A very cute and nerdy friends-to-lovers novella
A best-friends-to-lovers romance between a neurodivergent nerd and a hot firefighter? Yes, please. Ellie is an adorkable genius, a brilliant researcher in biomedical engineering at MIT, whose idea of being social is sitting at the bar in her favourite pub, working on her PhD. When she’s not hogging her barstool in the corner, she’s in her lab watching over liver doing liver stuff, or in the apartment she shares with her sister Riley. Despite being twins, Ellie and Riley couldn’t be more different. Riley is an associate producer at NBC, she’s outgoing and never seems to do anything without her best friend Gianna, an influencer who can get anyone into any party at any time. Both Riley and Gianna look after Ellie without ever being overbearing, which I loved. I wouldn’t mind a spin-off starring them, I must say.
At the beginning of the story, Ellie believes she’s straight. She also believes she doesn’t care much about love and/or sex. Remember, she has liver priorities. Then she meets Mia. Having recently moved from Los Angeles to Massachusetts, Mia is a firefighter. And for the longest time, that’s about all Ellie knows about her, as Mia seems very good at deflecting personal questions. Since the story is told from Ellie’s point of view, the reader is also kept in the dark and Mia remains a mystery, unveiling parts of herself very slowly. While she’s not rushing to open up about her past, she doesn’t hide who she is: kind, passionate, attentive. The perfect best friend for someone like Ellie. Until Ellie realises what she feels for Mia goes way beyond friendship.
Down to a Science is a very cute, very sweet novella. For a Pride read (part of the I Heart Sapphfic Pride Collection), it’s also unexpectedly tragic in parts, but the HEA makes it all better. It’s a very slow burn, with tension mounting all along and both MCs getting in their own way like the absolute useless sapphics they are. I’m not a big fan of the miscommunication trope usually, but Cass writes it very well here.
I wish I could say I loved everything about this book but as I have written in previous reviews of Cass’s books, it could have benefited from better editing. In the version I read, there were a few inconsistencies that, while not too important to the story, were distracting and made me very confused as to the timeline (the author tells me they are fixed in the final version, which is excellent news), as well as superfluous words here and there and a rushed ending. It’s frustrating because, as I’ve written before as well, there’s something about Haley Cass’s writing that really works for me. I love the energy, the earnestness mixed with wit, the angst, the pining, the often steamy chemistry. She’s written characters who keep living in my mind long after I closed the book. She has the potential to make a real difference in sapphic fiction and I would love that for her. And for us, readers, too. 4 stars.