Not My Wheelhouse
This book was a gift from Malin during last year’s CBR book exchange. I had mentioned that I don’t read much in the Romance genre but would be interested in trying, and she sent The Hating Game, a favorite among Cannonballers.
*Note: the first square that I filled on my bingo card was with a book from Malin, and the first review I wrote for CBR10 was for a book from Malin. Next bingo cards needs a square called “Malin Recommends”!
If I am honest, I have to admit that I consciously avoid the romance genre. A more literary romance like Pride and Prejudice is fine, or a romance that crosses genres such as Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride, which was more fantasy and mystery than romance, I can handle. But the straight up “kissing book” is just not interesting to me. I have noticed, however, that it is very much of interest to many Cannonballers, and The Hating Game seems to have quite a following, so here we go, outside the wheelhouse.
The Hating Game is a contemporary romance involving our heroine and narrator Lucy Hutton and her nemesis and office partner Josh Templeman. They are executive assistants to the co-CEOs of a publishing company called Gamin Bexley, the result of a financially necessary merger for both formerly independent companies. Lucy, CEO Helen and the Gamin crew are sort of librarian/book lover types who sometimes look and operate in unconventional ways. Josh, CEO Mr. Bexley and the Bexley crew are business oriented/suited/bottom line types. Lucy makes it clear from page one that she and Josh hate each other and have done so for nearly a year. He has been cold and rude from day one, and the two of them have passive aggressively been at each other for months; they are an HR nightmare, with each reporting the other for various infractions. Their mutual animosity is the stuff of legend at Gamin Bexley. The dynamic begins to change when Helen and Mr. Bexley announce the creation of a new position as chief operating officer. Both Lucy and Josh want the job so the competition will be fierce. Lucy has always loved books and libraries, and if she does not get the job, she feels she will have no choice but to leave Gamin Bexley, as having Josh for a boss would be absolutely out of the question for her. The situation gets more complicated though when Lucy, dressed to the nines, arranges a date with an outgoing employee. She and Josh have a rather “charged” encounter in an elevator, and Lucy feels all kinds of conflict. On one hand, she hates Josh and sees him as her #1 competition; on the other hand, she was kinda turned on by the elevator encounter. Is he playing mind games with her to trip her up? Or is something else going on?
So the thing about romance novels, as far as I can tell from my very limited experience, is that the journey is the destination. In other words, it’s kind of a given that the two smoldering, strong-willed leads are going to get together eventually; the interesting part is how that happens. If you really like pages-long descriptions of amorous encounters leading up to but not including sex (at least not the first couple of times), then this book should do the trick. I have no problem with this aspect of the book, no judgment here; I just don’t care much about it. What I did find interesting about this book (and about another romance novel I read this summer but have not reviewed yet) is the idea of hatred/dislike being a short step away from lust/love. And by “interesting” I mean I think it’s weird and messed up. Perhaps it’s my age (I’m 54) or my upbringing (all girls high school and Catholic educational institutions from 2nd grade through university), but I found Josh’s behavior really cringe-worthy and not sexy. I guess it’s supposed to be ok because Lucy really wants it even if she doesn’t give consent? I mean, this guy should not only have been fired but maybe also brought up on charges. How are you supposed to know that he doesn’t treat every woman who challenges him in exactly the same way? I guess because Lucy jokes about his “serial killer eyes” and because this is a romance novel and Josh is obviously the hero, we can wink it all away. Plus, everybody else at Gamin Bexley seems to see that there is “something” between them even if Lucy doesn’t. I dunno, it just makes me uncomfortable.
So, I’m kind of a party pooper. Sorry! I guess romance is still not really in my wheelhouse. I will say, though, that I liked The Hating Game better than the other romance novel I read but haven’t reviewed yet. Stay tuned!