So I got tired of Hollywood and tried to watch some K-drama (no, not squid game, but k-drama romance).
I realized that out of these many romantic tropes, the enemies to lovers’ romance was prevalent.
One thing I liked about this trope is that there was a theme of an episodic show of affection, which was—oftentimes—interrupted by the enmity.
This is characteristic of most ‘enemies to lovers’ novels that I have read.
In some cases, a mutual desire can be seen from early on, but competition at work, fighting between their clans, legal battles, crashing political interests and other things get in the would-be lovers’ way.
The happily ever after isn’t a straightforward thing here, the two lovers can’t be together until the mountains between them are moved, and it’s the things that happen before that that are exciting.
So, I have shared my favorite picks that will leave you turning pages as you witness a great love story unfold amidst the chaos, as enemies become lovers.
Enemies to Lovers Trope Explained
Enemies-to-lovers novels revolve around two characters falling in love despite some preexisting conditions.
In most cases, the two characters happen to be opposites but in the end, they find a way to love each other.
Although the ‘enemies to lovers’ theme seems this simple to explain, the stories in the books can take various shapes and forms and happen under complicated conditions.
In some novels, you have a story where someone goes pretends to fall in love, but their motive is to murder their new partner.
You also have a plot where characters naturally hate one another but a flame of love helps them to grow past their innate distaste.
The one I like, which is also prevalent in real life, involves characters who have a background of hating each other (maybe because they had an unfortunate misunderstanding). Then something happens, and they start to see that they have a lot of things in common.
The enemies-to-lovers trope isn’t a new one and, as a matter of fact, contemporary just adopted it.
The origins of enemies-to-lovers can be traced as far as the 15th century with Le Morte D’Arthur written by Sir Thomas Malory in 1485 having this type of romance.
But I’m sure this isn’t the oldest enemies-to-lovers work that’s been published, there are older ones that are still on some shelf somewhere.
Contemporary enemies-to-lovers fantasy books have also enjoyed success in young adult and adult literature.
Why We Love Reading Enemies to Lovers Stories
What are the possible explanations for the popularity of the enemies-to-lovers trope?
Could be anything, but here are some obvious reasons:
The tension! The protagonists’ interactions are always at the opposite ends of the emotional spectrum and there’s always conflict in the beginning. This leads to iconic moments and dynamite scenes before the disdain and warring atmosphere slowly turns to empathy for one another.
Another reason has to do with the anticipation that most ‘enemies to lovers’ stories cause. Most often than not, you expect these protagonists to eventually come together, but there’s always this long wait between the hate and the eventual love. In between, there are a lot of twists and turns, some of which make you wonder if they’re going to end up together. But… they eventually get together, usually.
Another explanation could be it’s because ‘enemies to lovers’ stories present a more realistic form of romance. They allow us to get to know the characters’ supposedly bad side before we can see the good side and fall in love with them. It’s as if we are genuinely falling in love with the lovers after learning about their personalities, traits, and interests.
There are numerous other reasons, but for the sake of brevity, these three will do for now. And… whatever the reason may be, the ‘Enemies to Lovers’ trope is and will remain a popular theme of the genre for the foreseeable future.
10 Best Enemies to Lovers Books
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
As far as the enemies-to-lovers trope is concerned, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice remains one the most relevant books of all time.
It has been relevant since 1813 (the year it was originally published) and it is still among the most popular novels in the English language.
The story is set in a small English village in the year 1812 and is about a poor country squire who is looking for his daughter’s suitors.
One of his daughters, Elizabeth, meets one Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy at a ball and immediately concludes that he is an arrogant and obnoxious fellow.
The two don’t have much—if anything at all—in common, or so they thought.
But during the next few months, they will have to overcome their pride and prejudices, fall in love, and marry.
2. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
This—ladies and gentlemen—is the story of Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman.
They are executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. They hate each other.
Lucy is charming and accommodating, Joshua Templeman is meticulous, uptight, and an elegantly attired gentleman.
Not that Lucy would agree with the “gentleman” part, and Joshua’s actions don’t indicate that he thinks Lucy is charming.
The two try to outsmart each other, something that is worsened by an impending promotion. No one wants to lose, and just as the tension seems to have reached its boiling point, the two share an elevator ride and something happens, something that changes everything!
No spoilers on this one, go read the book here!
3. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Olive Torres is a bad luck magnet; all her affairs—her career, love life, and almost everything else in her life—are in shambles.
Olive the unlucky twin, the other being Ami, a girl who has it all figured out. Ami is getting married and Olive can’t be absent.
But the only thing worse than Olive’s bad luck is her nemesis, Ethan Thomas, who has been entrusted with the best man duties.
She can’t wait to go back to her luckless life, but she must survive the wedding first.
Things get worse when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, and she is one of the only two people who aren’t affected. The other one is Ethan!
The food poison means there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs. Should Ethan enjoy this opportunity alone?
So Olive and Ethan agree to a temporary truce and they are off to Maui. While in Hawaii, the two must play the role of loving newlyweds, but the longer the roleplay goes on, Olive starts to genuinely fall in love.
4. The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas
Before I go into the details of the story, I would like to say that Elena is clever. She took a somewhat overused trope and spiced it with new twists.
This is the story:
Catalina Martín has been lying about having bagged herself an American boyfriend. It’s her sister’s wedding, she has to travel to Spain for the wedding, and everyone is going to be there.
Her family, her friends, her ex, everyone she knows!
She has to find a fake boyfriend and convince her family she’s actually in love.
She is in luck! A tall, handsome man at her office, Aaron Blackford, offers to be this “fake boyfriend.”
Oh, wait! He’s also an insufferable, condescending man whose duty is to aggravate her and make her blood boil.
But she is desperate, out of time, and Aaron Blackford seems to be her best option. What ensues after helps Catalina realize that Aaron is not as terrible as she thought.
Love is in the air!
5. Wild Sweet Love by Beverly Jenkins
Teresa July is trying to turn her life around and trying to put her train robbing past behind her.
She takes a job as a cook to service a high-society family in Philadelphia, but can’t seem to shake off her employer’s son, Madison.
Madison Nance has had it with ingrates who always take advantage of his mother’s generosity. That is why he decided to keep a close eye on Teresa’s every move, making sure she doesn’t pull her old train robbing tricks on them, or so he makes us think.
However, the two put their rivalry aside when a woman from Madison’s past threatens Teresa’s future, and they join forces to protect Teresa and Madison’s family.
6. Kingdom Of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau
Leena Edenfrell, a charmer who can tame rare magical beasts, is exiled after she’s falsely accused of using her magic to charm a human.
Then she learns that the Charmer’s Council has sent the realm’s deadliest assassin to find her. This dangerous assassin, Noc, will stop at nothing until she hunts down Leena, but fate has other plans.
And, so does Leena.
She offers Noc four magical beasts in exchange for her life. The beasts have powers that can break the curse that’s killed everyone Noc has ever loved.
As the two become unlikely allies and cross the realm in search of mythical creatures, something becomes clear: Noc may have to choose between his own life or Leena’s.
7. Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Shelby serves us a delicious fantasy trilogy full of witchcraft and forbidden love, perfect for this list.
The story is about Louise le Blanc, a witch, and Reid Diggory, a huntsman for the church. So, Lou flees her coven and takes shelter in the city of Cesarine, which happens to be a place where witches are hunted and burned.
Lou forsakes all magic, steals whatever she can get her hands on; she lives off her loot.
Lou’s antics lead her directly into Reid’s clutches and, unexpectedly, they end up getting married.
For Louise, it’s a survival instinct but as you’ll learn, love is a mysteriously beautiful thing.
8. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The place to be is Ketterdam: a thriving business hub where anything is for sale for the right price.
Six of Crows tells the story of Kaz Brekker—a criminal prodigy who knows Ketterdam better than anyone—and his crew as they attempt to pull off an audacious heist.
The group comprises Kaz, (member of the Dregs gang), Inej (the wraith), Jesper, Wylan, Nina (a grisha heartrender), and Matthias (a Drüskelle).
Matthias, a Drüskelle, and Nina, a Grisha, are not supposed to be like each other, but something is bound to happen!
A shipwreck perhaps? Well, read the story to find out.
9. Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach
You would think it’s a story about someone’s insecurities or feminism…
Eliza Quan is ready to become the editor-in-chief of her school paper. Wait a minute, wait a minute, ex-jock Len DiMartile wants to run against her.
Now that Len is in the picture, Eliza’s resume is no longer a warrant for the position, well, the tall, handsome Len just seems more like a leader.
Eliza’s insecurity and frustration are getting the best of her, and she finds herself unintentionally inspiring a feminist movement.
The school decided to suppress the growing tension by asking Eliza and Len to work side by side to demonstrate civility.
The more they get to know one another, the closer they become, and Eliza slowly realizes that she is falling for Len.
10. Crier’s War (Crier’s War, 1) by Nina Varela
A story of revenge, a story of two characters who went from being enemies to friends to lovers.
In the aftermath of the War of Kinds, the kingdom of Rabu is ravaged, the Automae (the playthings of royals) take over their owners’ estates and bend the human race to their will.
Ayla, a human servant with a vengeful heart, is rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, but all she’s after is the Lady Crier’s head (sovereign’s daughter).
Crier, beautiful and flawless, was made to inherit her father’s rule over the land. That was before she was betrothed to Scyre Kinok, (a suitor with a thousand secrets) and before she realized that her father isn’t as benevolent as she thought.
And certainly, before she had met Ayla.
Seems like love is going to get one over fate as the two former enemies become lovers and allies and wage a war on those in their way.
Final Words on the Best Enemies to Lovers Books
Humans are a very weird type of animal, you’d think all they want is to read about love at first sight and true love.
We want something that emerges from the embers of war, animosity, hatred, rivalry, or misunderstandings.
Yes! We love those!
Don’t just say that so and so are lovers or soul mates… build it up and let it develop from a hopeless place.
If you love these sorts of stories, I made this list for you! “Enemies to lovers” is the trope for you!