Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Winter Renshaw is one of those authors that I want to fight for. I don’t think her following is huge, but her books are pure offerings of characterization, and her readership knows this. Her latest offering is no different.
Hate the Game is the tale of a reserved, studious college girl and the hot star quarterback for their university. Irie is simply biding her time until graduation. She has spent four years, flying under the radar, standing in her individuality. She exists for her self and her great aunt who she cares for, and that’s enough for her as she pursues the goals for her future: to become an interior designer. Talon Gold is the star quarterback of Pacific Valley University. He comes from a privileged background, and his future of NFL stardom is right in front of him. Unfortunately, there are two problems: he’s been infatuated with Irie since freshman year and she has no interest in reciprocating his interest; and, while raised wealthy, that life brings him no real joy. As the story progresses, we find that football, the center of his life, is conflated with stress and unhappiness. Unbeknownst to each other, Talon and Irie find themselves as students in an anthropology class. Talon takes the opportunity to essentially woo Irie, even though she tries hard to resist him. Irie’s past is also complicated and informs her decisions about Talon. Will Talon’s efforts pay off? Will he win the heart of the girl who he has obsessed over since freshman year? That is the core of this story, and it’s a beautiful one.
To be honest, when I first read the blurb for Hate the Game, I thought for sure that Talon Gold was a player, and I believed the story would develop with Irie, the perfunctory strong heroine, reforming the “bad boy” hero. Boy, was I wrong. That is not this story.
Instead, Renshaw alludes to the treasure of Talon Gold in his name. He is a “gold” character in his ardent interest in Irie. This story is insightful in its illustration of labeling and preconceived judgments about people. This finds the most purchase in the characterization of Talon. He has every characteristic to be a playboy, “big man on campus.” To some degree, he fits the latter identity. However, the belief Irie holds about him is far from the truth of him. If you love a hero who adores the heroine to his soul, who will move heaven and earth to be with her, and who will sacrifice himself for her, then you should be reading Hate the Game. Talon Gold is a revelation of a hero in this story. I kept waiting for his evolution into d*uchebaggery, but it doesn’t happen. Instead, Talon Gold embodies his name with his heart of “gold.”
The difficult character of this story is Irie. At face value, Irie is strength personified. Yet, this strength is held together with fragile bands and a cracked wall. Her past unfortunately informs her perception of Talon, and it shows how wrong people can be about others based on other people’s perceptions. This is a running theme in Hate the Game. Nothing is as it seems; the truth is hidden behind shabby facades. With the right swing of the hammer of truth, it all falls down. This happens more indelibly with Irie’s character. She makes the greatest journey of growth in the story, even though she is initially the most resolute image of strength. That Talon’s love can transform her so distinctly is the beauty of Renshaw’s romance. It’s the reason why I started this book in the morning, not believing I would finish it the same day. And I did. I simply couldn’t put it down to its beautiful end.
Through Renshaw’s masterful storytelling, using a typical romantic trope, she made me fall in love with Talon and Irie’s story. Like the characters at the beginning of the story, I thought I knew what Renshaw was going to offer initially, and I was reticent to begin. I didn’t really want to rehash the standard trope of the heroine saving the “bad boy” hero from himself. But like Irie, I was completely wrong. Instead, Renshaw grabbed me by my heart and reminded me that preconceived judgments are reductive and incomplete. Talon and Irie’s story is another reminder that we never really know a person unless we take the time to do so. And if we don’t, we potentially miss out on a big kind of transforming love.
In love and romance,