Re-read: After reading Thorne’s latest (Second First Impressions) I wanted to see if maybe my memories of her first novel were being seen through some rose colored glasses.
I am happy to report that no, not in the slightest. The Hating Game perfectly nails the first person inner monologue neurosis protagonist and the ETL, two tropes that are very, very frequently given short shift in Romancelandia.
Thorne definitely has a very distinct sort of voice that she uses to write her (exclusively female, exclusively white) (I will give Second First Impressions that, the cast starts to diversify a bit!) main characters. It’s a sort of rambling, stream-of-consciousness sort of tone, fairly dripping in metaphors that seem as much an active choice as a product of her characters’ individual psyches. Lucinda can’t comprehend her feelings for Joshua and so is left with confused juxtapositions–she hates what he stands for and also can’t help but be enthralled when he focuses his attention on her. They’ve been competitive and antagonistic with one another and also HR’s worst nightmare with a frisson that hasn’t let up for seven (?!?) years.
So we’ve got all the elements of a great romance-first book. Lucy is devoted to her job (perhaps too much–a trait that Josh helps her, gently, overcome) and so has no quirky best friends to eat up screen time. Josh has childhood issues, and he’s openly asking Lucy for help and support to work through those. They have an intractable third arc conflict which is resolved in a way that forebodes nothing but good vibes [because Josh has actually, already made a change that indicates that he’s committed].
At the end of the day*, these are two quirky kids who just needed to get their heads out of their calendars and into one another’s calendars (wow what a turn of phrase, 5* to me). And watching them get there, without falling into too many pitfalls along the way, is the best part.
* and also, at the end of the day, these two have teh sex and have it well 😉
OG Review:It’s completely confusing why two professional assistants not in a Netflix film would actually, literally play “games” at work. Mirroring one another?? Staring? That part at the start was bonkers. It’s definitely not clear why they started hating one another, and that part makes no sense. Is it really only because of corporate culture differences…?
But once it gets going it’s great, nicely balanced through and through. Our heroine is sex forward and not ashamed. Can’t ask for more than 3 hours of build up!