Series: Landry Love, #1
Trigger/Content Warnings: Mentions of sexual harrassment
Release Date: February 4th, 2021
Maybe the answer is right next door.
Jess just wants his family to stop trying to change the way he lives his life. They don’t know why he no longer commits, why feeling that spark of something real makes him run the other way. He can’t trust his heart, so it’s best to ignore it. Until his quirky neighbor proposes an experiment. He’ll be her dating coach, and she’ll be his fake girlfriend.
When that spark appears, it’s only a matter of time before their whole experiment explodes.
“That’s when I realize that he is the perfectly prepared, creamy mashed potatoes of my life. Everything else is just gravy.”
This book had so many of my favourite things – fake dating, small towns, neighbours – and in Amy Alves’ debut, I fell in love with all those three things all over again.
The Experiment follows Emma and Jess as they both arrive in Landry and go through the process of making a deal to be in a fake relationship so that Emma can understand how to be less socially awkward. Emma’s in Landry after leaving her job due to sexual harassment that wasn’t handled the right way. She needs an escape and she wants to go somewhere she doesn’t know a lot of people (except for her best friend). So she gets this gorgeous home in a small town and decides to start her life over again. Emma’s obviously shaken up by everything that happened in her past, but she wants to move forward. She wants to make sense of the ugly in the world and find happiness and settle down.
Enter Jess. He’s still reeling from the end of a relationship and he’s vowed to not get involved with another woman. He’s done with relationships, because he doesn’t trust anyone to be with him without wanting something else in exchange. Jess is in Landry to house-sit for his older brother and he just happens to be living next door to Emma. Who at first amuses and entertains him. But then becomes a source of attraction for him.
“She’s easy to appreciate and doesn’t even see it. Her eyes shine with gratuity and happiness, and I can’t help but feel proud that I did that.”
These two characters are so brilliant and I loved just how quirky, awkward and socially inept Emma is. To see her through Jess’s eyes is definitely the highlight of this story. I loved that even though Emma is a hot mess as she navigates getting her life back – the cooking adventures, the speed dating and flirting – Jess finds all of that endearing and he lingers on the things that makes Emma who she is. Other than her friend, Lauren, Jess is truly the only person who sees Emma clearly and obviously that’s what leads to them making a deal.
Emma will pretend to be his girlfriend and Jess will be her running coach, while also teaching her how to socialise and get comfortable with people in public settings. It’s clearly not what Emma is good at and she wants help. If she’s able to finally move past what her colleague did to her at her job and settle down, she wants to be ready. And as you can imagine, what starts as a fake relationship turns into something more.
“Emma carries a vulnerability about her that makes me feel things. Things I have no business feeling.”
I loved that gradual shift, though. Because while I expected it, I didn’t know when it was going to happen. I like surprises of that kind. This story was so seamless and it was so much fun to read. I laughed out loud far too many times, so do not read this in public. Emma will crack you up without a doubt and Jess will entertain you. These two characters were so wonderfully crafted, and their relationship felt so natural and so fun too.
This book is hilarious, but also so heartfelt. You have this heroine who has struggled with so much in her life, but she’s pushing herself to overcome all of the things holding her back and that’s so fantastic. While Emma knows that she doesn’t need a man to overcome the traumas of her life, she definitely likes having Jess around because he gives her that boost she needs to get back on her feet. Her friendship with Lauren was also so much fun and I love when friends have a realistic relationship like that, it makes it more interesting than fighting over something silly.
Amy Alves delivered a story with so much heart, soul, love and funnies and for this to be her debut is truly an awesome thing. I am so ready for Lauren and Taylor’s story, Amy!
Thanks to Amy Alves for generously providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.