I appreciate Edelweiss for allowing me to steal all the books—I mean review an advance copy of Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood. I thoroughly enjoyed Hazelwood's first book The Love Hypothesis, and you can find my review for that here. There are actually several comparisons between the two books if you'd like to go ahead and check that out. Don't worry; the return button and I will wait.
Ready? Cool. To Nerdland!
Genre: NA Contemporary Romance
Category: Candy Book
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RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
Plot: 3/5 stars
Characters: 4/5 stars
Like an avenging, purple-haired Jedi bringing balance to the mansplained universe, Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project—a literal dream come true after years scraping by on the crumbs of academia—Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.
Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. And sure, he caught her in his powerfully corded arms like a romance novel hero when she accidentally damseled in distress on her first day in the lab. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school—archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.
Now, her equipment is missing, the staff is ignoring her, and Bee finds her floundering career in somewhat of a pickle. Perhaps it’s her occipital cortex playing tricks on her, but Bee could swear she can see Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas…devouring her with those eyes. And the possibilities have all her neurons firing. But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there’s only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?
Okay, this is a tough one to review. Just like Love Hypothesis, there's a short, sweet, addicting simplicity to Love on the Brain—like candy, hence the category. I may even like it better than Love Hypothesis because Bee is more dynamic than Olive. She has more interests (her obsession with Marie Curie, her determination to become a runner when she hates it, the fact that she's vegan and invested in the environment), more backstory, and more quirks.
Levi, too, is a tad more fleshed out than Adam as far as interests and backstory goes. We learn the characters' favorite movie, foods, animals, and relationships with their families.
But . . . however . . . even so . . .
Minor differences aside, this book follows the exact same formula as Love Hypothesis. Same plot, same character types (Levi is described exactly like Adam except for eye color), same villain reveal, same relationship dynamic . . .
Hear me out:
The Love Hypothesis: Quirky girl in STEM academia meets very large, dark-haired, broody guy who is unable to communicate the fact that he's been in love with her for years. He defends her career, swoops to her rescue when needed, yet she cannot fathom why he'd want to be around her. With no emotional lead-up on Olive's side, the two start banging. Adam is irritated Olive doesn't seem to consider him more than a fuckbuddy. Adam's friend, who's blond and successful and seemingly nice, is a creep to Olive and threatens to ruin her career. Adam comes to the rescue. Olive realizes she messed up and confesses her feelings for Adam.
Love on the Brain: Quirky girl in STEM academia (graduated this time) meets very large, dark-haired, broody guy who is unable to communicate the fact that he's been in love with her for years. He defends her career, swoops to her rescue when needed, yet she cannot fathom why he'd want to be around her. With no emotional lead-up on Bee's side, the two start banging. Levi is irritated Bee doesn't seem to consider him more than a fuckbuddy. Levi's friend, who's blond and successful and seemingly nice, is a creep to Bee and threatens to ruin her career. Levi comes to the rescue. Bee realizes she messed up and confesses her feelings for Levi.
It's a cute formula that makes for an adorable read, don't get me wrong. I finished both of these books very quickly and rate them high on the candy scale. If you're looking for something that scratches a rom-com itch, something you don't have to think too much about that'll make you smile, this is a fantastic book for that.
My only complaint aside from the hyper-similar plots is the way the romance is handled. It starts off slow-burn but then just . . . explodes out of nowhere. Not in a "there's been so much tension that this is a long time coming" way, but more like "wow, how did we get from A to B?".
I kept waiting for Bee (and Olive, for that matter) to show something more than physical attraction towards the love interest. They go from attracted and dead-set against it (which is fine) to "yeah, I guess we're friends who sleep together."
Which is also well and good if that's what the story is about, but it's not. It's set up like a one-sided romance where we get to watch the hero pine and show affection while the heroine basically jumps in bed with him, tells him good game, and goes about her business—until he rescues her at the end and she realizes she's been "in love" with him all along.
. . . has she, though? I don't see where that happened.
All that being said, if you enjoyed The Love Hypothesis, you're bound to like Love on the Brain—with the added benefit of more fleshed-out characters and a tighter plot. I read it as a sort of "do-over" that smoothed some of the issues I had with TLH, but I did rate it lower on account of the decidedly more one-sided romance.