Liya Thakkar is a biochemical engineer who’s fending off her parents’ attempts to get her married. One evening, she shows up for what she thinks is a family dinner, only to find out that they’ve invited Jay Shah and his mother to meet with her about the possibility of marriage. Liya escapes… literally knocking Jay off his feet in an insta-hate meet-cute… and thinks the matter is settled. Except Jay also happens to be the lawyer hired to save her struggling company, and he’s angry at her rejection not just of him, but of his beloved mother.
The Trouble with Hating You is an enemies-to-lovers romance that explores how our pasts inform how we respond to the possibility of finding love. I absolutely love the complexity of the backstory around Liya’s family and community. I felt for Liya’s mother, who had subsumed her own desires to be the traditional obedient wife to her domineering, emotionally abusive husband. Without giving away spoilers, the story ends with a touch of hope for Liya’s mother, that isn’t quite the full 180 degree liberation I’d hoped for, but is at least both realistic and very much welcome.
I also felt for Liya, who is dealing with the widespread censure within her family’s community because of her lifestyle (she lives alone and away from her parents, she has sex outside of marriage, and so on). There’s also a traumatic incident in her past that makes it difficult for Liya to trust men, especially when her father blames her rather than the actual perpetrator for the incident. I felt for Liya, and for how difficult it must have been like for her to grow up while dealing with this experience and being unable to find support within her own family. I really liked her circle of friends, and I also liked how she warmed up to Jay’s mother before she even warmed up to Jay himself.
Jay also has a heartbreaking backstory — he blames himself for a family member’s death, and so tries to make up for his guilt by taking especially good care of his mother. I love this, because it shows how important family is to him. I especially love how Liya’s rejection hurt him not so much for himself, but rather because he could see how much it hurt his mother, and how much his mother blamed herself for whatever slight imperfection must have caused Liya to run away from them.
Jay is a sweet, super caring hero, who is patient with Liya’s prickliness towards him even before he learns the reason behind it. There’s a really heartwarming scene where he sees Liya working late in the lab, and voluntarily stays with her all night, cleaning test tubes and doing other menial tasks, just so she won’t be alone. This is before they even get together, which makes it especially sweet, and shows the kind of person Jay is.
Liya is a bit harder to connect with. I can understand her defensiveness given her backstory, and I can understand why her parents’ example makes her fight so hard against the possibility of getting married. I’m all for complicated heroines, and I can definitely respect her ambition and drive. The thing is, her prickliness often crossed the line to being downright mean, and past the halfway point, considering how sweet and kind Jay had been throughout the book, Liya’s continued prickliness towards him began to annoy me. It was hard for me to understand what Jay saw in her that made him continue to fall in love.
There’s also this moment where Liya, a manager who supervises a group of biochemical engineers, notices that her employees are slacking off. Instead of talking with them about it, perhaps feeling out if it’s the uncertainty of their company’s future that’s making them lose motivation, Liya instead stays overnight to do their work herself. When her employees come back the next morning and ask if this means she’ll be taking the day off, she responds that she’ll actually go back to doing her own work now that she’s done theirs. Liya’s rationale, which both Jay and the book seem to find admirable (her employees shape up after that), is that she wants to lead by example, and show her staff that she’s not above getting her own hands dirty with non-managerial work. Except this solution struck me as incredibly passive-aggressive, and honestly, if I were one of her employees, this would piss me off.
The story overall was entertaining, and, as I said, I really enjoyed all the complex plot threads about Liya and Jay’s families. The romance was both sweet and steamy, but didn’t quite hook me as much. I did like the ending, and how even after falling in love, Liya continued to keep her career a priority.
Thank you to Forever Romance and Hachette Book Group Canada for an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
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