Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) reads a book

The 10 Enemies-to-Lovers Books Every Romance Fan Needs To Read

Book Recommendations for those who thrive off tension.

The romance genre follows countless conventions and formulas, setting up audiences’ expectations, so much so that everyone has a favorite trope and seeks them out. A large part of the genre’s popularity can be attributed to the authors fulfilling the audience’s expectations. 

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One of the more popular tropes is the enemies to lovers. Bridgerton season 2 explored this trope with characters Kate and Anthony (portrayed by actors Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey). There’s a thin line between hate and lust, so when established tension builds into a moment of passion, it satisfies readers. Here’s a list of enemies-to-lovers books that every romance fan needs to read: 

10. Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
(St. Martin’s Griffin)

Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston has now become a contemporary classic in the romance genre for a reason. It all starts when the first son of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz, and the Prince of Wales, Henry, are caught in an altercation on live TV. The two then go on a PR campaign to smooth international relations between the U.S. and Britain. Throughout the fake friendship, their rivalry turns into a genuine friendship and then something more. Most correspondence takes place virtually for obvious geographical reasons, but this Y.A. novel is popular for good reason.

To be fair, there is an argument that this book can also constitute as reluctant partners to lovers, which can be explained in this article “Let’s Talk Partners and the ‘Enemies to Friends’ Trope.”

9. Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi
(Feiwel & Friends)

This Y.A. takes a new twist on the rival jock and edgy, artsy student in Aminah Mae Safi’s Tell Me How You Really Feel. This queer enemies-to-lovers tale loves to reference classic high school movies, which makes sense for our budding filmmaking protagonist. This novel naturally depicts queerness and brown families in a totally natural way without either aspect of the characters’ lives being a point of conflict or a prominent narrative device.

8. A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
(Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers)

The multigenerational feud between two rival feud pho shops gets in the way of Lihn and Bao when forced to work on a school project together. The best part of this Y.A. romance is how the family dynamics weave into the plot and the character’s drive.

It is worth noting that this enemies to lovers novel gives more Romeo and Juliet vibes than Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

7. Wallbanger by Alice Clayton

wallbanger book cover
(Gallery Books)

This is the spiciest book on the list, which means there’s mostly a lot of sex. In fact the whole enemy element of this book starts with Caroline being annoyed at her neighbor who regularly has loud sex. He has so much sex that when she complains about him she refers to him as Wallbanger. The more he steals her sleep and patience, the more sexually frustrated Caroline becomes.

6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
(Modern Library)

Maybe putting Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a bit too obvious for this list, but there’s a reason why Mr. Darcy is still swoon-worthy almost 200 years later.

5. Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
(William Morrow Paperbacks)

This San Francisco retelling of Pride and Prejudice adds an Indian American culinary twist to the classic tale. Like the classic Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy pairing, Trish and DJ Caine need to overcome their pride and prejudice against one another so Trish can save DJ’s sister and for Trish to learn grace. 

4. Beach Read by Emily Henry

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Everyone had a college rival. For January Andrews, it was Augustus “Gus” Everett, the literary fiction writing snob who looked down on romance books. After January’s father suddenly dies, she goes to her father’s beach house and attempts to write her romance novel. She is frustrated both that her college rival lives next door and that she’s suffering from writer’s block. To solve that problem, January and Gus propose that they write in each other’s genre’s as a personal challenge. 

What makes this book stand out in this list is that while it’s a romance book, there are other subplots at play: the novels our protagonists are writing, the beach house’s illicit past, and January’s creative journey.

3. The Stand-In by Lily Chu

The Stand-In by Lily Chu

After being sexually harassed by her boss, Gracie quits her job. She’s propositioned by a famous Chinese celebrity, Wei Fangli, to act as her stand-in. Wei Fangli has anxiety and needs to promote her upcoming movie by being seen around Canada and on press tours. Gracie is coached by Wei Fangli’s boyfriend, Sam Yao, who doesn’t trust Gracie’s intentions. As they have to pretend they’re a couple in public, Gracie starts developing real feelings for a man who’s been nothing but rude to her. 

2. Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Cruel Prince by Holly Black

In Holly Black’s cruel prince, Jude and her twin sister are kidnapped by a bloodthirsty faerie general. She’s forced into a world where all the inhabitants can trick her into her death. Jude must work with her lifelong tormentor, Cardan, to uncover the plot against the faerie crown.

This is a little different from the other books on this list, where the romance is the subplot while the faerie political thriller plot is the main focus of this trilogy. If you fall in love with this world, there is another series within this fictional universe: a standalone novel, a spinoff novella, and a collection of short stories.

1. For Butter or Worse by Erin La Rosa

For Butter or Worse by Erin La Rosa
(HQN)

Food has always been a popular setting for romance books—everyone loves a café, a professional chef, or a quirky protagonist who stress bakes.

In Erin La Rosa’s first romance novel, For Butter or Worse, Nina Lyon and Leo O’Donnell are costars for the cooking reality TV show The Next Cooking Champ! The two have a famous rivalry onscreen that gets turned into memes and hashtags. One day on set, Nina has enough of Leo’s terrible banter and quits on live TV. When the two run into each other after Nina’s dramatic exit, the paparazzi releases photo making it look like they’re more than ex-costars. The two then pursue a fake relationship while actively being enemies because it’s good for business. In this page-turning romance, you get two tropes for one.

(featured image: Paramount)


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Author
A. Mana Nava
Nava was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Currently, they edit economic textbooks by day and write geeky articles for the internet in the evenings. They currently exist on unceded Lenape land aka Brooklyn. (Filipine/a Mexican American)