The Book Nook: Enemies to Lovers

by Lori Walker
published in Reading

I’m moving. Which means that in addition to work, I’m spending a lot of my waking hours sorting and packing my possessions into boxes to keep, donate, or trash. Not surprisingly, I’m not getting a lot of reading done. But the nice thing about sorting and packing is that my mind is free to roam. Lately, my mind has been drifting to ideas for romance novels. As I plot out a book in my head, I’m thinking about my favorite romance trope: enemies to lovers.

Why Enemies to Lovers?

This is a good question because in my own romantic life, I don’t think I could ever stand being around an enemy long enough to ever fall in love with them. I don’t know about other people, but that just seems far-fetched. That said, there have been a few friends that I didn’t particularly care for at first (and vice versa). So who knows? Maybe it would have been possible.

I love reading enemies to lovers stories because I feel like they are ripe for great dialogue and imaginative storytelling. How do you plausibly get two characters who hate each other to fall in love? You have to keep putting them together in interesting and different ways until finally they connect. Then everything gets screwed up again. Then they reconnect and stay connected.

But this is a reading column, so we’ll shift gears to some recommended reading within the enemies to lovers realm…

Enemies to Lovers Reading List

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’ll start with the obvious. I almost left this one off the list. But I am a firm believer in knowing your literary tradition. I think it helps you better keep things new and fresh as a writer. Anyway, we all know Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and how they hated each other—her family kept getting in the way by being embarrassing, bad communication, that horribly unromantic proposal…but then it just eventually clicked.

For modern retellings of Pride and Prejudice, be sure to check out Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding and Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Full disclosure: I haven’t read this one yet, but once I realized that enemies to lovers romances were my jam, I immediately bought it. This one takes the enemies to lovers situation to the workplace. Here, we have two people competing for a promotion. I can’t wait to see what kind of hijinks they pull to make the other look bad, while also not making themselves look so bad that they lose out on the job.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

I believe it was this book that sealed the deal for me with enemies to lovers. Olive’s twin sister gets married and the entire wedding party except for Olive and her nemesis Ethan come down with a horrible bout of food poisoning. So Olive and Ethan get sent on the honeymoon instead. In order to not lose out on the trip, they have to act like they are the happy couple. 

Beach Read by Emily Henry

I first bought this one to read on the beach. The protagonists of this one met in a creative writing workshop and hated each other. Augustus writes literary fiction and January writes romance, but for the summer they decide to swap genres. To help in the process, they take each other on field trips to introduce the other writer to elements of the genre they are trying. I really enjoyed this one and kept getting angry at people interrupting my reading—it was that un-put-down-able.

Set on You by Amy Lea

I interviewed Amy for DIY MFA Radio back in the spring. We had a great conversation about how Millennials are approaching the romance genre and how she incorporated body-positivity into her debut romance novel. This one is about a social media influencer and a firefighter who compete over squat racks at the gym, which is a special place for Crystal. It gets even more complicated when they find out their grandparents are marrying each other. I love how family dynamics add an extra layer to this enemies to lovers read.

For Butter or Worse by Erin LaRosa

This is another one I got to read for the podcast and it will be out later in July. In this episode LaRosa and I do a deep dive specifically on the enemies to lovers trope, so keep your eyes peeled. In this novel, the two main characters, Nina and Leo, cohost a popular cooking show and aren’t very subtle about how much they hate each other. After Nina quits the show during a live taping, the two must start fake dating in order to save their reputations. What could go wrong?

Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola

This is another one I haven’t read yet, but that’s because it’s not out at the time of my writing this post. It sounds so interesting though! The New York Times article I read that introduced me to this one talks about how Babalola’s writing is so witty and full of observations on human nature. Kiki has just denounced Malakai as The Wastemen of Whitewell on her campus radio show. Then the two start fake dating to save both of their reputations. I know—more fake dating—but it’s just so cringe-worthy and so juicy at the same time.

Tell us in the comments: What’s your favorite enemies to lovers book?

Lori Walker is the Operations Maven at DIY MFA. Though she’s fallen off the wagon as a writer, she’s hoping to return to writing essays (perhaps even a novel!) through her involvement with DIY MFA. She is also Launch Manager, Web Editor, and Podcast Producer for DIY MFA and a Book Coach. She resides in Smalltown, Oklahoma, with her husband and their cat, Joan Didion. You can follow her on Instagram at @LoriTheWriter.

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