Wednesday, October 19, 2016

#TBRChallenge Reading: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

2016 TBR Reading Challenge
Book: The Hating Game
Author: Sally Thorne
My Categories: Romance, Contemporary, Rom-Com
Wendy Crutcher's Category: Paranormal or Romantic Suspense
(My book choice certainly doesn't fit Wendy's categories, nor does it strictly fit the TBR choice. The book should've been "a long-neglected book on your TBR pile," which it isn't. It's only languished there since August. Wendy might revoke by TBRChallenge Reviewer card.)

I bought this book after reading Emily Wittman's review on AAR and all the comments from readers about how much they loved this book.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman are personal assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. When the individual companies merged, each brought with it a vastly different working culture, and the tension and games between Joshua and Lucy are a testament to that. Lucy and Joshua hate each other and are intensely competitive with each other. Their constant one-upmanship games have included numerous reports to HR.

Into this maelstrom, the CEOs drop the bombshell that they're creating the position of COO, and Joshua and Lucy will be competing for it, in addition to outside applicants. This ups the ante of the already-intense interactions.

After a fulminating day, they indulge in a flaming, stop-the-elevator kiss. And that's a game changer. Now all the games they play are laden with sexual overtones, and it's driving them both crazy. In all things, Lucy likes to devour, while Joshua likes to savor—this ratchets up their tension.

This is a workplace enemies-to-lovers romance as well as a Rent-a-Date romance. It's a romance that's an urban modern story as well as a story with old-fashioned values. What I liked most about this book is the banter between the hero and the heroine. It is clever, sharp, very articulate, and very funny. Who doesn't want to have that perfect comeback at that oh-so-right moment? Well, both Lucy and Joshua have that knack in spades with some obvious one-liners and some subtle digs.

I enjoyed how they were both strong characters who give as good as they get. This isn't a tentative story, but a boldly assured one.

The sexual tension in the book is superb with well-written make-out and sex scenes. You don't see the Tab A in Slot B kind of technical sex scenes, thank goodness, but rather ones full of emotions and feelings. I'd hold these scenes up as great examples for anyone who wants to learn to write them.

Despite the sassiness of the dialogue, the romance is very sweet. I felt the book was a trifle long but that's also because it moves slowly and luxuriously through the relationship. There's no rushing the feelings, though the emotions between them are definitely not tepid; they're flamethrower (the color of her red lipstick) hot. That combination of sweet and hot makes for a great romantic story.

Overall, it is the writing that won me over with rich articulation and imaginative word painting.

Now for the negatives in the book. There's fat shaming and age shaming in the book. Joshua's boss is called Fat Old Dick. Lucy kept using that epithet long after it was okay (i.e., once). She has him eating all the time. She calls an older woman dumpy. A slighter man is not masculine enough. Only one who's a muscle-bound monolith is a real man, because being able to lift a heroine is what makes a man A Real Man.

Lucy calls herself cute a lot. Only petite women can be cute and desirable. Lucy wants to be liked by everyone; she wants to get along with everyone; she considers herself as being nice to everyone. But the reality is that she holds hard, mean opinions about some people, who don't match her desired aesthete. She's a people-pleaser instead of genuinely nice. Similarly, Joshua thinks he has no people skills and is cool and aloof with people, but in reality, he's sweet and genuinely nice. I liked the author's skill here in showing us characters who had certain opinions of themselves and act from those opinions, but the reader sees other types of people.

The other side of Lucy's obsession with looks is her objectification of Joshua. Her thoughts and comments about his looks could fill a small category novel. It's very flattering to be desired for your body, but that is all Lucy seems to talk about. At one point, he protests and says how other women have done this and he felt cheap as a result because he's more than just his body, and she listens to this, acknowledges it, but continues on. There is one point in the story where she gloriously shows how much she cares about him and his feelings, but that is a small part of the story. Most of it is spent by her mooning over his muscles.

At this point in the review, I went looking for other people's opinions of the book. I agree with some of the points the excellent reviews by Vassiliki, Kelly, Liz, and Sunita have brought up. However, despite all the negatives of this book, I liked it. It certainly wasn't an "A" read for me, but neither was it a "C" read. Anyone who likes smart witty dialogue, a sharp contemporary story, and a sweet romance, this is the book for you.

PS: The comments on Vassiliki's post bring up an interesting point: Where is this story set? There are zero indications of country or city, either in setting quirks, language ticks, or infrastructure cues. All I can say is that it's set in a monochromatic, first-world Caucasian town with Caucasian characters.


Dorine said...

LOL I think your TBR Challenge card is safe. You read a book off your shelves, which counts the most. :)

I enjoyed your review. I like how you read other opinions and compared. It always bothers me when I have no sense of place for a novel. I really need that anchor.

I've wondered about this book a lot, so thanks for your review.

Keira Soleore said...

Dorine, like you, I saw so many people talking about it, I had to pick it up. Most of the times, when there's just a buzz, I'm resistant to reading the "in" thing, but the AAR review clinched the deal.

Glad to know that my TBR Challenge card is safe. :) I'd enjoy this monthly challenge a lot.

I'm very big on sense of place in a story, because it adds so much to the characterization. In that sense, this book was disorienting.

Vassiliki said...

Like you, despite the negatives, I loved this book. Also, though Lucy was mean and hard and objectified and so many other things - I still liked her.

Ta for the mention. And as I mentioned on Sunita's post, the placelessness reminded me of the made up Sheikh worlds of category romances - meh!

Keira Soleore said...

Lucy is not the type of person I could identify with but for this story, she really works. When I started listing out the negatives, I thought, wow, this story's worse than I thought it is. But the overall gut feeling is that I liked this story quite a bit.