Hate to Want You ended up on a lot of “Best of ” lists last year, but I didn’t read it until just this past weekend. This is the first book in an as yet unfinished series (the third and final book will be published later this year), and the buzz about this series was so intense I finally gave in and bought it. I have a kind of love/hate relationship with contemporary romance: I have certain authors I enjoy very much, but for the most part I find that what is popular with a lot of readers I find to be just kind of meh – serviceable, but not anything I would recommend to someone else or put on my keeper shelf. I need more than just the emotional arc of the romance to keep interested – there has to be something else there, like fantastic writing, a unique plot, great action, etc. In this case, the writing is very, very good.
This is an intense, emotional book, filled with angst. (It also is on the more explicit side of contemporary romance, so if detailed sex scenes are not your thing, this book is not for you.) Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler are from two families that were once close, but that changes after a tragic accident kills Livvy’s father and Nicholas’s mother. Mystery surrounds the details of the car accident, but the upshot is that the families who once worked together and lived next door to each other are now estranged and feuding. Livvy and Nicholas were teenagers in love at the time of the accident, but Nicholas’s father forbids Nicholas from seeing her anymore – all contact between the families needs to be cut off. Nicholas’s father also may have cheated the Kane family in buying out their share of the business, resulting in a drastic reduction in living standards for the Kanes.
When the story begins, it is many years later. Livvy is a tattoo artist who is living a nomadic life; Nicholas is running the family business. They meet once a year for a night of sex (anywhere but their hometown where Nicholas still lives), but otherwise they never talk to each other. Their continued connection is a secret from their respective families, and it is obvious keeping this secret is not healthy for them. The connection between them, however, cannot be denied. When Livvy’s mother becomes ill, Livvy returns to help take care of her. Livvy’s and Nicholas’s proximity to one other forces a reckoning between them. This story is all about the emotions of these two vulnerable, in many ways damaged people. This is not the type of story I typically enjoy, but the writing is so good that I did. This story has been compared to Romeo and Juliet, although since this is a romance, we know we will get a happy ending instead of a tragic one. The journey is an emotional one, however, and there is a lot of angst to get through before we get there. It is a worthwhile read, but be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster.