Author: Sally Thorne
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Pub. Date: Aug. 2016 (read May 2022)
This is another book that it’s been a while since I read it, but I did put together a summary of my thoughts right after which is giving me a refresher. After reading The Spanish Love Deception earlier in the year, I knew I would eventually get to The Hating Game, which seems to be the most well known book with the enemies-to-lovers/fake-dating tropes.
I was anticipating this would be better than TSLD, and in some ways it was, but to be honest, I thought it was still a lot of the same and had some tropes that I didn’t like. The Hating Game is about two publishing companies that merged and the relationship between the two executive assistants to the CEO’s. The CEO’s do not have an amicable relationship and Lucy and Josh have been rivals since they started working together. Now they’re up for the same promotion, which further escalates their competitive nature.
I don’t want to continually compare it to TSLD, because The Hating Game was written first, so I will say that a lot of TSLD seemed like a knock-off, but that I think the “enemies” part of enemies-to-lovers was better done in The Hating Game. I understood why these 2 characters didn’t get along and I believed it. It wasn’t believable in TSLD, which just made the main character look kind of dumb. But I’ll end the comparisons there and focus on The Hating Game.
To be honest, I thought this was a mess at the beginning. I was expecting to like it and I think the story did improve later in the book, but initially I really struggled to buy into anything the author was selling. The first third of the book felt extremely disorganized and I found some scenes jarring because they felt so forced. I felt like the author had all these romantic fantasies that she wanted to write and decided to include them whether they worked with the narrative or not. For example, I found the elevator scene a bit jarring – I know it’s now a pretty iconic scene from the book, but it felt very sudden and forced to me when I first read it.
But the most notable scene for me was the corporate paintball retreat. I didn’t think it fit with the rest of the book. It wasn’t believable to me that a corporate company would sanction paintball for a team building event and the forced proximity with Lucy and Josh was just TOO forced. The whole “big man defending the tiny woman” trope is tired and felt out of place for 2 characters that supposedly didn’t like each other. I also found the whole scene where Josh takes care of Lucy when she’s sick extremely uncomfortable and unbelievable for two co-workers. A normal reaction would be “please let me call your friend or drop you at the hospital”, not “I’ll stay at your house for 2 days and get my doctor brother to make a house call”. They have worked together as rivals for several years at this point, but now they’re suddenly all over each other, all the time. I know that’s kind of the point of the book, but none of it felt natural or organic to me.
While we’re on the topic, I’d also like to say that I am SO tired of the big man-tiny woman trope. It’s not even that I mind that all the male protagonists are tall, but authors seem to be obsessed with beating us over the head about just HOW tall they are. TSLD and The Love Hypothesis were pretty bad for it, but The Hating Game was really the most aggressive with the trope. Josh is 6 foot 5 while Lucy is 5 foot nothing – that is a huge difference! It just made Lucy seem like a child and I feel like it would honestly be more frightening than sexy. Plus, men don’t need to be giants to be attractive.
So what did I like about the book? Because I seem to mostly be railing against it. Once I got over the chaotic start and the characters chilled out a bit, I actually got pretty into it. I do think that Lucy and Josh had great chemistry and Thorne does a great job at building up the sexual tension. Lucy and Josh are both pretty nuanced characters with strengths and flaws. I liked the exploration of Lucy working to gain more respect at work and her passion for her field. As well as I liked the exploration of Josh’s insecurities and his relationship with his father. He wants more from his relationships and I liked that he had this depth. There was a good balance of sexual tension without waiting until the very last minute for the characters to be together (drove me nuts in TSLD).
The last thing I will say is that there were some questionable behaviours throughout the book. Both characters are certified stalkers. The “I painted my room the colour of your eyes” was a hard pass for me and Josh has some questionable possessive behaviour that I didn’t like. Sadly these ideas seem to be a bit normalized in romance novels, but as far as the genre goes this was a pretty solid 3 star read for me. I did watch the movie and I liked parts of it, but would still give the edge to the book.