The Love Hypothesis was one of those books that I stayed up all night to finish, something which is becoming increasingly rare now that I share a bed with another human who would likely prefer I not keep the lights on indefinitely. Naturally, when I heard that author Ali Hazelwood had some new novellas coming out while we wait for her second novel, Love on the Brain, I was pretty excited.
The STEMinist novella trio was released in three installments, one book per month, starting in February of this year. They came out initially as Audible exclusives, though each title does have a future ebook publication date lined up. After I listened to the first one, I decided to hold my review for one Super Review after reading all three books. Since the last one released on April 5th and I remembered to listen to it last week, we have arrived at review o’clock.
First, a little info. The three books in the STEMinist novella series are:
- Under One Roof (Released February 8th, 2022) — a forced proximity, enemies to lovers story about environmental engineer Mara and her thesis advisor’s nephew, Liam.
- Stuck with You (Released March 8th, 2022) — a… forced proximity, enemies to lovers story about civil engineer/soccer enthusiast Sadie and fellow soccer enthusiast/CEO of rival firm, Erik.
- Below Zero (Released April 5th, 2022) — a life or death rescue mission slash enemies to lovers (light) story about aerospace engineer Hannah and Mara’s hot NASA engineer cousin-or-something, Ian.
The books follow the love stories of three friends, Mara, Sadie, and Hannah, in that order. The trio met in grad school and are now out in the world at their STEM-related jobs, pursuing their passions at work and in their romances. As noted in my summaries above, all three have some element of enemies-to-lovers, which is probably one reason why these books fell a little flat for me, since that’s a hard trope to sell me on.
What I Liked
The stories each have their cute moments of banter between the couples, and it’s clear why each one is drawn together. The pairs have more than just chemistry between them, and Hazelwood goes to lengths to show us in a short time where the common interests and passions lie for each leading couple.
The cameos by the other girls in each story are fun ways to flash forward and see where the protagonists of earlier books wind up, and to hear about them from a different perspective.
They’re easy to read, being rather short, at a little under 4 hours each on audio. Aside from one notable exception that I’ll discuss below, structuring the novellas between past and present helped Hazelwood cover a bit more time than the length would otherwise allow, which was a smart move that helped develop relationships a bit more.
What I Didn’t Like
For such a short story, starting Under One Roof with a steamy scene only to flash back felt like a confusing choice for me personally. I genuinely thought my file was corrupted when the book started because it felt like such a random place to start. That particular scene was awkward even when we returned to it after our flash back leading up to the moment. In this first book particularly, I felt very distinctly like something had been missed in revision, because characters referenced events that did not seem to have occurred in this final draft.
Across the board, it was difficult for me personally to buy in to the enemies-to-lovers gig with so little time to build up either the enemies or the lovers aspects. This trope is a hard sell for me anyway, and it definitely doesn’t work for me as a novella when I don’t really get to know both characters as well as I’d like.
There was also a bit of insta-love, particularly in Stuck With You and Below Zero. The characters were very invested in their relationships rather quickly, often in the initial meeting, and that was a bit difficult to buy in how it played out in the story, particular with Below Zero.
Finally, the steamy bits. This is 100% personal preference (most book opinions are, really), but the steam to relationship development ratios felt off to me. I’m a slow build girl all the way and having several steamy scenes in a 4 hour audiobook left me wanting more. More banter and more sense of the relationship outside the physical elements, that is.
In all, these books were fine, and I don’t regret reading them, but they didn’t quite hit the same level as The Love Hypothesis for me personally. I got the sense that these were produced in a bit of a rush to capitalize on Hazelwood’s virality after her debut, and this resulted in some sloppiness at the revision stage (see: references to things that appear to have been cut out).
Does this mean I’m not stoked for her next book? No, it does not. I have faith that Love on the Brain will be an excellent return to form and am still looking forward to it.
I would recommend the STEMinist novellas if you’re looking for a quick, cute read and aren’t bothered by some corner cutting in the relationship building department. Bonus if you’re an enemies-to-lovers fan and like a lot of steam in your love stories.
This post originally appeared on our Medium publication. Full disclosure: This post uses Bookshop.org affiliate links where possible.)