Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Hating Game, By Sally Thorne - Review

Title: The Hating Game
Series: n/a
Author: Sally Thorne
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: August 9, 2016
Reviewing: eARC
Reason for reading: Strong rec from trusted PR agent

The Short Answer
Fans of the "enemies to lovers" trope will love this one. Well-written, with snappy dialog and killer sexual tension, it has wide appeal... but wasn't a 100% hit for me.

The Blurb
Debut author Sally Thorne bursts on the scene with a hilarious and sexy workplace comedy all about that thin, fine line between hate and love.

Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.

Trapped in a shared office together 40 (OK, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.

If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.

Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

What I wasn't crazy about
I will often avoid buzz and other reviews about a book if I know I'm going to review it, but I didn't for this one. I read several reviews and have had a few discussions with people who over-the-moon loved this one. It's making a number of "summer's best" and even "year's best" lists. You should probably read it, and if you like the "enemies to lovers" trope, you'll probably love it.

People are telling me that it's hilarious. That they laughed their asses off. I didn't. This could be a me thing. Let me put it this way: did you LOVE Ross Gellar on Friends? Did you LOVE Seinfeld? Most people did/do, and I bet all those people will love this book. But I don't. The humor and the conflict in this story and most of those TV characters comes from a painful awkwardness. Really painful. Maybe this is my baggage, but I don't find that especially funny: it makes me wince, it makes me ache a little and sometimes it makes me angry that I'm supposed to laugh at it. So I can say this book engaged my emotions, for sure.

The story is told deep in the heroine's first person present POV. She is apparently very bad at understanding what is going on behind the hero's facade -- but in fairness, that's the way he wants it. The problem is, this POV is SO deep, and so consistently executed, that the hero was completely opaque to me, too, for 90% of the book.

This isn't necessarily a deal breaker, but honestly, the hero's arc here was way more interesting than the heroine's, and I only got to see it through the most shuttered glimpses. It was frustrating for me. Several other reviewers have said that they knew instantly that Josh was madly in love with Lucy from the first page, but I really didn't get that.

There's a scene where they have their first kiss, in an elevator heading down to the creepy basement level of a creepy parking garage. He hits the emergency stop, and in her point of view, she straight up says that she absolutely isn't sure whether he is going to strangle her or kiss her.  I hate to be a buzzkill, but people THAT. IS. NOT. SEXY.
"You drive a 2003 Honda Accord. Silver. Filthy messy inside. Chronic gearbox issues. If it were a horse, you'd shoot it." The elevator arrives and I step in cautiously.

"You're a way better stalker than I am." I feel a chill of fear when I see his big thumb push the B button. He looks down at me, his eyes dark and intense. He's clearly deliberating something.

Maybe he'll murder me down there. I'll end up dead in a Dumpster. The investigators will see my fishnets and heavy eye makeup and assume I'm a hooker. They'll follow all the wrong leads. Meanwhile, Joshua will be calmly bleaching all my DNA off his shoes and making himself a sandwich.

"Serial killer eyes." I wish I didn't sound so scared. He looks over my shoulder at his reflection in the shiny wall of the elevator.

"I see what you mean. You've got your horny eyes on." He spirals his finger dramatically over the elevator button panel.

"Nope, these are my serial killer eyes too."

He lets out a deep breath and pushes the emergency stop button and we judder to a halt."

"Please don't kill me. There's probably a camera." I take a step backward in fright.

"I doubt it." He looms over me. He raises his hands and I start to lift my arms to shield my face like I'm in some awful schlocky drive-in horror movie. This is it. He's lost his sanity."
I will say that I was pretty sure as a reader that he wasn't going to strangle her (on account of, then it wouldn't be a romance.) Other readers that I've talked to are convinced that Lucy knows it too. I guess I'm just not subtle enough of a reader to feel sure about that. I thought that the games Lucy plays were kind of immature and, well, stupid. It made me not like her very much. It was also not exactly clear to me whether Josh was really playing her or if she was inflating all of this in her own head.

Redeeming Things
When you finally start to understand where Josh is coming from, it gets better.  There is a scene where Lucy tells off Josh's nemesis and it is EPIC.  Worth the book for that scene alone.  It was very, very good. 

The sexual tension between the two is sky-high (especially when she stops with the strangling references).  This is a slow-burn book, with lots of unconsummated make-out sessions. Josh refuses to actually have sex with her multiple times, and she's weird about it. He's weird about it. It's got a very different vibe to it than a lot of contemp romance.

Bottom Line
I'm going to say again: you should probably read this book. Then hopefully come back and tell me I'm not crazy for being the only one who doesn't love it...

1 comment:

Zeee @ I Heart Romance said...

I had a hard time getting into this book, actually. I have an ARC but I only read maybe a couple chapters.. the hero is a jerk though. ugh!


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