Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Reviewed by Joanna

Enemies-to-lovers seems to be a theme of mine at the moment. I just back-to-backed this story with Anything You Can Do by R.S. Greybut where that story missed its mark for me, this one shot me right through the heart. So I do like RomComs! Who knew? I couldn’t put it down. The point of view is of Lucy, an exec assistant to the director of a publishing house, and she’s the cutest bundle of fun I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Five foot nothing, Lucy perches at her shiny glass desk, flamethrower lipstick on her pert lips, engaging in game after game with her arch nemesis, Joshua.

Josh is exec assistant to the other director – there are two following an unhappy merger – and our boy is huge, snarly and serious. He wears the same ten shirts in rotation, and Lucy knows the day by the fetching color he’s wearing.

They battle at everything: the Mirror Game, where one moves and the other subtly copies the movement a short pause later; the HR game, where they make complaints about each other’s behaviour to HR; the Staring Game where they stare to try to make the other blink or smile. Josh never smiles. If Lucy even sees a lip twitch she’s cock-a-hoop.

At the company, everyone knows how much they hate each other. Heck half the company hates the other half – the merger didn’t go down so well with the staff, and the respective businesses Lucy and Joshua started in reflects their personalities well.

“The Bexleys are hard geometrics, the Gamins are soft scribbles. Bexleys move in shark packs, talking figures and constantly hogging the conference rooms for their ominous Planning Sessions.”

Can you guess who is who? Just as they are becoming friendlier, a promotion threatens everything they’re building – there’s only one job, and the loser has to work for the winner. Tension ahoy.

I think what worked about this story most was Lucy’s personality. She was so lovely, competent, capable and sweet, with colourful thoughts and funny ways of putting things.

“I slide into his car and nearly fall unconscious. His scent is intensified in here perfectly, baked by summer, preserved by snow, sealed and pressurized inside glass and metal. I inhale like a professional perfumer.”

She’s like a skittish kitty who wants to hiss, play nicely, then run away when the big dog gets too close (big dog being Joshua here, course).

“When he looks over, I jerk back. He puts his hand between us on the couch, palm up, and then looks back at the TV. It’s like he’s put out a dish of seed and is now sitting very still, waiting for the cowardly little chicken to make a move.”

Josh is classic in that he’s misunderstood. Everyone in the company is scared of him, except, of course, Lucy. And the closer she gets, the more she realizes he’s hot as sin and not as bad as she first thought.

“Today is a magnificent black T-shirt day. Write today in your diaries. Tell your grandchildren stories about it. I tear my eyes away, but they slide back moments later. Underneath that T-shirt is a body that could fog an elderly librarian’s glasses. I think my underwear is curling off me like burning paper.”

Honestly, I could quote this book till the cows come home. There’s so much to like about this tale. It’s sparklingly witty, and the couple’s chemistry and their banter back and forth made me want to hug them both.

Josh is all about delaying gratification so he makes Lucy sweat it before they sleep together. Then when they do they have the longest foreplay scene I think I’ve ever read. But it’s not smutty, it’s cute and loving and I was so happy for them. He’s far deeper than he appears, and Thorne didn’t rely on the hot-grump-finally-falls as his only facet (not that I mind that storyline).

If I had to complain, I’d say the tale concludes too soon. There were ends of storylines I’d like to have seen played out in an appendix, particularly with Josh’s fascination with Lucy’s family home (a strawberry farm – for which he adorably calls her Shortcake), but you can’t have everything.

Actually – Sally Thorne, if you read your reviews, can you please post an appendix or short scene somewhere so I can see that HEA in action? Thanks and kisses.

This is Thorne’s debut novel, and I’m going to keep an eye out for her next work due in the summer. This is startling good for a new author, and I’ll autograb her next book no hesitation. I think I might even read this story again – with a TBR like mine that only happens when I need my Mr Darcy fix. Go, buy it.

Rating: A

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Hating Game
by Sally Thorne
Release Date: August 9, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow


  1. You put your finger on why Thorne’s novel is head and shoulders above so many. Her writing pops, bubbles and fizzes with energy and originality. So much fun spending time in Lucy’s thoughts. I particularly enjoyed the episode with Joshua caring for Lucy when she contracts a terrible case of the flu. Josh’s family is also intriguing. I hope Thorne treats us to more, and soon!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it too. I loved that scene. The proximity and caring with no chance of it going further – it was so sweet. My abiding memory is Lucy clutching onto Josh like a baby monkey as he potters about his kitchen with her clutched to his front. Adorable.

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