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Ahhh, enemies-to-lovers. What a trope. It’s a gold standard for a reason. There’s nothing more delicious than a fiery and passionate anti-meet cute that turns out to be a big misunderstanding.
What is a trope?
Oxford Languages defines a trope as:
-a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression.
-a significant or recurrent theme; a motif.
However as Masterclass notes, literary tropes have evolved to often mean a familiar literary device. Within the bookish community it is normal to refer to commonly used plot devices, motifs, story lines etc… as a trope.
What is the enemies-to-lovers trope?
A great writer can take an oft used trope and make it incredibly fresh and enjoyable.
Enemies-to-lovers is a very commonly used trope, particularly in contemporary romance novels.
Essentially for one reason or another, a perceived slight, a misunderstanding, a childhood embarrassment, the two main characters are not fans of one another.
As the plot evolves and the characters are thrown together a common ground is built and a relationship forms beyond the shallow first impressions.
When is enemies-to-lovers done well?
I like the idea of enemies-to-lovers for a few reasons. First off, I like the idea that we had someone figured out all wrong.
As Brené Brown notes, sometimes we tell ourselves a story about someone that turns out to have more to do with ourselves and our own insecurities than what the other person actually thinks about us.
It’s a good lesson and one I like seeing on paper.
I also love a good enemies-to-lovers trope because it encourages us to change our opinion when presented with new information.
This includes beliefs but also our opinions of people. People are allowed to grow and change, and we should let them.-
How can enemies-to-lovers go wrong?
The caveat here though, is that some of the enemies to lovers tropes go too far.
The person really does act like a dick. In that case I want to see an apology, or growth from the characters.
Otherwise it’s just a main character getting into a relationship with an unsuitable partner… and that’s a bummer.
We never want to revert back to “oh, he pushed you on the playground because he likes you”. We are past that now as a society. Hopefully.
Without further ado, below you’ll find some excellent examples of a well done enemies to lovers trope in novel format. Enjoy
The Best Enemies-to-Lovers Book
Ah, the hating game. Probably the book that does enemies to lovers the best in recent memory.
Lucy and Josh are extremely likable characters playing a petty game of workplace rivalry.
When the stakes are amped up with a promotion up for grabs, the thin line between hate and attraction starts to vanish before their eyes.
This is a fantasy novel that gets everything right. This masterful plot pits Silhara The Master Of Crows against the god corruption.
The Conclave sends Silhara an apprentice under the guise of helping him defeat corruption. However Martise is there as a spy to win her freedom by bringing Silhara to his doom.
The Master of Crows knows he has a traitor in his midst, but still needs Martise to help him save the world.
This slow burn is one of the most realistic portrayals of a building relationship that i’ve seen.
Alex Claremont-Diaz is as close to royalty as an American can be as First Son to the President of the United States.
It doesn’t exactly fit his image to have beef with an actual royal, Prince Henry.
When they make unflattering headlines with their squabbling the collective fixers in both governments decide they need to create a fake friendship to smooth things over.
What starts as a fake instagram friendship turns into a very real romance that could upend two nations.
Okay, so this one might be a bit of a stretch because the enemies portion doesn’t last super long depending on how you look at it. Just trust me, this is a great read.
Alex and Poppy are complete opposites and best friends. They did everything together until they moved to separate cities, but always reserved time for a summer vacation together every year.
Two years ago they ruined their friendship and Poppy makes one last ditch effort to save it by asking Alex to go on one last vacation with her.
Henley Evans works incredibly hard to achieve her goals in life. Between her demanding job as a marketing manager for a cruise line and her evening MBA course she is booked.
All her hard work seems to be paying off when she’s put up for her dream promotion. The only problem? She’s up against her arch nemesis Graeme Crawford-Collins.
They get sent on a company trip to the Galápagos, the best marketing proposal to increase bookings in the region wins the promotion.
The simple wild is the book that gets the closest to the danger zone for me of the dude being a straight up dick in the beginning (IMO).
However, it has vibes. Lots of vibes. City girl Calla Fletcher goes to Alaska to try to build a relationship with her estranged father.
Once there she’s tempted to repeat a doomed history by falling in love with rugged Alaskan Pilot. Will she repeat her parents past mistakes?
An oldie but a goldie for a reason. Pride and Prejudice is the quintessential enemies to lovers book.
Root for Elizabeth and Darcy to get past their own egos and differences to find a lasting love.
Augustus and January were university rivals and now accidental neighbors in a small lakeside town.
One a romance author, who no longer believes in love, and the other a fiction author, who likes to kill off his entire cast, both are suffering from giant case writer’s block.
They make a bet to switch genres and see who can write the next bestseller.
Olive and Ethan are sworn enemies united as maid of honor and best man in Olive’s twin sisters wedding.
When the entire wedding party gets food poisoning (including the bride and groom). Shellfish haters Olive & Ethan are unaffected.
With a non-refundable honeymoon up for grabs Olive and Ethan decide to play nice to get a free luxury vacation.
In this charming debut fantasy perfect for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Girls of Paper and Fire, a witch cursed to never love meets a girl hiding her own dangerous magic, and the two strike a bargain to save their queendom.
Jennifer L. Armentrout
Poppy is “The Maiden” the one chosen by the gods. As she bucks tradition and expectations more and more you begin to question exactly who chose her… and for what purpose.
When Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.
Ava Greene is taking one last trip before she retires after ten years as a flight attendant. She’s determined to make it the best trip ever.
Ava is displeased to be assigned to the same trip as Jack Stone, the man she has secretly held a grudge against for the last few years.
When their plane encounters mechanical problems and they have a longer than expected layover in Belize, she begins to second guess everything she thought she knew about him.
S. J. Goslee
Nolan Grant is sixteen, gay, and looking to ride out his high school experience as painlessly as possible.
That is until his sister decides she needs to help out his love life and he should prompose to the most popular gay kid in school.
Frozen in a panic he’s saved by bad boy Bern from complete public humiliation.
Catalina Martin is desperate for a date to her sisters wedding. The best man is her ex-boyfriend and she might have panicked and told a little white lie to her family when she heard the news.
She would take anyone, anyone at all. Except the only person who volunteered, Aaron Blackford. Her tall, handsome, completely awful co-worker. Definitely not him. Anyone but him.
Ilona Andrews is hands down the best writer of urban fantasy on the planet. This spicy enemies to lovers novel is dark but thrilling.
Hugh d’Ambray needs a base, Elara needs soldiers.
Both are infamous for betraying their allies, so how can they create a believable alliance to meet the challenge of their enemies?
As the prophet says: “It is better to marry than to burn.”
Hugh and Elara may do both.
Go forth and learn to love thy enemies
Did we miss any of the juiciest enemies to lovers books? Let us know below!