Sunday 16 October 2022
CBR14 Book 27: "Love on the Brain" by Ali Hazelwood
Rating: 4 stars
CBR14 Bingo: Mind (Bee, as well as Ms. Hazelwood herself, is a neuroscientist and there's a whole lot of brain science happening in the book)
Bee Köningswasser, a young pink-haired neuroscientist, is offered pretty much her dream job on a NASA project and accepts joyfully. Her excitement is cut short when she realises that while she's the lead on the neuroscience part, her nemesis from grad school, Levi Ward, is the engineering lead on the same project. Nevertheless, Bee can feel herself wasting away in her current job, with a sexist boss and not exactly supportive colleagues, so off she goes with her surly gloom-cookie research assistant Rocio (think if April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation had a baby with Wednesday Addams).
Bee is determined to do her best on the project and hopefully ignore Levi Ward as much as possible. Of course, while looking around the labs before the project has even officially started, she's saved from being crushed under a falling pile of boxes by whom else - Mr. Tall, Dark, Handsome, and apparently completely repelled by Bee (SPOILER - he very much does NOT hate Bee). Bee literally swoons (she has a problem maintaining blood pressure and seems to faint every time she gets stressed, scared, or overwhelmed). I think we can all see where this is going - even those of us who may never have picked up a romance novel ever before. If any of my readers actually have picked this as your very first romance novel - congratulations on taking the chance on something with such a vibrant, pepto-bismol pink cover.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, Bee - the perky neuro-scientist who worships Marie Curie, and Levi, the brooding engineer who seems painfully awkward every time he's anywhere near Bee. They're co-leads on something called BLINK- a fancy helmet astronauts will use in space, where their brains can be stimulated while they wear it for better performance (or something, I am very much NOT a science person). To begin with, Bee finds obstacles at every turn, her lab isn't ready, her and Rocio's computers aren't working properly, e-mails and meeting invites keep going astray, but after finally getting deeply frustrated and yelling at Levi (who Bee is convinced is causing all the delays), but then overhearing him actually confronting the NASA boss on the subject, she finally seems able to get somewhere with the work. Bee starts to settle in, making friends (there's Kaylee, the bubbly NASA project manager - think Elle Woods in Legally Blonde and the charming head astronaut on the project, Guy), but still can't quite figure out what is going on with Levi.
As they start spending more time together, it becomes obvious to Bee that she may have been wrong about Levi and his antipathy toward her. Of course, Levi also seems to be of the opinion that Bee is married (having not heard the rather harrowing break-up story once Bee caught her fiancee with her then-best friend). While Bee is very much single, she also believes Levi to be attached, and the father of a child, for the first half of the book. Once all of those misunderstandings are out of the way, with their professional relationship working smoothly, they can finally face up to their romantic attraction to one another.
I really liked The Love Hypothesis, Hazelwood's first novel. It's obvious that she really does know the science that is part of the plot in each of the books, and competent and ambitious protagonists are always fun to read about. However, there does seem to be a bit of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" in this book, with quite a few similarities in this and her debut, especially with regards to the heroes, their looks and the way they interact with the heroines (seemingly aloof and very disinterested in them, when in fact the exact opposite is the case). I haven't read any of Hazelwood's STEMinist novellas yet, so I don't know if all of her heroes are of the same mold, but I'm hoping that for her third novel, enjoyable as this was, she changes up the formula somewhat. I am 100% for clever ladies in STEM and the men who love them, but maybe have a different hero archetype next time? Short, dumpy blond guys need love too, Ms. Hazelwood.
There's a good supporting cast in this and a lot of women supporting women. Bee anonymously runs the Twitter site "What would Marie Curie" do, where a lot of women in STEM can vent about the ways they are mistreated or overlooked in their fields, and Bee also has some great phone calls with her twin, who seems to be addicted to travel, supporting herself by tutoring rich children in the various locations. Rocio and Kaylee are both hilarious, Rocio in her morbid goth-sensibilities, while Kaylee is like a human ray of sunshine and cheer.
I am very much looking forward to seeing what Ms. Hazelwood does next. As I mentioned, I hope it's in a slightly different vein from her first two novels, it's good to stretch your metaphorical wings, lady. I will probably check out the STEMinist novellas while I wait.
Judging a book by its cover: As I mentioned further up in my review, this cover really is an extremely vivid pink, for the most part. I do like that on The Love Hypothesis, the cover was mainly blue with pink writing, while here it's pink with mostly blueish-green writing (like a dark teal). I'm still not a huge fan of the animated covers, but Ms. Hazelwood is lucky to have a talented cover artist, and the image of Levi carrying Bee (which happens multiple times in the story) is pretty darn adorable.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.