Book Review: Love at First Hate by J.L. Merrow

Love at First Hate by J.L. Merrow is a contemporary romance. Bran Roscarrock has been living in the closet all his life. As heir to an expansive family legacy in the town of Porthkennack, old-fashioned ideals of respectability and duty were drummed into him since childhood, and he’s never dared to live—or love—openly. Sam Ferreira, an old friend of Bran’s brother, Jory, is a disgraced academic desperate to leave his dead-end job. When Jory asks him to take over as curator of a planned exhibition on Edward of Woodstock, the fourteenth-century Black Prince, Sam leaps at the chance to do what he loves and make a fresh start. But Bran’s funding the exhibition, and though sparks fly between the two men, they’re not all happy ones. Bran idolises Prince Edward as a hero, while Sam’s determined to present a balanced picture. With neither of them prepared to give ground, a hundred years of war seems all too possible. And if Bran finds out about Sam’s past, his future may not be bright, and their budding romance may be lost to history.
Love at First Hate is a romance that is about the main characters growing as it is them finding love with each other. I loved the spark of conflict between them, that was made more frustrating for each of them because they knew some of it was coming from attraction. Getting to see and understand how both Sam and Bran were thinking, and how their pasts colored their outlooks, really made me connect with the characters and their story more. I felt for Sam, who has made some serious mistakes but is trying his hardest to grow and move forward. I worried for Bran, who could have died in an attack and the following illness while trying to shrug off the need to do "what is right for the family" rather than what feels right. The journey they had was heartfelt and painful at times, but it felt real. I like that as a reader I got to see what the people around our main characters were going through as well. No one lives in a bubble, family connections and struggles affect who we are and how we think, and seeing those connections and how they changed and grew made everything even more realistic and engaging. Not all of the secondary characters and related drama worked for me, and at least one of the surprises I rather expected, but that was such a small disappointment compared to all the things that fell into place perfectly for me. 

Love at First Hate is a romance that resonated with me and felt incredibly real. I was engaged through the entire read, and often delayed putting the book down to do necessary tasks (like cooking dinner or going to sleep) because I just wanted to keep going. 

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