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- “The Love Hypothesis” grabbed the attention of romance readers everywhere in 2021.
- It was named Amazon’s Best Romance Novel of 2021 and was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award.
- This book checks off all my boxes for a great romance read and is definitely worth the hype.
This year, Amazon named “The Love Hypothesis” by Ali Hazelwood the best romance book of the year. Even though it was only recently published in September 2021, “The Love Hypothesis” has quickly become a fan-favorite, with 88% of Goodreads reviewers giving it four- or five-star-level praise.
“The Love Hypothesis” is about Olive Smith, a third-year Ph.D. candidate studying pancreatic cancer at Stanford. In an attempt to convince one of her best friends that she’s moved on from an old crush, she impulsively kisses Dr. Adam Carlsen, the department’s notoriously brutal (but undeniably attractive) professor. After the kiss, Adam and Olive agree to fake a relationship so she can prove to her friend that she’s happily dating and he can convince their department that he isn’t planning to leave anytime soon.
I’m a little picky about my romance novels, so giving this read every bit of a five-star review didn’t come lightly. My standards are high because the best romance novels have the potential to expose readers to authentic and imperfect relationships and offer new topics of discussion without making us feel like it’s a story we’ve already read.
With all the hype surrounding this new romance read, I couldn’t resist picking it up.
Here’s why “The Love Hypothesis” is one of my favorite recent romance books:
1. The story focuses a lot on Olive and Adam’s lives outside their romance, making their love story more believable and interesting.
Romance novels tend to fall into a few popular tropes such as “enemies-to-lovers” or “forbidden love.” “The Love Hypothesis” combines two of the most popular tropes right now, “Fake dating” and “grumpy/sunshine,” really well — I loved the contrast between Adam’s serious attitude to Olive’s bright and sugary one.
But despite following these tropes, the story feels fresh because it’s also largely about Olive’s work and its meaning to her. The only other romance book I’ve read featuring a STEM heroine is “The Kiss Quotient”, so I loved seeing that representation and learning about something new.
The story honestly reflected the challenges Ph.D. candidates face in academia and that authenticity — deepened by the author’s personal experiences — brought the characters, the settings, and the romance to life even more as Olive and Adam faced challenges with funding, time-consuming research, and questioning their sense of purpose.
2. The steamier scenes are also awkward and realistic, which made them even better.
In romance books, there are a few different levels of how graphic a steamy scene can get, from little-to-no detail to explicitly outlined movements. (I personally prefer mine to “fade to black.”)
There was only one chapter with adult content, and it was definitely graphic. While I made a ton of ridiculous faces while reading and tried to skim past the parts that made me audibly gasp, I loved that it wasn’t a movie-made, perfect sex scene with graceful movements and smooth dialogue. The scene was a little awkward, imperfect, and full of consent and conversation, making it refreshingly real.
3. The book deals with other topics besides the main love story, making it a much deeper read.
While it’s wonderful to get swept up in the magic of a romantic storyline, having a secondary plot that addresses real issues is what makes a romance novel truly great.
Mild spoilers and content warnings ahead: While “The Love Hypothesis” is a fun romantic read, it also addresses the pain of familial death, power differentials, intimacy challenges, and, most prevalently, workplace sexual harassment.
Love is beautiful, fun, and amazing, but “The Love Hypothesis” takes the opportunity to also include conversations about serious issues. While these topics may be tough for some readers, I think these plot points, hard conversations, and complicated emotions take “The Love Hypothesis” to the next level and make it a five-star read.
The bottom line
“The Love Hypothesis” has everything I personally look for in a romance novel: A unique storyline, authentic characters, and an important message. If you’re looking for a perfectly balanced romance read, “The Love Hypothesis” is worth the hype and definitely one of the best romance books to come out in the past year.