Will Forte from Parks and Rec holding two photoshopped books, Pride and Prejudice and The Hurricane Wars
(image: NBC/TMS)

11 of the Best Enemies-to-Lovers Romances Sure To Get Sparks Flying

It’s all about the unbearable tension and the narrative parallels!

When it comes to romance, there is a handful of tried and true tropes that are almost universally beloved, because their bones alone are enough to set up the scaffolding of a pretty decent story—and among these tropes, no one is having its moment like the almighty enemies-to-lovers.

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You’ll find enemies-to-lovers everywhere on social media, BookTok especially, and with good reason. What’s better than a story where the characters see the worst of each other first thing and love each other anyway? A story where they are usually the opposite of each other, their character arcs running parallel to each other, emotions running so high that they can’t help but turn into passion?

Then again, it’s also true that sometimes the descriptor enemies-to-lovers is used a bit too freely. If the leading couple hasn’t actively tried to off each other at least once or they aren’t genuinely on opposite sides of some great moral question, then they aren’t really enemies—at least in my opinion. But I also believe that the enemies-to-lovers trope can be defined in many ways, with different levels of intensity—couples can be rivals-to-lovers or annoyances-to-lovers, and the flavor is still all there.

So if you’re looking for some books that put this trope—and all its variations—front and center, then here are eleven titles to add to your TBR.

11. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

I often wonder if Jane Austen had any inkling that Pride and Prejudice would become such a monumental piece of literature when she was first writing it. Because where would the romance genre and the enemies-to-lovers trope be without Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy?

Sure, they’re also not enemies in the sense that they’re trying to off each other—I would categorize them more as rivals who are kept apart first and foremost by the society in which they live and then, of course, by their own pride and prejudices. But they were definitely responsible for laying a good chunk of the foundations that we so love in this trope today.

10. The Hurricane Wars (Thea Guanzon)

When it comes to enemies-to-lovers, you can’t go wrong with something inspired by Reylo—the ship moniker for Rey and Kylo Ren from the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy. And in my opinion no one did it better than Thea Guanzon with her debut novel The Hurricane Wars, where main characters Talasyn and Alaric, who wield opposing powers of light and shadow, meet time and time again on the battlefield before being thrown together into a marriage of convenience that is surely useful to their respective realms but also very much the bane of their existence—until all those feelings of hate start morphing into something else, of course.

9. Divine Rivals (Rebecca Ross)

With a title like that, Divine Rivals definitely had to get a spot on this list. The first part of the Letters of Enchantment duology—which continues with Ruthless Vows—follows the story of young Iris Winnow, who works at the prestigious Oath Gazette and hopes to be promoted to support her family. If only her sworn rival wasn’t also vying for that promotion, but Roman Kitt is also the one with whom she will form such an unbreakable bond that it will change the course of mankind.

8. Instructions for Dancing (Nicola Yoon)

Evie, the protagonist of Instructions for Dancing, lives in a perfectly normal world—albeit one with a bit of a magical twist, since she discovers she has the power to see other people’s romantic fates. And on top of that, she is also juggling dance lessons with a boy named X. It’s an explosive mix—Evie who sees how other people’s romances start and usually end, and so doesn’t believe in love anymore, and X is her complete opposite, passionate and carefree. So of course, their attraction is bound to make Evie question everything she thought she knew about love.

7. Delilah Green Doesn’t Care (Ashley Herring Blake)

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care is another book that I would rank a bit lower than enemies-to-lovers and say that it’s maybe more a rivals-to-lovers—“can’t stand you-to-lovers,” if you will.

The story follows the titular Delilah Green, who works as a photographer in New York and returns to her native small town to photograph her estranged stepsister’s wedding. There, she meets not just said stepsister but also her best friends Claire and Iris, who all used to bully Delilah when they were teenagers—except that a lot of things have changed. Claire has an eleven-year-old daughter, for starters, and she has settled into a life without surprises that Delilah’s return definitely sends tumbling since they both start to quickly realize that the tension between them might be attraction after all.

6. The Cruel Prince (Holly Black)

The Cruel Prince is the first volume of The Folk of the Air trilogy, which revolves around Jude Duarte, a human girl who was snatched away into Faerie and raised among its people—and who longs to remain there, even though her life hasn’t exactly been easy.

Of course, there’s a number of obstacles on her path, and none more troublesome than Cardan Greenbriar—youngest son of the High King of Faerie, Jude’s chief tormenter over the years, and someone who will become a pivotal part of her life as she burrows herself deeper into the intrigue of the fairy court.

5. Unmarriageable (Soniah Kamal)

Since Unmarriageable’s subtitle is “Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan,” we can expect plenty of annoyed bickering and overwhelming tension all throughout the story of Alys Binat—the second of five daughters who have all been seemingly ruined for marriage after a vicious rumor was spread about their family.

But when they all attend the celebrations of the biggest wedding their hometown has seen in years, the oldest Binat girl, Jena, catches the eye of successful entrepreneur Fahad Bingla. Then again, Bingla’s friend Darsee is not exactly impressed by the Binats—and so begins a tale that we know very well, adapted for the modern age and a different latitude but written with the same level of wit and charm.

4. These Violent Delights (Chloe Gong)

As the title suggests, These Violent Delights—the first part of a duology that concludes with Our Violent Ends—takes inspiration from Romeo and Juliet and sets the story in Shanghai in 1926, where two gangs are engaged in a terrible blood feud. On the two sides of this feud are Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov, each the heir to one of the two gangs, and also incidentally each other’s first love.

But when the stakes are revealed to be much higher than everyone initially thought, Juliette and Roma have to put aside their grudges and work together, in a textbook example of enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies again-to-lovers again.

3. The Viscount Who Loved Me (Julia Quinn)

Every book of the Bridgerton series revolves around a trope, and the one for The Viscount Who Loved Me is definitely an iteration of enemies-to-lovers. Sure, Kate and Anthony are more rivals and annoyances than proper enemies, but they bicker and argue and fight for a good chunk of the book, as Anthony courts Kate’s sister Edwina and tries very hard to ignore the sizzling tension coming to life between him and his intended’s sister.

2. Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo)

While Six of Crows’ own enemies-to-lovers romance isn’t the only romance in the book—where the romantic storylines only accompany the main plot—it’s too beautiful not to mention. On the one hand, you have Matthias Helvar, witch-hunter from the icy nation of Fjerda, and on the other, you have Nina Zenik, a powerful Grisha from Ravka. The two are natural enemies, but their paths have been forever changed by meeting each other. And when they’re both swept into an impossible heist with another four of the most dangerous outcasts the city of Ketterdam has to offer, their feelings are bound to reach a breaking point.

1. The Wrath and the Dawn (Renée Ahdieh)

The Wrath and the Dawn—and its sequel, The Rose and the Dagger—are a retelling of the famous One Thousand and One Nights and, most importantly, of their framing device. The story follows young Shahrzad, who vows vengeance against the cruel caliph Khalid after her best friend falls victim to him. She volunteers to be his next bride, knowing full well that they’re all usually dead by the morning after the wedding, and enchants him with story after story to ensure her survival. And of course, she starts to see who the real Khalid is underneath the monster his people believe him to be.


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Author
Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.