Reviewed by Ian Lipke
Without the slightest shadow of a doubt this book, for me and I am sure all of the rom-com community, is the book of the year. Lucy Hutton likes to be thought of as helpful, and is considered so, by everyone except Joshua Templeman. Unfortunately for them both, they are stuck in an office by themselves, each attempting to score off the other, each competing for a promotion that will see one or the other leave the Company. It is a game of one-up-man-ship at its best.
As Lucy Hutton reveals on the first page, love and hate mirror each other and are mirror versions of the same game. It is a game she is determined to win. But there are games within games, and it is essential that the other be bested at all levels. Lucy is the executive assistant to Helene Pascal, the co-CEO of Bexley and Gamin. Before the merger of two companies, she was the CEO of Gamin Publishing. Her partner and bitter rival is Mr Bexley himself, former CEO of Bexley Books.
As Lucy reveals she is sitting in a cell with a man she would never have chosen as a cell mate. Joshua answers to Mr Bexley, Lucy to Helene. Joshua is not a man to let a woman walk all over him and plays the mind games with Lucy with his own brand of disdain. He plays the “I hate you” game as well as she does but cannot match her when it comes to using sex as a weapon. Or can he?
Lucy decides to deprive him of the power of speech by wearing a short, black dress instead of her regular office clothes. Being very tall he looms over her.
He scoops me off the floor by my waist and balances my ass on the handrail I’ve never noticed before. My arms drop to his shoulders and my dress slides to the top of my thighs. When he glances down he lets out a rough breath which sounds like I’m strangling him…I try to slide down but he spans his hands on my waist and presses me against the wall. I squeeze his shoulders until I come to the informed conclusion that his body is extravagant muscle under these Clark Kent shirts. (67)
What follows is an hilarious expose of the Kissing Game and a call for both parties to re-consider where the war might be played next. Whatever happens, Lucy will have to become used to the sobriquet of Shortcake that Josh has unloaded on her.
The battles continue unabated. But on the pages that follow page 200 Josh and Lucy (Shortcake) get into a lip-locking competition. She wants to take it further; he does not. She is driven crazy by the colours of his shirts and, on the day following the kissing session, comes a very funny interchange that pretty well sums up the humour and the conversation.
Today his shirt is the colour of a saucer of cream.
Act natural, Lucy. Walk in there like sex on legs. No awkwardness. Go.
He looks at me, my ankle wobbles, and I drop my handbag. The lid of my lunch box pops off and a tomato rolls across the floor. I drop to my hands and knees and my stiletto heel gets caught on the angling buckle belt of my coat.
“Crap.” I try to crawl.
“Smooth.” Josh gets up and walks to me.
The standard rom-com follows with the dialogue snappier than most, the characters revealed in both the dialogue and the actions. Lucy is a very strong and determined woman. She makes it known what her wishes are and if people fail to live up to her standards, she doesn’t hold back. This is driven home when this lengthy passage appears. The reader can no longer remain uninvolved in this interchange:
I look at Anthony and he looks at me. His eyes are full of derision as he runs his eyes from the top of my head, down. Then he sniffs and looks out the window, obeying his wife, mouth pursed shut.
Oh boy, I’m not putting up with this twice in my life, and certainly not from another Templeman. My temper snaps. (338)
The rest is such delightful dialogue that it is laugh out loud reading throughout the passage.
The Hating Game has been described as brilliant, biting, hilarious, funny, smart, fresh…the adjectives just keep on rolling. Let me finish with “Sally Thorne is the new face of Australian writing who appeals to a world audience. She must be read and her sallies savoured. Wonderful, wonderful writing with immensely interesting characters.”
By Sally Thorne