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About The Book

Sparks fly when a romance novelist and a documentary filmmaker join forces to craft the perfect Hollywood love story and take both of their careers to the next level—but only if they can keep the chemistry between them from taking the whole thing off script—from the New York Times bestselling authors of The Soulmate Equation and The Unhoneymooners.

Felicity “Fizzy” Chen is lost. Sure, she’s got an incredible career as a beloved romance novelist with a slew of bestsellers under her belt, but when she’s asked to give a commencement address, it hits her: she hasn’t been practicing what she’s preached.

Fizzy hasn’t ever really been in love. Lust? Definitely. But that swoon-worthy, can’t-stop-thinking-about-him, all-encompassing feeling? Nope. Nothing. What happens when the optimism she’s spent her career encouraging in readers starts to feel like a lie?

Connor Prince, documentary filmmaker and single father, loves his work in large part because it allows him to live near his daughter. But when his profit-minded boss orders him to create a reality TV show, putting his job on the line, Connor is out of his element. Desperate to find his romantic lead, a chance run-in with an exasperated Fizzy offers Connor the perfect solution. What if he could show the queen of romance herself falling head-over-heels for all the world to see? Fizzy gives him a hard pass—unless he agrees to her list of demands. When he says yes, and production on The True Love Experiment begins, Connor wonders if that perfect match will ever be in the cue cards for him, too.

The True Love Experiment is the book fans have been waiting for ever since Fizzy’s debut in the New York Times bestselling The Soulmate Equation. But when the lights come on and all eyes are on her, it turns out the happily ever after Fizzy had all but given up on might lie just behind the camera.


Chapter One: Fizzy

Approximately one year later

If you aren’t deep in a daydream about the hot bartender, then you have no good excuse for not reacting to what I just said.”

I blink up across the table at my best friend, Jess, and realize I’ve been essentially hypnotizing myself by stirring the olive in my martini around and around and around.

“Shit, I’m sorry. I spaced out. Tell me again.”

“No.” She lifts her wineglass primly. “Now you must guess.”

“Guess what you have planned for your trip to Costa Rica?”

She nods, taking a sip.

I stare flatly at her. She and her husband, the aforementioned River Peña, seem to be connected constantly by a vibrating, sexy laser beam. The answer here is very obvious. “Sex on every flat surface of the hotel room.”

“A given.”

“Running with wildcats?”

Jess stills with her glass partway to her lips. “It’s interesting that you would go there as your second guess. No.”

“A tree house picnic?”

She is immediately repulsed. “Eating with spiders? Hard pass.”

“Surfing on the backs of turtles?”

“Deeply unethical.”

Guiltily, I wince over at her. Even my Jess-Fizzy banter well has run dry. “Okay. I got nothing.”

She studies me for a beat before saying, “Sloths. We’re going to a sloth sanctuary.”

I let out a gasp of jealousy and drum up some real energy to effuse over how amazing this trip will be, but Jess just reaches across the bar table and rests her hand over mine, quieting me. “Fizzy.”

I look down at my half-finished martini to avoid her concerned maternal gaze. Jess’s Mom Face has a way of immediately making me feel the need to handwrite an apology, no matter what I’ve just been caught doing.

“Jessica,” I mumble in response.

“What’s happening right now?”

“What do you mean?” I ask, knowing exactly what she means.

“The whole vibe.” She holds up her wineglass with her free hand. “I ordered wine from Choda Vineyards and you didn’t make a joke about short, chubby grapes.”

I grimace. I didn’t even catch it. “I admit that was a wasted opportunity.”

“The bartender has been staring at you since we got here and you haven’t AirDropped him your contact info.”

I shrug. “He has lines shaved into his eyebrow.”

As these words leave my lips, our eyes meet in shock. Jess’s voice is a dramatic whisper: “Are you actually being…?”

Picky?” I finish in a gasp.

Her smile softens the worry lingering in her eyes. “There she is.” With one final squeeze to my fingers, she releases my hand, leaning back. “Rough day?”

“Just a lot of thinking,” I admit. “Or overthinking.”

“You saw Kim today, I take it?”

Kim, my therapist for the past ten months and the woman who I hope will help me crack the code to writing, dating, feeling like myself again. Kim, who hears all my angst about love and relationships and inspiration because I really, truly do not want to drop the depth of my stress in Jess’s lap (she and River are still relative newlyweds), or my sister Alice’s lap (she is pregnant and already fed up with her overprotective obstetrician husband), or my mother’s lap (she is already overly invested in my relationship status; I don’t want to send her to therapy, too).

In the past, when I’ve felt discontentment like this, I knew it would ebb with time. Life has ups and downs; happiness isn’t a constant or a given. But this feeling has lasted nearly a year. It’s a cynicism that now seems permanently carved into my outlook. I used to spend my life writing love stories and carrying the boundless optimism that my own love story would begin on the next page, but what if that optimism has left me for good? What if I’ve run out of pages?

“I did see Kim,” I say. “And she gave me homework.” I pull a little Moleskine notebook from my purse and wave it limply. For years, these colorful journals were my constant companions. I took one everywhere I went, writing book plots, snippets of funny conversations, images that would pop into my head at random times. I called them my idea notebooks and used to scribble things down twenty, thirty, forty times a day. These scribbles were my deep well of ideas. For a few months after my romance brain came to a screeching halt in front of a thousand fresh college grads, I continued carrying one around in hopes inspiration would strike. But eventually, seeing it there in my purse stressed me out, so I left them in my home office, collecting dust with my laptop and desktop. “Kim told me I need to start carrying notebooks again,” I tell Jess. “That I’m ready for the gentle pressure of having one with me, and even writing a single sentence or drawing a doodle in it will help.”

She takes a second to absorb this. The phrase even writing a single sentence hangs between us. “I knew you’d been in a slump,” she says, “but I don’t think I realized how bad it was.”

“Well, it doesn’t happen all at once. For a while, I wrote, but it wasn’t very good. And then I started to worry it was actually pretty terrible, and that made me think I’d lost my spark. And then thinking I’d lost my spark made me think maybe it was because I’d stopped believing in love.”

Her frown deepens, and I press on. “It isn’t like I woke up one day and thought, Wow, love is a lie.” I stab the olive in my drink, then use the toothpick to point in her direction. “Obviously you’re proof that it’s not. But at what point do I acknowledge that maybe my love life isn’t going to be what I think it is?”


“I think I might have aged out of the majors.”

What? That is—” She blinks, her argument dying on her tongue. “Well, that is actually a very good metaphor.”

“It’s the classic chicken-and-egg dilemma: Has the writer’s block killed my romance boner, or has losing my romance boner killed my actual boner?”

“There are a lot of boners in this situation.”

“If only! And once you’re single for so long, you aren’t even sure whether you’re suitable for a relationship anymore.”

“It’s not like you’ve wanted to be in one,” she reminds me. “I don’t know who Felicity Chen is if she’s not treating dating like it’s an extreme sport.”

I point at her again, energized. “Exactly! That’s another fear I have! What if I’ve depleted the local resources?”

“Local… resources?”

“I joke that I’ve dated every single man in San Diego County—and inadvertently some of the married ones—but I don’t really think it’s that far off from the truth.”

Jess scoffs into her wine. “Come on.”

“Remember Leon? The guy I met when he spilled a huge tray of Greek salad on my foot in the Whole Foods parking lot?”

She nods, swallowing a sip. “The guy from Santa Fe?”

“And remember Nathan, who I met on a blind date?”

She squints. “I think I remember hearing that name.”

“They’re brothers. Twins. Moved out here together to be closer to family. I went out with them two weeks apart.” Jess claps a hand to her mouth, stifling a laugh. “When Nathan walked into the restaurant and approached the table, I said, ‘Oh my God, what are you doing here?’?”

Her laugh breaks free. “I’m sure he and Leon get that all the time, though.”

“Sure, but then I went out with a guy last month named Hector.” I pause to underscore the weight of what I’m going to say next. “He’s the cousin the twins moved here to be closer to.”

To her credit, this laugh is more of a groan. This shit used to be funny. It used to crack us both up—and dating like this was a blast. The Adventures of Fizzy used to give me unending inspiration—even if a date went terribly, I could still play it for comedy or even just a tiny spark of an idea for dialogue. But at this point, I have six books partially written that get just past the meet-cute and then… nothing. There’s a roadblock on the way to the “I love you” now, a NO ACCESS sign in my brain. I’m starting to understand why. Because when I see Jess light up every time River walks into the room, I must admit that I’ve never shared that kind of reverberating joy with anyone. It’s made it increasingly difficult to write about love authentically.

I’m not sure I even know what real love feels like.

Jess’s phone vibrates on the table. “It’s Juno,” she says, meaning her ten-year-old daughter, my second-in-line bestie and one of the most charming small humans I’ve ever met. Kids are mostly a mystery to me, but Juno somehow translates in my brain like an adult would—probably because she’s smarter than I am.

I motion for Jess to take the call just as my gaze locks with that of a man across the bar. He’s gorgeous in such an easy and immediate way: messy dark hair falling into a pair of light, penetrating eyes, jaw so sharp he could slice my clothes off as he kisses down my body. Suit coat tossed over a chair, dress shirt stretched across broad shoulders and unbuttoned at the neck—he’s got the disheveled appearance of a man who’s had a shitty day, and the famished look in his gaze that says he’d use me to forget all about it. Men who deliver that kind of eye contact used to be my catnip. Past Fizzy would already be halfway across the room.

But Present Fizzy is decidedly meh. Is my internal horny barometer really broken? I tap it with a mental reflex hammer, imagining pulling that Hot CEO from his barstool and dragging him by that open collar into the hallway.


Look at his mouth! So full! So cocky!

Still nothing.

I tear my attention away and turn back to Jess as she ends her call. “Everything okay?”

“Coordinating dance and soccer,” she says with a shrug. “I’d elaborate, but we’d both be asleep by sentence two. But back to Hector, the cousin of—”

“I didn’t sleep with any of them,” I blurt. “I haven’t slept with anyone in a year.” I did the math a couple of days ago. It feels weird to say it out loud.

It must be weird to hear it, too, because Jess gapes at me. “Wow.”

“Lots of people don’t have sex for a year!” I protest. “Is it really that shocking?”

“For you, yes, Fizzy. Are you kidding?”

“I watched porn the other night and there was barely a clench.” I look down at my lap. “I think my pants feelings are broken.”

Her concern intensifies. “Fizz, honey, I—”

“Last week I considered going jogging in flip-flops just to remind myself how sex sounds.” Jess’s forehead creases in worry and I deflect immediately. “The answer here is obvious. It’s time for bangs.”

There’s a tiny beat where I can see her considering battling this redirect, but thankfully she hops on this new train. “We have a strict agreement that no crisis bangs will be approved. I’m sorry, it’s a no from the best friend committee.”

“But imagine how youthful I’ll look. Quirky and up for anything.”


I growl and turn my attention to the side, to the bar television, where the previous sportsball contest has ended and the local news is reeling through the headlines. I point to the screen. “Your husband’s face is on TV.”

She sips her wine, staring up at two-dimensional River. “That will never stop being weird.”

“The husband part, or the TV part?”

She laughs. “TV.”

And I see it all over her face: the husband part feels as natural as breathing. That’s because science, specifically River’s own invention—a DNA test that categorizes couples into Base, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Titanium, and Diamond love matches according to all kinds of complicated genetic patterns and personality tests—essentially told them they’re as compatible as is humanly possible.

And I’m more than happy to take credit. Jess wasn’t even going to try the test that matched them—the DNADuo—until I shoved an early version of it into her hands. Where are my rightfully earned karma points for that? River turned his decade-long research on genetic patterns and romantic compatibility into the app and billion-dollar company GeneticAlly. Now GeneticAlly is biotech’s and the online dating industry’s gold-star darling. River’s company has been all over the news since it launched.

It’s a lot of blah-blah-yapping-hand when he gets really sciencey about it, but it really has changed the way people find love. Since the DNADuo launched about three years ago, it’s even overtaken Tinder in number of users. Some analysts expect its stock to surpass Facebook’s now that the associated social media feed app, Paired, has launched. Everyone knows someone who’s been matched through GeneticAlly.

All this is amazing, but for someone like River, who prefers to spend his days facing a fume hood rather than leading investor meetings or fielding questions from reporters, I think the frenzy has been a drag.

But, as the nightly news is reminding us, GeneticAlly isn’t River’s problem for much longer. The company is being acquired.

“When does the deal close?” I ask.

Jess swallows a sip of wine, eyes still on the television. “Expected Monday morning.”

I really can’t fathom this. The GeneticAlly board has accepted an offer, and there are all kinds of subrights deals happening that I don’t even understand. What I do comprehend is that they’re going to be so rich, Jess is absolutely paying for drinks tonight.

“How are you feeling about it?”

She laughs. “I feel completely unprepared for what life looks like from now on.”

I stare at her, deciphering the simplicity of this sentence. And then I reach across the table and take her hand, fog clearing. Her right wrist has the other half of my drunken, misspelled Fleetwood Mac tattoo: Thunner only happens and wen it’s raining forever binding us together. “I love you,” I say, serious now. “And I’m here to help you spend your giraffe money.”

“I’d rather have an alpaca.”

“Dream bigger, Peña. Get two alpacas.”

Jess grins at me, and her smile fades. She squeezes my hand. “You know the old Fizzy will come back, right?” she asks. “I think you’re just facing a transition, and figuring that out will take time.”

I glance across the bar at the disheveled hot guy again. I search my blood for some vibration, or even the mildest flutter. Nothing. Tearing my eyes away, I exhale slowly. “I hope you’re right.”

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The True Love Experiment includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book


Felicity “Fizzy” Chen is lost. Sure, she’s got an incredible career as a beloved romance novelist, but when she’s asked to give a commencement address, it hits her: she hasn’t ever really been in love. Meanwhile, Connor Prince, documentary filmmaker and single father, loves his work in large part because it allows him to live near his daughter. When his profit-minded boss orders him to create a reality TV show, putting his job on the line, Connor is desperate to find his romantic lead.

A chance run-in with an exasperated Fizzy offers Connor the perfect solution. What if he could show the queen of romance herself falling head over heels for all the world to see? Fizzy quickly picks up on his disdain for her genre and gives him a hard pass . . . unless he agrees to cast the contestants according to a list of romance archetypes. When production on The True Love Experiment begins, both Connor and Fizzy start to wonder if happily ever after might just lie behind the camera.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. At the beginning of the story, Fizzy and Connor take notice of each other for the first time across a bar. As romance readers, discuss your thoughts on the idea of love at first sight. Is it possible? Is it simply lust? Does fate come into play? Can two people have a true connection without ever speaking?

2. Jess and Ash, Fizzy’s and Connor’s best friends, are important support systems for both main characters as their stories unfold. At what moments can you see where Jess and Ash push their friends forward, or try to pull them back? How do you think Fizzy’s and Connor’s stories would have been different if not for their friends?

3. Fizzy’s biggest demand when signing on to the dating show was casting the contestants by romance archetypes. Discuss your opinions of this stipulation. If you had to do the same, what archetypes would you ask for?

4. Fizzy has a strong personality from the start. Discuss your initial reactions to her character and how your interpretation of her may have changed from the beginning of the story to the end.

5. How does introducing these hero archetypes influence the way Fizzy—or the reader—perceives Connor? Does he fit into any of these categories?

6. As a romance writer, Fizzy has created all kinds of romance tropes within her stories. Discuss what trope(s) are present in Fizzy and Connor’s story. Is there a trope that was missing that you would have liked to see?

7. Both on and off set, Fizzy and Connor find themselves in TV-worthy moments. What was your favorite interaction between the two of them and why?

8. Throughout the book, Fizzy mentioned combatting the stigma surrounding romance as a genre. As romance readers, have you ever come across this judgment? Have you ever felt judged—or judged yourself—for enjoying romance novels? Discuss your experiences and how you combat any negativity.

9. Fizzy claimed that a deal breaker in her past relationship with one of the heroes, Evan, was a horrible tattoo. Would this be a deal breaker for you? Discuss what other nonstarters you may have seen both in the story and in real life.

10. Fear is a central theme throughout the book. From the fear of never finding love to the fear of losing the life you have built to the fear of taking risks, the characters of The True Love Experiment are combating this emotion at every turn. Discuss how you think fear impacted Fizzy and Connor’s story. Did it push them forward, or hold them back?

11. Fizzy partakes in many first dates within The True Love Experiment. What do you think is important for the perfect date? What should you look for when meeting someone for the very first time? What did you think of Fizzy’s priorities while dating the Heroes?

12. Some of the most impactful relationships in the story are between Connor, his ex-wife, and his daughter. Discuss how their nontraditional family structure and dynamic may have affected Connor’s story line.

13. If you had to describe Fizzy and Connor in three words each, what words would you choose and why?

14. Fizzy’s close and meaningful relationship to her fans and the romance reader community comes up throughout the book. Discuss the importance of this community and your experiences as romance readers. Do you relate to this dynamic within the book?

15. If you were the lead on the show The True Love Experiment, who would you have picked as your winning Hero and why?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. One thing Connor’s boss was right about is the popularity of reality TV dating shows. With dozens of options streaming today, there is one for everyone. However, if you were tasked with creating a new dating show for the masses, what would your pitch be? In small groups, or individually, create your own dating show pitches and share with the group. May the best producer win . . .

2. Fizzy is always down for some fun, and what could be more entertaining than party games? Gather your group and play Kiss, Marry, Kill with the characters of The True Love Experiment.

3. If you were invited to give a commencement address at your alma mater, what advice would you want to give future generations? Sit down with your group and take turns discussing the best life advice you’ve got to offer. You never know who might need it!

About The Author

Photograph by Brystan Studios

Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of longtime writing partners and best friends Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, the New York TimesUSA TODAY, and #1 internationally bestselling authors of the Beautiful and Wild Seasons series, Dating You / Hating You, Autoboyography, Love and Other Words, Roomies, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, My Favorite Half-Night StandThe UnhoneymoonersTwice in a Blue Moon, The Soulmate Equation, Something Wilder, and The True Love Experiment. You can find them online at and @ChristinaLauren on Instagram or Twitter.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (May 16, 2023)
  • Length: 416 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982173432

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Raves and Reviews

"Another winning romance from Lauren, full of big laughs, a few tears, and some seriously steamy scenes."

– - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"The authors gleefully play with romance tropes, blending the delight of the meet cute with smart critiques of more toxic dating habits and wrapping the whole in clever dialogue and refreshing sex-positivity. Readers will have no trouble rooting for Fizzy."

– -Publishers Weekly

“The True Love Experiment is my favorite kind of book to devour: something that manages to be hot and intense, yet still the very best comfort food. The divine Christina Lauren has created the ultimate reality dating show, and like all its fictional viewers, you’ll fall for Fizzy.”

– - Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author of MAD HONEY

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