Sally Thorne’s 2016 debut The Hating Game is still near the top of many romance agents’ lists as the enemies-to-lovers trope done right.
Lucy and Joshua are assistants to the two bitterly opposing heads of their publishing company, and the two clash at first sight. Working across from each other in the same office, they’ve developed a rivalry so fiery and a hatred so fierce, it can’t help but be love.
This book really is a study in the perfect pacing and tension-building of an enemies-to-lovers story, with the unreliable narration of Lucy’s hatred and the gradual reveal that Joshua’s stares and infuriating annoyances might not be hatred after all. The tension is delicious, and the gradual march towards the inevitable, steamy, rock-their-world conclusion is beautifully crafted.
My only real complaint is the completely unnecessary body shaming and fat stereotyping surrounding the “enemy” boss at the company. His weight is used as a dog-whistle stand-in for his lecherous, unsavory, stupid, and evil character, and that’s not okay. The author plays his body for laughs, with stereotypes of the donut-obsessed, personal hygeine-deficient fat person, and I’ve put books down unfinished for a lot less. In this book, the otherwise high quality of the writing just edged out my urge to put it down every time they made a stab at the boss’s weight. In a book where fat people are human, the two bosses could have worked out a beautifully symmetric enemies-to-lovers relationship of their own, but the author threw away that opportunity when she decided to create a stereotype instead of a person. I was really disappointed by that.
Authors writing enemies-to-lovers should still absolutely read this book to know how to do the romantic tension and pacing really well. The two main characters are well-developed and nuanced, and I greatly enjoyed their development. But those who have a history of experiencing body stigma should be forewarned, and decide for themselves if they need to give it a miss.
Visit Sally Thorne Online for more information and links to purchase.
Content Warning: Book references childhood emotional neglect and contains negative stereotyping of a character of size.