Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Rating: 3 stars
Pub Date: August 9, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: contemporary romance
Format/Source: paperback, my library
Status: standalone

Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.

Trapped in a shared office together 40 (OK, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.

If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.

Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

Black sheep here. I liked The Hating Game, but I sadly didn't love it, which I had expected based on all my friends' GLOWING reviews.

First of all, while I like quippy banter and skme tension, I don't care for characters actually hating each other and being horrible. Yes, yes, I know the book is literally titled The Hating Game, but I didn't expect actual bald hatred, and Lucy and Josh are quite awful to one another.

Secondly, while Sally Thorne KILLS the swoony scenes with beautiful language and gorgeous, unique descriptions that are simultaneously real and almost fantasy, I didn't care for her writing style during most of the novel. I have a reading quirk that means when I see the word "again" or something similar, I am compelled to search the preceding scene intIl I find the first instance of [X thing]. Thorne constantly refers to things in a way that suggests she's mentioned them before, but she never has. An example is when Lucy says, as she weirdly scurries around Josh's apartment for the first time, that she needs a workout basket. BUT SHE NEVER MENTIONED SEEING ONE, AND I KNOW SHE DIDN'T BECAUSE I READ THAT SCENE FIFTEEN TIMES. I know this is small and weird, but it drove me crazy.

Thirdly, and this is kind of tied into #2, I didn't love Lucy as our narrator. I really would have preferred dual povs with Josh because Lucy was too much. I do not love how Lucy views the world. It was really hard to follow her thoughts for me, and sometimes she did really weird, immature things. It's like.... how is this woman, who supposedly runs a publishing company (lol, right), so childish sometimes?

Fourthly, there's some definite problematic word choice going on. So many casual, flippant conversations about insane and crazy things, and toward the end, Josh calls himself (I think. It may have been Josh calling Lucy) socially retarded. THIS. LANGUAGE. IS. NOT. OKAY.

Fifthly, the story took a sharp turn toward The Proposal at the end, and I find that lack of originality frustrating. I literally felt like I was watching Ryan Reynolds and Craig T Nelson shouting at each other and then Mary Steenburgen yelling at CTN to "fix it, Joe. Fix it NOW." As much as I love The Proposal, I kind of wanted this book to not take a literal plot point from it.

You're probably wondering how I managed to like this book at all since I'm finding fault with everything, BUT I thought the games Lucy and Josh play are hilarious and thankfully unique. They have great snark when it's not hateful, and the tension during the private scenes was A+++++. As I said above, Thorne's language during those scenes was G O R G E O U S. It wasn't flowery and soft-focused; it was visceral and honest. One problem I have with romance covers is that the models never have enough tension in their bodies that makes it look wholly believable. Like if they're embracing, their fingers aren't GRIPPING each other like they never want to let go. Josh and Lucy are most definitely gripping. Their body language, everything from their eyes to their fingers, their whole bodies, is so intense. And the sweet moments--watching tv, Josh giving Lucy a foot rub, etc--are just as amazing to read, the tenderness and quiet not at all interfering with that intensity. GAH. Slow burn is gooood. I also liked the tiny bits of humor sprinkled throughout.

Overall, The Hating Game is fun and fluffy, with great tension and mostly lovely writing, but I feel like the story, the characters, and the narration could have been stronger.

Book Links:

About the Author:
Sally Thorne lives in Canberra, Australia, and spends her days writing funding submissions and drafting contracts (yawn!) so it’s not surprising that after hours she climbs into colorful fictional worlds of her own creation. Sally believes that romance readers are always searching for intensity in their next favorite book—and it isn't always so easy to find. The Hating Game is her first novel.

Author Links:


  1. Thanks for the detailed review! I love how you posted what you liked and didn't like and most importantly why for each. Based on your review, I won't be reading this book, but it's great to weed some books out from the potential ones published.

  2. I see a lot of love for this book, so it was interesting to read some critique. Thanks for such thorough review, Mary. I want to give this book a try, though now I’ll definitely notice when characters mention something that never happened before. Lol.

  3. Great review! when I was reading, I kept thinking about how much I wanted dual pov. Hearing what was going through Josh's head during scenes (aka the scene when Lucy walks into work in the black dress) would have been so much fun.