Bowery, Liz. Love, Hate & Clickbait. Harlequin, 2022. 336 pp. ISBN 9780778311898 $15.99
Political campaigner Thom is convinced that his employer, the governor of California, will be the next POTUS, and is only in the job for how far it will launch his own career. He vehemently dislikes his co-worker, data analyst Clay, who comes off as smug (Clay thinks Thom is pretentious). When the governor makes an off-handed remark about her lack style because she doesn’t have enough gays on staff, there’s an uproar. What do you do when you can’t spin it? subvert the narrative. Clay and Thom are caught in an intense argument during the fallout, and a reporter snaps and posts a photo that makes it look like there’s about to share a heated kiss. The governor offers a promotion and raise to both men if they agree to fake-date throughout the campaign–and things escalate from a few gads about town, and spending a LOT of time together, and eventually getting off together under the guise of being the only options for the time being. When the governor demands a proposal at the Santa Monica pier, they gamely go along; how far will they take it, and at what cost.
At the beginning of the novel neither are out; in fact, Thom breaks up with his girlfriend in chapter one, choosing work over her; Clay’s preferences were very subtle and not disclosed until at least midway through the novel. When Thom realizes that he is in fact attracted to Clay, the subject is dispatched in about a paragraph that he’s open to whatever and it’s NBD, really. Thom is distanced from his family, and it’s never resolved, and pretty sad. Homophobia and bullying are barely addressed. A side plot with Clay’s first tech start up and some challenges with his current project are not fully resolved, except he settles when charged with a lawsuit. The narrative exposes problems with fame, politics and clickbait, but doesn’t take a strong stance in analyzing.
This book is terrific for wonks! I had to look up a few things, including stump speech, body man and pork. While in most cases I discerned from contact, I found Political Dictionary really helpful. The writing is sharp, funny, and set firmly in present day, and there are some really lovely moments of introspection, witty banter, and steamy sex…but the lack of character development and Thom almost always being terrible made this a 3-star instead of a 4-star book for me. It was a fun read and very entertaining.
I received a free copy of #LoveHate&Clickbait from #NetGalley.