Review of Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood
Ali Hazelwood's light fiction novel is wonderfully immersed in science, offering a forbidden relationship and an enemies-to-lovers dynamic, plus lots of steamy scenes.
Elsie Hannaway is an adjunct physics professor, but her dream is to dedicate herself to a career in research. She's gotten some positive attention for her innovative work on liquid crystals, but her crochety male advisor assures her there's little interest in hiring her for full-time positions.
To help pay the bills, Elsie is a paid escort (who does not have sex with her clients, as she keeps explaining to certain of them). She's fake-dating a nice man in order to keep his family off of his back.
She uses a different last name and poses as a librarian rather than a physicist in order to stay anonymous. But her fake boyfriend's brother John seems suspicious of her story and oddly interested in the details of her life.
Now Elsie has the interview of a lifetime, at MIT. But a series of coincidences and misunderstandings lead to her being unaware that the head physicist on site...is her fake boyfriend's brother.
I loved the significant science element here, the jargon, the exploration of academic politics, and the passion for research and discovery.
The factors keeping Elsie and Jack apart are one part zany (a fake-dating-the-brother code of silence) and two parts believable (longstanding professional conflict; a power mismatch).
I was frustrated by Elsie's lack of assertiveness, although I recognized that it was set up in order to have her ultimately find her own opinions and set her course.
I found the family dynamic related to her mother's demands of Elsie absurd. The situation with her twin brothers felt slapstick and silly to me.
The steamy scenes, the twisty route to the relationship, the career shifts, and the science focus were all winners for me. I'd like to read more by Ali Hazelwood.
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I received a prepublication audio version of Love, Theoretically, narrated by Thérèse Plummer, courtesy of Libro.fm and Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.
If this book sounds intriguing, you might also be interested in the books on my Greedy Reading Lists Six Rom-Coms Perfect for Summer Reading, Six Great Light Fiction Stories Perfect for Summer Reading, and Six More Great Light Fiction Stories.