The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
This book was AWESOME. I'm getting cynical as far as contemporary romance goes--so much of it feels like tropes in a trenchcoat but Hazelwood had me screaming "Hallelujah!" and renewed my faith.
Of the aforementioned tropes, "fake-dating" is one of my least favorite because it always feels so contrived. You're adults. Just date. Pretending to date for external reasons seems childish, but damn did Hazelwood pull it off. Below are some quick thoughts on what I think made this book so strong:
Setting. She had a clearly defined setting in mind--she grounded her work in a world she knew--academia, and it shone. By importing the rules and mores of an insular community, she gave herself an internal structure to work within and that helps her story, giving the characters a stage to walk on that's solid.
Motivation. Her characters had reasons--good ones--for the choices they made. And they weren't simplistic reasons; they were nuanced and filtered through the world she'd set up. I especially loved the MC's reason for fake-dating--to allow her best friend the room to date the guy she wanted without fear of hurting the MCs feelings. It was great, awesome, slightly complicated but perfect.
Use of tropes. She put her own spin on them, which made them better. My personal favorite was her play on "only one bed". Her story was aware of the genre trope and played with it, creating one of the biggest laughs I've ever had in a romance novel. She didn't need "only one bed" to give her characters a reason to get it on, so when they did get it on it was because they wanted to get it on, not because they had an excuse.
POV. Telling the story from the MCs perspective--not going dual, was genius here because it allowed the reader to fill in the gaps. It was a real trust the reader move and it worked.
In short, all the pieces worked together in this book, and it shined.