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Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

Hate to Want You by Alicia RaiNarrated by Summer Morton & Jeremy York

Hate to Want You has been one of my most anticipated books this year. I’m a fan of Alisha Rai generally and the blurb sounded so good. A couple of star-crossed lovers meet up for one night of hot sex every year – that’s all they can have because of the feud between their families. It’s been happening for ten years. Ms. Rai writes erotic romance so I knew the heat level would be high (not a complaint) and in my head, I thought the story would visit the characters each year and track the changes in their relationship. Or, perhaps, that there would be a present-day story with flashbacks, gradually moving forward in time, to those intimate encounters each year. Basically, I took two and two and made five. Because my expectations were wrong.

The story takes place almost entirely in the present day, when Livvy Kane returns to her small home town of Rockville, New York to assist her mother who has broken her hip. More than anything, Livvy wants to reconnect with her family. She has been away for almost all of the past ten years, only returning the previous year for the funeral of her older brother, Paul, who had died in a hiking accident.

Livvy is descended from Sam Oka. He and John Chandler founded the C&O grocery store chain. Ten years earlier, Robert Kane and Maria Chandler were killed in a car accident. There is some mystery about how they came to be in the car given they were each married to other people. After the accident, Brendan Chandler, John’s son and Maria’s widower, bought Robert’s shares in C&O for a song from Tani Kane, Robert’s widow. Shortly after that, Livvy’s twin brother, Jackson, was arrested for setting fire to the flagship C&O grocery store. He spent two weeks in jail but was released when a witness recanted their story. To say there is bad blood between the Oka-Kanes and the Chandlers therefore, is an understatement. At the time, Livvy was deeply in love with Nicholas Chandler, son of Brendan and Maria. Nicholas and Livvy were caught in the middle of the developing feud.

When Nicholas broke up with her, Livvy left town. On her next birthday, the “one night a year” thing began where Livvy would text coordinates to Nicholas and he would fly to wherever she was and spend that one night with her. It’s clear that Nicholas and Livvy still love each other but with everything between them and their families how can they be together?

The audiobook contains a few brief flashbacks to the events of ten years before but most of the book takes place in the present day and there is a significant portion of the story devoted to the various familial estrangements. In that regard (as well as the general vibe of the book), it reminded me a little of Shades of Twilight by Linda Howard. Unfortunately, Shades of Twilight is my least favourite Howard. I’m not generally a fan of “family saga” type stories. I prefer the bulk of the time in a contemporary romance to be spent with the heroine and hero. And those parts, when Livvy and Nicholas were together, were my favourite in Hate to Want You. The other stuff? I was a bit “meh” on it. I’m definitely an outlier here. I suspect my unmet expectations (expectations I created from my impression of the blurb) didn’t help either. So, the story had an uphill battle to grab me in a very “it’s not you, it’s me” way.

Hate to Want You did eventually hold my attention but I admit I had to have a few goes in the beginning to get into the story.

Some of the questions are answered (why Nicholas broke up with Livvy is one) but others are not (eg, what was Maria doing in Robert’s car that fateful night?). Perhaps some of those unanswered questions will remain so. But I’m hoping more will be revealed in the next two books.

Because I wasn’t captivated by the story for much of the listen, it’s difficult for me to really judge the narration. How much was the story and how much was the performance? I’m pretty sure that a better narration would have increased my enjoyment of the book but I can’t say the performances by Summer Morton and Jeremy York were exactly bad either.

Ms. Morton’s performance was somewhat hampered by a few errors. For example, once she said “hips” instead of “lips” and given the line was about teeth being between them it did cause me to raise my eyebrows. Her characterisations were good however and I thought she differentiated between the various cast members fairly well.

Mr. York’s female voices were a little hit-and-miss. There were times when they were very good but more times when they were just okay. His performance was error free however. I liked the way he portrayed Nicholas in particular. I was also impressed by the voice he used for John Chandler who sounded believably elderly.

Some of the dirty talk in the book felt a little uncomfortable to me. I’m not sure if that was the delivery or if it’s just one of those books where those words work better on the page rather than in my ear. But my suspicion is that the narrations by both performers didn’t help here.

Both narrators were more than competent but I felt they mostly left the text to do all the work and in an audiobook I am always hoping that the narration brings something extra to the table. I didn’t have that impression here. That said, perhaps I’d have felt differently about it had I been more connected to the story.

As much as Hate to Want You wasn’t the raging success for me as it has been for so many of my friends, I am all in for book two – Jackson Kane is apparently in love with his brother’s widow. It’s a trope that attracts and it promises to be a book more tightly focused on the main couple.

I loved the diversity of the novel and the seemingly effortless way these aspects were woven into the story. And that cover is both beautiful and true to the description of the characters. Approximately a bazillion people rate Shades of Twilight highly – I fully expect approximately a bazillion people will rate Hate to Want You highly as well.

Kaetrin


Narration: B-

Book Content: B-

Steam Factor: For your burning ears only

Violence Rating: Fighting

Genre: Contemporary/Erotic Romance

Publisher: Harper Audio

Hate to Want You was provided to AudioGals by Harper Audio for a review.

AudioGals earns commissions on purchases made through links to Amazon.com in this post.

1 comment

  1. Kaetrin

    Note: I wrote this review some weeks ago and didn’t have a chance to amend it following the events of this past weekend. The comparison of Shades of Twilight to Hate to Want You is about the books only. They had, to me, a similar vibe. My mention of the other book in this review is in no way an endorsement of Ms. Howard’s comments regarding RWA membership. I’m all for inclusion and diversity and larger representation of people of colour, people with disabilities and people of all genders and sexualities in my romance. Because love is love and romance is a big tent. On the off chance it’s a question in someone’s mind I’d like to make it explicit that I meant no insult to Ms. Rai by the comparison.

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