Recommended: ugh, yes
For lovers of meta trope silliness that’s a bit tongue in cheek, for lovers of fake-dating romances, for people in that academia life who want the thrill of love in it (though according to this book none of those people will have time to read anyway 😔)
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.
Ahhhh, shit. I liked it. There was so much hype that I fully did not expect to. Also I kind of hate the cover for some reason? Though I get it now. I guess it looks too much like the guy is confused and not into it, and I don’t like that vibe in a story, but that’s not where this one goes.
I loved how the common tropes were acknowledged and teasingly turned on their head at times. Rom-coms exist in this universe, and the characters know about the fake-dating tropes and associated perils. It was such a fun aspect for an avid reader of rom-coms and romance. ☺
Part of my original hesitation on this book was the expectation that it would be the same old story of the one perky outgoing character and the one reclusive character (sunshine and grump, basically). It kiiind of was, but I think it also developed both leads into more than their assigned stereotypes. There was friendship for each of them on both sides, and other relationships that mattered. Part of the fun, as always in the trope, is the discovery of each other as more nuanced than they first thought.
What kiiiiilled me though, was the reliance on the idiotic thing I often find myself screaming during these kinds of stories: JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER!!! STOP ASSUMING YOU KNOW WHAT THEY THINK AND WANT AND DID! GOOD LORD! COMMUNICATION, PEOPLE! It was particularly frustrating in this book for two reasons. The first is that they’re not high school age — 26 and 34 if I recall correctly — so I would kiiiind of expect them to be better with handling this. To be fair, it did mostly come from 26-year-old Olive who has very little romantic relationship experience. Still, with the other friendships she has, I’d think honest communication would have been a skill she picked up by now.
The second reason is that there didn’t appear to BE a reason? Like they each started spiraling and being stupid, and I found myself lost as to why either of them would think that was the move. Even stupid reasoning is some kind of foundation, so without that it was even more baffling.
And, okay, there’s kind of a third reason too but I’m going to spoiler tag this one:
► View spoilers on why I’m shaking my head at them 🙄
Literally everyone around Olive tells her how obviously in love with her Adam is. Her most trusted friends, other random students, and even Adam’s best friend of multiple decades. And said best friend of multiple decades ALSO tells her that Adam has been pining away for her for years and somehow she comes out of that conversation (and all the rest) thinking oh it must be someone else. She’s so freaking DENSE that it was really hard to read the rest because of how annoying it was. Are people really that stupid in love sometimes?
I laughed my way through this book. It’s all the delightful silliness I want in this trope, plus some fun surprises of the ways they were carried out. For characters who seem to think they’re bad at people, they’re hella funny.
One issue I really didn’t love is a huge spoiler, so I’ll pop it hidden here.
► View spoilers on the thing I was weirded out by 😕
When Tom assaults Olive, I thought it was bizarre that she focused so much on what he said and not what he did. In a way, maybe that’s a positive thing, because she wasn’t tying her self worth to her body and what someone else did to it. Still… my reaction was so extremely different than hers that it was jarring to read the section. She’s freaking out about his insults and I’m sitting here screaming about him literally sexually assaulting her! What the hell! Anyway — to each their own. I hope I never have to learn how I’d handle that situation either. Regardless, it made for a weird reader experience. 🤷♀️
And okay, one more kind of spoiler, though not really if you know you’re reading a rom-com, re: sexy stuff in the book —
► Click here for the sexy sexy spoilers 💋
THERE’S SO MUCH OF IT! JEEZ! There was some vague tension and stuff sure, but holy crap once they hit that moment, THEY HIT THE HELL OUT OF THAT MOMENT! For like three chapters! Definitely another book I’m glad I wasn’t happening to read on public transit, oh my. Besides the sheer quantity, I did love how tenderly it was addressed. Olive doesn’t have much experience, and certainly not like this, so it was so lovely and warm to see her open up and be honest and vulnerable, and Adam respond lovingly and with so much care and consideration. The emotions were my favorite in these scenes to be honest, because without them even great sex is just sex, but with them, it made this so much more impactful. Plus it was great sex. xD
Back to the trope thing, I adore that there were two beds, and they just made the choice to use one. I never thought about that before, but I find that so so much better. You have to really confront your feelings and be honest and brave in that situation to admit what you want instead of coyly playing it off like you’re “forced” into it.
Oh and in the ebook, it shows that one line has been highlighted like 2500 times, which made me laugh because it’s not particularly elegant and says sooo much about the readership. The quote?
“You’re so big.”
He groaned into her neck. His entire body was vibrating with tension. “You can take it.”
So overall, yeah, crap, I’m hooked too goddammit. So now I guess I’m also on the list of people waiting for the next one, and the next one, and the next…