Love to Hate is a LGBT+ romance novel by Christine McCullough, originally published on the writing website ‘Movellas’ in 2015 but published as an eBook in 2016.
The book focuses on Cyrus and Haydon, roommates in Sharpe’s Boarding School. Cyrus has spent a majority of his life going from boarding school to boarding school, always being the new kid, and he has no reason to expect things will change at his newest school. Rather than trying to make friends, he has made his peace with being alone. However, Hayden is hell bent on breaking Cyrus’ icy exterior, not being put off by his attempts to discourage friendship.
Cyrus is terrified that his new life at Sharpe’s Boarding School will leave him hurt as he has been many times before. Although Hayden is everything that Cyrus isn’t (he’s fun, popular, and charismatic), he is equally worried about his true identity tearing his life apart: he is the school’s orphan charity case, and homosexual.
There are some stories that make you blush with envy. There are some stories that make your heart beat faster in anticipation. There are some stories that break your heart before putting it back together again. Love to Hate does all of this, and more. From the synopsis, I was expecting Cyrus and Hayden to follow the stereotypical hate-to-love relationship, starting of as sworn enemies but eventually growing to become friends. I was glad to see that this was not the case, and the relationship has a lot more unique qualities than I originally expected.
Although this story is driven by the dynamics between Cyrus and Hayden, something which often happens in romances, there is a created conflict which drives the plot forwards, especially with the presence of school bullies and personal secrets. The first chapter may have lacked plot but excelled in character introductions and development. However, the trips out of school to the record store and the side-quest of stealing the flash were both nice of the story, bonding the characters and building on their relationship while still adding to the plot.
McCullough has managed to create realistic characters who are captivating, so well-developed and flawed that they are perfect. Most importantly, the characters are believable, important to a plot that could be greatly based upon real life. Although Cyrus is the narrator of the novel, I was equally drawn to both him and Hayden, intrigued by their contrasting personalities. This raises a lot of questions which I was glad to have answered throughout the story. Why is Cyrus so guarded and bitter? Why does Hayden try so hard to be likeable? Why does Cyrus keep rejecting Hayden, and why does Hayden not seem to care?
Overall, Love to Hate is much more than just a romance novel. McCullough has told the stories of two completely different LGBT+ characters, including ideas about their sexuality struggles in addition to incorporating the struggles of their family and social lives.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys character driven novels and realistic but beautifully written LGBT+ inclusive stories.