Enemies to Lovers


My first reaction: well, there’s a common trope. Nothing could be more clichéd.

Of course, tropes only become clichés if they’re compelling in the hands of a skilled author. I’m bored by this trope if it’s too blatant. There are many times when I roll my eyes and think, Oh, here’s the eventual love interest, and kind of wish that really, they’d just stay enemies, just to be different.

On the other hand, I often like an enemies-to-lovers plot, as long as the author handles it with a certain degree of subtlety or twists it a bit sideways or something. Let me see …

Ilona Andrews made me enjoy the enemies-to-lovers trope with their Hidden Legacy series. Come to think of it, they also did it with their Hugh d’Ambray novel Iron and Magic. The enemies portion of the plot is rather reduced in both these cases, which I generally prefer.

Sharon Shinn has certainly used the antagonists-to-lovers plot several times, and very nicely too. I’m not sure she’s ever started out with her lovers actually enemies. Opposed isn’t the same as enemies.

Sherwood Smith did this in Crown Duel/Court Duel, but in that case, I had some trouble because Meliara was so obviously and egregiously wrong about Shevraeth, it was just painful.

Naomi Novik also used this trope in Uprooted, though there it was definitely twisted a bit sideways. Enemies isn’t really the correct term for the initial relationship, where neither of them thought of the other as an actual person.

Hmm, come to think of it, I’ve used this trope myself, in The Mountain of Kept Memory. I certainly enjoyed writing the scenes that involved Oressa and Gajdosik. I’m smiling right now, thinking of some of my favorite scenes.

Anyway, sure, let’s take a look at the Book Riot post …

I haven’t read most of these. None of the ones I thought of are on this list.

But here’s a good one:

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell Cover

I re-read Carry On just a little while ago, in fact. I do like Fangirl much better, so I re-read that first, and then re-read Carry On in order to decide whether to go on with the trilogy. You knew there were two more books out, right? I only realized that relatively recently. Here’s a snippet of description about the second book:

That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West. They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place...

I still haven’t decided. I liked Carry On okay, but I like Rowell’s contemporary YA much better. Maybe I’ll read Eleanor and Park instead. I might even have that on my Kindle already.

It’s certainly a fine example of enemies-to-lovers, though.

If we step away from fantasy, I can think of some other fine examples.

I mean, it’s hard to beat Cordelia and Aral. I’m not sure there’s any enemies-to-lovers story I like better than this one!

If you’ve got a favorite example of enemies-to-lovers in fantasy or SF, by all means drop it in the comments!

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16 thoughts on “Enemies to Lovers”

  1. I agree that the enemies bit can’t go on too long – you need them to make up before anyone does anything irredeemable.

    Sara J Maas’ faerie books have more than one enemy to lover plotlines, but I don’t think they all work.

  2. That list! So many books, so little worth reading. Just from the blurbs, I know I would hate most of them.

  3. Well, Pete, I have to admit that’s pretty close to my reaction. Too angsty for me, most of them, probably.

    SarahZ, I believe that Maas is the person who used “parameter” when she meant “perimeter” in the first paragraphs of one of her books. Yes, here, “I’d been monitoring the parameters of the thicket for an hour,” Court of Thorns and Roses, second line of the book. Not only should that be “perimeter,” it shouldn’t be plural. Also, you can’t monitor the entire perimeter of any significant area all by yourself, unless you’re using magic or technology.

    That was the very first book I ever looked at for this author. I fear I have never recovered from that terrible sentence enough to actually try to read any of her books. I should add, it makes me really wonder about the copy editor and editor as well.

  4. Oh, and please don’t take that as a dare or something. (And House of Shadows was close enough anyway.)

  5. When it’s done well I really enjoy this trope. But it’s done so badly so often!

    A ghost story about the American Revolution – The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope. I think I first read it as a teen, and loved it then. Haven’t read it in years, but now I’d like to try it again. I can’t remember who was on the American rebel side, and who was on the British side, but there was cleverness and trickery, and since I always loved the Revolution as a setting, it satisfied me completely.

    The Thief? Especially the second book – The Queen of Attolia.

  6. Good thought on Attolia – can’t believe I didn’t think of that one.

    Re:Maas, that sentence wasn’t quite the dealbreaker for me it was for you, but I get it. She’s uneven for me, but there are some elements I find really interesting, and some of her books are so close to being dark jewels fanfic that it scratches an itch the actual books by Ann Bishop don’t hit anymore (haven’t liked her latest work).

  7. Miranda and Ferdinand in L. Jagi Lamplighter’s Prospero Lost series are the most recent enemies-to-lovers plotline I’d read. It’s, um, a doozy of a plot twist, or at least it was for me. Fair warning: the story is a mashup of The Tempest and Dante’s Inferno, so it gets a little dark.
    There’s also Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I remember it being one of those series I almost didn’t finish, mostly because I didn’t love the second book, but the third book redeemed the series for me.
    Generally enemies-to-lovers is not my favorite plot device, but as you say, it’s a trope for a reason. On the other hand, it’s so often done so badly . . .

  8. Hmm. The best example of enemies to lovers I think of, I will not mention, because in fact, in their first story, while they worked together, both of them picked up with other love interests later in the series. Only after those two characters died did the two of them hook up — eventually, after a long period as allies.

    So it’s spoiler information.

  9. We should all have thought of The Queen of Attolia! That’s the BEST example.

    Pete, I wasn’t thinking of assassin-who-falls-in-love-with-target as a dare until you put it that way. Now, hmm …

    Sarah, I really liked the first Others book, despite huge (HUGE) worldbuilding problems. But the later books in the series work much less well for me. I don’t think I’ve read the latest couple.

    EC, I only got through the second book of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone by gritting my teeth and promising myself that the ending would actually turn out all right. It did, so in retrospect I was fine with the second book. Laini Taylor is one of the few who have poured tremendous angst into a series, but handled it so well I loved the series anyway.

  10. Alison, yes! I love love love JARAN. I do regret Kate Elliott let the series end without really coming to a conclusion. But the first book stands alone perfectly.

    Novik’s series is one I haven’t yet gotten to, though I keep hearing good things about it.

  11. “Wayward Son” is okay, though not as good as “Carry On”. I could have done with it just being a “trio on a road trip through darkest America” without the emergence of a more standard threat later on. Especially since it messed up one character’s deserved ending from the first book.

    “Any Way The Wind Blows” felt more like fanfic of the fanfic. Too much relationship drama, too little anything else. I may just not have been the right audience.

  12. Thanks for your feedback, Mike! I don’t think I’ll move the two other Carry On books up in the queue, but maybe I’ll read them someday.

  13. @ Rachel,
    Yes, Taylor is just barely on the side of ‘will read through the angst’ for me. I learned early on in my teens that I do not appreciate angst or drama stemming from bad communication – there’s enough of that in the world without adding to it fictionally.

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