“But the end does happen. Unavoidably. All relationships between living beings end somewhere, somehow. That’s just the way it is. One party dies, or is called away by other biological needs. Emotions are transient by nature. They are temporary states brought on by neurophysiological changes that aren’t meant to be long-lasting. The nervous system must revert back to homeostasis. All relationships associated with affective events are destined to end.”

He seems unconvinced. “All relationships?”

“Yup. It’s science.”

He nods, but then says, “What about prairie voles?”

“What about them?”

“They pair-bond for life, don’t they?”

Love on the Brain is a fun dive into the science research world with spunky characters and quirky scenarios. 

Like an avenging, purple-haired Jedi bringing balance to the mansplained universe, Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project—a literal dream come true after years scraping by on the crumbs of academia—Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.

Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. And sure, he caught her in his powerfully corded arms like a romance novel hero when she accidentally damseled in distress on her first day in the lab. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school—archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.

Now, her equipment is missing, the staff is ignoring her, and Bee finds her floundering career in somewhat of a pickle. Perhaps it’s her occipital cortex playing tricks on her, but Bee could swear she can see Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas…devouring her with those eyes. And the possibilities have all her neurons firing. But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there’s only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?

Love on the Brain is Ali Hazelwood’s second stand alone novel. If you enjoyed The Love Hypothesis then you will love Love on the Brain. It takes her tried and true aspects: quirky little female STEM researcher, big but cinnamon roll manly researcher, add in some friction and tensions and combine for a bright contemporary romance. 

Bee and Levi are our two main love interests. They knew each other in grad school and for all appearances hated each other. Flash forward a few years, and they both are working on some big research that brings them to co-lead a project at NASA. And that friction they felt in school is even more heightened now. Folks, this is a slow burn relationship for the books. Bee and Levi are two of the most awkward colleagues forced to work together for a good chunk of this story. Like I was very convinced that there would be no HEA with these two. The book is told only from Bee’s perspective so we have no insight to how Levi is actually feeling – although I think readers will probably pick up on some clues faster than Bee did. This is a great contemporary unrequited love story. I can’t think of many books in modern settings that do this well. For some reason I always think of historical romances for the unrequited pining, but beware this is a lot of pining in this book. And it’s great. 

Hazelwood has also amped up the steam in this book. There are a few sexy time scenes in Love on the Brain between Levi and Bee. Bee did, at times, grate on my nerves. She’s so small (her tiny stature is commented on a lot) and tries so hard to be different and act differently than all the other researchers. It comes off a little immature – if she was an undergrad rather than a full-blooded PhD who’s almost 30 then I feel like her actions would make sense. Levi feels like the stereotypical Hazelwood hero – he’s huge and hulking but also soft and secretly a cinnamon roll. He also has a very big manhood. Seriously. The gigantic size of it is mentioned. A lot. 

I loved a lot of the side plots of Love on the Brain. Both Bee and Levi like cats. There’s lots of cat time in this book. And some interesting scientific history focused on Marie Curie, thanks to Bee’s obsession with her. In all seriousness, the book also dives into a fantastic overview of STEM research, gender dynamics and the challenges of standardized tests gatekeeping higher education. These parts of the book were smart and relevant to today’s academic world. I also really loved Rocio, Bee’s research assistant and all around badass goth scientist. She was funny and complemented Bee so well.

Both Levi and Bee have some serious baggage with family. And, accordingly, they have built a strong foundation of a found family (which includes Bee’s twin sisters). I loved the found family of quirky researchers. Grad school is a lonely place – you’re often doing research that most people don’t understand, working long hours and are fairly isolated. Hazelwood was able to use some of these dynamics to explore some of the unconscious biases that exist in academia in subtle but powerful ways.

Finally, there were some You’ve Got Mail vibes throughout the secondary plotline of the book that I found delightful. This is one of those books that would make a very enjoyable movie to  watch.

Love on the Brain is a fun dive into STEM, graduate school struggles and look behind the scenes into the scientific research world.  Thank you Berkley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.