Skin in the game: "Hate to Want You" by Alisha Rai spoiler-free review

Book: Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

Release date: July 25, 2017

Pages: 371

Publisher: Avon

Genre/category: Contemporary romance

Rating: ★★★★★

One night. No one will know.

That was the deal. Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler would share one perfect night of illicit pleasure. The forbidden hours let them forget the tragedy that haunted their pasts-and the last names that made them enemies.

Until the night she didn’t show up.

Now Nicholas has an empire to run. He doesn’t have time for distractions and Livvy’s sudden reappearance in town is a major distraction. She’s the one woman he shouldn’t want … so why can’t he forget how right she feels in his bed?

Livvy didn’t come home for Nicholas, but fate seems determined to remind her of his presence–and their past. Although the passion between them might have once run hot and deep, not even love can overcome the scandal that divided their families.

Being together might be against all the rules … but being apart is impossible.

A book so nice, I'm reviewing it twice!

I can't stop thinking about this book, and I knew soon after reading it that I would need to do a spoiler review to get into everything it made me feel. Ever since this episode of the Smart Bitches podcast, I've been stoked about the book Rai describes as Romeo and Juliet minus the sad stuff meets "Hotline Bling" minus the sexist stuff. I'd argue she lied her ass off about it missing the sad stuff, but you've got to love an elevator pitch that marries Shakespeare and Drake.

Hate to Want You, the first in the Forbidden Hearts trilogy, features a rebellious Japanese-American heroine with a complicated family background and an uptight hero with a somewhat misguided sense of familial duty. If you just said, "Geez, Liz, that sounds a lot like Rai's A Gentleman in the Street," you're not wrong. But despite the surface similarities, Hate to Want You is a different beast from Gentleman — and a bit more tame, so if heat levels determine which romances you read, Hate to Want You is just as steamy but in less scandalous contexts than Gentleman.

This is a second-chance romance about former teenage sweethearts who never quite managed to quit each other. I'm in awe of how much story Rai packs into this read. It's a compassionate take on mental illness, a love story that's equal parts swoony and weepy, and a family saga that made me want to live in this world as long as possible. And it also made me very, very angry. But in a good way. I just really got in my feelings about this one, yinz.

I read a lot of romances that are part of series, and they all weave in past and future characters in a way that makes you curious about their stories. But no romance has integrated supporting and soon-to-be lead characters in such a compelling way as this one, for me anyway. Rai managed to introduce the heroines and heroes of the next two books in the series in a manner that made it obvious that they were important, but that also made them vital to the story of Livvy and Nick and not like last-minute additions for the purpose of tying everything loosely together. This book even made me want spinoff series about the parents and grandparents of the main characters. There are no throwaway characters in this book, and I think it speaks to Rai's mastery that she can make characters who have just a few lines of dialogue feel well-rounded. And even with the prerequisite romantic HEA, I am dying to get even the tiniest sliver of what comes next for Livvy and Nico.

I have the ARC of the next book, Wrong to Need You, on my Kindle, and I promise I'll read and review it before the actual release date like a real, professional book blogger would. But before then, stay tuned for my spoiler review of this first chapter, because I've got a whole lot to say about it.