The Hating Game (a sort of review)

Work has been eating up my every waking moment for the last few weeks, so I’m behind on reading and blogging. I finally took a day off and decided, thanks to an interesting review by Liz at her blog and the subsequent Twitter conversation, to spend part of it reading the latest Hot New Romance. I encourage you to read Liz’s post as well as her discussion with Vassiliki (and also Vassiliki’s review).

This book got a ton of buzz in romance circles when it came out, and it has a load of 5-star reviews at GR and Amazon. I love a good enemies-to-lovers story, but the enemies part has to be well motivated for it to work. This wasn’t. The MCs are assistants to co-CEOs who hate each other (both the assistants and the CEOs hate each other), and aside from that tension, the main reason for their apparent mutual loathing seems to be that they have opposite personalities but are forced to work together after a merger that saved both firms.

I came close to DNFing in the first 75 pages, because I found the setup and the female MC, Lucy, so unappealing. If you take the workplace setting and rivalry as fantasy it is more palatable, but the text implies Lucy is adorable and likeable and I found her to be neither. But once Lucy and Josh stop needling each other and drop their guards a bit, the book improves. The romantic scenes between them are quite sweet.

Overall, though, the book is a misfire. The setting has been scrubbed of any identifying characteristics, so it could be set anywhere with English-speaking white people. Sometimes it feels Australian like the author, sometimes British, sometimes American. Mostly it’s a white fantasyland, which is fine but a bit sterile. There are some weird choices, for example Lucy’s parents own a strawberry farm and that apparently makes her an object of ridicule (there are no organic-food hipsters or farmers’ market aficionados in this world).

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