Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman
Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.
Trapped in a shared office together 40 (OK, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.
If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.
Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.
Readers, I am so so picky when it comes to contemporary romance books. I generally shy away from them, because I tend to find them so unsatisfactory – either so fluffy they lift right off into the atmosphere, or laden with trying-too-hard humour and dramatics. So believe me when I say this is one of my favourite reads of the year – charming, genuinely funny but with a healthy dose of realism. It’s full of heart and it made mine grow three sizes.
“What are you imagining? Your expression is filthy.”
“Strangling you. Bare hands.” I can barely get the words out.
The book contains some of my favourite tropes – hate turning to grudging friendship to love! Rivalry! Gruff exteriors and hearts of gold!
“Did I say erotic? I meant esoteric. I get those mixed up.”
Our protagonist Lucy is truly a lovely character – what she lacks in height she makes up for in personality. Her mock-serious inner monologues and self-deprecating observations had me chuckling. She’s homesick for her parents and the strawberry farm where she grew up, she’s lonely without her best friend who doesn’t speak to her anymore, and she really can’t afford to lose her job. In her efforts to be nice and likable, her colleagues end up taking advantage of her good nature.
“And I’m so lonely sometimes I could cry. I lost my best friend. I spend all my time with a huge frightening man who wants to kill me, and he’s probably my only friend now, even though he doesn’t want to be. And it breaks my heart.”
The passive aggressive games she plays with Joshua in the office are simultaneously childish but understandable. The banter is glorious, especially in the later stages of the book when they aren’t trying to wound each other.
“Is there any reason we’re not kissing yet?”
“The height difference, mainly.”
I think what I appreciated was that there was actual substance. Of course, there’s a sad backstory and family drama surrounding dear Joshua, but it didn’t descend too far into the depths of cheese. Lucy and Joshua are characters you can emphasise with – their flaws are tolerable.
“Take the hoodie off. Please. I’ll only look with my eyes.”
“Drink your tea, you little pervert.”
All in all, an utter delight. I’m so glad my leap of faith paid off. One of my feel-good faves of the year.
Free copy received from Jonathan Ball Publishers in exchange for an honest review.