Release date: 13 June 2023
Narrator: Jorjeana Marie
Tropes: Who hurt you, You’re not like other girls/guys, Workplace romance, STEM romance
Synopsis: Isadora Bentley follows the rules. Isadora Bentley likes things just so. Isadora Bentley believes that happiness is something that flat-out doesn’t exist in her life—and never will.
As a university researcher, Isadora keeps to herself as much as possible. She avoids the students she’s supposed to befriend and mentor. She stays away from her neighbors and lives her own quiet, organized life in her own quiet, organized apartment. And she will never get involved in a romantic relationship again—especially with another academic. It will be just Isadora and her research. Forever.
But on her thirtieth birthday, Isadora does something completely out of character. The young woman who never does anything “on a whim” makes an impulse purchase of a magazine featuring a silly article detailing “Thirty-One Ways to Be Happy”—which includes everything from smiling at strangers to exercising for endorphins to giving in to your chocolate cravings. Isadora decides to create her own secret research project—proving the writer of the ridiculous piece wrong.
As Isadora gets deeper into her research—and meets a handsome professor along the way—she’s stunned to discover that maybe, just maybe, she’s proving herself wrong. Perhaps there’s actually something to this happiness concept, and possibly there’s something to be said for loosening up and letting life take you somewhere . . . happy.
Adding to the latest trend of STEM romcoms that have skyrocketed in popularity, The Happy Life of Isadora Bentley will appeal to those who like low-spice romances with a semi-scientific university setting. Isadora is a researcher and her love interest, Kal, is a psychologist. The two are forced together after a fashion to work on a book—and an experiment—about happiness. Along the way, Isadora meets some endearing characters and lets go of some of her baggage. This one will tug on the heartstrings for sure, but I didn’t feel it had enough power behind it to be very meaningful to me. I know it will cater toward the reading preferences of others, and I recommend it for anyone who likes a good romcom and doesn’t mind the lack of too much spice. Don’t be put off by the Christian fiction categorization if you don’t like reading religious books; this one may be on the Christian fiction shelves, but it doesn’t resemble a religious romance at all. It only mentions prayer very generally about 3-4 times in passing, and none of its themes are Christian. In truth, this one reads quite a bit like Ali Hazelwood but without the spice.
I think the main reason I didn’t really connect with the story lies in the overwhelming amount of telling it does instead of showing. Isadora’s narrative unfolds in first person, a format I’m not overly fond of, and many character interactions were overly explained and not very subtle. The reader doesn’t get to use deduction or draw conclusions from the characters’ situations or surroundings; the narrative tells the reader what is being felt or implied. I really did love the characters and some of the dialogue, however. I just couldn’t get past the amount of exposition.
The narration goes quite well with this book, excepting the voice is a bit juvenile for a 30-year-old woman. I found it very high-pitched, but I eventually got used to it and didn’t notice so much as the book went on. I could also tell when there were edits to the audio because the transitions for some lines were pronounced and jarring.
Overall, 3/5 for both story and narration. I can see how some people would like it very much who love any romance in an academic setting. I found the constant explanatory asides distracting and struggled to stay focused on the book.
My thanks to Libro.fm Harper Collins, and Thomas Nelson for the ALC, for which I willingly give my own, honest opinion.