This review was originally posted on The Geeky Waffle. It has been reposted here with permission.
Though Ali Hazelwood has gifted us with three delightful novellas since the release of her debut full-length novel The Love Hypothesis, it’s safe to say anticipation for her follow-up, Love on the Brain was seriously high. While it does play on many of the same tropes as her earlier work, Love on the Brain also manages to stand completely on its own, a refreshing new entry into the “Aliverse”.
The novel follows Bee Königswasser, a neuroscientist assigned to a very prestigious and exciting NASA project, whose excitement comes crashing down around her when she realizes her co-lead is none other than Levi Ward, her grad school nemesis. Obviously, because this is a romance novel, things are naturally not what they seem.
All of the hallmarks of an Ali Hazelwood romance — the enemies to lovers snark, the science, the large men who fill out a black Henley really nicely — are here, of course. She also seems to have more definitively found her voice in this second outing. Bee and Levi are so unabashedly nerdy about the things they enjoy, be it Star Wars, neuroscience, or Marie Curie, and in such an earnest way, its extremely endearing.
Because the story is not a fake dating novel (which, don’t get me wrong, I adore), that also allows them to get together a lot sooner, and spend more time figuring out how they work as a couple. The best romances are always people figuring themselves out through the lens of someone else, and both of them really do have a lot of hang-ups to overcome. But this is why we all ready romance, isn’t it? Processing personal feelings, with some very hot kissing (and more than kissing) along the way.
Hazelwood also dedicates a good portion of the novel — half of it, at the very least — to examining the cis male bias in STEM fields, as well as the ridiculous limitations of standardized testing. The former was somewhat touched on in The Love Hypothesis and her novellas, with each of her heroines facing gender-based discrimination in the workplace. But with the added space of a novel versus a novella, Hazelwood really takes the time to examine a sadly all-too-real issue that helps ground Bee and Levi’s love story in a world that too many of us sadly recognize in one form or another.
That’s the true balance the book manages to strike, with half of it being about Bee’s professional and personal concerns, totally removed from Levi. It’s what makes Bee feel so well-rounded as a heroine. Because of this, though, it did wind up feeling like a bit of a heavier read. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a good deal more grounded and less escapist than Hazelwood’s earlier work is. But if it’s earnest, nerdy love you’re looking for, then this is the one for you.
Love on the Brain is out now.