Loathe to Love You
Grade : B

When I grabbed a copy of Ali Hazlewood’s Loathe to Love You, I didn’t realize it was three connected novellas rather than one full-length novel. But since I’m a fan of novellas, that wasn’t an issue for me. Some readers may think that novellas are less bang for your buck, but the reality is that they’re just as complex to write as a novel (all the same elements as plot, characterization, conflict, and resolution, but in a tighter space).

Under One Roof

Rating: B+          Sensuality: Warm

Hazelwood has built a trio of friends who are totally reliant on one-another. On the one hand, it’s a testament to strong relationships between friends. On the other, it’s a tedious crowdsourcing approach to making decisions. In the first story,  Mara sets the tone for the compendium with her observation of post-graduation and heading out to start your adulting life in different fields and different cities: “FaceTime becomes as necessary as oxygen.” I was worried, because Mara opens the story on FaceTime with her lady squad, worried about the fact that the house she inherited is partially owned by a hot attorney in his early thirties, who may or may not know that Mara now owns the other half of his home in DC. Layered on top are Liam’s corporate lawyer gig for ‘Big oil’ and Mara’s environmental scientist stint at the EPA, which ensures this enemies-to-lovers rom-com writes itself. There’s a requisite period of chafing wherein Liam and Mara react like oil and water before we learn that Liam is actually a good guy, and the greatest conflict comes into play because neither is willing to give an inch until miles appear between them. Ultimately, after much internal waffling, their love finds a way to a quick, happy resolution.

Stuck With You

Rating: B-         Sensuality: Warm

Sadie the ecologically sustainable engineer is up next, and her story is just okay. Second chances aren’t my typical go-to because I figure if you get to the point where you break up, just be done, you know? But from the get-go we learn Sadie and the Viking hunk she’s stuck in a powerless elevator with, Erik Nowak, had a brief moment of sexy time that ended before it ever had time to blossom. Surprisingly, we learn Sadie considers Erik to be kind, albeit duplicitous – and predictably on the heels of that knowledge, learn she’s the superstitious drama queen of the group. Erik is also an architect, but he represents Big Business and consumptive competition in the high rise building in which their two companies are headquartered. Again, the couple’s inherent conflict writes itself. In the shadow of an amazing twenty-four-hour period in which Sadie was swept away by her handsome conqueror, her boss speculates the reason Sadie’s bid for a green engineering project was won by Liam’s company is because he’s merely a snake who cheated his way into her pants and capitalized on a little pillow talk. Nothing good comes from conjecture, though, so it takes forced proximity and facing the truth for Sadie to, you know, face the truth. I found myself rooting for Liam, and hoping maybe he’d find another cutie pie at the coffee shop to sex up.

Below Zero

Rating: A-          Sensuality: Warm

Below Zero is my favorite story of the bunch because I loved everything about the setup, the characters, and the conflict. The final trio of the girl gang, Hannah, spent her formative years blowing off school and hard work and didn’t catch the cosmic bug until her junior year in high school. She had to work twice as hard in half the amount of time to make her mark, but she did it because the stars are calling her. Her hard work paid off and her NASA career is banging. When the book opens, Hannah finds herself stuck below the surface of a glacier in Norway, miles away from the Arctic research station housing her project. And don’t you know that the person who comes to rescue her is none other than Ian, her work nemesis. Ian is a good guy, too, though, and I found it hard to rally any actual dislike for him beyond him simply having gonads and being further established in his career. I’m oversimplifying to a degree, but that’s the gist of it.

I’m married to a nerd - a sexy, adventurous one, but a still a nerd - so I’m here for the geek squad. I mean, we all need to be nice to the geeks because they run the world, right? I wanted to adore these stories, but a couple of issues kept throwing up roadblocks. Like, I appreciate the intelligence and STEM-focused women in this collection, but characters that are intended to be sheltered and shy often come off as needy, unconfident women who second-guess everything. Poor communication is often the cause of trouble in Romancelandia, but here Hazlewood pushes the miscommunication to the max and I really wanted to step into the pages and bitch slap them all. BITCH SLAP THEM ALL! It’s also alluded to that Hannah is bisexual, because Hazlewood drops in a couple of sentences about a woman Hannah dated who couldn’t deal with her science-y-ness and single-vision focus. It would’ve been nice if maybe the default partner she winds up with had been a woman, rather than it just being a passing bullet point of data about her. And lastly, there are no stupid characters here – neither the women nor the men who love them – so how do we have six intelligent adults who so willingly have sex without condoms? In a previous life, I worked for an AIDS-NGO, writing and managing a grant program in excess of $11M. I cannot ignore bareback sex between strangers who’ve only known each other twenty-four hours. It’s irresponsible, and any time Hazlewood references any of the tiny women and gigantic men with their giant cocks (ad nauseum), all I could think of was eeew. What could’ve easily been five-star, A stories ultimately linger in the Bs, because I wanted smart scientists and Ph.D.s who were self-aware and self-confident. I wanted to finish the book and storm the castle gates with the hoard because I AM WOMAN!

How about a hot, sexy, confident STEM-shero who is comfortable in social settings, knows her way around the bedroom, and is still super nerdy? I’d love to read that story. In the meantime, life is busy – grab a novella!

Reviewed by Dolly Sickles
Grade : B

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : February 1, 2023

Publication Date: 01/2023

Recent Comments …

  1. What kept me reading was the sheer unpredictability of the storyline. I knew David’s and Chelsea’s paths would cross again…

Dolly Sickles

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