Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-256673-7
Contemporary Romance, 2017
The Kanes and the Chandlers are the new Montagues and Capulets. But still, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler took one night every year, for the last ten years, to boink like rabbits doing some kind of weird ritual to resurrect Ellora’s Cave or something… until last year, when Nicholas was left holding his turgid phone in his hand and wondering why Livvy hadn’t sent the directions to his upcoming lay of the day. It turns out, she decamped for some reason he couldn’t fathom. But now she’s back, trying to avoid him even as she cares for her mother (the lady had a broken hip), and he wants in again. And again. And again.
Despite the premise, do take note that Hate to Want You isn’t some hot skinfest erotica – its sensuality level is more to those of a spicy contemporary romance marketed in a mainstream line, which is of course what it is. Livvy has all the trappings for an edgy for the sake of edgy thing – she does tattoos, she has tattoos, but don’t worry, she also has some angst to make sure that some readers won’t see her as a happy slut and throw up their hands in disgust. Nicholas is the cool, collected guy who only lets it out when he, er, lets it out, and despite having slept with many other women – hey, he has to do something for the remaining 364 or so days of the year, you know – only Livvy can make him go all emotional and needy, so that’s true love for you. Livvy’s special, unlike the other women he’d sampled and left aside.
I have to hand it to the author: the sexual tension is pretty well done. There are humor and heavy breathing stirred together in a well balanced manner, and the angst isn’t too overwhelming. The sex scenes aren’t too bad… until the author does that romance novel thing where the heroine wants him to add all the batter he has into her cake plate, which to her is fine because she is clean. What, STDs only move from women to men? #Biologyfail
Also, the rest of the story is standard “I must push that person away! No more… oops, sexy time. Okay, next time, no more! Never again… oops, that’s a big one, wooh! But that’s the last one, I must be strong… oh no, I somehow got his penis inside me again!” stuff that dampens my enthusiasm considerably because that story line is so played out and there isn’t enough variation or twists here to keep this latest iteration interesting.
My less than enthusiastic response to this story is also due to the fact that the family drama turns out to be disappointingly mundane. Yes, one of the daddies cheated with one of the mommies from the other family – no spoiler here, this is what happens to pretty much every Romeo and Juliet-style romance story in the genre – and someone died and someone cheated someone from the other family. But here’s the thing. Livvy declares that she doesn’t care about the family feud. But she somehow just keeps… playing along? Because of some family obligation thing? So does she care or not about the whole drama? And Nicholas’s reason for his “Betrayal! Horrible betrayal!” is a facepalm moment, and all conflicts are resolved between Livvy and he when, late in the story, Nicholas finally reveals that he’s actually one of the good guys all along. So why does he keep mum all this while?
That’s my problem with this, ultimately: I don’t get a clear grasp on why all that angst and sulky faces have to go on for as long as they do. These people don’t talk, they are more interested in humping against one another, so what could have been sizzling sexual tension soon becomes a source of frustration, as oh my god, I just want these two to talk. Not to mention, they are both adults, self-sustaining ones to boot, so there is really no reason for them to not hook up and set a good example for the rest of their family if they put their mind to it. The author is more interested in Livvy and Nicholas doing one another when they are not sulking about how they must stop seeing one another, and this story soon becomes a bit too contrived for its own good.
Still, this is a well-written and hence painless story to read. It has its moments too. Who knows, if you like heavy breathing characters with a dose of angst, and you don’t mind that these two seem to be just making mountains out of their first world molehills, you may enjoy Hate to Want You more than I did.