I debated for a long time about what to discuss today for this guest post (and thank you again, Leah, for hosting me), but there’s one topic that’s especially near and dear to me: the enemies-to-lovers trope. So naturally it had to be that.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of the enemies-to-lovers/friends trope in whatever form it takes. Rivals turned lovers. Accidental enemies turned friends. The once-villain who has to team up with the heroes and stays on when the danger is past. I like it as the backbone of a plot. I love it as a subplot in a greater story. And I adore it whether it leads to romance or friendship. Or both. Both is good.
Nothing entertains me like seeing how people who began on opposite sides or initially made a poor impression on each other can work through their differences and build a solid foundation for a romantic/platonic relationship. That’s everything I need in fiction right there. And maybe it’s no surprise that part of the reason that I love enemies-to-lovers/friends is that these stories very often feature palpable moments of one character putting their trust in another. I can see the decision making in progress. The slow steps towards understanding. The little ways that people accommodate each other. There’s always at least one moment where the characters doubt their ability to ever trust each other so when it finally happens it feels like a triumph.
Maybe that’s what appeals to me the most, the sense that this relationship isn’t something that happened by accident. It’s a choice and a work in progress. It’s a comfort to see characters actively trying to make better choices in their relationships with others when we all know that the alternative is still an option. I find that hopeful.
(I’m also an ornery person and I’m much more likely to dislike someone upon first meeting than I am to befriend them so maybe insta-hate is more relatable to me. I won’t lie.)
And so, a little list of some of my favorite enemies-to-lovers/friends that I’ve read this year:
The Duchess War by Courtney Milan
This was the first time I’ve read a Courtney Milan book and wow I was not disappointed in the slightest. All the verbal sparring and plotting against each other was perfection. I never wanted it to end. Minnie and Robert were both so clever and thoughtful and I’m pretty sure I could live off their banter for the rest of my life.
Checking Out Love by R. Cooper
This is more of a one sided enemy deal since most of the belligerence comes from Benj, the standoffish and grumpy librarian that Jeremy sets out to befriend, but it was incredibly satisfying all the same. I was right there with both of them as they wrestled with their own brands of distrust and eventually worked it out.
Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju by Haruko Kumota
Yes, this one is a manga (and also an anime which is fantastic) but the relationship between a rakugo master and his new apprentice in the present as well as his friendship with another rakugo performer in the past is a complicated and layered clash of personalities. There is so much chemistry and conflict here and it delights me.
Those Who Hunt The Night by Barbara Hambly
As this vampire mystery is thirty years old I was a little wary when I reread it this year. But luckily it held up and the dangerous alliance between former spy James Asher and three hundred year old vampire Ysidro as they investigate the murders of several London vampires is as entertaining as I remembered. There’s also some excellent banter as they gradually warm to each other.