Rating: 2 stars
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I honestly can’t tell if this book is titled Hate/Love or Love/Hate, since it’s listed as both in different outlets. And, that’s not all that confused me about the story.
Lyric Blackmore grew up an outcast in small, apparently wealth-enamored, Hill View, Colorado. His mother was a teenager in love with a poor classmate, but when she became pregnant, she caved to her rich father’s demands to abandon her child to the father. Lyric and his father lived in abject poverty, and he had little contact with his mother until she offered to pay for his private schooling. Lyric was a pariah at school, verbally and physically tormented by his wealthy classmates for years, until he graduated a hardened, goth kid with a love for drawing and a scholarship to USC. On graduation weekend, he celebrates his accomplishment with his boss Zane, owner of a local tattoo parlor where Lyric has been offered an apprenticeship. Zane also happens to be the unacknowledged half-brother of Lyric’s chief tormentor, Korbin Rose.
Korbin is the heir-apparent to the Rose fortune, wealth his father amassed by marrying well. His father is a dirtbag philanderer who won’t acknowledge Zane at all and regularly dallies with any woman in the vicinity, it seems. Korbin’s mother, defeated by her husband’s infidelities, copes with alcohol and sleeping pills, pretty much ignoring Korbin. His parents didn’t even bother showing up for his graduation, and yet they are demanding that Korbin marry a classmate and get to work in the Rose realty business. Korbin doesn’t particularly like the girl his parents want him marrying, but he’s got all sorts of feelings he doesn’t understand about Lyric Blackmore. Korbin’s out partying with his classmates and decides to crash out at Zane’s place, because at least there he’ll have someone who cares about him. Unfortunately, the couch he usually sleeps on is occupied by Lyric. And, Korbin decides to follow his drunken desire to kiss Lyric’s pierced lips.
This is a new adult “romance” between two people who’ve got a lot of emotional damage brought on by class warfare and checked-out parents. Korbin spent four years inciting bullying against Lyric, because he was “confused” about the sense of attraction he felt for Lyric. Lyric has developed a non-specified anxiety and panic disorder as a result, with some small OCD demonstrations in the text. This story spans about five years of their lives. We begin with the end of high school, so all the bullying is complete; Lyric is already a damaged, fragile soul when he’s pretty much sexually assaulted in his sleep by his biggest bully. Lyric then develops the idea to make Korbin fall for him, so he can get revenge by breaking Korbin’s heart.
I had many, many struggles with this book, not the least were the melodramas that surround these two young men. My review copy’s disclaimer about “still editing” did not prepare me for the distracting amount of major grammatical errors. It felt as if I was reading a draft copy, which I hope was corrected prior to publication. Regarding the storytelling, it felt exactly like I was being told a story, instead of experiencing it unfolding in real time. The summer fling of revenge could have been its own story, as the years and years of separation prior to reconciliation were filled with melodramas. There was a rags-to-riches story for Lyric and the reverse for Korbin, who pretty much turns into a carbon copy of Lyric’s own father. I was emotionally disconnected by all the explanations and backstory dumping, and struggled to finish the book. Suffice it to say, Lyric and Korbin have it rough, for different reasons. I was glad that Lyric got the support and help he needed to grow beyond his childhood trauma. Korbin matured a lot, due to his less-than-ideal post-high school circumstances. The Colorado-California connection seemed as far-fetched as everything else in the story, especially with Lyric somehow coming back in his “spare weekends” to repair a home–on his own, with NO ONE knowing? It was astonishingly unbelievable, pretty much like the other (and many) coincidences in the book.
When Lyric and Korbin finally reconnect after five years, the path is still rocky–but they’ve understood that they still love each other, even if they’ve been completely damaged by each other. It’s potentially co-dependent, but seemed inexplicably healthier than any other connection they’d ever had. Pretty much Korbin is so beat down by life he can’t get by without Lyric’s help, which is compassionate and generous. I just wasn’t super into the story by then, having been derailed several times by jarring, unrealistic plot moves.
This is the first book in a series, and it establishes two side characters that Lyric will likely need to save, somewhat, while they have their own love stories. Lyric and Korbin do get a happily ever after, but I’m not planning to read on.