The Trouble with Hating You is not your typical Romance read, even though Patel is working within and against established tropes, and I liked it better for it. This is definitely an enemies to lovers romance (the title pretty much announces it) and in it we have Liya Thakkar, a happily single successful biochemical engineer, who has a very strained relationship with her parents and has been very clear that she is not interested in being set up with a potential spouse. The moment she realizes her parents’ most recent invitation to dinner is a setup with the man they want her to marry, she runs away and manages to run right into said man in the front yard. Said man is Jay Shah, the new lawyer hired to save her struggling company. Neither is too thrilled to see the other after that humiliating fiasco. But in order to succeed at work – her in her recent promotion, him in building his portfolio of successful cases – they are going to have interact with each other, and hopefully at least be friendly towards each other. As they spend more and more time together, and get glimpses of the other’s true selves, a deepening relationship forms. But falling for each other means exposing their painful pasts and trusting the other not to leave.
This book isn’t afraid of depth and drama, and of the dark and terrible things that many would prefer not to see on their Romance pages. There is a lot of patriarchal and misogynistic trauma in this book, experienced to different degrees by both leads. There is off-page past sexual assault of a minor, an on-page sexual encounter which becomes an assault, an off-page death of a parent, traumatic injuries, and misogyny based shunning. As the characters work through all of this there is also a lot of self-doubt and guilt, and verbal arguments that run the range from playful to hurtful. Their story does explore the idea that falling in love does not erase past traumas, but it can help you face and work through them. There is an overarching message that tragedy shouldn’t be a burden we undertake on our own, that it’s important to have a support network when you can’t fight alone, and that you don’t have to.
The Trouble with Hating You features two very lovable and complicated protagonists with satisfying characters arcs. The main characters hold off on getting into bed together until late in the narrative and then it also fades to black quickly, but there are important plot elements that make that the right choice. Liyah, in particular, is likely to rub some readers the wrong way – she is decidedly a difficult woman when we meet her. In some ways it’s a persona she has built over trauma, in other ways its honestly who she is. She’s strong and forceful and successful and it all took work and determination to make happen, but it doesn’t leave much softness. Although, we the reader see that softness in her friendships with other women. But I like difficult women, I like books that deal with realistic representations of what being a modern woman often looks like, and for those reasons (and others) this book works for me.
Bingo Square: Orange