I recently saw the new movie, “Ticket To Paradise” with Julia Roberts and George Clooney. It was a fantastic take on the popular enemies to lovers trope and expertly delivered by the two comedic titans. And, it got me thinking about the trope and why we love the hate to fate story so much. At the end of the day, there really is a fine line between love and hate and if there are enough things in common between two people, the same passion they hated each other with can easily transition to love.
Since I am writing my first enemies to lover romance book right now (to be released sometime this year!), I have been doing a lot of research into the genre and swallowing as many enemies to lovers books and movies as I can. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
Like anything else, there is a range of interpretations of the trope, with some of them being harder to believe than others. So, I thought it would be fun to share some tips for how to write an enrapturing enemies to lovers story packed with chemistry. Then, when my version of the tropes comes out, you can read it and let me know if you think I nailed it!
And, if you’re looking for great enemies to lovers movie and book recommendations, keep reading!
Tips for Enemies To Lovers Stories:
- Give the characters something in common. If the characters don’t share anything significant enough to genuinely connect on, it’s difficult to believe that the relationship could possibly work out when the hate turns to fate. For example, in the movie “The Lost City”, she’s a romance novelist and he’s her cover model. When she hates him, it doesn’t seem like they have very much in common, but when things shift, we realize that their interests are actually very aligned.
- Show the internal struggle. It’s unlikely that two characters that are not attracted to each other in the slightest are going to cross over from enemies to lovers at any point, so that internal struggle needs to start building slowly through the story. I have read some enemies to lovers books where we really don’t see that internal struggle until pretty close to when they turn to lovers, or in one case, didn’t happen at all until all the sudden-BAM! They’re together. It was really difficult to buy in to it as a reader and root for the happy ending when I didn’t feel any chemistry up until that point. For example, in Abby Jimenez’s novel, “The Friend Zone”, we know that they are attracted to each other right away. So, that underpins all of their digging and fighting at each other and gives it a sexy, sarcastic edge. When you know that attraction is there as a reader, the tone you give their words changes.
- Give them a believable reason to fight the attraction. Readers really do not like the miscommunication trope, so while it could be an easy way to keep enemies from turning to lovers, it’s not always a fan favorite way to go. To avoid having to rely on a miscommunication, try to give them an actual reason to hate each other. From an event that has happened in the past to what they perceive to be a serious philosophical difference, the thing keeping them apart has to be important enough to sustain the hate when the internal struggle continues to build. Sometimes this is something obvious. For example, in my book, he’s a veterinarian that practices traditional medicine and she has a holistic veterinarian practice that uses techniques like reiki, dog yoga, and healing music. While they hate each other, we see them as polar opposites in how they view treating their patients. However, when the tables turn, we realize that they have far more in common than they don’t.
- Remember that attraction is a dance. Similar to the early days of a new dating relationship, where people will wait to text and call so that they don’t feel too vulnerable or make the other person think they’re too interested, an enemies turned lovers situation needs to move forward and backwards. This is what helps build that frustration as a reader and makes you want the characters to just get together already. This dance, though, is the way that attraction builds and if it’s rushed, you run the risk of creating an insta-love situation. Sometimes, we know that they are super into each other and trying to avoid it, while other times, that attraction is slowly revealed. In the book, “Love On The Brain”, we think she’s into him, but we’re not sure what he’s thinking, until we get pretty far into the book. So, you can even show that one character is interested, but we’re not sure about the other one. In my opinion, I prefer to have both characters shows signs that they like each other, but the anger towards each other overrides any of those thoughts or feelings….until it doesn’t.
- Don’t take things too far. Sure, they hate each other – but if you want it to be believable that they eventually love each other, too, establish some boundaries with their behaviors as you’re writing. This means, don’t take things to a point that when they fall in love, the reader is thinking, “Well, how did the character ever get over the other person saying or doing x, y, z.” I read a book recently where I felt that way. By the time the characters got together, I really felt like it was a very unhealthy relationship and I wanted them both to find a good therapist instead of get into a relationship. This is not how we want our readers to feel. This could have been avoided by simply observing certain boundaries as a writer. While writing my own enemies to lovers book, I had some dialogue in there originally that I have gone back and swapped out for softer digs. I don’t want readers to go back and think, “If someone said that to me, I could never fall in love with them.” This is something I’ve also asked my beta readers to look out for and they’ve pointed out a couple things as well.
- They should become allies. One of my favorite parts of enemies to lovers storylines is when they have to work together towards a common goal. For example, in the movie I mentioned earlier, “Ticket To Paradise”, Julia Roberts and George Clooney have been divorced for decades and hate each other. Can’t be in the same room together without fighting. So, when their daughter suddenly decides to marry a guy she barely knows and move to Bali to be with him, they have to be together. Soon after, they decide to work together to split her and the guy up. Of course, working with someone you hate is going to have its challenges (that’s the fun part). Through this process, they usually learn things (or remember) things that they respect and appreciate about each other, which starts that attraction dance (or furthers it along). This also helps the reader begin to imagine or hope for them to reconcile or get together. Of course, the plot will pinch and they will jump apart for a bit again, but that hint will carry you through until the next reconciliation or happy ending.
- Avoid major red flags or toxic behavior. It’s really hard to come back from something like cheating or lying, no matter how badly you want those characters together. There’s a popular romance book that I enjoyed, but it was very polarizing. I won’t name names, but the couple hates each other because of a misunderstanding when they broke up years before. They finally come back together and we think things are moving along, when the girl discovers that he’s been in another relationship the entire time. Of course, he has excuses, but it was very difficult to rationalize his behavior and readers had very strong feelings about that. So, while it can be fun to really put characters through the ringer, try to avoid any seriously bad behavior on the part of either character, or it’s going to result in some very upset readers.
- Be mindful of the breakup. There is usually a breakup situation in romance novels where one or both of the characters feels their wounds triggered and struggles to move forward. Of course, they come back around for that happy ending, but it sure is tough to see characters do this when you just finally got to see them together. Of course, as writers, we want this breakup to feel true to the characters. I’ve read some enemies to lovers books where the breakup felt so harsh or it touched on such sensitive issues for one of the characters that it became impossible to believe that they could ever get back together. In one book I read, he literally breaks up with her because she wasn’t forthcoming about major and serious family trauma. When he finds out, rather than be supportive of her and be sensitive to this, he takes it personal and breaks up with her in a cruel and heartless manner. That woman should never take that man back, no matter what. But, when he comes back apologizing, she’s right back in his arms. Made my stomach lurch. Not the reaction we want a reader to have. In my second book, GAME ON, there is a fade-to-black breakup and I was very aware of how it could make my other character feel. So, the character who was initiating the breakup was very vulnerable about how they were feeling and let the other character know it wasn’t their fault. It’s a real, raw moment where both characters are hurting and want to be together, but the timing just isn’t right. So many people have gone through something like this in real life and by not creating a miscommunication trope, we don’t scar the characters to the point of no return and when they get back together, all feels right in the world.
I might think of some more things as I’m finishing up my book and continuing to devour every other enemies to lovers book that I can.
In the meantime, here are some fun book and movie ideas to inspire your own enemies to lovers romance or just to entertain you.
11 Best Enemies To Lovers Movies:
- The Lost City
- Ticket to Paradise
- The Proposal
- Pride and Prejudice (so good)
- What Happens in Vegas
- The Hating Game (based on a book)
- Something’s Gotta Give
- You’ve Got Mail
- When Harry Met Sally
- How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days
- 10 Things I Hate About You
I’m sure there’s more, so if you have a favorite I’ve skipped, let me know! Now, on to the books!
5 Of My Favorite Enemies To Lovers Books:
- Book Lovers by Emily Henry – One of my favorite books. The characters are so well-drawn and the ending is not your typical romance book ending. Loved it.
- Sun, Sea, The Billionaire and Me by Harmony Knight – I love Knight’s writing style and this book is a fun read. While they don’t full on hate each other with the fire of a thousand suns, they have their back and forth moments and it’s fun to see the relationship evolve.
- Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma – Another one of my favorite books. Dr. Dil is my book boyfriend. The main characters each need each other for something really significant and this forces them to become allies to get what they want. Then, of course, they fall in love. Loved the cultural elements.
- Talk Bookish To Me by Kate Bromley – The first chapter on this one is so fiery, so witty, I could not put it down after that. There is a cheating scandal in this one, though, that threatens to ruin the ending. It’s still a great example of enemies to lovers, though.
- Love On The Brain by Ali Hazelwood – Full disclosure, it was hard for me to get into this one. The first 50-100 pages were tough and I tried a few times to read it before just slogging through. It gets better once we see something from the main guy character besides just robotic behavior. It’s not my favorite book, but she writes angst really well.
- The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez – The enemy part of this book gives to friends pretty quickly, so it’s light on the enemy part, but there are some funny scenes when they are razzing each other. Then, when they are friends, it really turns it up a notch, because they’re fighting the attraction, since she’s in a relationship. At the point that they do get together, I started to struggle with it, because it falls into a miscommunication trope and then I feel she doesn’t treat the other main character well enough to want that happy ending. Even still, the writing is incredible and I enjoyed it.
There’s a lot more out there than this, but these have been the ones I’ve enjoyed recently. They are romantic comedies with varying levels of spiciness. Also, affiliate links are used here, so if you do make a purchase through one of my links, I may receive a commission at no cost to you! Thank you!
Final Thoughts on Enemies To Lovers:
I’m not sure that I have a favorite trope, but enemies to lovers is high up on the list. In fact, my own relationship started as something that could be considered a little enemies to lovers. Some of our early arguments have become urban legend and have inspired a lot of scenes with my characters.
I’ll share more on my third book, currently untitled, soon, so come back for some fun behind the scenes and updates.