The Hating Game here on Cannonball. I wasn't expecting too much because hate-to-love romances aren't my favorite. Fortunately, it was the biggest and best surprise of the year for me. I was thoroughly entertained and loved reading it. So when I saw that Sally Thorne's second book, 99 Percent Mine (2019) was out, I knew I would read it and I was eager to get to it. In the end, I enjoyed Thorne's latest, and it had some good moments, but it didn't work nearly as well for me as The Hating Game.
Darcy is a young woman and currently a bartender at a dive bar. The most important people in her life are: Jamie, her twin brother; Tom, their childhood friend and "the perfect man"; Truly, her best friend; and Darcy's recently deceased grandmother. When we meet Darcy, she is a genuine mess. Surviving on alcohol and sugar, she's ignoring her heart condition, and avoiding anything that she cares about. She used to be an award-winning photographer, but she gave it up after showing up for a wedding job late and hungover. She had drunk too much the night before, after she discovered that Tom, her childhood friend and man she'd always loved, was engaged to someone else. Her go-to problem-solving skill is running away.
Darcy recently got in a raging fight with her twin Jamie when she rashly rejected an offer to develop her grandmother's property and the two haven't been talking. Darcy's grandmother left her home to Darcy and Jamie, asking them to restore it and sell it. Tom shows up at the house as the general contractor for the rebuild. With the two stuck together, and Tom recently single, they cannot deny their attraction--although they take their damn time about it.
Tom is a giant of a man and seemingly perfect in every way. He is tall, strong, loyal, kind, and reliable. When a childhood Tom and his single mother moved next door to Darcy's family, he immediately became a part of the family and a peacekeeper between the bickering siblings. Darcy and Tom loved each other back then, but nothing came of it. Then Tom got engaged, even though he still loved Darcy, and neither one did anything about it. And now they're living and working together and still doing nothing about their obvious love for each other.
I had a number of problems with this book. Most importantly, I couldn't understand what was keeping these characters apart. A misunderstanding? The fear of Jamie's anger? It wasn't enough. I couldn't understand how Darcy could literally throw herself at Tom and Tom (really both of them) could act so insanely possessive and jealous and not get together. Whether Tom and Darcy were going to hook up or awkwardly avoid each other felt more random than anything else. At the end of the book, they tell each other in what way the other one loves them. Apparently they knew each other's deepest feelings all along, so seriously, what was keeping them apart?
Sometimes the writing felt a little sloppy and the story unrealistic, which took me out of the fantasy. Why would Darcy lift a heavy box of tile or drag a keg around on the floor when there are people to help her and she knows what it will do to her? Isn't Darcy an adult? Can she seriously not go to the doctor by herself? Why would Tom do an underwear photo shoot when he's just been told there's an emergency with a delivery? Wouldn't he at least check on it first? Why was the photo shoot suddenly an emergency? They didn't even have a model two minutes before and suddenly it has to be done immediately?
Finally, I could not understand Jamie or Jamie and Darcy's relationship. He's straight-up emotionally abusive to Darcy, telling her that she will never amount to anything and she could never be good enough for Tom. Why would he be so cruel? Is this all because Jamie's afraid of losing his friend if Tom becomes interested in his sister? That doesn't even make sense, unless Darcy and Jamie's relationship is so dysfunctional that they cannot share anything. Jamie and Tom don't seem particularly close anyway, and Tom marrying into the family would only keep them closer. So, Darcy and Jamie were both exceedingly unlikable at times. I couldn't understand Jamie's motivation for aggressively keeping Darcy and Tom apart, and I couldn't understand why Darcy and Tom were ever apart in the first place.
That all being said, there was still some good tension, and I did read the book quickly. I hope that Thorne's next one works better for me.