Spotlight Review: THE TRUE LOVE EXPERIMENT by Christina Lauren

From the publisher:

Sparks fly when a romance novelist and a documentary filmmaker join forces to craft the perfect Hollywood love story and take both of their careers to the next level—but only if they can keep the chemistry between them from taking the whole thing off script—from the New York Times bestselling authors of The Soulmate Equation and The Unhoneymooners.

Felicity “Fizzy” Chen is lost. Sure, she’s got an incredible career as a beloved romance novelist with a slew of bestsellers under her belt, but when she’s asked to give a commencement address, it hits her: she hasn’t been practicing what she’s preached.

Fizzy hasn’t ever really been in love. Lust? Definitely. But that swoon-worthy, can’t-stop-thinking-about-him, all-encompassing feeling? Nope. Nothing. What happens when the optimism she’s spent her career encouraging in readers starts to feel like a lie?

Connor Prince, documentary filmmaker and single father, loves his work in large part because it allows him to live near his daughter. But when his profit-minded boss orders him to create a reality TV show, putting his job on the line, Connor is out of his element. Desperate to find his romantic lead, a chance run-in with an exasperated Fizzy offers Connor the perfect solution. What if he could show the queen of romance herself falling head-over-heels for all the world to see? Fizzy gives him a hard pass—unless he agrees to her list of demands. When he says yes, and production on The True Love Experiment begins, Connor wonders if that perfect match will ever be in the cue cards for him, too.

The True Love Experiment is the book fans have been waiting for ever since Fizzy’s debut in the New York Times bestselling The Soulmate Equation. But when the lights come on and all eyes are on her, it turns out the happily ever after Fizzy had all but given up on might lie just behind the camera.

“Another winning romance from Lauren, full of big laughs, a few tears, and some seriously steamy scenes.”  — – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“The authors gleefully play with romance tropes, blending the delight of the meet cute with smart critiques of more toxic dating habits and wrapping the whole in clever dialogue and refreshing sex-positivity. Readers will have no trouble rooting for Fizzy.”  — –Publishers Weekly

Christina Lauren is the pseudonym for two writers, Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, who have been writing together for years and are a must-read for me. Interestingly, Lauren Billings wrote her own romance, Scandalized, last year, but under another pseudonym, Ivy Owens. Which wouldn’t be a big deal, except that book was promoted as this incredible debut novel – of course it was incredible, it was hardly a debut and more like the 30th book she’d actually written! I am happy to blame the publisher for this; it seems doubtful that the author decided to parade herself around as a new writer, but nonetheless, it really pissed me off when I found out. I didn’t quite understand why they did it. I would think that the reputation of Christina Lauren would have propelled that solo effort up the bestseller list. But what do I know.

Putting that aside, this new book is terrific and exactly what I’d expect from this writing duo. This is a sequel to The Soulmate Equation, but easily stands alone. One of the secondary characters from that first book is our heroine in this new one. Literally. Fizzy is an uber-successful romance author who has hit a bit of a roadblock. So when she is approached to star in a new reality dating show, she agrees, but with some caveats. She works closely with the producer, Connor Prince, a former documentary maker, and they turn this reality TV show into a smashing success. 

The premise of the show is that the heroine, Fizzy, will meet eight men, all of whom are a particular archetype of the romance novel & romcom industry. There will be the one who got away (one of fizzy’s exes,) the bad boy, the cinnamon roll, the vampire, and so forth. She will date them and the viewers will get to vote on which guy gets kicked off each week. There is also a subplot that the DNA dating app that was at the center of The Soulmate Equation, will be used to help select the men. I have never seen an episode of The Bachelor (or Bachelorette,) but I do watch Love is Blind and Married at First Sight so I am somewhat familiar with the genre. While it sounds like this is all the book is about, it is really a subplot, or more fittingly, a plot device to move the story along. And it works beautifully.

Almost the first half of the book is spent developing these characters and their romance. But how can Fizzy fall for the producer when he is providing her with all these men to date? It’s not easy on either of them, but the viewers are the ones voting so it doesn’t really matter how they feel.

Both of these characters are really well developed and so likeable. I couldn’t help rooting for them both, only I wasn’t sure how they were going to pull off the happy ending. Have no fear; in the hands of these writing pros, a happy ever after is guaranteed.

This is a beautiful homage to the romance genre in all its forms. The story is immediately engrossing, the characters flawed but so likable, and the storyline interesting and engaging. Christina Lauren once again provides us with what is sure to be a bestseller, and I, for one, am most appreciative. I love all their books (well, at least the 20 or so that I’ve read!) If you haven’t tried these authors, this is as good a place to start as any. Of course, reading The Soulmate Equation first would be my preference, but honestly I read it so long ago that I didn’t remember all the details, so you do you! Another book not to be missed by this terrific writing duo – kudos!

5/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE TRUE LOVE EXPERIMENT by Christina Lauren. Gallery Books (May 16, 2023). ISBN: 978-1982173432. 416p.



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