Desert Isle Keeper

The Hating Game

Sally Thorne

I finished The Hating Game and immediately emailed my editor, sister, mom, and hairdresser to tell them about it.  A couple of things you should know – first and foremost, I review and recommend a lot of books, BUT – I don’t LOVE a lot of books. And second, my parents (but most especially my mom) are super conservatives and my sister is a committed (and vocal) bleeding-heart liberal.  The chance of them agreeing on anything – let alone a fiction book, is slim to none.  So if I can recommend a book I think they will both enjoy – well, you’d better believe I think it’s special.  The Hating Game is quirky, funny, romantic, delightful, and most of all, charming.  If you like any (or all) of those things in a romance novel, shuffle your TBR queue and move this one to the top.  I think you’ll love it too.

Lucy Hutton is the executive assistant to Helene Pascal, the co-CEO of Bexley & Gamin book publishers.  She shares an office with Joshua Templeman, the executive assistant to Richard Bexley, the other co-CEO.  Bexley Books and and Gamin Publishers are newly merged; just like their respective companies, Lucy and Joshua are total opposites.  Lucy is a Gamin, passionate about books and people, charming and easygoing.  Joshua (in her opinion) is Bexley through and through:

The Bexleys are hard geometrics… Bexleys move in shark packs, talking figures and constantly hogging the conference rooms for their ominous Planning Sessions.  Plotting sessions, more like.

It’s hate at first sight between them.  At least Lucy hates Joshua – and she’s pretty sure he hates her too.  Fated to spend workdays together in an office with a (bizarre) abundance of mirrored surfaces, they indulge in ridiculous games of brinksmanship, but in spite of that and her snippy computer passwords (variations on [email protected]), Lucy finds herself preoccupied trying to figure him out and aware of everything he does.  She knows the day of the week by the color of his shirt (Navy leads to Gorgeous Payday Black), and his husky, soft laugh raises the tiny hairs on her arms.  The tension and their mutual dislike only escalates after their bosses announce the creation of a third executive position, chief operating officer.  Lucy and Joshua are expected to apply and compete for it.  Lucy wants the job, but the knows that if Joshua gets it, she’s resigning. That, for reasons she’s unwilling to examine closely, makes her sad.

Following the announcement, interactions between Lucy and Joshua are more charged than ever.  A conversation the following day rapidly devolves into a brand new game of When I’m Your Boss. The conversation, as per usual, goes off the rails after Joshua says, “When I’m your boss, I’m going to work you so fucking hard.”  That night, Lucy dreams of Joshua working her hard in a completely different way.  Tormented by the dream, she decides to dress up for the office the next day and turn the tables on him.  Like most of her plans to get the better of Joshua, it backfires.

He stares at me until I begin to untie the belt on my trench coat, but I can’t continue.  The blue of his eyes is even more vivid than in my dream.  He’s looking at me like he’s busy reading my mind.

Joshua notices her attention, looks at his planner and;

“Wowsers,” he drawls, and I watch his pencil make some kind of mark.  “Got a hot date, Shortcake?”

Flustered by his attention and the nickname, she lies and says yes.  Asked for details, she fibs and makes up a time and place.  His response – “What a total coincidence.  I’m going there to watch the game tonight,” sends Lucy  scrambling to find a date. Logging onto her computer with her new password, DIE-JOSH-DIE!, she tries to calm down.

Lucy finds a date, but when Joshua offers her a ride she agrees because she can’t think of a good reason to say no.  I’m not going to give away any spoilers in this review – BECAUSE I WANT YOU TO READ THIS TERRIFIC BOOK – but the elevator ride to the parking garage is a game changer.  It opens Lucy’s eyes to the fine line between loving and hating someone – and to the real possibility Joshua might not hate her so much either.  She’s barely processed what happened in the elevator, when Joshua surprises her yet again by taking care of her after she falls sick at a work event.  Delirious with fever for most of the time he takes care of her, Lucy’s not sure she trusts her recollections of Joshua’s care.  Would someone who hates her clean up her vomit and stay with her until the fever broke?

The Hating Game is told entirely in Lucy’s PoV.  She’s a sensitive, vulnerable and hilarious narrator.  But she’s honest – and when she falls for Joshua, you fall for him too.  Once they start spending time together outside the office – and he finally reveals his own vulnerabilities – she realizes many of the assumptions she’s made about him are wrong.  Joshua, focused on hiding his feelings for Lucy, masked them by being a jerk (he’s a guy).  When he admits he fell for her the moment they met, and reveals how much he knows about her (he even cracked her passwords!), I might have sighed out loud.  The whole scene is so romantic.

Joshua isn’t perfect and Ms. Thorne doesn’t pretend he is when Lucy finally falls for him.  He readily admits he can be an idiot and that he handled his feelings for Lucy poorly.  When the story concludes, it’s obvious that much of Joshua’s attitude is a response to his tense relationship with his father. When Lucy discovers why, and witnesses his dad’s boorish behavior first hand, her magnificent and passionate defense of Joshua is awesome.  He’s ready to tell her he loves her – but Lucy, freaked out by her behavior, takes a bit more convincing.  It’s another swoon-worthy conversation, and when she finally admits she loves him, it’s a perfect conclusion to this wonderful book.

Spoilers aside, it’s clear from the first page that Lucy and Joshua are destined to be together.  It’s the road to happily ever for ‘horny eyes’ Lucy and ‘serial killer eyes’ Joshua (how they refer to each other when they’re pretending not to flirt) that makes this début novel so special.  The chemistry between Lucy and Joshua zings off the page and the dialogue – even after they stop being enemies –  is snappy, smart and funny.  From the first page to the last, I enjoyed every bit of The Hating Game.  I bet you will too.


Buy The Hating Game by Sally Thorne:

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Book Details

Reviewer :      Em Wittmann

Grade :     A

Sensuality :      Warm

Book Type :     

Review Tags :     

Recent Comments


  1. Dabney Grinnan
    Dabney Grinnan August 8, 2016 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Loved loved loved this book.

    So witty. So sexy. So funny.

    Definitely on my top books of 2016.

  2. LeeF August 8, 2016 at 10:53 am - Reply

    Sounds like my kind of book. I will check back on it when they get it down to my kind of price.

  3. Kristie(J) August 8, 2016 at 11:20 am - Reply

    Your review really made me want to read this book but when I checked it out, crap on a cracker, they are charging $12for the ebook!

  4. Em Wittmann
    Em Wittmann August 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Lee & Kristie – The Hating Game is worth every penny but that is a lot of pennies! I LOVED this book. Hope you get your hands on it soon! Worth it.

  5. Kristan Higgins August 8, 2016 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Worth every penny and more. So funny, so sexy, so smart. Look at it this way: you’ll read it three times at least, and then it only costs $4 a pop. Sometimes, you get what you pay for, and this is one of them. Trust Auntie Kristan!

  6. Kristen Donnelly
    Kristen Donnelly August 8, 2016 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    I agree with Auntie Kristan – worth all the pennies. I read this a few months ago and have already re-read it and I am a SUPER picky re-reader. Firmly cemented in my top 10 of 2016.

  7. Blackjack1 August 8, 2016 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    Sounds really good!

  8. BettyB August 9, 2016 at 2:20 am - Reply

    It is published in Germany with the title “Küss mich, Mistkerl!” at the middle of the month. It just went on my wishlist…

  9. Kay August 9, 2016 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for the review. The price was steep but I got a sample and had to get the book. So glad I did. Not too many books make me laugh out loud. So fun.

  10. Blackjack1 August 9, 2016 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    I bought it yesterday and am halfway through already. It really is one of the funniest romances I’ve read. I completely agree with the review!

  11. Haley Kral
    Haley Kral August 25, 2016 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    I just absolutely adored this book. I cannot wait for more from this author.

  12. Dabney Grinnan
    Dabney Grinnan August 26, 2016 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    I am rereading while at the beach. It is a sublime experience. I have no end of love for Josh and Lucy.

  13. Blackjack1 August 26, 2016 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    My favorite book so far from 2016. I can’t believe this was a debut novel!

  14. Lenora Bell August 27, 2016 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Loved this book so much!!! Absolutely fresh and delightful. Can’t wait for more from Sally Thorne!

  15. Keira Soleore
    Keira Soleore August 27, 2016 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    Gosh, y’all, the review and all your comments made me rush over to my library to put a hold on it. And whoa is it popular! I will be reading it in January but it sounds like it’ll be worth the wait.

  16. Sharon August 28, 2016 at 9:05 am - Reply

    This author has such a wonderful style of writing. You can visualize what’s going on. It’s funny without being slapstick. Can’t wait for her next book. *Don’t read this in pubic–people will think you’ve gone off crazy with laughter!

  17. Bona September 1, 2016 at 3:41 am - Reply

    Thanks to this review (and a couple of others) I decided to buy this book, although the ebook price was a little high. OMG, I loved it! And I read it in just one day and a half.

  18. stl_reader September 3, 2016 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    Missed this review, but I saw some responses to it in the “Recently Read” thread here at AAR and thought I’d check it out of the library.

    I have to rate The Hating Game “A-“, even though I feel a bit wrong doing so because it comes over more like something that was just dashed off breezily by the narrator, rather than a form of literature with the sort of “gravitas” worthy of anything about a B+. Which is no doubt silly to say, because for all I know this may have taken the same amount of effort and attention to detail to craft as, say, a historical romance novel.

    But seriously, I thought for what it was, A- seemed about right. I found the writing witty and intelligent, though it sometimes tried just a little too hard. Also, maybe in Australia they’re a little more lax about, oh, using the F word at work and such, because that took me aback a little.

    Like a few other folks have posted in the Recently Read thread, it would have been nice if references that would place this story in Australia–if there were any references–had been left in, because the book was very vague about location, and frankly, I never quite felt like these people were in the U.S. If the book was in fact edited to “Americanize” it, big mistake, Editor! Don’t do it again.

    • Caz Owens
      Caz Owens September 4, 2016 at 5:42 pm - Reply

      The audiobook – which I’ve just listened to for AudioGals – very firmly places it in the US because it uses an American narrator. I’m British and it had quite the Brit ‘vibe’ in print for a lot of the time, but I’d have liked it to have been more strongly ‘located’.

    • Caroline Russomanno
      Caroline Russomanno September 10, 2016 at 1:38 pm - Reply

      I got this book out of the library on the strength of the recommendations here and I loved it. I agree that I’d have liked more setting, but the characters were fantastic and I liked the author’s style. Quite excited to read whatever she does next.

  19. Blackjack1 September 10, 2016 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    As I was reading _The Hating Game_ I found myself wanting the setting to be developed, and in the absence of one, I started picturing Australia simply because I knew the author was Australian. In retrospect and some distance now from reading the book, I think the absence of a specific setting created an almost surreal atmosphere in which corporate life is universally banal, lifeless, strangely glossy and alienating. In that sense then, the anti-setting ended up working for me. I can imagine corporations doing something so ridiculous as to force rival co-workers to face each other in a lifeless and nondescript room, strangely filled with mirrored surfaces everywhere. The dig at generic office team building was a great moment too in the novel and one that most readers can probably relate.

  20. Blackjack1 October 16, 2016 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    Cudos to Sally Thorne today for having _The Hating Game_ reviewed today in The New York Times – favorably too!


    • Dabney Grinnan
      Dabney Grinnan October 16, 2016 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      Yeah, although the tone was so superior. The NYT should take a page from the WaPo who’s started reviewing romances with respect.

      • Blackjack1 October 16, 2016 at 10:01 pm - Reply

        It is true that the Times has a condescending attitude about romance writing. That makes it even more surprising that they reviewed Thorne’s novel favorably though, and I did like what they had to say about the novel, especially with respect to office politics and the sexism women still encounter at work, even today. I’m betting this review gets even more readership awareness for Sally Thorne. I’m happy for her!

        • Dabney Grinnan
          Dabney Grinnan October 17, 2016 at 8:08 am - Reply

          I am sure it will. I recommended the book to several non-romance readers and they sent me FB messages about the review!

  21. Keira Soleore
    Keira Soleore October 17, 2016 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Thanks to all of you, I have read The Hating Game. I loved the clever and hilarious banter between the two. It was refreshing to see how with it both were, and their love story was so sweet. However, the fat-shaming and ageism were a downer for me.

  22. Ankit August 19, 2017 at 7:53 am - Reply

    Thank you all for your reviews, I gifted it to my friend hope she’ll like it

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