Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Unbalanced Equation by H L Macfarlane
Series: Hot Mess Trilogy #1
Published by Self-Published on September 15, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Romance
What do a bad landlord, a family wedding and a rogue Bunsen burner all have in common?
After suffering four years of scrutiny from her PhD assessor, Elizabeth Maclean believes she’s finally free of Dr Thomas Henderson’s tyranny when she begins her postdoc. But when a fire goes off in Tom’s lab (stupid undergrads) he ends up working in the same lab as Liz.
On the same bench, no less.
For three whole months.
To make matters worse – and much to their mutual surprise – Tom’s mum and Liz’s dad announce their impending marriage after a whirlwind romance. So when Liz’s landlord tells her to move out, pronto, it tips her over the edge. Desperate for a place to stay and in need of a saviour, the last person Liz expects to offer her a temporary home is Tom himself.
Now stuck working together, living together and planning their parents’ Christmas wedding together, will Liz discover that Tom’s attitude over the last four years was all a ruse to hide his true feelings? Or are the two doomed to fail in their co-existence experiment?
The Unbalanced Equation is a standalone book being billed for fans of The Hating Game and The Love Hypothesis. I wanted to love this book and I had extremely high hopes for it especially since I’m a huge fan of stories of women in STEM. Sometimes I’ve found you just don’t like characters which taints the entire book for you. For me, both Tom and Liz were ridiculously flawed and while they probably deserve each other I didn’t enjoy reading about them as much as I like most stories in this genre. I should have loved so many of the tropes in this. It has enemies to lovers (sort of), age differences, women in science and forced proximity are the main focuses of the story and I like a lot of those things but couldn’t seem to really grow attached to the characters.
Tom and Liz met at a mixer for the students and faculty when Liz was coning in to start her Doctorate. Their intro meet is cute enough, even if it did have a lot of anime references that I didn’t get. But immediately after that, Tom learns due to some events he will be her advisor, so he had to keep his hands off. His very grown up solution to this is to decide to treat Liz poorly and be mean to her for the next four years so he won’t forget he can’t cross that advisor/student line. Maybe if I’d seen how he treated her badly I could get on the enemy to lovers trope but it is four years later and we never see one interaction between them in those years we just know he is a jerk.
Tom and Liz are thrown together in the same lab to work when Tom’s lab burns down, they are thrown together even more when they find out their parents are getting married. In preparation for the wedding and having a blended family all of them end up living in the same very large house to amplify the amount of time Liz and Tom will be spending together. It was a bit coincidental that Tom and Liz would be both working and living together but *shrugs* I was willing to go with that part of the story at least.
The science part of the story was pretty strong. As someone who has worked in labs for 17 years of my career I found most of that stuff well researched. There are moments in this book that are really cute and made me think well these characters are growing on me. But then one of the characters would do something so childish and silly that I’d be mad at them again. Tom specifically crossed some pretty big lines in the book for me when he broke into Liz’s phone and started declining her Tinder dates. But both characters have some red-flag issues for me. If you can get past the red-flag issues though there is a pretty cute ending pay off.
Really this wasn’t for me. The characters were far too childish and this isn’t YA so I thought their emotions and reasoning should be more complex. Tom is 34 and 38 in the story with Liz ten years younger than him. We would expect him to be a bit more mature but I found he and Liz both struggled with maturity in emotional decisions. So they were perfect for each other but not my favorite couple to follow through a romantic journey.
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