OverallGrade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ++
Dark bully romance isn’t for everyone. There are some general tropes attached to it, as far as my newbie brain has observed: the heroine’s father is horrific, mom is dead or long gone, hero must exact some type of revenge on the heroine, hence his “bullying” of her, and there is an ancillary cast of characters who either help or hinder the hero’s plight of revenge. At some point in the story, the hero recognizes his undying love for his intended object of revenge and undergoes a change. However, all along, he has secretly loved her, much to his discontent. Additionally, her heroine hates the hero, stands strong in her own convictions, but her body betrays her when the hero threatens to ravage her. In the end, they admit their undying love for each other and live a life with hot, ravishing $ex and an obsessive love.
Again, this sub-genre is not for everyone. It’s difficult to watch the oftentimes horrific bullying of the heroine. Yet, it’s her strength to endure that earns her reader love. J.L. Beck and C. Hallman’s newest book, Hating You, holds many of these qualities. And for this reader, it is a success. You see, I love dark bully romance. I love when a heroine stands up to the hero, while the hero obsessively hates and loves her. He can’t help himself when he is around her, and I love when she feels the same. It’s dark and wrong in a normalized romance setting. But it reads like candy on the page.
Hating You follows Parker and Willow. Two years prior to this story, Willow turns in Parker’s brother, Brett, for assaulting her sister. This launches Parker in a full out plan to exact revenge on Willow, as he believes she lied and put his brother away in prison. Unbeknownst to Willow, Parker’s family “owns” the university that she has entered. She goes to school under an agreement with her abusive father as a way to protect her sister’s care. From the first night, Parker obsessively bullies her. With no help and a threat from her father, Willow makes an agreement with Parker that can do whatever he wants to her. As they enter this agreement, their feelings for each other become entangled, and they both fight against each other when they really want to fall FOR each other. When a situation arises that puts Willow’s life in danger, will Parker save her, or will his revenge become complete?
I could not put this book down. I picked it up late in the evening, fell asleep, woke up with it, and finished it in a couple of hours. Beck and Hellman have created this tense, erotic bully romance that engulfs you. My heart bled for Willow as she endures Parker’s abuse. There were many times that I found myself wanting to yell at him to leave her alone. For me, anything that evokes a visceral response from me is considered a strong romance.
From one minute to the next, I didn’t know if I should hate or love Parker. In fact, you won’t like Parker until later in the story when the truths of the book are revealed. However, once he realizes the error of his ways, he is swoon-city. Honestly, if I didn’t know any better, I would think that Parker struggles with bipolar. He cannot decide for much of the book if his hate is stronger than his want for her. He is your typical bully hero.
Willow is the true hero of this story. She is principled and stalwart, even in the face of her abuser. There are many times when Parker takes situations too far, and sadly, Willow’s body betrays her as she lusts for Parker. Yet, she acts as the ultimate protector of her sisters, and her motivations are pure. I’ve read dark bully romances wherein the heroine is my least favorite character. This is not the case with Hating You. Willow is someone to admire.
This book is a page turner. It engrosses, titillates, entertains, and challenges your thinking about modern romance. From the beginning to the end, you won’t be able to put J.L. Beck and C. Hallman’s book down until you’ve finished it. This is one of the best bully romances I’ve read since Ashley Jade’s Cruel Prince. I highly recommend it.
In love and romance,