I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The True Love Experiment by Christina Lauren
Also by this author: Roomies, My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating, Love and Other Words, The Unhoneymooners, Twice in a Blue Moon, The Honey-Don't List, In A Holidaze, The Soulmate Equation
Published by Gallery Books on May 16, 2023
Genres: Adult Fiction, Romance
Pages: 413 •Format: E-ARC •Source: NetGalley
Felicity “Fizzy” Chen is lost. Sure, she’s got an incredible career as a beloved romance novelist with a slew of bestsellers under her belt, but when she’s asked to give a commencement address, it hits her: she hasn’t been practicing what she’s preached.
Fizzy hasn’t ever really been in love. Lust? Definitely. But that swoon-worthy, can’t-stop-thinking-about-him, all-encompassing feeling? Nope. Nothing. What happens when the optimism she’s spent her career encouraging in readers starts to feel like a lie?
Connor Prince, documentary filmmaker and single father, loves his work in large part because it allows him to live near his daughter. But when his profit-minded boss orders him to create a reality TV show, putting his job on the line, Connor is out of his element. Desperate to find his romantic lead, a chance run-in with an exasperated Fizzy offers Connor the perfect solution. What if he could show the queen of romance herself falling head-over-heels for all the world to see? Fizzy gives him a hard pass—unless he agrees to her list of demands. When he says yes, and production on The True Love Experiment begins, Connor wonders if that perfect match will ever be in the cue cards for him, too.
I love a good Christina Lauren novel, and The True Love Experiment is one of the best they’ve put out in a long time (in my humble opinion!) I didn’t realize until I started it that it’s a companion novel to another CLo book I thoroughly enjoyed (The Soulmate Equation) but there’s something so special about The True Love Experiment that had me falling in love with Connor right alongside Fizzy.
I’m admittedly a reality tv junkie (yes, I’m still watching the dumpster fire that is the Bachelor franchise at this point along with many, many other shows) so the premise for this story was rightttt up my alley! I also love that it followed Fizzy, Jess’ best friend and romance author from The Soulmate Equation. The story borrows more than just characters from its companion novel- the main premise is that Fizzy stars in a reality show that determines prospective matches based on their DNA compatibility scores (using the app that River developed in the original book!) I loved that this story continued on to show how River’s app was still working and impacting the world, but I absolutely adored Fizzy’s spin on the show and having the leads all be cast to fit a stereotypical romance archetype- I need a show like this in real life ASAP.
As much as reads who are familiar with and love Fizzy from the previous book, I find love interest Connor to be a charming co-lead. A single Dad who manages to co-parent peacefully (and is even still friends with) his ex-wife, he’s Fizzy’s producer and definitely off limits (getting too cozy with a producer has caused many a reality tv scandal IRL). I liked his depiction as a warm and perhaps somewhat nerdy but really earnest character who is so supremely in over his head with Fizzy but still somehow manages to hold his own. I was also intrigued by how flawed he is, and how his past indiscretions impacted his relationship with Fizzy. Yet at the same time their chemistry was off the charts, especially toward the end (View Spoiler »Spoiler Alert- that video montage at the end at what was basically “After the Final Rose” (bachelor fans, iykyk) had me in my feels because I could picture everything SO perfectly) « Hide Spoiler and while it took longer than I anticipated for them to get together, I though the story did a great job building the tension between them, and I love how Fizzy roped him into being an interviewer on the reality show too.
What really cinched this story as being a 5 star read for me was the ending. THE ENDING. I can’t say too much without spoiling it, but it was fantastic and heart wrenching and swoony all at the same time. I know romance novels are generally known for having a HEA but there was something so special about this one and how much of a grand gesture it was. I truly felt like I was watching it live on tv.
Overall: One of the best CLo books in recent memory, chemistry was off the charts and the plot was super original while still building nicely on one of their previous novels.