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Love on the Brain


Love on the Brain

There’s a good reason why Ali Hazelwood’s debut novel, THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS, was such a sensation. It seems like the heroines of many contemporary romances work in media, public relations, politics, the culinary arts or (especially) publishing. But where are the happily-ever-afters for the scientists and engineers among us?

Hazelwood is certainly not the first author to fill this niche, but THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS (as well as the three novellas she has published since then) did so with a real insiders’ perspective on STEM fields, not to mention plenty of steamy moments after the lab lights go out. Her protagonists contend not only with universal issues about identity, commitment and self-image. They also navigate the thorny territory of finding one’s soulmate at work when that workplace can be outright hostile and misogynistic.

"Bee’s first-person narration is snappy and lively, punctuated by witty insights into what it’s like to be one of the few women in the room at a place like NASA."

Readers have been eagerly awaiting Hazelwood’s second full-length romance, and they’ll be pleased to learn that it does not disappoint. Twenty-eight-year-old Bee Königswasser is a neuroscientist working for the NIH, after her aspirations to work in academia got derailed thanks to a betrayal that also resulted in a broken engagement and the end of her closest grad school friendship. Bee is thrilled to have been selected to work on a short-term project at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. There, she’ll collaborate with NASA engineers on a new helmet, using neuroengineering to enhance the performance of astronauts on spacewalks. Apart from the opportunity to work on a cutting-edge technology at perhaps the government’s coolest agency, Bee is thrilled to get out from under the thumb of her awful supervisor at NIH, who consistently demeans her research.

But Bee is less than enthused when she learns the identity of the team lead from NASA. It’s none other than Levi Ward, a former grad school acquaintance who once made his disdain for Bee very, very clear, flat-out refusing to collaborate on research back then and even going so far as to tell her former fiancé that he was making a mistake in marrying her. Bee and her research assistant get a chilly welcome at best from Levi; it even seems at first like he’s trying to sabotage her work. But as time passes and at least some of their many misunderstandings get cleared up, Bee starts to recognize all that they have in common. Is it possible that she finally has found the one place where she belongs?

Bee’s first-person narration is snappy and lively, punctuated by witty insights into what it’s like to be one of the few women in the room at a place like NASA. While also crafting a sweet and sexy romance, Hazelwood manages to slip in more than a few critiques of the inequities in STEM fields, particularly as it relates to standardized testing and graduate school admissions protocols. Several of the misunderstandings that drive the romance plot are broadcast pretty broadly, and their resolution will pose few surprises for readers.

Still, it’s unlikely that too many will care, not when they’re having so much fun watching this big-hearted love story play out --- and learning a thing or two about STEM along the way.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on August 26, 2022

Love on the Brain
by Ali Hazelwood