Enemies to lovers is a classic trope in romance novels and other literary fiction. Any good romance writer understands the appeal of the trope. Strong main characters go head to head, sometimes due to misunderstandings and sometimes with full understanding, only to find a connection with the ‘enemy‘ that feels unshakeable. This is an incredibly enjoyable niche to read because the emotions that make the enemies of the main character at first are never too far from the feelings that bring together love, passion, or adventure.
If you are looking for the best enemies to lovers books to get lost in, check out the list of classic to contemporary romance books with the enemies-to-lovers trope below.
Best enemies to lovers books
1. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game is an office-based enemies-to-lovers romance novel. The story follows office workers and colleagues, Lucy and Joshua. Tensions are always high in the office as the staff is incredibly competitive. Lucy and Joshua share playful hatred as they constantly try to outdo each other.
Lucy is a charming and attractive young woman and enjoys the appreciation she feels from the other staff at Bexley & Gamin. However, one of her colleagues does not show her that same appreciation, Joshua Templeman, a well-dressed, smart, and powerful young man. Equally, Lucy does not care much for Joshua, either.
Since Lucy and Joshua share an office, they spend far more time together than they would like. To entertain themselves and boost their own sense of accomplishment, they go up against each other in an increasingly ridiculous competition. When the opportunity for promotion presents itself, the ultimate game has begun.
As competition grows and tensions rise, both Joshua and Lucy discover that perhaps that feeling of hatred they had for each other was not hatred after all. Or is it just another attempt to one-up each other?
“Love and hate are visceral. Your stomach twists at the thought of that person. The heart in your chest beats heavy and bright, nearly visible through your flesh and clothes. Your appetite and sleep are shredded. Every interaction spikes your blood with adrenaline, and you’re on the brink of fight or flight.”
2. Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
18-year-old Louise la Blanc is a witch. Two years before the events of the book, Lou’s mother tried to have her killed. To survive, Lou was forced to flee her coven. She takes refuge in the city of Cessarine but must forsake all of her magic and hide her true identity as a witch. She steals what she needs and lives in secret. In Cessarine, she finds refuge from the coven from which she fled, but she is not safe. Here, witches are feared, and witch hunters find and burn them.
Reid Diggory is a churchman and a sworn witch hunter. Complications and jeopardy to both characters’ reputations lead to the witch hunter finding himself in an arranged marriage with Lou. Lou must still keep her true identity a secret from her new husband. If the witch hunters find her, she may face a fate worse than burning.
Both are faced with the challenge of rising in love against the backdrop of their socially irreconcilable differences as their love for each other continues to grow. Lou knows her own secrets, but Reid still needs to discover his.
“I loved her. Despite everything. Despite the lies, the betrayal, the hurt. Despite the Archbishop and Morgane le Blanc. Despite my own brothers. I don’t know if she returned that love, and I didn’t care. If she was destined to burn in Hell, I would burn with her.”
3. The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
Lina Santos gets left at the altar by her ex-fiancé, Andrew Hartley. Despite the hurt and embarrassment, she felt having been stood up in front of the entire wedding party, Lina hones her organizational talents and becomes a top-tier wedding planner. One day, having impressed many clients and wedding guests, Lina sees a ripe opportunity to progress in her career and change her life. The problem is that taking this opportunity meant working with Max Hartley, the best man at the wedding at which she was stood up, and the brother of her ex-fiancé.
Both Max and Lina are determined and focused on their careers. Despite their complicated past, they now must work together and nail a presentation for their clients that, if successful, will help both parties progress in their respective careers—Lina in wedding planning and Max in marketing. Working together will not be easy. Lina has loathed Max since the wedding because Max encouraged Andrew to duck out of the wedding ceremony, and she is hungry for some payback.
The feud, even animosity, between Max and Lina is not their only bond. As they work together, emotions arise, and they find their dislike of each other is not the only strong feeling between them. To make matters more complicated, Lina has vowed not to fall in love again, while Max has a history of feeling like second best to his brother and does not want to feel that way again.
“Thing is,” he says, his chin resting on my head, “there’s no single way to be a badass. Your mother and aunts coming here and making new lives for themselves? Badass. My mother running her own firm even after she and my father divorced? Badass. Are you facing the obstacles in your path and reinventing yourself in the process? Badass. There’s room for different kinds of greatness. Even if you cry doing it. Hell, especially if you cry doing it.”
4. A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
The Nguyens and the Mai are two different American Vietnamese families, each running a pho restaurant in nearby neighborhoods. As business competitors, feuding families are natural enemies.
Bao is the teenage son of the Nguyens and works at his family’s pho restaurant. He is quiet, strong, and stable. He is somewhat stoic and presents himself as a pretty average guy—nothing that stands out too much, nothing over the top. According to his parents, Bao keeps his head up and works hard, but he is only their fifth favorite employee at the restaurant.
Linh is the daughter of the Mai’s and also works in her parents’ pho restaurant. She is an artist at heart, a free spirit with fiery potential. Her parents jeopardized her dream of pursuing a career as an artist as they asked her to work in their restaurant during her free time.
Bao and Linh come to meet by pure chance, and they hit it off immediately. Sparks fly, and this new connection is exciting, but can their spark survive among the family feud? How far does that family feud go back? Is it just about the pho?
“But in anything you love, isn’t there always some bit of sadness, some essence of suffering? That, to me, is what makes art worth it. Suffer through it—mine the emotions you keep inside yourself, face whatever’s emotionally burdensome, take control of it—then emerge reborn in the end.”
5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is of the original enemies to lovers books. Pride and Prejudice book follows the story of Elizabeth Bennet, an intelligent and talented young woman, the second daughter of the Bennet family. Austen describes Elizabeth as an incredibly beautiful young woman with expressive eyes, though other characters in the book see her as beautiful both inside and out.
Another talent of Elizabeth is her ability to read people intuitively. When she meets the male protagonist, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, she does not like him. She senses in him too much pride and egotism. She knows she is not perfect, but that does not mean she is immediately willing to tolerate someone she does not like.
Joined through shared acquaintances, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy spend a lot more time together than planned. Their somewhat forced proximity creates a deeper familiarity and understanding than Elizabeth’s original convictions, and the two begin to develop solid and undeniable feelings for one another.
“I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”
6. The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved is a story more famously known as Bridgerton Season 2—a popular Netflix series adapted from Quinn’s book.
Anthony Bridgerton is the eldest son of the Bridgerton family. He is a bachelor and has shown no indication of changing his status for years. He is an incredibly popular, attractive, and desired man. That is until one day when Anthony claims that he is seeking marriage and that he has already found a wife, the young Edwina Sharma. Anthony and Edwina’s relationship is full of niceties and civilities, but it turns out that Edwina is not the only one pulling at Anthony’s heartstrings.
Kate Shwarma is the intended’s older sister. Kate is described in the book as meddlesome and a schemer. Kate considers Anthony a wicked rogue and goes to great lengths to stop the wedding from taking place. She is suspicious of Anthony, once a renowned rake (a man who does not wish to settle down) who now seeks to change his lifestyle completely.
Though Anthony intends to marry Edwina, Kate is the star of his increasingly erotic dreams. As the hatred between Anthony and Kate gets hotter, so does their pull toward each other. One kiss makes all the difference for Kate, and she is suddenly afraid of the deep feelings she has begun to develop for this rogue bachelor at heart.
“Listen to me,” he said, his voice even and intense, “and listen well, because I’m only going to say this once. I desire you. I burn for you. I can’t sleep at night because I want you. Even when I didn’t like you, I lusted for you. It’s the most maddening, beguiling, damnable thing, but there it is.”
7. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black is the first of the three-part series The Folk of the Air. The enemies-come-lovers in the book are Jude and Cardan. Jude is a human, which makes her mortal, while Cardan is what is known as a fae and is not confined to mortal life.
When Jude was just seven years old, he was faced with his parent’s murder and the kidnapping of his sisters, who were taken to the dreaded High Court of the Faerie. Jude wants to enter the High Court and reunite with her long-lost sisters, but that is no easy task. The fae despises humans, so Jude’s chances of success are slim.
Prince Cardan has a particular distaste for humans. He is the youngest and wickedest son of the High King of the Faeries. It is up to Jude to face Prince Cardan and reunite with her family. Despite their seemingly irreconcilable differences, Jude and Cardan are quite the match. Hate, contempt, and betrayal occur alongside growing feelings of love and passion in this highly entertaining fantasy novel. As mentioned, The Cruel Prince is part one of a three-part series, the rest of which contains even more romance and passion than the first.
“I am going to keep on defying you. I am going to shame you with my defiance. You remind me that I am a mere mortal and you are a prince of Faerie. Well, let me remind you that means you have much to lose and I have nothing. You may win in the end, you may ensorcell me and hurt me and humiliate me, but I will make sure you lose everything I can take from you on the way down. I promise you this is the least of what I can do.”
8. Beach Read by Emily Henry
Emily Henry’s Beach Read follows romance writer January Andrews and Augustus Everett—a literary writer stuck with writer’s block. Over one summer, January and Augustus each occupy neighboring beach houses and try to overcome the dreaded writer’s block. Their style of writing differs significantly—the two are opposites, and they join together on a deal. Augustus will write a romance novel while January tries her hand at literary fiction.
“That was the moment I realized: when the world felt dark and scary, love could whisk you off to go dancing; laughter could take some of the pain away; beauty could punch holes in your fear. I decided then that my life would be full of all three.”
Enemies to lovers movies
If you love the enemies-to-lovers genre but do not want to read, plenty of movies feature the same trope, including all-out emotional warfare, and some are adaptations of the books mentioned above.
1. Pride and Prejudice (Romance/Drama, 2005)
The 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice features Keira Knightley as the witty and charming Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy. It was directed by Joe Wright.
2. Beauty and the Beast (Fantasy/Romance, 2017)
Beauty and the Beast is a classic enemies-to-lovers tale. In this film adaptation of the classic tale, Emma Watson plays the beautiful and curious young Belle, and Mat Steven plays the Beats. The movie is a beautiful re-telling of the classic tale in which a young girl kept captive in the beast’s tower learns to see through his intimidating front and deeper into the beautification of his heart.
3. It Happened One Night (Romance/Comedy, 1934)
Hollywood legends Clarke Gable and Claudette Colbert play enemies to lovers Peter Warne and Ellie Andrews. Ellie is a spoiled heiress who wishes to escape the confinement of living under her father. Peter is a journalist, recently fired, who knows about Ellie and strikes a deal with her. He wants the exclusive on her story, and if he does not get it, he will inform her father of her whereabouts. It Happened One Night is a fun and memorable watch. Opposites attract, and fame precedes in this classic tale of enemies to lovers.