Exclusive: Christina Lauren's ‘The True Love Experiment’ Excerpt Has Us Running to Our Local Bookstore
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Who doesn't love a Hollywood story? We've all been obsessed with them ever since the beginning of cinema, TV, and fame. But now two of our favorite authors are giving us another reason to be absolutely obsessed.
Christina Lauren, AKA Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, are back with another iconic novel that will make absolutely everyone at the beach—or the set of a reality TV show, if you happen to be filming one this year—jealous. And yes, you're going to want to pick this up ASAP.
Their latest book, The True Love Experiment, will be released on May 16, 2023, and Cosmopolitan has a first look as to what to expect when a romance novelist and a documentary filmmaker have to team up to create the ultimate reality show that we honestly wish was real so we can watch. Thankfully, reading it is the next best thing and Christina Lauren have certainly given us a juicy and fun novel that will feel like the ultimate binge-watch once you're done. And for those who are wondering, yes, this is a follow-up to the amazing The Soulmate Equation, although you don't have to read the last book in case this is your first time jumping in.
If you're already ready for your close-up, then get ready because the official description from Gallery Books will have you even more excited:
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.
Before you run to preorder The True Love Experiment (and maybe even add their other books to your TBR), don’t miss out on an exclusive excerpt, below! And, as a special bonus, you can even click play to follow along with the audiobook!
An Excerpt From The True Love Experiment
By Christina Lauren
An unexpected upside to bringing a Hot DILF to my first signing in months is that readers are much less concerned with when my next book will be published and much more interested in who the giant man lingering in the background is. There were a few murmurs and glances during the Q and A portion of the event, but by the time the signing starts, every person in line is trying to figure out who the six-foot-five piece of ass over there talking to my dad is. I know this because they’re all breaking their necks trying to keep track of him as the line weaves around bookshelves. Several have come right out and asked me. My answers have ranged from “He’s my security detail” to “He’s my mail-order groom.”
Listen, I get it. Catching sight of the Casual DILF on my doorstep earlier caught me off guard. Gone was the man in the starched shirt sitting in a pristine office. This version of Hot Brit looks more like a hot lumberjack, in a soft faded flannel shirt and worn jeans with much-loved sneakers. His hair falls over his forehead; his eyes seem unbelievably bright for someone standing in the dark corner of a bookstore. In One for the Road, I described the eyes of the hero, Jack Sparling, this way—“illuminated from within,” I think it was— but I’ve never really seen it in person.
I’m mentally jerked backward, tunneled in reverse to the moment with Jess a couple months ago in the bar when I looked across the room and met eyes with the man in the suit, rumpled hair, jaw like a blade. He’d looked at me like he wanted to meet in the hallway and fuck me into next month.
Is this really the same guy? I can’t believe all this was hiding under that stiff, gelled hair, a bright toothpaste-ad smile, and a crisp black suit.
I look down at my lap, daring the flutter to linger. But it fades out, and I’m dropped back into the present day when the reader in front of me asks me if I’m okay.
“Gas,” I tell her with a grin, and she laughs a familiar oh, Fizzy laugh and takes her signed books. But I’m still feeling the echo of in- terest in my lower torso. Was the pants flutter because I was think- ing about Jack Sparling? His sex scenes were some of the most fun to write, that dirty little rascal.
Or was it . . . from him? Intrigued, I look up across the room at Connor again.
He’s so taken with my dad he’s barely seemed to register how much mental salivation is being aimed in his direction. I knew he’d get along with the unstoppable Dr. Ming Chen. My father is an objectively charismatic man with a million stories for every situation and has the most infectious laugh you’ve ever heard in your lifetime—it’s this sort of bursting belly laugh that honestly should be recorded and trademarked as Happiness™. But what surprises me is how much talking Connor seems to be doing. I don’t see Dad waxing poetic, telling jokes, doing all the heavy conversational lifting. When I glance over in tiny, furtive glimpses, I see Connor doing much of the chitchatting and Dad is cracking up. Almost like Connor’s got stories.
Almost like he’s . . . interesting.
He’s also grinning, and the way it exaggerates the lines around his eyes and softens the angles of his face makes a flutter happen up near my chest, too.
But the heart flutter is doused by a cool, reactive flush spreading across my skin, panicky and jarring. Wait, my brain screeches. I don’t want to actually like him.
“Who is that guy over there with Papa Chen?” a reader asks, and slides an impressive stack of books onto the tabletop. A quick inspection tells me the only ones she’s missing are from the High Seas series, which, honestly, is full of fantastically filthy pirates, and it is a truth universally acknowledged that pirates are not for everyone. I won’t hold it against her.
“He’s my dad’s new boyfriend,” I answer, and this earns me another oh, Fizzy laugh, especially because Dad chose this moment to come kiss my cheek and tell me he’s heading home. Clearly, if he heard me announce that he has a new boyfriend, he knows to ignore it. He gets an enthusiastic burst of applause as he ducks out of the bookstore.
“Who is he really?” the reader prods, leaning down so I can confide in her.
We haven’t announced anything about the show yet, so it’s not like I can tell her specifics. But saying he’s a friend would raise too many eyebrows.
“He’s on the publishing team.” I give an apologetic wince like I know she wants a juicier answer. But the time it takes to make my way through her stack of books gives me the perfect opportunity to work past my weird ew, emotions moment.
This is good, actually, I tell myself, signing my name with a flourish. This isn’t about emotions! You’re just experiencing a long overdue Fizzgina reawakening. You need to get the flutters back if you’re going to have any success on this show. You need to get the flutters back if you have any hopes of writing romance again! It’s okay that Connor is good-looking. The fact that you notice means you’re one step closer to being back to the old Fizzy!
The pep talk works. When I hand the hefty stack back to the woman, I feel the twinkle of a real smile in my eyes.
I find Connor after the crowd has thinned, standing alone in the horror section, awestruck as he turns a gilded hardcover over in his hands. He looks like he’s about to lick it.
“Do we need to run a DNA compatibility test between you and that special edition of ’Salem’s Lot?”
“I didn’t know they released this,” he says, running a long finger down the spine. “This was one of the first books I can remember being unable to put down. This edition is gorgeous.”
Why is it so sexy when he says gorgeous like that? Like he’s staring down at a lover, overcome? I was hoping the power of his at-tractiveness would lessen, up close—bad skin, weird odor, yellowed teeth that I’d somehow missed—but I’m irritated to discover that none of those things are true. He smells like yummy man and the trace of whatever deodorant he’s wearing. I bet it’s called Ice Zone or Sports Hero or Silver Blade, and I’m disgusted with myself for liking it. I can’t even locate the Hot Millionaire Executive archetype in Connor anymore. He is all soft and brawny. Soft Lumberjack is his new name. Why does he ever approach that head of hair with even a drop of gel? I might have to take one for the team and pretend I know him well enough to advise him on styling.
I wonder idly, on a scale of Get It Girl to Only If You Never Want to Work Again, how bad it would be to sleep with my reality romance show producer. Get back on the horse and whatnot.
Squeezing my eyes closed, I do a hard mental reboot. I’m glad to see the old Fizzy rearing her head, but she’s a bossy one, and even I know that hooking up with Connor Prince III would be not only professionally brainless but probably astonishingly mediocre. It would have to be, right? His hot lumberjack vibe today is likely a one-off while his suits and Lego hair are at the cleaners. My first sex after the dry spell should leave me walking with a limp and recuperating for an entire weekend with a giant bottle of Gatorade and Nancy Meyers movies for company.
“Why are you staring at me like that?”
“Like what?” I ask, immediately swapping out whatever my expression was doing for a relaxed smile.
He frowns, his gaze doing a brief circuit of my face, searching for whatever he saw a moment ago. “Never mind.”
Redirect time: “Did you have fun today?”
“I did,” he admits. “You’re funny. Your readers are so enthusiastic. I can tell you genuinely love being with them.”
He’s right, and in hindsight I’m annoyed with myself for being so nervous on the way over here. Sweaty palms, bursting, too-loud answers to his polite questions in the car, overexplaining as we entered the bookstore. Connor was calm and easy at my side, this steady, sturdy presence to my jittery stress. But the second the room filled, my pulse slowed and I came home.
“Romance readers are my absolute favorite brand of human.” I grin at him. “You see how much they love what they love. They show up—it’s a Monday, and see how many decided to leave their houses and fight traffic, maybe find child care, just to come here?” I gesture to the now-empty bookstore. “You had everyone here tonight. Homemakers, attorneys, hourly employees, scientists, retirees, students.”
He whistles, looking back at the checkout counter as if remembering. “I saw someone with two copies of every one of your books.” “And I’ve signed those three times before, but she still shows up for every local event to say hi and get them signed again.”
“She didn’t buy a book?”
“She bought one tonight, but not one of mine.” Off his surprised expression, I add, “Fangirls show up, Connor. Those are my people.”
He nods, studying me. “I’m seeing that.”
With a smile, I say, “I’m glad you took a break from flirting with my dad to study your show’s demographic.”
Connor’s energy dials up a few notches. “I did, but it was hard. Your dad is great.”
“He’s literally the cutest human to ever exist.”
“By the way, I didn’t realize you hadn’t told him about the show yet. Hope I didn’t make that weird for you with your parents.”
“No, I was completely using you as a shield.”
He gives me a mock-stern look that I like more than I should.
“He was into it,” Connor says. “But he said he’s not telling your mum.”
Connor laughs. “We need to find a way to get him on.”
A cold flush spreads down my arms. “On—on the dating show? My dad?”
He nods, thinking it over. “Family visits with the final contestants, maybe.”
My stomach tilts. “Whew, that’s . . .” I’m about to say that’s terrifying, because just the idea of bringing multiple men over to my mother’s house for her to inspect makes me want to roll into traffic. But for the first time since we started talking about this, there’s a light in Connor’s eyes that looks genuine, and if hanging with Papa Chen did that for him, who am I to pour water on the fire? “That’s a great idea,” I say with a limp smile.
Connor laughs. “Don’t worry, we’ll figure it all out. Right now, we’re just suggesting loads of things to see what sounds right.”
Adrenaline seems to dissipate all at once from my bloodstream and I lean against a shelf, exhaling slowly. Signings are the strang- est paradox: the most energizing, fulfilling experience, but also the most exhausting. I want everyone who comes to the table to feel like the most important person in my life, because for those handfuls of minutes, they are. But keeping that energy up can be draining. Add to that the stress about not knowing whether I’ll ever release another book and I’m absolutely wiped.
I press the heels of my hands to my eyes and feel him lean in. “You okay?”
Taking a deep, steadying breath, I— Shit. I really, really like the smell of his Ice Zone Sports Hero Silver Blade deodorant.
“I’m great.” When I drop my hands, light pops into the periphery of my vision. The only tiny hit of adrenaline remaining is the one I get when I stare right up at him, towering over me, soft and lumber- jacky and flashlight-eyed. “But I’m about to be even better.”
I tell myself not to be too interested in the way he flicks one curious eyebrow, saying, “Do tell.”
“If you trust me, then let’s go.”
Excerpted from THE TRUE LOVE EXPERIMENT by Christina Lauren. Copyright © 2023 by Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. Reprinted with permission from Gallery Books. All rights reserved.
The True Love Experiment, by Christina Lauren, will be released on May 16, 2023. To preorder the book, click on the retailer of your choice:
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