The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan Contemporary Romance April 6, 2021 by Berkley Reviewed by Kate
The Intimacy Experiment is a novel with lots of promise. Unfortunately, I felt that Danan’s sophomore book didn’t quite deliver on the expectations I had.
I’ll start with what did work for me in The Intimacy Experiment. First, the characters. Naomi is a bad-ass boss bitch and Ethan is a cute cinnamon roll and neither of those things was the conflict between the two. I am a big fan of contemporary romances that portray successful women and men who are not intimidated by that success. The lack of conflict around various aspects of Naomi’s history – specifically her bisexuality and past sex work – is also refreshing. Both Naomi and Ethan feel like real people to me. Their backstories are believable and fleshed out and their corresponding baggage made sense.
There are quite a few funny moments that I highlighted as I was reading. Ethan’s sister Leah offered quite a few of those moments, but in a natural, younger sister teasing kind of way. The humor doesn’t feel forced. Also, I really liked the cultural aspects. The scene with Naomi in the kitchen, trying to bake challah for the Shabbat meal prep, the synagogue baseball team, the friendly gatherings after Shabbat services – these ended up being some of my favorite parts of the book, and similar to the humor, there’s a nice flow to them.
Overall my issues with The Intimacy Experiment lie mostly with the plotting. The pacing of the book is strange – there’s a “be my matchmaker moment” of Ethan asking Naomi to help him find a girlfriend, but it doesn’t happen until nearly halfway through the book. Then, it doesn’t really get to play out all the way before it’s quickly dropped for a different plotline, that of Naomi and Ethan mirroring the lecture series with their life.
There are multiple threads that seem to be setting up conflict, such as Naomi’s mother not being Jewish, and Ethan feeling like he abandoned his family after the death of his father. But both of these are mentioned once or twice and then not brought up again – there is no wrap-up to show how these apparent conflicts were resolved.
However, my biggest frustration was with the ending. In the last fifth of the book, there are not one, not two, but three different monologues by our main characters. So much of the emotional work is done through speechifying, and it was honestly such a let down. I wanted to see Naomi and Ethan together working through the conflicts, and instead, I got Naomi or Ethan talking to rooms of people. In one of Naomi’s scenes, Ethan wasn’t even there!
All in all, I did enjoy The Intimacy Experiment up until the last 20% or so, but the ending fell flat for me. I would recommend this book for those who read and enjoyed The Roommate, as long as you know what you’re getting into.
CW: Flashbacks to Naomi’s high school experience include an antisemitic comment, as well as non-consensual sharing of her private photos by an ex-boyfriend (“revenge porn”).