After finding Ali Hazelwood through a recent book club book, I’ve been reading her trio of romantic STEM novellas. Below Zero (2022) is the second novella that I’ve read, and it has what I’ve come to expect from Hazelwood. There’s a smart science-y woman, a hunky hero, friendship, a misunderstanding, and in the end: a happily ever after. This one I listened to on Audiobook.
Hannah has always known that she wants to work at NASA, and that knowledge has motivated her to succeed through a lot of schooling–even when it was dishearteningly difficult. She first meets Ian when one of her teachers forces her to interview “someone in her chosen field” for a class. Ian already works at NASA and worked on the Curiosity rover– a dream job for Hannah.
After she talks Ian into bringing her to his jobsite, they bond while de-bugging code. The attraction is immediate and intense and Hannah pretty quickly decides that she wants to hook up. Hannah’s hooked up with a number of people–men and women–without a problem. But Ian wants dinner and the possibility for something more. Because of Hannah’s past, putting herself out there is out of the question. They part–both a little disappointed.
Years later, Hannah has her Ph.D. and her dream job. She is working at NASA, and she hasn’t forgotten Ian. At first, Ian is on location at a different site, but she’s still eager to see him. But then he vetoes one of her projects. Hannah’s supervisor tells her that Ian vetoed it because he doubted her ability to succeed. She is pissed and yells at him when she runs into him in the stairwell.
Hannah’s supervisor is able to get some alternative money for her project, and despite Ian’s protests, she’s able to go up to the Arctic regions of Norway(?) to test her robot in extreme situations. But bad things happen and Hannah finds herself injured, stuck miles from safety, with a storm coming in. Her supervisor says it’s too dangerous to send help until after the storm. By then Hannah is afraid she’ll be dead. But then she hears Ian over the radio, and he says he’s coming to help her.
Like Hazelwood’s other books, I also enjoyed this one. I appreciated that Hannah is not the stereotypical romantic heroine. My only nitpick is that Ian’s actions were pretty extreme and a little underexplained. ***SPOILER*** Ian doesn’t trust Hannah’s supervisor to keep her safe, so after he can’t stop the project, he takes his vacation while she’s on location. He lurks nearby in a boat waiting for things to go wrong and steps in and saves her when things do. It’s definitely romantic that he saves her, but it’s a crazy amount of action to secretly take before anything even goes wrong. ***END SPOILER***
Anyway, another enjoyable romance by Hazelwood. I’m looking forward to the next one.
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