Pages: 384 •Amazon
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome;
2) A person’s undoing;
3) Joshua Templeman.
Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.
Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.
It was a tortuous two month wait until my library hold of The Hating Game finally arrived. Yes, I had heard all the good things about it, but as a book blogger who has been burned by the hype monster one too many times before, I wanted to try this book out first before I committed to purchasing (especially since I’ve been underwhelmed by romances lately). I was thrilled to have my doubts proven very, very wrong in the best hate-to-love romance story I’ve ever read.
I first knew this book would capture my interest when I heard it was set in a publishing house. Lucy and Josh are both assistants to the co-CEOs of the company, as their companies recently merged together to avoid having to close down. Their animosity begins almost immediately upon their first day working together, and their dislike of each other blooms into almost an obsession, with each being heavily invested in interacting with the other each day (even if they don’t want to admit it to themselves). Throw in a possible promotion for one of them at work and the tension rockets to sky-high levels as they both apply for the position.
I’ll admit that initially Josh and Lucy’s interactions felt like a bit much to me, and I was really wondering how the author was going to steer the narrative from true disdain to a believable romance. However, I think there’s definitely something to be said about the thin line between love and hate, and the palpable animosity between them was perfectly transformed into chemistry and desire. Instead of feeling like the relationship was emotionally abusive with the love to hate trope (which is something that really turns me off to the sub genre to begin with) the narrative uses their mutual dislike in the beginning of the book to really mirror problems they have with each other and with their families, and as a reader I came to understand how these internal frustrations were then turned and evoked on each other, especially as they worked in an isolating environment with no one but each other every day. However, the other side to that same coin is that they grew to know so much about each other even when they viewed the other as their nemesis. It was honestly such an interesting and well done concept, and I loved the emotional depth that went into their relationship throughout the whole book as well as the extensive look into the family background of each character, something not often given in a stand alone, 300 or so page contemporary novel.
Though when I think about the actual timeline of the book I can see how the progression of their relationship seems a bit “insa-lovey,” I think that the months of buildup that readers don’t see makes it believable that their feelings were changed and expressed to each other in the a matter of a few weeks (maybe less? I honestly wasn’t even paying that much attention to the number of days, it may have even been just a week). I loved the scenarios that truly showed how much they cared for each other beyond surface level reasons (such as when Josh took care of Lucy when she was so sick with an absolutely debilitating stomach bug. I’ve had my share of food poisoning/stomach flus and it definitely wears your body and soul down to its barest form. If someone stays with you through that then they are a REAL keeper).
Brute, raw masculinity contrasted with gentleness is the most attractive thing on earth. -Page 331, Kindle Edition
The real bottom line of why I loved this book, however, is that it legitimately made me swoon. It made me excited to pick up again, it made me invested in the outcome of the characters’ courtship, it kept me up reading way past my bedtime (only-got-four-hours-of-sleep-and-had-to-go-to-work-the-next-day past my bedtime). The chemistry was tanglible and believable, and I was rotting for BOTH parties involved, instead of just wanting Josh as a book boyfriend for myself and rolling my eyes at the female protagonist (I personally and deeply identified with Lucy in many ways due to the fact that we are both members of the extremely-petite-girl club). The animosity and snark was always balanced at just the right moment with vulnerability and sincerity and it’s incredible to me that this was a debut novel because the author just GETS how to write two characters who go together.
Overall: I haven’t read a romance that made me want to shove a book into everyone’s hands since ACOMAF, but The Hating Game has me gushing and flailing and believing in the romance genre again. The dialogue is laugh out loud funny and Josh is the first addition to my book boyfriend list in a LONG time. Sally Thorne has already cemented herself as an auto-buy author for me, and I can’t wait to see what sort of swoons she conjures up in her future novels!