaxed. I really don’t see that often; especially when one of the people involved was so inexperienced like Olive was. That made me love Hazelwood and her writing even more. Making me wish I had my own Adam Carlsen in my life. (Don’t get me wrong, my partner is fabulous. But sometimes you just want to be the main character in a romance novel falling for the tall, dark, and brooding love interest who is definitely modeled after Adam Driver/Kylo Ren.)
I cannot sing my praises about this book enough. I absolutely adore it and already want to give it a reread. That really says a lot.
CW: Graphic: Sexual content and Sexual harassment
Moderate: Cancer, Cursing, Death of parent, Sexism, Misogyny, Grief, Emotional abuse, Gaslighting, Toxic friendship, Bullying, and Abandonment
Minor: Alcohol and Acephobia