Publication Date: August 23, 2022
LOVE ON THE BRAIN introduces readers to neuroscientist Bee Königswasser, who lives her life by a simple motto: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the leading role 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 alongside an engineer who also happens to be her archnemesis. Levi Ward made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school – he hated her, plain and simple. But when Bee is faced with one career dilemma after the next, it seems the tables may be turning. Perhaps it’s her occipital cortex playing tricks on her, but Bee could swear she can see Levi softening into an ally… or maybe even something more?
Hazelwood draws on her own experience as a professor of neuroscience to capture the cutthroat world of higher education, both “the agony and the ecstasy” of academia. Hazelwood’s stories are also heavily influenced by pop culture as The Love Hypothesis was originally conceived as Star Wars fanfiction. Her novels are perfect for readers who geek out over rom-coms, and for fans of Emily Henry and Helen Hoang.
What I love most about this book – as I did with the Love Hypothesis – is how faithfully Ali Hazelwood portrays academia and science; specifically, what it’s like to be a woman in STEM. It’s even more prominent in this book, and I immediately feel such a kinship with Bee and the other characters. It’s almost visceral, this sense of belonging. Having attended a predominantly male STEM school it’s all so, SO familiar.
I loved the You’ve Got Mail -esque premise, and greatly enjoyed watching it play out. It is inevitable from the beginning what will happen, but it’s the journey that’s the important part in this story. In such a story, everything hangs on the characters. Her characters feel so real, so very human and alive. And the precision with which she skewers certain types of people in STEM is astonishing. I was wholly invested for every moment of the story.
The sex scenes were decent, I think. Not the best I’ve ever read, perhaps, but then I’m not really a good judge of sex scenes, since I’d honestly prefer it if they all disappeared and tend to skim them. I have a feeling that a lot of people will really like them, and that’s what matters. They were different than a lot of the ones I’ve read before which is something.
It’s clear that Ali Hazelwood is very keen on the small woman/hulking dude dynamic which… is not my thing. But again, I’m pretty sure a lot of people will really enjoy it. I personally appreciated Levi’s sensitivity and wit and general decentness more. Contrary to Bee’s initial impression of him, he’s definitely the sort of guy I would want to get to know. Similarly, I really want to get to know Bee. And Rocio and Kaylee and Reike (even though she’s only present through phone calls). And Lily and Penny… basically everyone. They’re unique and chaotic and quirky and charming and just… the sort of people you would want to know and have in your life.
Sometimes when I’m reading I find that the characters’ struggles aren’t really relevant to me, or sometimes not even plausible. Not the case here. I was with these characters every step of the way and firmly on their team through all their struggles and joys. And that is one of the things I love most about reading romance, and why this became an instant favorite.
*Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing an e-arc for review.