Exclusive Excerpt + Q&A: Ali Hazelwood’s Next STEMinist Romance, Love, Theoretically

Books Features Ali Hazelwood
Exclusive Excerpt + Q&A: Ali Hazelwood’s Next STEMinist Romance, Love, Theoretically

Author Ali Hazelwood has found breakout success with her hit series of STEMinist romantic fiction—a charming subgenre focused on contemporary, often comedic love stories set in the worlds of science, technology,  engineering, and math. They generally feature diverse, nerdy heroines from nontraditional backgrounds who’re as interested in breaking barriers as they are with finding love. 

You’ve probably heard of The Love Hypothesis and Love on the Brain, two New York Times bestsellers that have dominated book clubs, recommendations tables at local booksellers, and your TikTok FYP. Hazelwood’s next novel, titled Love, Theoretically, arrives this June and will introduce readers to a brand new heroine, Elsie Hannaway. The sweet and spicy story features rival physicists, longstanding academic feuds, fake dating shenanigans, and a rivals-to-lovers romance that will leave everyone swooning. 

Love theoretically cover

Here’s how the publisher describes the story.

The many lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have finally caught up with her. By day, she’s an adjunct professor, toiling away at grading labs and teaching thermodynamics in the hopes of landing tenure. By other day, Elsie makes up for her non-existent paycheck by offering her services as a fake girlfriend, tapping into her expertly honed people pleasing skills to embody whichever version of herself the client needs.

Honestly, it’s a pretty sweet gig—until her carefully constructed Elsie-verse comes crashing down. Because Jack Smith, the annoyingly attractive and broody older brother of her favorite client, turns out to be the cold-hearted experimental physicist who ruined her mentor’s career and undermined the reputation of theorists everywhere. And that same Jack who now sits on the hiring committee at MIT, right between Elsie and her dream job.

Elsie is prepared for an all-out war of scholarly sabotage but…those long, penetrating looks? Not having to be anything other than her true self when she’s with him? Will falling into an experimentalist’s orbit finally tempt her to put her most guarded theories on love into practice?

Love, Theoretically won’t hit shelves until June 20, 2023. Still, we got the chance to chat with Hazelwood herself about her latest romance and how it compares to her previous novels, plus snagged an exclusive sneak peek of the book itself!


Paste Magazine: Tell us a little bit about Love, Theoretically. What can readers expect from the story? 

Ali Hazelwood: Love, Theoretically is the story of Elsie, a theoretical physicist who ends up having to deal with Jonathan Smith-Turner, the older brother of the guy she has been fake dating—and an experimental physicist in his own right.

Paste: What makes Elsie different as a heroine than either Olive (The Love Hypothesis) or Bee (Love on the Brain)? 

Hazelwood: I think of Elsie as my most messed up main character (and I say this very lovingly), but I’ll let readers decide. 

Paste: Let’s talk tropes—what’s your favorite trope this book uses and/or explores? 

Hazelwood: The “no one sees me for who I really am except for you” trope.

Paste: Do you have a particular moment from this book that you are most excited for readers to experience? 

Hazelwood: Yup, but it would be a spoiler. All I can say is that there is a scene in which Elsie finds herself having to reevaluate her entire life. It was very satisfying to write!

Paste: What do you think it is that sets Love Theoretically apart from your previous novels? 

Hazelwood: It has 100% more hedgehogs. 

Paste: Why do you think it’s so important to tell stories (and to write romances!) about women working in STEM fields? 

Hazelwood: For me, it’s more about writing something I know and that’s familiar to me. I really enjoy writing in a setting that’s so close to my lived experience!


Chapter 11

If Greg were a dog, he’d be peeing all over the waiting room.

In my twenty-seven years, no one has been happier to see me. He leaps (albeit sluggishly) out of his chair, tries (and fails) to spin me around, effusively compliments my stained “May the Mass Times Acceleration Be with You” shirt, and finally sandwiches my face in his palms and says, “I’m about to blow your mind, Elsie. Did you know that quinoa is not a grain? It’s like, a sprout. Oh my God, let’s do the Harlem Shake!”

Behind the reception counter, the nurse shakes her head and mutters, “High like a hot-air balloon.”

“I— thank you for calling me.” She looks less pissed than she sounded on the phone, but more exhausted. The place smells like mint, potpourri, and that air hygienists blow into the mouth during cleanings.

“Sure. Get this idiot out of my waiting room, please. I gotta go home and feed my own brood of idiots.”

“Of course.” I smile reassuringly at Greg, who’s petting a strand of hair that escaped my bun. “Like I said, I don’t know his home address. Do you have it in your paperwork? Or I could bring him to my place—”

“I’ve got it.”

I turn to the door even though I’m well familiar with the voice— from the past three days of interviewing, from my worst fears, from that weird, intrusive dream I had last night. Greg’s already running to his brother, giving him the same unabashed welcome he gave me.

My first thought is a familiar one: I can’t believe they’re related. If they played siblings in an HBO Max miniseries, I’d call bullshit on the casting director. My second is, of course, Fuck.

Fucking fuck. Why is he here? I look to the nurse. “Did you . . . did you call both of us to pick Greg up?”

“Yup. Because the first person I called was his mom, who told me she’d be here in fifteen and then canceled because of a mani appointment.” Her lifted eyebrow is 100 percent judgment. I blame her 0 percent. “I decided to hedge my bets.”

“Right,” I say. Greg yaps on about his fantabulous quinoa discovery, and I don’t want to meet Jack’s eyes. I cannot bear for him to see me, not after yesterday’s mess at Monica’s and that last look. “Understandable.” I smile weakly at the nurse. Then I turn, meticulously keeping my eyes on Greg. “Your big bro’s here to take you home, so I’m leaving. I’ll call tomorrow when you’re feeling better, and—”

“Oh, no.” Greg looks at me like I’m pouring liquid glue on a brown pelican. “You can’t leave. That’d be awful!”


“You have to come!”

“I suggest you do what he says,” the nurse tells me. “His tooth was abscessing. They pumped him full.”

“Greg, I—”

“Come on, Elsie. I’ll pay the usual rate—”

“No. No, no, I—” Shit. Shit. I chance a look at Jack, expecting to see . . . I don’t know. A sneer of disgust. The usual smirk. A SWAT team barging from behind him to handcuff me for solicitation. But he’s waiting patiently, hands in the pockets of his jeans, the dark blue of his shirt pulling out the color in his eye. He’s not wearing a coat, because he’s physically unable to feel cold. Born without thermoreceptors—a tragedy. “Sure. I’ll come for a bit. Let’s go, Greg.” I turn to the nurse, whose interest perked up at usual rate. “Is there anything we should know?”

“Here are his meds—starting tomorrow morning. Just put him to bed to sleep the drugs off. And don’t let him make any major life decisions for the next four to six hours— no puppy adoption, no MLMs. Also, I googled it: quinoa’s a seed.” Greg gasps. “We should get a puppy!” Jack presses his lips together, but the dimple is right there. “My car’s this way. I’ll drive you to the humane society.” Buckling Greg up in the back seat of Jack’s hybrid SUV takes so long, I contemplate never having kids. As the other not-under-the-influence adult, I’m probably expected to ride in the passenger seat next to Jack, but . . .


“I’ll sit in the back in case Greg needs anything.”

Jack’s look clearly says, I know you’re avoiding me, because of course he does. He knows everything—and what he doesn’t know is his for the taking, because I’m translucent. Fun.

I realize how bad an idea this was twenty seconds into the ride: whatever they gave Greg is messing with his working memory. He’s able to focus only on what’s right in front of his eyes, and catastrophically, 70 percent of his field of view happens to be me.

The other 30 is, of course, Jack.

“You guys, this is fun. Is it not fun? Just the three of us. No Mom, no Dad, no Uncle Paul.”

“Very fun,” Jack says, navigating out of the lot.

Love, Theoretically will be released on June 20, 2023, from Berkley, but you can pre-order it right now. 

Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.

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