The Hating Game is a contemporary romance by Sally Thorne. This isn’t a book review but an actual summary of what happens in the story so keep in mind there will be spoilers ahead.
- Book Title: The Hating Game
- Author: Sally Thorne
- Publication Date: August 9, 2016
- Category: Contemporary Romance, New Adult Romance
- Print Length: 384 Pages
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne is a single POV, enemies to lovers, workplace romance. Lucy Hutton and Josh Templeman are employees at B&G. They’re both executive assistants for the CEOs, Lucy for Helene and Josh for Mr. Bexley. They share a space outside of Helene and Mr. Bexley’s offices. B&G merged from two separate companies, Bexley and Gamin, that had very different cultures and that divide has continued.
The first time Lucy met Josh, she smiled at him. He didn’t smile back and she was hurt. Their relationship quickly became one of mutual animosity, where they play “games” with the goal of making the other smile or cry, according to Lucy. They’ve both had low moments, so the entire staff knows they hate each other and each has reported the other to HR. However, Lucy pays a ton of attention to Josh and knows a lot of the surface-level things about him. She even steals his planner one day while he’s at lunch, takes a picture of it, and tries to figure out what his ambiguous pencil notes are. She later figures out the records when they fight. She has a locked document on her computer, nominally for HR, that dictates every time they argue. Often, their arguments are sexually charged and close to flirting. Josh calls Lucy Shortcake.
At an all-staff meeting, Lucy meets Danny, who is about to leave the company to go freelance. She realizes he’s nice and her type and wishes she noticed him sooner. At the end of the meeting, Helene and Mr. Bexley announce a new position: Chief Operating Officer. They each want their respective executive assistant to get the job. Eventually, Lucy and Josh decide that whoever doesn’t get the job will resign.
After a sex dream about Josh, Lucy decides to wear a tiny black dress into the office. It gets the desired reaction from Josh and he asks if she has a hot date. Lucy lies, so she runs to Danny to secure a date. After work, Josh offers her a ride because her car is in the shop. He’s shocked to find out she has an actual date because he was certain she was lying. He stops the elevator and picks her up. Lucy is certain he’s going to murder her, but instead, he kisses her. She is surprised by how much she likes it.
She goes on the date with Danny anyway and flees to the bathroom after he calls her beautiful. Josh is there with her coat, which she left in the car. She is practically crying as she tells him that he ruined her because she can’t even hear someone call her beautiful. He seems genuinely surprised and apologizes. Lucy goes back to her date.
The next morning, she doesn’t think she can face Josh, so she calls in sick to work. She receives a delivery of roses with a card that says “you’re always beautiful.” She assumes it is from Danny and thanks him.
When she does go back to work, Josh looks more ragged than she has ever seen him and apologizes. She accepts and asks if they can be friends. He says they will never be friends. He thinks Lucy has a pathological need to be liked. She thinks that everyone in the office is afraid of him for good reason.
Lucy suggests that they should do a teamwork exercise for everyone because there are so many issues between the Bexleys and Gamins. Josh hijacks the idea and sets up a paintball competition. On the day of the exercise, he is the one leading it and Lucy realizes she messed up by giving him so much control. He notices throughout the day that she is getting sicker, but she refuses to stop playing, even when she is absolutely decimated by a trigger happy employee. At the end of the day, she vomits and can barely keep herself upright. It’s Josh who takes her home, despite Danny’s protests. Josh takes care of her for the next day, because she won’t go see a doctor. In the middle of the night, she wakes up to another strange man in her apartment. It turns out to be Josh’s brother, Patrick, who is a doctor. Patrick says Josh has done everything right for her and insists Josh RSVP to his wedding. He wants Josh to bring Lucy. He also offers a plus one for Lucy. Lucy overhears but doesn’t understand the issue. While Josh takes care of her she insists on asking him questions and reveals personal details she is later embarrassed by. They talk about her parents’ strawberry farm, which he has made fun of her for before, and tells her he’s wanted to visit for a long time and that he loves strawberries. When she begins to feel better she feels vulnerable and basically kicks him out, hurting his feelings. Also, at some point, while she was sick, he cleaned her entire apartment.
On Monday she wants to go in to see him to thank him and apologize. Danny calls and offers her a ride. He gives her daisies. She stops to buy strawberries for Josh. In the office, there is a single red rose on her keyboard, and Josh and Danny posture over her. Danny asks her on a second date and she agrees. Lucy ends up hurting herself on one of the thorns and bleeding on Josh and he’s deeply worried about the chance of infection. Lucy pulls Josh into a janitor’s closet so they can talk and they end up kissing again. He tells her to go on the date, kiss Danny, and tell him whether she still wants a nice guy at the end.
Lucy goes on the date and kisses Danny. It’s fine, but there are no sparks and they mutually agree to be friends. Lucy goes to Josh’s apartment and walks around the block like a stalker, not fully intending to go up until she sees him. Josh picks her up and kisses her, but says they won’t have sex because she said it would only be one time. He doesn’t intend to waste it on a random Monday. Instead, she explores every inch of his apartment and snoops while he watches her. Then they drink tea and watch ER together and he walks her to her car. She sends him roses.
Josh takes the next day off, so Lucy practices her presentation for the job interview with Helene. She is proposing a backlist digitization project. Helene is amazed and admits she’s done Lucy a disservice by keeping her in her current position. Helene suggests she adds a digitized ebook to the presentation as proof of concept. Lucy ends up working with Danny to get covers for the ebooks.
That night, Lucy feels at odds because she didn’t see Josh all day, so she calls him and then goes to his apartment. She gives him a Smurf from her extensive collection, because previously he gave her a matchbox car. Lucy feels strongly that everything between them should be even, which is part of the reason she makes up all the games they play. Josh tells her that he wants to make sure she doesn’t regret it when they have sex. He also tells her about how he was expected to be a doctor like everyone else in his family, but couldn’t do it after he shadowed a coroner. He’s the only one in the family who didn’t go into medicine. Even though Lucy jokes that she only wants him for his body, she knows more about him than anyone else and always wants to know more. Josh makes her dinner because he wants to spoil her. He thinks Lucy is a pushover and wants her to stand up to others like she does to him. When she does, he’s incredibly proud of her. Mr. Bexley comes out to bother them and implies he’s going to tell Josh Lucy’s strategy for the presentation. Josh reverts to old-Josh and says he doesn’t need help beating her, which upsets her. He tries to say he was lying but Lucy uses the remark to remind herself that they are still competing and she can’t trust him. Lucy runs to meet Danny to discuss her project and Josh sees them. He’s pissed, especially because Lucy won’t acknowledge their relationship. He reminds her to be ready to leave for the wedding on Friday, because they’ll have to stay for the weekend.
Lucy Skypes with her mom, who gave up her job as an investigative journalist to work the strawberry farm with Lucy’s dad. She’s always sort of worried her mom felt unfulfilled, especially because of her very extensive daily blog (which Josh reads) about the farm. Her mom says she doesn’t regret her choice. But her mom says that for Lucy, she thinks she should keep her eyes on the prize and stay focused on the career she’s wanted forever. Her mom realizes that Lucy is in love with Josh. Lucy promises she’ll finally come home soon.
At work the next day, Josh and Mr. Bexley have a shouting match that requires Helene and Jeanette from HR to resolve. Helene gives Lucy some good advice and Lucy decides to go to the wedding with Josh. After the meeting, Josh won’t tell her what happened, but he confirms that he didn’t get an informal job offer and they don’t know about Lucy and Josh’s changed relationship. He manages to get her into the car, even though Lucy is still nervous about anyone seeing them and about their potential relationship.
When they get to the hotel, Josh finds out they’ll have to share a room. They start to make out, but are interrupted by his mom needing help with centerpieces. Lucy falls asleep and the next day they wake up late. They spend time in bed talking about their exes and Lucy decides that Josh’s last ex left him for a nice guy, which would explain why he hates them.
Before retirement Josh’s mom was a surgeon who mostly focuses on hearts and transplants and his dad usually did emergency surgery. Lucy also realizes that past girlfriends have objectified Josh, only wanting him for his body and disliking his personality and is indignant. The dress she chose for the wedding is the same robin’s egg blue as Josh’s bedroom walls.
When they get to the wedding, Josh’s mom, Elaine, is exuberant and loves Lucy immediately. His father, Anthony, is far more reserved and standoffish. Josh is miserable and wants to leave immediately after. At the reception, everyone is awkward around Josh. None of his extended family know anything about Josh, like where he works, and they’re all tiptoeing around something and staring at Lucy. Anthony makes a passive aggressive speech that makes it sound like he only has one son.
When Josh goes to the bathroom Lucy talks to Mindy, the bride, and learns that she and Josh dated for a year. She and Josh weren’t the right fit and he scared her, but she and Patrick clicked and had a whirlwind romance. Lucy gets upset and leaves, realizing she has feelings for Josh. Elaine follows her and tells her it is hard to love men like Josh, but worthwhile. Josh says he doesn’t care about Mindy marrying Patrick. He never wanted Lucy to believe his behavior with her was an act, so he didn’t tell her before. Lucy isn’t ready to name her feelings, so she says she will take a bus home. Josh admits that she was right originally and he needed her to come because he was scared of his dad, who has never forgiven him for dropping out of med school. Patrick was the firstborn and always had Anthony’s attention. Anthony didn’t even come to Josh’s graduation party after he finished premed. Now that Lucy understands him better, she decides to stay. They finally have sex.
The next day, Lucy insists they go to breakfast with Josh’s family. It’s going well, until Lucy steps away for a moment to get coffee and comes back to Anthony and Josh arguing. Lucy defends Josh, telling Anthony how good he is at his job and how he saved Bexley before the merger and now essentially does the CEO’s job. It is much needed and effective. Lucy and Josh leave and Elaine takes Anthony outside to dress him down.
When they get back to Lucy’s apartment, she freaks out because she realizes she loves him. She’s afraid of her feelings. They play truth or dare. Josh apologizes for how defensive he’s been and how many times he hurt her. Then he tells her he’s loved her since the first time he saw her. She admits she loves him too. He says that she knows him, and asks what his favorite color is. She answers blue like his walls and her dress and he shows her it’s the same blue as her eyes. They play a game where they pretend they’re meeting for the first time and talk about how much they love each other already. Josh then tells her he resigned because he doesn’t want a job if it means he can’t have Lucy. He has a job at B&G’s rival now, so she won’t have to wonder if he would have beaten her for the job. She says she’s going to visit her parents on their strawberry farm and he begs to come along. The story ends with them excited for their future.
Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman
Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive-aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.
Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.