Cover of Love, Theoretically, featuring a brown-haired woman and a blonde man kissing in front of bookshelves

About the Book

Title: Love, Theoretically
Published: 2023
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

First Impressions: Been There
hat’s Your Type? Career Rivals, Misplaced Hatred, Little Woman, Mountain Man, Fake Dating, But With a Twist,
Meet Cute: Wait, That Jonathan Smith-Turner?!?
The Lean: I See The Real You
Dirty Talk: What Pleases Me, What Pleases You, What Pleases Us
We Need to Talk: More Millicent, Please Now
Was it Good For You? Comfortable

First Impressions: Been There

Hazelwood’s covers are cute. But they’re not exactly fresh anymore. Do they need to be? Perhaps not. But there’s only so much to say when the covers start to blur together.

The guy totally has Human Beast* vibes, though (Is it the eyebrows? It might be the eyebrows.) and I dig it.

*As in the Prince from the animated version of Beauty and the Beast. Not something from the Saw franchise.

What’s Your Type?

  • Career Rivals
  • Misplaced Hatred
  • Little Woman, Mountain Man
  • Fake Dating, But With a Twist

Dating Profile

Dr. Elsie Hannaway wants nothing more than to get a job as a professor on a tenure track, and her upcoming interview with the Physical Department at MIT is exactly the kind of job she both wants and needs to get out of her current adjunct teaching gig. There’s only one problem: one of the people interviewing her for the job—the job—is the bane of her existence, Dr. Jonathan Smith-Turner, a man who nearly ruined her entire field with a fake paper and brother of a man she fake dated through her other job, which sees her changing her personality completely to play fake girlfriend/date for men through an app called Faux.

Meet Cute: Wait, That Jonathan Smith-Turner?!?

Elsie wills herself to believe that changing her personality and figuring out the “Elsie” that people want is half-superpower, half-how she excels at her job as a fake girlfriend through Faux. She’s rarely truthful with anyone, even her so-called best friend and roommate, CeeCee. But she can’t help but be herself—her sarcastic, confident self—around Jack, in part because she can’t get a read on him and part because she hates his (giant) guts.

The first time Elsie and Jonathan—or Jack to his friends—meet, she’s playing at being his brother’s librarian girlfriend at a family function. The fourth time they meet, she’s interviewing to become a member of the Physics Department at MIT, where he works as a researcher and professor. Jack is convinced that she’s been playing his brother the whole time, and she’s too much a professional (and kind person) to out his situation before he can talk to Jack himself.

The Lean: I See The Real You

Jack has spent the first three times he met Elsie trying to catch her in a lie. But when he finally does, both the lie and the woman are nothing like he expected. He pushes Elsie in ways no one else ever has, and she both chafes at his pressure and loves the fact that he wants nothing more than for her to be herself—something she hasn’t done in so long, she can’t remember when the last time was. 

Dirty Talk: What Pleases Me, What Pleases You, What Pleases Us

Elsie and Jack take it slow both because they take a while to get past their mutual dislike and also because Elsie isn’t really sure she wants to go there, with anyone (again). But when they do get there, things are just as spicy as can be expected from a Hazelwood novel, with a heavy and welcome helping of consent and frank discussion about what they prefer when it comes to sex. Even their kisses are hot.

His mouth is on mine, and I’m overwhelmed, then dizzy, then confused. In my experience, kisses are brief, something to do before moving to other body parts, to the real thing. But Jack won’t let this one end: his tongue presses against mine, strokes slowly, coaxes my jaw open. He kisses like he’s already inside me. I don’t know what to do about that, so the moment stretches endlessly, full and hot, until I cannot help squirming against him.

Ms. Perky’s Prize for Purplest Prose

Hazelwood is known—for better or worse—for combining giant men with teeny women. And although Elsie describes herself as “medium” in every way, his hands (and, ahem, other parts of his anatomy) are “massive.”

“Shh.” His giant paws tighten around my waist, as if to contain me and my panic. They span my waist. Our size difference sits somewhere between absurd and obscene.

This description makes me think Jack is Hagrid-size and Elsie is Hermione-size, and that’s a ship I cannot get behind.

We Need to Talk: More Millicent, Please Now

I love a sassy grandmother figure, and Jack’s grandmother and matriarch of the family, Millicent, is an absolute spitfire and someone I wanted to spend way more time with.

“What else shall we discuss? I am but a helpless elderly lady. Nothing ever happens to me. Ah yes: the neighbors’ dog has been defecating on my lawn again. I’m considering hiring someone to go defecate on theirs. Would either of you be interested?”

Elsie and Jack were great, but Millicent was a level above.

Was it Good For You? Comfortable

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Love, Theoretically is very similar to its siblings, but if you’re a fan of them, you’ll likely be a fan of this book, too. (If, that is, you can overlook the kind of eye-rolly mentions of Elsie and Jack’s size difference. The continued “discrepancies” in every Hazelwood book is getting to be a bit much.) The book is nicely spicy without veering too much into smut territory—though there’s nothing wrong with that!—and includes a good dose of realism in the form of Elsie’s struggle with being both a woman in a STEM field and an academic.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Berkley, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Love, Theoretically is available now.

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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.