Book Review: Sally Thorne’s “The Hating Game”

Let’s be clear, I tend to avoid romance novels. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read a full on romance since I was teenager and hopelessly obsessed with Divergent, the Mortal Instruments, the Gallagher Girls series, and – of course – Twilight, which I honestly read about 20 times. I still have my rather beaten up editions in my cupboard and in the front they say “Christmas 2010”… So, clearly 12-year-old me was into it. But I’m more into the thriller/crime genre now, and if I do ever venture into a romantic context, there needs to be other sub-plots so I can have breaks from cringing. There were no such breaks in this book.

I picked it up because I’d read quite a lot of positive reviews about it. Of course, from the front and the title, I could pretty much guarantee the main storyline would centre around a love interest, but I still wanted to give it a go. While I did cringe heavily throughout (as predicted), I did actually end up enjoying it!

The Plot…

When two juxtaposing publishing houses find themselves struggling, relenting eventually to a desperate merger to avoid collapse on both sides, the formal and impersonal culture of Bexley Books with their unsmiling faces, crisp suits, and emphasis on numbers and facts finds itself mercilessly thrown together with the friendly, laid-back and literary-focused attitudes of Gamin Publishing. Naturally, the office is divided: each individual is easily distinguishable as either Bexley or Gamin just by looking at them, and both sides loathe the other. But there’s one rivalry to overshadow them all. Lucinda and Joshua.

Unable to settle on a new CEO for Bexley & Gamin, Mr Bexley and Helene Pascal – the CEO for Gamin – are left no choice but to co-CEO alongside each other, separate offices shielding their potent resentment. Predictably, neither was willing to yield on their assistants either, so both were kept on. Joshua; the Assistant to the CEO for Mr Bexley, and Lucinda; the Assistant to the CEO for Helene. With their own area to share outside of the two offices, Joshua and Lucinda have racked up the most HR complaints of the whole organisation: they hate each other. In fact, it was hate at first sight.

With his perfectly-ironed shirts – a different colour for each day of the week – meticulously organised desk, and direct and harsh mannerisms that have made the rest of the office terrified of him, Joshua is the complete opposite to Lucinda with her retro dresses, coloured heels, red lipstick and unruly curly hair. Lucy is also admittedly a bit of a pushover in the office, frequently having to work late herself because others haven’t met her deadlines, just one of the things that makes Joshua roll his eyes at her. Throughout the working day, the two of them pass the time with various unspoken games. The Staring Game is a favourite, glaring at each other for hours over their monitors. And then of course there’s The Mirror Game, where one irritatingly copies the every move of the other. But the biggest game of all was just around the horizon. A new job opportunity. Whoever is promoted would become the boss of the other…

A bitter promise from both Lucinda and Joshua to resign if either get the position, the game is certainly on to get the promotion. Lucinda has never been more focused on anything in her entire life. That is, until the game changes. Maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman after all?

As someone that doesn’t read a lot of romance, I did enjoy this book and found myself thoroughly invested in Lucinda and Joshua’s changing relationship. Nonetheless, I did – as I said earlier – cringe quite a lot reading this, but that might just be me. While some of the romantic aspects warranted a smile, some of them were worthy of a dramatic eye-roll. Of course, you could see the plot right from the outset – basically right from looking at the front cover – but despite the predictability, I was still engaged in the story and eager to read on. It was well-written, and a nice love story, but the path wasn’t straight-forward; there were many challenges, doubts, arguments, and – of course – the lingering rivalry for the promotion that shadowed the two of them.

The Characters…

Narrated from the perspective of Lucy throughout, the novel follows her from loathing Joshua, bitterly competing with him at every turn, right through to the shocking discovery that her colleague who has hated her since day one, may not hate her at all.

With her rather weird interest in collectable Smurfs, her background growing up on a Strawberry farm, and an obvious passion for publishing, Lucy was an interesting and unique character – which was only reiterated in her striking features, Flamethrower red lipstick and child-like height at only 5 foot tall. In direct contract, Joshua – leaps and bounds taller than his colleague with his clean and professional attire – keeps his cards close to his chest; his history, emotions and motivations are ambiguous, making him a complete mystery to Lucinda, and just as intriguing as a character to the reader.

Would I recommend?

A relaxing read for a day where I had no plans except to be incredibly lazy, I would recommend this book as easy, feel-good reading, particularly if you enjoy romance genres and rooting for unlikely relationships. But if you’re not really into the whole romance scene, I probably wouldn’t recommend it because that was the entire plot-line essentially. While there was the matter of the promotion and other conflicts to overcome, the prevailing theme was love and romance, which isn’t for everyone. If I’m honest though, I thought it was a good book and I’m glad I gave it its chance!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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