Last year, I loved Ali Hazelwood‘s debut, The Love Hypothesis. While I haven’t gotten to her three recent novellas yet, I was very excited for her second full-length novel, Love on the Brain. I’d been counting down the days for its release, so I was ecstatic to get an advanced copy of it. Spoiler: It’s better than her first book! This is one I’ll be getting a physical copy of and recommending to everyone.
Special thanks to the publicists at Penguin Random House and to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book!
Bee Königswasser, a neuroscientist working at NIH, is thrilled when she’s offered a position co-leading a project at NASA. She’s less thrilled when she find out that she’ll be co-leading it with Levi Ward, a man who hated her during her grad school days. Working together isn’t ideal… especially when he refuses to communicate with her. But after overcoming some early bumps, is it possible these two have more in common than Bee realized? Perhaps they can work well together… and even get along outside of the office.
Where can I even begin? Love on the Brain is absolutely delightful, and far better than Ali Hazelwood’s debut, The Love Hypothesis. While I enjoyed that first novel (despite its many awkward moments), Love on the Brain captures all of the author’s sense of fun and charm and removes the cringe. What we get is a bingeable romance filled with feminism, science, and workplace antics between rivals-turned-lovers.
Before I get to the romance (which I adored, by the way), let’s talk about how smart this book is. The main character, Bee, is a neuroscientist working at NIH and now co-leading a project at NASA with the love interest, Levi. There’s plenty of discussion around neuroengineering, and while I’m no scientist myself, I loved being part of their world for 368 pages. Love on the Brain also fits into the recent STEMinist label: Bee frequently points out workplace misogyny, when men refuse to listen to or trust her, when men devalue her or assume her male co-lead is the true genius behind their project… the list goes on. Bee also secretly runs a Twitter account focused on women working in science, and this community adds their experiences of sexism at work, but also solutions to these problems. I loved all of this discussion. On a related note: I also loved the subplot around the GRE and how it’s a problematic barrier. Much love for all the science, grad school, and feminist themes.
The main characters are all wonderful, too. Bee has purple hair and numerous tattoos and piercings, and she talks to her twin sister – who is constantly traveling from country to country – about everything. She has a sad backstory: Her parents died when she was young, and she and her sister bounced around between family members (and countries) for most of their childhood. Later, Bee’s fiancé cheated on her with her best friend, so she’s wary about love, yet desperate for some constancy in life. In contrast, Levi seems closed off and uptight, and while he acts like he despises Bee, by all accounts he’s kind with and well-liked by others. He has family issues of his own, and maybe isn’t the best communicator, but he’s really just a gentle giant. (Yes, like Adam in The Love Hypothesis, Levi is also notably tall and big. Yes, it’s mentioned quite a lot, and gets a bit redundant, but he’s a great character otherwise, so we’ll let it slide.)
Love on the Brain is told entirely from Bee’s perspective, so whatever Levi is thinking remains an enigma. Why does he seem to hate her? What is up with him sabotaging her work with NASA? Bee doesn’t know, so neither do we. There are two further mysteries in Love on the Brain; you’ll certainly figure out the former almost immediately, but even the latter I worked out long before the reveal. In fact, the latter mystery ultimately leads to an unexpected thriller-worthy scene, which is fun to see in a romance! Alas, I’ll leave both of those surprises to you.
Back to Bee and Levi: This couple is truly adorable. Even while they’re acting like rivals, I found both of them – and their hostile relationship – intriguing. Once the walls start to come down, though, they are so sweet together. I loved watching them get to know each other, both in the office and outside of it. Their relationship develops in ways I didn’t anticipate but thoroughly enjoyed. Love on the Brain is steamier than The Love Hypothesis, and the relationship between Bee and Levi is very believable and natural. It ends perfectly, though I wouldn’t mind a sequel for these two!
Some final things worthy of mention: Cats play a bit role in Love on the Brain! If you’re a cat lover like me, you’ll enjoy seeing not one, not two, but three feline characters. Music lovers can also rejoice: There’s some great discussion of ’90s alt rock; some artists mentioned include Alanis Morissette, Ani DeFranco, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, A Perfect Circle, and Thom York. Finally, I love Bee’s assistant Rocío (and her obsession with La Llorona and all things macabre) and her own side story. All around, Love on the Brain offers a lot of delights, from the main romance to the STEMinism to all the supporting themes.
While I enjoyed Ali Hazelwood’s debut, Love on the Brain is even better, and one of my favorite romances of 2022. It’s cute, swoony, smart, thoughtful, and a lot of fun. I loved the ARC so much that I will definitely get a physical copy of the book, too.
Earlier this year, I missed the author’s three novellas, but I plan to read them soon. If I can manage to wait, I’ll probably get them in the upcoming Loathe to Love You novella collection in January 2023. Beyond those, I’m also very excited for whatever Ali Hazelwood puts out next… I’m ready for novel #3!
Get the Book
You can buy Love on the Brain here – it’s available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
|Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood|
|Setting||Texas and Louisiana, USA|
|Number of Pages||368|
|Format I Read||ebook (NetGalley)|
|Original Publication Date||August 23, 2022|
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis comes a new STEMinist rom-com in which a scientist is forced to work on a project with her nemesis—with explosive results.
Like an avenging, purple-haired Jedi bringing balance to the mansplained universe, Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead 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 with Levi Ward.
Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. And sure, he caught her in his powerfully corded arms like a romance novel hero when she accidentally damseled in distress on her first day in the lab. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school—archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.
Now, her equipment is missing, the staff is ignoring her, and Bee finds her floundering career in somewhat of a pickle. Perhaps it’s her occipital cortex playing tricks on her, but Bee could swear she can see Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas…devouring her with those eyes. And the possibilities have all her neurons firing. But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there’s only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?
About the Author
Ali Hazelwood is the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis, as well as the writer of peer-reviewed articles about brain science, in which no one makes out and the ever after is not always happy. Originally from Italy, she lived in Germany and Japan before moving to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience. She recently became a professor, which absolutely terrifies her. When Ali is not at work, she can be found running, eating cake pops, or watching sci-fi movies with her two feline overlords (and her slightly-less-feline husband).