Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents–who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno–Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.
But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands. At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess–who is barely making ends meet–is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist–and the science behind a soulmate–than she thought.
Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated.
Friends, I am late to the Christina Lauren party and I fully admit it.
I never snubbed romance novels–I have been into them since I was a kid, sitting on the floor and staring up at my mom’s bookshelves full of Harlequin romances, getting in constant trouble for trying to sneak one off the shelf to read at 6 years old.
No, I have never *not* been into romance. My first question is always—
Rather, I have just been SO entrenched in YA the past several years that most adult books have sort of just slipped past me. But last fall, I got an ARC of In a Holidaze and I was DONE for. The minute I was done–I mean the minute I was done, I ordered their entire backlist. Since then, I’ve been slowly making my way through. I don’t want to read them all too fast. I save them for when I need one, and I just *know* when I need one.
But something about the synopsis of The Soulmate Equation made me think this was gonna be the one I didn’t care for. The main character has a kid, something I haven’t yet encountered in the other books of theirs I’ve read, and I thought it was going to be too sciencey, too mathy, too something that just Wasn’t For Me.
Reader, I devoured it.
♥ Jess is a stats wiz and single mom to Juno, who is 7 and prefers nonfiction about animals to storybooks. Jess is VERY “I can do it all myself,” but she does accept help from her tiny village to help Juno. Her grandparents and romance novelist best friend, Fizzy, all take turns with her after school. They even say, only sort of jokingly, that Juno is half Fizzy’s because their personalities are so similar. And this pretty much takes up Jess’ whole world. Could she go on dates, spend time without her kid, do something just for her? Of course, in fact Fizzy and her grandparents are constantly telling her to. But she can’t shake the guilt that comes whenever she isn’t with Juno, but could be.
I am not a parent and will never be a parent, but I suspect this is a shitty, common feeling among most moms and I truly empathize with you. Girls grow up learning that they should feel guilty for the dumbest things, and we carry that through the rest of our lives. A CHALLENGE: go one full day without uttering the word “sorry,” and you will notice how often you say it. I WORK FROM HOME and still say it all day, to the DOGS. “Oh, sorry Maybe, didn’t see you there!” “Eska, I’m sorry, do you want to go outside?” When you’re around actual people it’s even worse. You brush past someone and the fabric of your coats touch? “Oh, sorry!” Need to go through an aisle that someone else is fully blocking? “Sorry, can I just get around here?” Guys it is SO DUMB, we gotta stop doing it. In your heart of hearts you are not actually sorry for any of that shit.
♥ Ahem. Anyway.
It was not Jess’s idea to take the DNADuo test. But she and Fizzy saw River every day at the coffee shop they frequented, and one day they finally spoke. And he was just as much as an arrogant asshole as Jess assumed he would be (but annoyingly hot). He tells them to stop by the office if they really want to know about the company (and Fizzy really wants to know about the company), so they go straight there. Fizzy takes the test right away, but Jess doesn’t plan on it. Until one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, when she takes it on a whim and sends it off, promptly forgetting about it.
Until she gets The Call.
♥ Plotwise from here it’s spoiler city, but I can tell you how much I loved every character! Jess is super into science and math because they make sense to her. She hasn’t had a boyfriend since her daughter was born, and she’s fine with that. Really.
Besides, Fizzy does enough dating for the both of them. And as a bestselling romance novelist, she writes about it too. Fizzy ALWAYS has a notebook with her, and she’s forever jotting down quick ideas that come to her, things other people say, things she says, entire conversations she’s not part of. She is the kind of best friend that everybody needs–a strong constant. Fizzy is always there, and she’s always reminding Jess to do things for herself. She reminds her that the whole point of loving someone is doing things for each other because you want to, not because you have to. She gets truly excited when Jess gives up a night with Juno so that she can have her. She reminds Jess that even though Juno is her kid, she’s also Fizzy’s, and Nana’s, and Pop’s, and they need to spend time with her too. Fizzy is too special, too vivid, too sassy, to not get her own book one day (LOOK AT OTHER REVIEWS I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO THINKS SO).
Pops and Nana are a big part of the story, as they live right across the courtyard and are helping now to raise Juno. Pops takes Juno to the library every Monday after school, and Nana makes family dinners for the four of them. Jess never knew her father, and her mother relinquished custody when she was six years old (I do have empathy for her in this book but also she is complete garbage). Luckily, her grandparents are wonderful people who I just want to hug. It’s never a question for them to help with Juno, or to help Jess with money or anything either of them might need.
Juno…Juno is a very lively little girl. She’s clever, she likes to learn, and she wants a pet danger noodle (please refer to @paigesquared if you don’t know what this is, she will explain. I cannot even say it). She has her little group of friends at school but it equally good with adults. She loves all the adults in her small little village, and when River slowly slips into place she falls in love with him right alongside Jess. He picks her up from school, they have their own handshake and always call each other by their first and middle names. He takes a real interest in her life, the problems with her friends, school projects. Basically, watching River with Juno is just…
…and River. This one is a real enemies to lovers, and it was truly easy to cast River as an enemy in the beginning. It takes him awhile to warm up and come out of his shell, explain things he said and did (like calling her average! It wasn’t actually an insult!). But when he does, we learn what a sweet, nerdy, smart, shy, sexy guy he really is. He may be the founder of this company, but he wasn’t looking for love. So he’s just as shocked as Jess to find out that they’re a match, let alone a match of an unheard of 98%. They don’t like each other much, but they’re willing to at least try to spend some time together because science doesn’t lie. And science is telling them they’re genetically 98% likely to fall in love.
TL;DR: Don’t be turned off by the thought of statistics and science. They talk about it some, but the book is just SO GOOD that you won’t care.
“Did you think of me when you put on that dress?”
“You’ve chosen your circumstances, Jess. I like that about you. You take what you want and leave the rest behind. You decide.”
“I realize that I’m easy to leave, but I was hoping you were better than that.”
I swear to god I get tears in my eyes every time I read that line.
“Destiny could also be choice, she’d realized. To believe or not, to be vulnerable or not, to go all-in or not.”