Cover of Below Zero, featuring a man and woman wrapped together in a red plaid blanket in front of a snowy mountains cape

About the Book

Title: Below Zero (The STEMinist Novellas #3)
Published: 2022

First Impressions: Brrr
What’s Your Type? Pining, Career Rivals, One Afternoon Stand, White Knight Syndrome
Meet Cute: Informational Interview
The Lean: Do You Remember the Time?
Dirty Talk: Hit It (Don’t) and Forget It
We Need to Talk: Quickie
Was it Good For You? Goosebumps

First Impressions: 

We’ve had covers for a Merida AU and a Sherlock Holmes AU, and now we have … a Frozen AU? I think I’m reaching with that one, but I can’t think of anything else this looks like. Maybe Six of Crows—Matias and Nina? They did have that one snuggle sesh in the frozen wilds.

What’s Your Type?

  • Pining
  • Career Rivals
  • One Afternoon Stand
  • White Knight Syndrome

Dating Profile

Hannah Arroyo never liked school, until she fell in love with space. And then she did everything she could to get to NASA so that she could spend her life studying and working around the thing she loved most. She’s never had (or made) time for a real relationship but appreciates a good hookup with partners who won’t lean too hard on her for anything more.

Ian Floyd has a similar love for space, but he’s Hannah’s opposite in that he loved school—at least enough to be one of those overachievers who finishes with pre-college work way earlier than the rest of us. He’s also her opposite when it comes to relationships, which makes him—a guy who could be “fancast to play the hot Weasley brother”—a total turn-off.

Meet Cute: Informational Interview

As part of an (annoying) grad school class, Hannah has to do an informational interview with someone in her desired career field. Thankfully, her friend Mara Floyd has an estranged cousin who works at NASA and an aunt who has something to hold over his head. Hannah’s quite surprised when the cousin turns out to be insanely hot as well as a rocket scientist, and the interview quickly turns into both of them getting quite formal, if you know what I mean.

But then Hannah and Ian cross paths when she starts work at NASA, and she finds herself on the losing end of a request for project funding. And then stuck at the bottom of a crevasse in the arctic with a sprained ankle.

The Lean: Do You Remember the Time?

Hannah’s all about sex but isn’t interested in getting close. Ian doesn’t really date, either, but that’s because he’s got other things in this life that take precedence (e.g., his job); he’s actually a total softy with a major white knight complex. Seeing their relationship—or lack thereof—from Hannah’s POV makes it seem like there’s very little between the two, but realizing why Ian shows up at her project and literally saves her life, realizing that he’s been hung up on her since that fateful interview, makes the feelings that eventually pop up a little more believable. (Hannah’s obviously been harboring her own feelings, too, even though she doesn’t want to admit it a/or we don’t quite see it until Ian’s back in her life.)

Dirty Talk: Hit It (Don’t) and Forget It

Hannah and Ian’s first meeting leads to both of them getting off but no actual intercourse. That doesn’t make it any less hot (or satisfying, if we’re to believe Hannah’s assertions (and Ian’s, uh, emissions). It happens in an office at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is a tad unbelievable but also a very specific, very nerdy wet dream.

“Does anyone else use this office?” I ask. I’m not shy, but this is … good. No-interruptions-please good. I-don’t-want-to-wait-till-we-get-home good. I’m-going-to-come-in-about-two-minutes good.

Their redo near the end of the novella is a little more private, but even more nerdy, with the dirty talk involving various topographical features of Mars, a planet that both Hannah and Ian are more than a little fascinated with. It’s goofy, but somehow really perfect for the two of them and the story.

Ed. note: I pulled these quotes from an e-galley copy of the novella; the final version might be different.

Ms. Perky’s Prize for Purplest Prose

Teacher types on laptop while talking to student
Typing a romance novel on a computer screen

The first sex scene in the book is quick and dirty, and the language equally so, thanks to Hannah’s more, shall we say, colorful personality.

“Yeah?” I don’t even need to move my hips. His hand slides down to grip my ass, and he somehow knows exactly how to angle me, how the hem of my shorts can brush against my clit. “Like this?” I feel his cock iron-hard on my hip and I make mewling, embarrassing, pleading sounds into the hollow of his throat, murmuring incomprehensibly about how good this is, how grateful I am, how I’m going to do the same for him when we finally fuck, how I’m going to do whatever he wants

Ed. note: I pulled this quote from an e-galley copy of the novella; the final version might be different.

We Need to Talk: Quickie

Below Zero is the longest novella in this series, clocking in at a whopping 139 (Kindle) pages. It also has the relationship that feels the least compelling of the three novellas, but the characters that I liked the most. Hannah’s got a crazy vulnerable side underneath a tough exterior, and Ian’s savior complex comes from a place of love, not sexism. They’re both SUPER smart, and the science comes into play a lot more in this story, too, which is something that was somewhat missing from the previous two stories—and why I feel like the “STEMinist” in the series title is a bit misleading (although all of the novellas are fun, regardless).

Was it Good For You? Goosebumps

I sadly didn’t need to shuck my clothes and crawl into a single sleeping bag to stay warm with this story, but it gave me the happy ending I was hoping for with this short-but-sweet series.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.