There’s a thin line between love and hate. That’s the premise of Australian writer Sally Thorne’s first novel, The Hating Game, which pits two uber-competitive office workers against each other as they both angle for the same promotion at a publishing company.
Lucy has always dreamed of working at a publishing company; Joshua fell into his job after dropping out of medical school due to squeamishness. Bitter rivals, the two are constantly trying to sabotage each other. However, despite their mutual loathing, there’s an undercurrent of sexual tension that becomes more and more difficult to ignore.
To Thorne’s credit, this isn’t the type of book where the protagonists finally declare their attraction to one another on the final page; the romantic sparks between Joshua and Lucy are pretty obvious early on, and a kiss in the elevator at work further complicates their relationship. Both have vowed to quit if the other one gets the promotion, and when Lucy begins to date another employee, things get even more twisted.
The Hating Game reminded me a little of Lucy Parker’s Act Like It, another book where we watch the couple move from antipathy to amour. (Seriously, does that ever happen in real life, or is it just a rom-com trope?) But while Parker’s novel had a rich background in the world of the London theater, Thorne leaves the setting of her book as something of a mystery. At first I just assumed the author was British and that it took place in London, until a receipt with a price in dollars was mentioned. It’s definitely not set in Manhattan, since everyone drives their car to work. When I read that Thorne was Australian, I kind of wished she’d been more specific about the location and given the novel some local color; the huge success of Liane Moriarty’s Oz-set books have proven that readers elsewhere in the world will enjoy fiction set in the land down under. But on the whole, The Hating Game is a fun, light read with a couple of appealing lead characters and a satisfying resolution.