You know that feeling when you have an ex and you see them on social media and they seem like they're having the time of their lives while you're just stagnating away? That's how I feel whenever I see one of my friends on Goodreads reading a book that I want to read. I think the feeling is called "envy." Hipsters call it "FOMO." I call it a typical weekday afternoon in Nenialand. When two of my friends decided to buddy-read this, it was the push I needed to go dig out my own copy and read the book for good.
HATE TO WANT YOU has been on my to-read list for a while. I've read one of Rai's earlier works and thought it was very sexy and well-written, but also kind of dark. HATE TO WANT YOU promised to be a sort of modern-day Romeo and Juliet. Livvy and Nicholas used to date when they were younger, but were driven apart when their parents died in the same car wreck - together. Family pressures kept them separated, except for the one day of every year when they'd get together for some no-strings-attached sex. This is their ten-year "anniversary," but this things are different. This time, they've left their marks on one another for good.
As with the first book I read by Rai, which I believe was called PLAY WITH ME, the writing in HATE TO WANT YOU was great. In fact, it was a little more polished, probably because PLAY was written while she was still indie whereas HATE was an Avon publication and I'm sure Avon can afford to give its authors decent editors that keep everything smooth. It's also been a while, so the author has had time to hone her craft. That said, in terms of story, I didn't like HATE TO WANT YOU as much as I enjoyed PLAY WITH ME.
I've been thinking about this a lot because HATE TO WANT YOU has a lot to like. There is a wide cast of characters, all dealing with variations on the OG Shakespearian tregedy. Even if they aren't likable, they're all interesting, whether it's the frozen Tani with her crushed dreams, Brendan with his callous obsession, Jackson with his bad boy torments, Eve with her inadequacies and insecurities, or Sadia with her pride and her sorrow. And then there's the main couple, who are like the baggage claim at an airport, dealing with everyone else's problems in addition to their own.
I think the problem was that Nicholas and Livvy felt kind of flat to me, so their emotions didn't really bleed through. It's like when you're baking a moist spongecake and you have to pour syrup into the mix but you don't poor enough so it doesn't properly seep through all the layers to evenly permeate (do I have any Great British Bakeoff fans here with me now?). Because HATE TO WANT YOU lacked that depth I was seeking, the stakes did not seem quite as high and I felt removed from the h and the H. The story was good but I had trouble staying interested because I wasn't invested.
3 out of 5 stars