Ali Hazelwood Goes Meta with Fake-Dating Trope in Her Debut, ‘The Love Hypothesis’

The Love Hypothesis Book Cover The Love Hypothesis
Ali Hazelwood
Contemporary Romance
September 14, 2021

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn't believe in lasting romantic relationships--but her best friend does, and that's what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor--and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford's reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive's career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding...six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

“Over and over, and in ways that she could never have anticipated, he had made her feel unjudged. Less alone.” — Ali Hazelwood, The Love Hypothesis

In Ali Hazelwood’s The Love Hypothesis, all Olive is after, when she abruptly asks Dr. Adam Carlsen in the hallways of Stanford University if she can kiss him, is to give her friend Anh a chance at a happy ending. After going out on a lackluster date with Jeremy, the guy Anh likes, Anh is convinced that Olive must be in love with him and wishes to stay out of the way. The only way Olive can think to convince her that she’s not interested in Jeremy is to pretend that she’s in a committed relationship with someone else.

With limited time to concoct a plan, Olive runs to the first guy she sees: Adam Carlsen, who also happens to be a young professor at Stanford and who has a reputation for making his students cry. To Olive’s surprise, he agrees, not just to kiss her but to get involved in a fake-dating relationship long enough to convince Anh that Olive is not interested in Jeremy. As it turns out, Dr. Carlsen can also benefit from pretending to be in a committed relationship, as he hopes to convince the Dean that he’s serious about continuing his work at Stanford and hopes to have them release the funds for his grants.

Olive and Adam work out the details of their arrangement. When and where they’ll meet and how often, among other rules like Olive’s “no sex” rule. At first, hanging out with Adam proves to be a test within itself, as he seems to be the complete opposite of Olive. He deplores her taste for pumpkin lattes and other overly sweet forms of caffeine. (He takes his coffee black.) And just like his minimalistic tastes in drinks, he’s not much of a talker. But he and Olive have one big thing in common and that’s their love for science and academia. Slowly but surely, Adam begins opening up to Olive and they help each other grow–Adam helps her with her confidence and Olive helps Adam be less rigid with his students.

The inevitable happens, and Olive ends up falling head-over-heels over Adam, but their arrangement has an expiration date. When Adam gets a large grant and job offers in Boston, Olive must meet her end of the deal and end the relationship so that he’ll be able to move on with his life and pursue his plans.

The Love Hypothesis is a charming and sweet story about two complete opposites finding common ground and the tender bond that grows from opening up to new experiences, to seeing life from a different perspective. Hazelwood handles the narrative so that the fake-dating trope doesn’t feel old or rehashed. In fact, Olive and Adam often refer to their arrangement by its literary name, bringing a level of ironic humor to the reader as we follow these two characters who think they’re somehow exempt from the worldly rules of the trope.

The Love Hypothesis is an easy read that will keep any lover of contemporary romance entertained with Olive’s witty monologue, witnessing how she breaks through Adam’s walls and he breaks through hers. This is also the first novel I’ve seen to openly use a popular joke from The Office, and just for that alone, it deserves a read. (If you’re a fan of The Office, you’ll know immediately when you see it! *wink*)

A special thanks to Berkley Publishing and NetGalley for procuring an advanced reading copy of this title for me!


A self-proclaimed hermit and potential cat hoarder, Maria lives in Virginia where she writes, proofreads and copy edits as a freelancer. Her longstanding love affair with books began when her mother would fall asleep reading bedtime stories to her. (Don't worry; she was sure to wake her up so she could finish.) Now, as an adult, Maria struggles with a reading vice that has often threatened the hygiene of her home. On the few occasions that her nose isn't buried in a book, she enjoys exploring new cities, having margaritas with her sister, and curling up with a book--wait, what?

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