Desert Isle Keeper
The Trouble With Hating You
A strong heroine, charming hero and fiery love story make The Trouble with Hating You an utterly delightful début.
To say that Liya Thakkar has daddy issues is to seriously understate the problem. She and her father are barely civil. He is disgusted that she flauts their traditional Indian culture by dating and living alone. She is disgusted that he demands his wife wait upon him hand and foot. He won’t even get himself a glass of water, insisting that her mom stop whatever she’s doing to get him a drink while he continues sitting on his butt reading the paper. Liya only drops by their home to see her sweet, caring mother, and even that is difficult since more often than not she and her dad wind up bickering. She hates that her “disrespectful” behavior (aka standing up for herself and her mom) has become just one more thing for which her father berates her mother. Still, Liya wants her mother to feel loved and cherished, which is how she finds herself at their latest dinner party, an event which turns out not to be the simple family meal she was promised but a setup with Jay Shah, the man they want her to marry. She refuses to even meet the guy and dashes out the back door, racing towards her car. Unfortunately, she runs straight into Jay’s arms with enough force to knock him over.
Jay never expected to find himself with his potential bride sprawled across him in public. He tries to save the embarrassing moment with a joke but she’s having none of it. Snarkily insulting him for getting in the way, she bails on the dinner, leaving Jau and his mother to make awkward conversation over a very uncomfortable meal. He doesn’t care so much for himself but he can see his mother is ashamed, uncertain how she should handle such an insult. For his part, he’s glad he will never have to see the rude young lady again.
How wrong he is! The very next day he runs into her at the temple rec room when the basketball game he and his friends are playing disturbs the dance practice Liya and her friends are taking part in. He once more tries to smooth things over with some levity and is once more treated to a rude shutdown. He leaves determined to do a better job of avoiding Liya – and hoping that if he does see her again he’ll get a shot at payback.
He does! He’s been hired to help her struggling company through some tricky legal issues and when Liya shows up late to a meeting, he gets his moment for some sweet revenge. Pointing out her tardiness and utter lack of preparedness for the crucial event gives him a warm and fuzzy feeling. He’s not happy that he’s gone from “never having run into her to having to deal with her at mandir and at work” but at least he is finally holding his own in their verbal sparring matches.
Jay’s not the kind of lawyer who enjoys combat, though; he’s much better at negotiation. As he learns why Liya is so volatile around the male of the species, he begins to respect her fire and determination to be respected for who she is. Responding to her barbs with kindness and reason slowly moves the couple towards friendship, but the strong sexual attraction that sizzles between them quickly has them longing for more.
I don’t typically love enemies-to-lovers romances but this one really worked for me. Part of that was the myriad reasons Liya has for being uncivil. Her father’s sexism and the generally abysmal chauvinism of her temple community are part of it but she’s also been the victim of childhood sexual abuse and has had to face the fallout of an unmerited scandal as a result of it. The judgment the Indian society in her area has heaped upon her – mainly in the form of bad-mouthing aunties feeding endless unfounded rumours into the gossip mill – has left her sensitive to criticism, especially anything from or involving the opposite sex. All of that has left her feeling vulnerable and when it comes to choosing between fight or flight, Liya is determined to always choose fight.
I adored that Jay had the patience and maturity to get to know the real Liya and that he saw the importance of connecting with someone who had been so wronged by the people in his community. Once they move beyond the barrier of her prickly attitude, they realise they have a great deal in common. Both love their mothers deeply. Both have wounds from the past which they have carried into the present, making them wary of marriage. They are hardworking, devoting long hours to their jobs and when they relax, they prefer simple, casual activities. They like good food and prefer having a few close friends rather than hanging out in large groups. Their commonalities make it easy for them to be together but their individual strengths mean they each bring something unique to the relationship. Jay is a natural nurturer, while Liya is a born defender and protector. They compliment each other well, which is what I long to see in a romantic pairing.
It’s wonderful that Jay’s family is open hearted when it came to Liya, willing to ignore the fake news that has sullied her reputation. Also great was the author showing us the impact that being rejected by her peers had hs on Liya. She longed for the easy camaraderie that many in her temple community share and is both outraged and distressed that that same joy is denied her due to slander and antiquated attitudes towards a woman’s ‘proper’ behavior.
The romance here is just wonderful. After their first date, Liya says:
This was by far the best date I’d ever had. It was easy. Casual. No pretenses, no trying too hard. We weren’t rigid or trying to put on our best fronts. We were ourselves.
Describing their relationship she tells us:
Every morning he brought a latte with breakfast and we ate in my office before the day started. He pulled me away from a hectic workplace for lunches across the street. When I stayed late, he stayed with me. Sometimes we ate dinner in the lab when my team came up short. Sometimes we ate on the floor of my office, which sounded disgusting, but was quite comfortable and relaxed when I leaned against the wall and ended the night by resting my feet on his lap. He even gave me foot rubs.
The structure of the story worked for me as well. By the fifty percent mark, Jay and Liya have moved to a point where they are genuinely communicating rather than bickering and all conflicts after that are external.
I could go on and on – about the terrific secondary characters, clear, crisp prose, and wonderful HEA – but I will let you discover for yourself why The Trouble with Hating You deserves a place on the keeper shelf of all contemporary romance fans.
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