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.
Right off the bat, The Hating Game is engrossing and humorous. Its narrator, Lucy Hutton, is such a fun and spunky young woman. I absolutely loved being inside of her head for the all too short length of this novel. She's so sweet and goofy, but also fierce AF when she needs to be. When we first meet her, she's ritualistically engaging in childish little games with her nemesis, Josh Templeman, who happens to sit at the work desk directly across from her own for five miserable days a week. It's the interractions between the two that make for such a great, addictive read.
If you didn't already know by the synopsis, it wouldn't take long to realize just how quickly their dynamic could switch from passionate hate to just plain passion. They have that quality to them, that prickliness, that only the best love-to-hate tropes manage to capture and explore, and while it's all too easy to see why Lucy despises Josh so much in the beginning, it's equally easy to see how that could morph into sexual tension and lust. So when it does, there's really not much to do but sit back and enjoy the ride.
Because oh, what a ride it is.
As I've said a dozen times in the past, I'm a total fangirl for the best of these fictional boys. My real love life suffers dramatically for competing with my harem of book boyfriends, but I wouldn't change that even if I could. Because nowhere in real life will you find someone as frustrating, intense, sarcastic, unbelievably sexy, and unexpectedly romantic as Joshua Templeman. He is everything a girl could want, and he is made real in the pages of The Hating Game.
When we first meet him, Josh is a bit of a prick. He's condescending and snide, with a stick up his ass about six inches thick. Ever the competitor, he indulges our Lucy in her little games with an interest that almost seems like boredom if you don't look closely enough. He's an office hardass who has most of the company's staff terrified of him, and he cloaks himself in their fear-based respect like armor.
As the story progresses, we're slowly showed another side to Mr. Templeman. The first new layer to be revealed is his oozing sex appeal. I mean, come on. Elevator scene, anyone? Within the first 65 pages, we see this secret part of him that has us longing for shed clothing and roaming hands. Keep reading, and you'll find more layers peeled back. The pages stop promising passionate hate-sex and start hinting at something more. Lucy starts to see a hidden, softer side to her peer that she never could have imagined existed, and much as she tries to convince herself that she still hates him, even she has trouble buying it. His transition from Total Douche to Total Package is slow and agonizingly delicious to read.
What I love most about this novel - aside from the impossibly sexy Mr. Templeman, of course - is how believable it is. I'll be the first to admit that there are about a hundred cliches in this book, but they're written so well that it's impossible to see them as a flaw. From an obvious plot-device boyfriend to rile one very sexy assistant up in red-hot jealousy, to Josh voluntarily taking care of a sick Lucy, to the budding office romance, to the very premise of the novel, Sally Thorne might as well be taking these overdone topes and showing every writer and reader of contemporary romance how it should be done. The execution is flawless, and it turns what by all rights should be a huge flaw in any novel into yet another reason to love it. That is a serious feat to pull off, people.
I feel like I have to emphasise just how wonderful of a narrator Lucy is. She's nuanced and so charming. She's idiosyncratic. She's hilarious and fun, fierce and competitive, and she's just plain lovable. Even in some of my favorite romances, the love interest is fleshed out to perfection while the protagonist is a textbook Mary Sue. She's our vehicle taking us to fall in love with Hot Book Boy. But in The Hating Game, it's clear and easy to see why Josh falls so hard for Lucy, and not just because Sally Thorne tells us he does. She shows us. Their chemistry is undeniable. By the time we get to one of contemporary romance's hottest love scenes at the end, we're so completely invested in both characters that keeping a huge, dorky grin off of our faces becomes damn near impossible. It is so satisfying.
Now, the thing The Hating Game does suffer from is one that plagues so many in the genre; the book's just not as interesting when Joshua Templeman isn't around. Even with Lucy giving her valiant effort at keeping us entertained, we're still waiting impatiently for her surly coworker to reenter the pages. It's a good thing, then, that he's in most of them. There are also a couple of "big reveals" that are pretty obvious. While that doesn't take away from their credibility, it does kill some of the emotional oomph of their reveal.
With characters impossible not to fall in love with and a story that practically begs to be put on the big screen, The Hating Game is a must-read for any and all fans of contemporary romance. It's quite possibly the most fun I've had reading a book this year. It's one of those books you're going to wish you could wipe from your brain just so you can have the pleasure of reading it for the first time all over again.
4.5 out of 5 stars