I’ve been reading romance since my early teens, so you might imagine I’ve read a few. There are common themes, no question, but each book is a different spin on the theme, which is what makes them fun to read. The Love Experiment, however, takes two common themes and turns them on their head in a way I don’t remember seeing before.
This is a sensual contemporary romance about a famous man and a career woman…sort of. See, there’s no doubt Jackson Haley is famous, but he’s not playboy famous. He’s famous for doing deep, investigative reporting that uncovers wrongdoing and brings the criminals to justice while helping the victims of that crime. He doesn’t care about fame, but rather feels his role is to defend the city against those who would do it wrong. He’s a crusader in a world where evil has already won in the name of profit, but he’s nothing more than that. He has committed his life to the job and believes that’s all there is.
Derelie Honeywell, on the other hand, is new to the city and determined to succeed here. She left her small town paper because she didn’t want to settle for the familiar, but she’s finding much about city life just doesn’t appeal to her. It doesn’t help that the online content position she’s hired for gets no respect from the print reporters, and Haley’s the worst of them, in part because she respects what he has accomplished. Still, she’s not ready to admit failure until she’s experienced city life to the fullest.
Their publisher throws the two together as a punishment for Haley’s back talking, but that’s where the story takes an interesting turn.
Derelie might be new to the city and intimidated by Haley, but she doesn’t back down. She’s everything a star reporter should be…in her own way. Haley, in contrast, is a mess to the point of going to a fight club to punch out his frustrations (though that’s much more complicated than it seems at first). It’s not just that he’s emotionally stunted, but that he’s aware of his state and happy to be so. As he says a time or two, he’s the one who asks questions, not answers them.
I’ve read stories about famous people wanting to escape the fame, and that’s touched on in The Love Experiment, but Haley can’t see anything of himself past the job even though the fame aspects embarrass him. There’s history behind his reactions (and some cute moments) that I can’t talk about without spoilers, but suffice it to say he has to learn to see himself long before he’s ready to recognize his bond to Derelie, not that it keeps him from acting on that bond when opportunity arises even when he knows he shouldn’t.
It’s a fun story with characters who can’t be easily summarized as the handsome hero with a heart of gold under his bruised exterior and the sweet, innocent, small-town heroine. They are both those things and yet at the same time not at all. The story also explores a lot more than the romance tale with a hard look at the changes in journalism and what the changes might cost us as well as the strange ways people find to relieve stress, and this with writing that is so lyrical at times it made me smile while never violating the voice of the characters. After all, Haley is a skilled wordsmith.
They get their happily ever after, but they have to work for it, and not on the easy questions, either. This book is about what happens to love after the pixie dust wears off and real life rears its head. It’s not easy, and while I didn’t see the end solution coming, it is in keeping with the story how things turn out. I enjoyed the read, and as long as you’re comfortable with the explicit sex, heartily recommend it as one of those where the focus is on how people in love have to work things out or everything falls apart.
P.S. I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.