The squeal I squelt when I got the NetGalley email that I'd been approved for an advanced copy of Christina Lauren's highly anticipated new book, The True Love Experiment, was next-level. I'm surprised you didn't hear it, to be honest.
Fans of Christina Lauren have been dying for this, Felicity "Fizzy" Chen's story, since she was introduced in The Soulmate Equation as main character Jess' quirky and lovable bestie. Now, all eyes are (still) on Fizzy, quite literally, as she's cast as the heroine in a reality dating show. Why, you ask? Because she's a wildly beloved romance author that Connor Prince III, producer of said reality show, hears about by chance from his ex-wife turned best friend Nat. Connor is being all but forced to do this show, when his heart lies in nature documentaries, but his production company's pockets, unfortunately, do not share his passion. They're adamant that they enter the reality entertainment world, and promise that if Connor can pull off a reality show, they'll revisit the documentaries conversation later.
When Connor and Fizzy meet, the banter flies, and the idea for a "Bookish Heroine dates a slew of Bookish Tropes to find her Soulmate" is born. Connor painstakingly filters through an endless array of men to cast the perfect lineup: the Himbo, the Vampire, the Cinnamon Roll--seriously, this story was fangirl gold. And speaking of fangirls, one of my favorite highlights from the book was a scene so perfect I nearly died. Fizzy is talking to Connor about a fan that comes to every event with two copies of each of her books, and has them signed. Connor is surprised by this fact, and Fizzy's reaction describes all of us: "Fangirls show up, Connor. Those are my people." I literally hugged my Kindle after reading those words, because it's so true. Fangirls will flock to author events/conventions/screenings. We buy the merch, we wait in the lines, we tell you we love you. We show up, because we want to support our favorite author/actor/creator. To know that our favorites see and feel that love means so much, and to see it on the page was lovely, an acknowledgment that we're all in this together, that these books keep coming because we keep reading them and keep waiting at the edges of our seats for more.
Another aspect of this story that was special to me was Fizzy's auntie status. I'm not a mother myself, but I'm an aunt more than a dozen times over, and seeing her relationship with the children around her spoke to my soul in a profound way, especially when Fizzy discusses her (and my own, to the T) role of "being the auntie everyone comes to when they need to learn how to do the perfect winged eyeliner, hide a hangover from a parent, or cry about their first broken heart. I think every child needs someone who adores them unconditionally but is not biologically obligated to." Straight in the feels, Christina Lauren! Right to the guts of me! Then, when she meets her first biological niece, she whispers that she "will never let you suffer an ill-fitting bra. I'll tell you when you have food in your teeth. I'm the one you come to when you need clothing advice or spending money. I only ask that you let me vet every person you want to date," and how the second she saw the baby she knew she had "no choice but to lay down my life for her" and muses about how most newborns look like grumpy old men but this one "is already, hands down, the most beautiful and entertaining human ever to grace this planet," and how Fizzy's own heart "is too small for these feelings; the sense of choking on happiness, of drowning in it," it all careened me back to just over four years ago when my world was irrevocably changed by my first biological niece being born. I love all of my nieces and nephews to the end of every galaxy in every universe in every multiverse out there, but the first one that comes out and may have the same dimple as you, or eyes that match your own, or may have a very similar smile to yours? It's cathartic to hold that little human for the first time, and Christina Lauren perfectly describe the feelings of a childless auntie. I'm getting weepy typing these words and reliving the way this book made me feel.
I've droned on and on about fangirls and aunties, I know, so now to the more universal stuff: this book was steamy without being too much. It makes you wait, but gives you what you want without it being something you're going to hate them for. The perfect balance of love and spice, of anticipation and fulfillment, of frustration ("just kiss already!!" and "my GOD get your heads out of your own asses and OPEN YOUR EYES) and "squee!" Connor Prince is a very worthy book boyfriend, especially when you learn about his past and how he works hard, every day, to not be the person he was in his early life. So often, the book boyfriends we fall for are perfect; they come with a clean past, no mistakes, making them perfect on paper, but that's not real. Real life is messy, and people aren't ever perfect. So, having this imperfect, perfect man, was a welcome change. Oh, and he's 6'5. And British. Swoon.
The True Love Experiment by Christina Lauren was so much more than I thought it was going to be, and I'm so thankful to have read it. You'll absolutely want to preorder it, which you can do here now before it releases on May 16!
Oh, and call your favorite auntie. She loves you so much more than you could ever begin to fathom.
Love and aunties who would die for you,
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review with my honest feedback. If you purchase a copy using my Amazon affiliate link above, I will receive a small commission which I will use to justify my literary addictions and to spoil my dogs (probably).