Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood
Release Date: 13th June 2023
Genre: Adult, Romance
Source: Publisher, NetGalley
The many lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have finally caught up with her. By day, she’s an adjunct professor, toiling away at grading labs and teaching thermodynamics in the hopes of landing tenure. By other day, Elsie makes up for her non-existent paycheck by offering her services as a fake girlfriend, tapping into her expertly honed people pleasing skills to embody whichever version of herself the client needs.
Honestly, it’s a pretty sweet gig—until her carefully constructed Elsie-verse comes crashing down. Because Jack Smith, the annoyingly attractive and broody older brother of her favorite client, turns out to be the cold-hearted experimental physicist who ruined her mentor’s career and undermined the reputation of theorists everywhere. And that same Jack who now sits on the hiring committee at MIT, right between Elsie and her dream job.
Elsie is prepared for an all-out war of scholarly sabotage but…those long, penetrating looks? Not having to be anything other than her true self when she’s with him? Will falling into an experimentalist’s orbit finally tempt her to put her most guarded theories on love into practice?
You know what, I was really struggling with this book in the beginning and I was even contemplating putting it down for a bit and possibly not returning. Fortunately, I persevered, and I ended up really enjoying Love, Theoretically! It’s definitely not Hazelwood’s strongest book. I think a lot of readers will struggle at the start because the romance takes so long to get going. But if you are already a fan of her works, like I am, and have faith that it will get better then I would recommend continuing on through the somewhat difficult first few chapters.
It took about 100 pages for me to really get into this book and start liking the romance. While we’re introduced to the main character and her love interest and their dynamic quite early, it took a long time for me to connect with and understand their energy. But I loved it once I got used to it!
Of course, there are the usual tropes of the guy being Just So Big and the female main character being super tiny. I was expecting this from Hazelwood at this point, and I had a good laugh with my spouse about the “oh I’m so tiny” comments because we may or may not know some real people who come out with that in real life.
Also, I’m pleased to say that I think Hazelwood has improved in the sex scene department! After THAT scene in The Love Hypothesis, I kind of lost hope, and I can’t remember really being into the love scenes in her sophomore book. Thankfully, I ended up quite enjoying the scene in this one. It’s still slightly cringey and not really my thing, but it wasn’t as bad as the scene in her first book.
All that to say, I really enjoyed this because it was a fun, light read while also tackling slightly deeper topics, but not so much that it’s going to ruin your evening.
Dream On by Angie Hockman
Release Date: 5th July 2022
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
When law student Cass Walker wakes up after surviving a car accident, she is flooded with memories of her boyfriend, Devin. The only problem? Devin doesn’t exist. But everything she remembers about him feels so real, like the precise shade of his coffee-brown eyes; the texture of his favorite hand-me-down scarf; even the slightly crooked angle of his pinkie, broken after falling off a trampoline in third grade. She knows he’s a figment of her imagination—friends, family, and doctors confirm it—but she still can’t seem to get him out of her head.
So when she runs into the real Devin a year later in a Cleveland flower shop, she’s completely shocked. Even more surprising is that Devin actually believes her story, and soon they embark on a real-life romance. With her dream man by her side and an upcoming summer job at a prestigious law firm, Cass’s future seems perfect. But fate might have other plans…
Angie Hockman brought a brand new twist to my one of my favourite tropes – memory loss stories! I
always find that this trope has the potential to bring about a lot of mystery and intrigue, and Dream On
had this in spades.
Of course, ultimately, Dream On is a romance book. However to me it felt more of a contemporary story
about a woman who was finding herself, with a sprinkling of love thrown in. Plus, it was all very
mysterious as I was trying to figure out how the heck Cass knew Devin when she had never met him
before. Why was she dreaming about him?! I had a lot of theories, and only one of them turned out to be
I loved following Cass. She starts off a little broken, and is trying to fit back into her summer programme
with a top law firm. Her dream is to be a lawyer but it might be because she thinks that’s what her mother
wants for her. Then she meets two florists, and it all spirals out of control from there. Seeing Cass go
through so much and a lot of character growth was excellent.
There is a little bit of a love triangle, although it’s not all that intense. I didn’t love either romance in this
book (I think Hockman wrote a much better ship in Shipped) but I didn’t hate the romance either. It was
kind of just there, while the main story that I got invested in was Cass and whatever she was going to
decide to do.
I didn’t love Dream On as much as I loved Shipped, but this was a good follow up book that kept me
engaged and helped me during my reading slump. Which I’m still in, by the way, but I’m working on it.
Private Label by Kelly Yang
Release Date: 31st May 2022 (US)
Publisher: Harper360/Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Serene dreams of making couture dresses even more stunning than her mom’s, but for now she’s an intern at her mom’s fashion label. When her mom receives a sudden diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, all that changes. Serene has to take over her mother’s business overnight, dealing with ruthless investors who do not think a seventeen-year-old can run a fashion empire, while trying to figure out what happened with her dad in Beijing. He left before she was born, and Serene wants to find him, even if it means going against her mom’s one request—never look back.
Lian Chen moved from China to Serene’s mostly white Southern California beach town a year ago. He doesn’t fit in at school, where kids mispronounce his name. His parents don’t care about what he wants to do—comedy—and push him toward going to MIT engineering early. Lian thinks there’s nothing to stick around for, until one day, he starts Chinese Club after school . . . and Serene walks in.
Worlds apart in the high school hierarchy, Serene and Lian soon find refuge in each other, falling in love as they navigate life-changing storms.
I don’t usually like to pick up books about cancer unless I’m really in the right headspace. Thankfully,
when I requested Private Label from Harper360 (thank you!), I was prepared to feel all the feels. I
anticipated this book being super emotional, heart wrenching, and also really cute (since it’s a YA
contemporary, after all).
I thought Private Label was excellent. It was a really great mix of humorous, emotional, and girl bossy. While it’s told from two points of view, Serene’s and Lian’s, I feel like Serene was the real star
of the book. Both characters are dealing with a lot, don’t get me wrong. Lian is coping with bullying
and rcsm, as well as an overbearing mother. But Serene really shines through as she tries to handle
parts of her mother’s business while her mother goes through treatment for pancreatic cancer.
I have to admit, I didn’t shed any actual tears reading Private Label, and that’s the reason I haven’t
rated the book higher. Tears = stars, in my mind. However, that’s not to say I didn’t feel anything
while reading the book. I’m not completely heartless. Reading about Serene’s relationship with her
mother was a wonderful experience, and I also really liked seeing Serene and Lian getting to know
one another. I don’t think there was a lot of chemistry there, but I appreciated their two storylines
intercepting and becoming joined.
I would highly recommend checking out Private Label if YA contemporary is your thing. It’s the
perfect book to read in the summer if you want some emotions.