(2021) Christina Lauren, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk, 360pp, ISBN 978-0-349-42689-1
The blurb describes The Soulmate Equation as: “a sexy, science-filled, and surprising romance full of warmth and wit”. I would agree with this, except perhaps the ‘surprising’ bit. There are no real surprises here: it’s a rom-com: albeit one with 21st century stats and algorithms.
The protagonist is Jess Davis, a statistician and a single mum. She has a wacky best friend – Fizzy – and the two of them decide to sign up with a matchmaking company called GeneticAlly. This is no ordinary dating company though. They promise to find your perfect match using a DNA equation, a process that they have tested on 140,000 people and fully validated on nearly 20,000 couples. At the lower end of the scale, a score of 25-50 provides a Silver match (a relationship that’ll probably last about 2 years). However, at the top end of the scale, a score above 90 means a Diamond match: basically a soul-mate for life. So far, GeneticAlly have only found three Diamond match couples. It doesn’t take an algorithm to work out where the story goes next…
I’d say that sexiness outweighs science in this book. Yes, the matchmaking algorithm is about ‘finding a soul-mate based on a set of biological markers’ and there is a lot of ruminating about statistics and compatibility. However, this is all balanced by a steamy, slow-burn relationship where the main characters can’t keep their hands off each other.
Christina Lauren – actually two authors in collaboration- have produced a fun, frothy read, with some plausible stats and science thrown in. The female characters – in particular best friend Fizzy and Juno (Jess’ young daughter) are vivid and witty and help bowl the story forward at an enjoyable pace. There is a Mr Darcy/Elizabeth Bennet vibe between Jess and love interest Dr River Pena (the founder of the matchmaking company). You know the sort of thing: they hate each other at first, then they let their guards down and fall in love…
For me, Dr River Pena was the least convincing character of them all. He lacks any real depth; reminding me of the protagonist from 50 Shades of Grey (all sex and no substance). After a while, you begin to stop caring whether he and Jess get together or not.
The writers are giving us a definite message here about the power of data in our lives, linking it to a fundamental desire for humans to find a partner for life. If you knew that there was a scientifically proven soul-mate for you out there, would you want to meet them by taking a test? And when you found them, would you trust the data, or trust your heart?
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