The Make-Up Test

A Novel

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Pub Date 13 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 27 Sep 2022
St. Martin's Press, St. Martin's Griffin


In this smart, swoony, rom-com debut from Jenny L. Howe The Make-Up Test, two college exes find themselves battling against each other—and their unresolved feelings—for a spot in a prestigious literature Ph.D. program.

Allison Avery loves to win. After acing every academic challenge she’s come up against, she’s finally been accepted into her dream Ph.D. program at Claymore University, studying medieval literature under a professor she’s admired for years. Sure, grad school isn’t easy—the classes are intense, her best friend is drifting away, and her students would rather pull all-nighters than discuss The Knight's Tale—but she’s got this. Until she discovers her ex-boyfriend has also been accepted. Colin Benjamin might be the only person who loves winning more than Allison does, and when they're both assigned to TA for the same professor, the game is on.

What starts as a personal battle of wits (and lit) turns into all-out war when their professor announces a career-changing research trip opportunity—with one spot to fill. Competing with Colin is as natural as breathing, and after he shattered her heart two years ago, Allison refuses to let him come out on top. But when a family emergency and a late-night road trip—plus a very sexy game of Scrabble—throw them together for a weekend, she starts to wonder if they could be stronger on the same team. And if they fall for each other all over again, Allison will have to choose between a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and what could be a twice-in-a-lifetime love.

In this charmingly bookish debut, The Make-Up Test embraces the truth that people can sometimes change and grow, even when you least expect it.

In this smart, swoony, rom-com debut from Jenny L. Howe The Make-Up Test, two college exes find themselves battling against each other—and their unresolved feelings—for a spot in a prestigious...

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ISBN 9781250837868
PRICE $16.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 1158 members

Featured Reviews

Jenny Howe's THE MAKE-UP TEST is the warm, witty, laugh-out-loud delight of my dreams. Allison Avery is whip-smart, heart achingly vulnerable, and permanently residing in my heart. Colin Benjamin is the cardigan clad, self-aware love interest with perfectly mussed hair we all deserve. The academic setting is vibrant and fresh at every corner, the cast wields side-splitting one-liners, the fat and mental health representation deserves a standing ovation, and the themes on family and embracing your path in adulthood are timely and poignant. Howe's words will have you hugging this book and rushing to embroider your favorite lines on a throw pillow. A soon-to-be insta-buy author for all.

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I'm not saying that Jenny L. Howe's The Make-Up Test single-handedly warmed my frozen cynical heart... but I'm not NOT saying that, either? OKAY FINE I SOBBED OVER MY KINDLE AT 1 AM WHEN [REDACTED] SHOWS UP IN [REDACTED] AT THE END IS THAT WHAT YOU ALL WANT TO HEAR? IS IT?
And this is my attempt at writing a serious, professional review instead of just *keyboard smash* —that was my first review draft.

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A fun, smart, heartfelt romcom about graduate students and rivals who eventually realize that their hatred may actually be something else. This book was such a delight to read, featuring a well-rounded cast of characters who are impossible not to fall for. At the same time, it tackles more serious issues of family, acceptance, and love with grace and ease. What a balm in difficult times!

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Allison has wanted to be a medieval lit professor pretty much her whole life, and is starting grad school to fulfill those dreams. But on the first day, she sees the last person she ever expected or wanted to see there: her ex, Colin, who broke her heart in undergrad and sent her into a depressive spiral so bad she almost gave up on those dreams. She hated him then, and she hates him now, and the fact that they're competing for the advisor she's long dreamed of working with only makes matters worse.
But there's something between them still, no matter how hard she tries to convince herself that everything between them is fully in the past. And when she finds out her sort-of-estranged father is in the hospital, Colin offers to drive her the four hours to go see him, showing, yet again, that he might not be the same person he was two years ago.

I've been looking forward to reading this book since I first heard about it, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. I'm used to romance books-- especially enemies/rivals-to-lovers-- being dual POV, but I LOVED that The Make-Up Test is only from Allison's perspective. It took me on a journey of hating Colin, to slowly getting to like and love him, to absolutely despising him (I genuinely thought there was no way I could root for an HEA at one point, but I was so very wrong), to circling back to liking him. A dual POV would have shown his motivations from the beginning, which would have created a different type of tension, but this was absolutely perfect.
The struggles of academia, the fraught family situations, the friendships that grow and change over the course of the book, and a casually fat MC who loves herself gets her HEA without ever having to prove she deserves it, all combined into a truly beautiful book that I am so excited for more people to get to read.

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The Make-Up Test is a sexy, cerebral, slow-burning second chance romance. Jenny Howe's writing is lovely and sharp, and she balances humor and romance with difficult topics like familial guilt and the natural transitions that longtime friendships pass through. Allison's wound from Colin seems so soul-deep that it's hard to imagine how they will have their HEA, but the book delivers. I loved the inclusion of PMDD and the way Jenny writes body positivity, and the way Colin so obviously loves Allison's mind as much as he loves the rest of her. The through-thread of academia and nerdy literary references are abundant but never bog down the story. It's hard to believe this is a debut!

I really, really hope we get some bonus content from Colin's POV someday. I would love to get inside his (perfectly coiffed) head.

Disclosure and appreciation: Jenny and I are friends on social media. Thank you St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the early read.

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Jenny L. Howe did such a wonderful job on her newest, sweetest debut novel!
I would give this book a million stars if I were able to.

Two college exes, find themselves battling against each other—and their unresolved feelings—for a spot in a prestigious literature Ph.D. program.
What more could I ask for?

The Make-Up Test is A fun, engrossing romcom that caught my attention from the very beginning.
Jenny L. Howe's writing is fun, and fresh, and I fell in love with this story and its characters right away. 
Fun to read, engaging, with some laugh youth loud moments and very descriptive imagery made it feel like it was cinematic.
Not only did the author bring in a refreshing story, she created likable, relatable characters. Who I absolutely adored!
Jenny created absolute magic here.
A masterful romance. And from the first chapter I couldn’t put it down. I honestly didn't want to.
It was easy to feel every emotion that came from these characters.
A true gem. The Make-Up Test has climbed right up to the top of my favourite romance books.
I can't wait to read On the Plus Side.
This is an author to watch for. She is coming full force and I can't wait to see where she goes!

“I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.”

St. Martin's Griffin,
Oh how I love you! Thank you for this amazing widget!
Thank You for your generosity and gifting me a copy of this amazing eARC!
I will post my review to my platforms, blog, B&N and Waterstone closer to pub date.

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Allison and Colin used to date in undergrad, but he dumped her after beating her for a prestigious award. They reconnect in their PhD program about medieval literature as they compete for the spot of advisee to their teacher.

This book was so good! I’m a sucker for confident fat main characters and second chance romances and this gave me all of that. I instantly fell in love with Colin (I know we were supposed to hate him but him and his cardigans and cat themed undergarments were so dang endearing) and I think the relationship between them was tense and flirty and fun. I devoured this book in less than a day, which always lends itself to being a highly rated book.

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I'm not saying The Make-Up Test is one of my favorite books of 2022 but.... I'm not NOT saying that. This was so sweet and heartfelt and tender, I really cannot rave about this enough. It sucker punched me and I'm worried I'll never quite recover from the emotions I felt when [redacted for spoilers, read the book so you know what I"m talking about!!].

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Content warning: Allison's father is emotionally abusive and fatphobic. The author takes care of Allison, but take care of yourself if these things are triggering for you.

The Make-Up Test by Jenny L. Howe is an excellent romance set in academia. Allison and Colin are in the same cohort in a PhD program. This is a second and even third chance romance. It's lovely, and full of hope that people in their early 20s have. ❤️ There are misunderstandings, hurts, and still so much love.

I received an advance review copy for free from NetGalley, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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The Make-Up Test by Jenny L Howe

I love a good cartoon cover as much as the next gal, but the synopsis moved this book to the top of my TBR queue.

Allison is a self-described plus size woman who has just started her PhD program at her dream school. Life is finally fitting into place when she discovers her ex-boyfriend and rival is competing for the same research position as her. This book is a slow burn with the right amount of spice. It's a second chance and enemies to lovers dream.

As a plus size girl myself, I enjoyed the parallelism to my own life when Allison was discussing her experiences with her weight. Her struggles with school and balancing her own perfectionism had me relating even more with the character. This book definitely goes to the top of my favorites books of all time.

Special thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for the advanced copy of this book. I will definitely be picking this book up in print when it is released in September!

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This was such an amazing read, I’m grateful for NetGalley and St. Martin's Press to giving me a free e-arc. My review is given voluntarily and honestly.

I’d like to start off with expressing how happy I am about having a plus sized character as the main. Now, there’s others out there, but in this book, it wasn’t made a huge deal. Allison was confident with her self image and that was refreshing.

Now to get for the part I love the most, the romance. Colin and Allison’s relationship is furthest from perfect, but watching them struggle with their past and over come challenges together was also refreshing. There is the miscommunication trope, but I feel like it was used in a way where it actually makes sense.

I feel like Jenny L. Howe did well with adding depth to these characters. I was actually able to relate to Allison and even felt really connected to her. My like for Colin changed as Allison’s did. Obviously this is a romance, so I knew it was going to work out in the end, but I found myself agreeing with the main character with her hesitation and worries about him. Yet again, both of their depth was remarkable.

Jenny L. Howe is a great writer and I’ll definitely will be keeping an eye out for her books in the future. I’d also love to see spin offs from the other side characters, like Sophie and Mandy.

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An entertaining contemporary rom-com set in academia. Exes battle it out in the classroom, competing to further their careers in medieval literature. You can tell the author has done loads of research.

This story is a feast for the intellect and the heart. I wanted to crawl into the book so I could attend all these college classes and dive into these discussions about classical texts. I also wanted to hug these swoony, academic nerds with my whole heart. There's positive body rep, complicated family dynamics, laughs, tears, and heat.

Major props for writing star characters that are not mainstream beauties.

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The Make-Up Test is rivals to lovers with a body positivity story. I adored it so much! It was such a good story. Allison and Colin are exes and they assigned to be TA's together in grad school. They have a rough history and do not work together well. When they are forced to work together they battle it out to prove to their professor who's a better fit for the research trip. Colin and Allison soon realized they still have feels for each other and have to choose between love or their dream opportunity. The Make-Up Test was a charming and surprisingly deep read. I couldn't stop reading once I started!

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I knew I was going to love this book within the first chapter. This book has the power to make your heart all warm and fuzzy, even on the coldest of days. Its equally funny as it is spicy, and the characters are so loveable. I love the cover of this book and I can't wait to purchase a physical copy to put on my shelf!

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