Oscar is a grouch.
That’s a well-established fact among his tight-knit friend group, and they love him anyway.
Jack is an ass.
Jack, who’s always ready with a sly insult, who can’t have a conversation without arguing, and who Oscar may or may not have hooked up with on a strict no-commitment, one-time-only basis. Even if it was extremely hot.
Together, they’re a bickering, combative mess.
When Oscar is fired (answering phones is not for the anxiety-ridden), he somehow ends up working for Jack. Maybe while cleaning out Jack’s grandmother’s house they can stop fighting long enough to turn a one-night stand into a frenemies-with-benefits situation.
The house is an archaeological dig of love and dysfunction, and while Oscar thought he was prepared, he wasn’t. It’s impossible to delve so deeply into someone’s past without coming to understand them at least a little, but Oscar has boundaries for a reason—even if sometimes Jack makes him want to break them all down.
After all, hating Jack is less of a risk than loving him…
Thank you very much to Harlequin-Carina Press for providing a review copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
The Hate Project is out now!
“If I had any courage at all I’d kiss you right now. But I don’t. So I guess we’ll just stand here.”
I have many favourite tropes that I love reading about in romance novels, but I’ve never read a book that so perfectly encapsulates the grumpy x grumpy dynamic like The Hate Project by Kris Ripper does.
The book follows Oscar, who’s a little bit grouchy and a lot anxious, but who has a great group of friends as his support system for the times his depression rears its ugly head or when his panic attacks become too much for him to deal with. One of his best friends, Declan, decides to make Oscar’s life even more difficult by introducing a new member to their friendship group: Jack. Jack, whose a little bit older then the rest of them and manages to get on Oscar’s nerves like no other. When Oscar is let go from his job, he and Jack have one night of no-strings, sort-of-pity sex that Oscar is happy to forget about. But then through Declan’s machinations, Jack hires Oscar to clean his house that is going up for sale and is currently a chaotic mess from Jack’s grandfather’s hoarding. Oscar and Jack then use this time as an excuse to continue hooking up, until their no-strings arrangement starts to feel a little too real.
While The Hate Project is primarily a romance novel, it also focuses heavily on Oscar’s mental health journey as he suffers from anxiety and depression. His anxiety is so relatable, I found myself highlighting entire paragraphs on my Kindle because I could so clearly see myself reflected in Oscar. It was also really illuminating to see how Oscar worked though his anxious episodes, especially with help from his friends who are always there for Oscar but also respect his boundaries when he says he’s not ready to talk about something. The found family dynamic in this book was just wonderful.
Jack, on the other hand, is a bit domineering, very grumpy and, like Oscar, terrified of commitment. He’s not afraid of saying exactly what he wants, which baffles Oscar but also intrigues him. I really enjoyed the snark banter between the two men and felt that the development of their relationship was handled perfectly. There’s a bit of miscommunication between them and I found it so refreshing that they profess their love for one another in a non-typical way–as in they never say the words, but the reader can still see how much they adore each other. I can’t wait to see more of Oscar and Jack in the next book in the series, even as they following book focuses on a different pairing.
I honestly didn’t think I’d enjoy a romance that revolves so heavily around anxiety and depression, but there you have it: Ripper has written an incredible love story here, even if Oscar and Jack would object to that word. If you’re looking for a unique romance novel where the love interests keep denying the fact that they even like each other, then I highly recommend The Hate Project!