With her latest romance novel, “The Chemistry of Love,” author Sariah Wilson takes a much-used trope and makes it unique. She delivers her usual delightful dialogue and characters with intriguing professional positions. In this romcom, the main character, tall, gawky, unsophisticated Anna Ellis is a cosmetic chemist. It’s a career, a niche of science, that most of us never really think about — even those of us who layered on makeup pre-pandemic.
To be honest, at the start of the story, I felt very vindicated in my disbelief that Anna, an intelligent young woman, would fall in love with Craig, the head of her division at a large cosmetic company, simply because he helped her a few years previously. And although he hasn’t spoken to her since that time, she imagines that he is her soulmate and that they are destined to fall in love and live happily ever after. Because she is very much in love with him.
Anna is a quirky character, and Wilson’s plots are filled with characters who are a bit eccentric. Anna loves Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. In fact, there is much allusion to characters and plot lines that will completely go over the heads of those of us who are not fans of those movie series. But even though we might not exactly understand those references and what they signify, we understand enough to have it all make sense. And such references demonstrate clearly that Anna is kind of a nerd. A delightful, brilliant, dedicated scientist, yes, but also a bit strange.
And when Anna quits her job in a grand but useless gesture the very day that her heartthrob, Craig, gets engaged to another woman, another man steps in to comfort her when she drunkenly ends up in the men’s room during a company party. Marco, an incredibly handsome and successful CEO of the cosmetic company, proposes a scheme whereby Anna might get Craig to love her. He explains that Craig, his half-brother, wants what Marco has, so if they pretend that they, Marco and Anna, are dating, Craig will want Anna. He shares that this might also help the company because Leighton, Craig’s fiancee and Marco’s ex-girlfriend, had ulterior motives. Craig and Marco’s father is the owner of the company; Marco is the CEO and Craig is also an executive with the firm.
And we know how it’s all going to end—it’s a romance, right? We know this story line and have seen it before. But Wilson is clever, and in Anna’s passion for developing a new line of makeup with her brilliant ideas, we care about her and the story. We love that Marco is a closet nerd hiding behind a killer set of pecs. Romance novel lovers aren’t usually trying to solve murder mysteries (unless it’s a romantic mystery); they read romances for the fun of meeting the characters, watching their relationship develop, and seeing the couple overcome the obstacles placed in their way. So we are perfectly happy with Wilson taking out old tropes and making them hers by shining a light into little-known professions that are absolutely fascinating. A paid bridesmaid. A seat filler. And now, a cosmetic chemist. I can’t wait to see what new occupation Wilson will come up with next.
Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by Montlake, the publisher, for review purposes.