Rhys and Noah are both photographers that live on opposite sides of the country. They don’t really know each other, but when they meet up professionally, there is an air of disdain that passes between the two of them. Ask Rhys, and he will say he hates Noah, but really, they’ve been engaged in five years of foreplay.
When a career-building assignment has them both in England for three weeks, Rhys and Noah remain coolly professional. Until, circumstances have them spending time together and while there is definitely attraction, there is also an underlying friendship growing. The men connect in ways they never expected, but they both harbor emotional issues that run deep and neither can let himself fully connect.
When Rhys and Noah meet again, they become part of each other’s lives, both personally and professionally. But Noah has responsibilities to his traumatized younger sister, River, and Rhys has a past he’d rather not share. The men can be better together, but they need to dismantle their defenses and let the other in.
A Hate Story follows up A Love Story and I feel they are best read in order. Rhys is introduced in that first book, along with Jamie and Alex, and he is an integral part of their lives. Jamie and Alex, as well as the story of Pierce (from the first book), are ever present and a vital part of Rhys’ story and it worked better for me to have had all the pieces. We also first see the aftermath of Rhys’ time with Noah in England and the emotional toll in took on him in that first book.
While the book is billed as an enemies-to-lovers story, we aren’t shown much of the time that the men supposedly hate each other. I say supposedly because I never got the strong feeling that the men in fact did hate each other. There was a professional jealousy and an attraction that they were unable to act on, but hate wasn’t what I felt we were shown. Even so, they had a tremendous amount to overcome to be together.
This book has a similar feel to the first one as well. All of the characters struggle emotionally in some regard and mental health is a major focus of their stories. Also, like the first book, it takes almost the entire story to get a clear picture of all of the issues. The men are so careful not to overstep or intrude on each other’s privacy, they don’t seem to ask any questions for fear of intruding. Rhys has a successful photography business, a co-dependent relationship with Jamie, and we know from the first book he has deep fears and issues and they manifest here as well. He wants to find someone to love and be loved in return, but he has a lot to work through to be able to trust someone. Noah is the guardian for his younger sister, River, and she is working through trauma as well. Noah is so focused on River’s progress and so protective of her that he can’t figure out how to have anything for himself and the guilt he feels over everything is all consuming.
All of the characters here have emotional and mental health issues to varying degrees. They are all trying to figure it out and move forward and they are all better together. They offer each other incredible friendship, love, and support. There is no easy fix to be seen here and the author tries to show that it is okay to not be okay and to reach out for help. The book is highly character focused as the men try to reach out and while their interactions are guarded, they are soft and caring with each other.
The ending was quick as compared to the time it took to get the full story of what both Rhys and Noah have gone through and while I would have liked to have seen them together a little more than we did by the end, I can appreciate the way the author had their story unfold. I have enjoyed both books I have read by this author and here Denae acknowledges her focus on mental health issues. This series would appeal to readers looking for character driven, emotional books.