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Enemies To Lovers

Romance is a genre full of tropes. From the big ones like friends-to-lovers and office romances to smaller ones like "Sunshine x Grump" pairings, running through the airport scenes, masquerade balls, or the infamous "There's Only One Bed," there is certain to be a trope for every reader out there.

Among the most popular is Enemies to Lovers.

Commonly cited examples include Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, Anthony and Kate from the Bridgerton series, Heathcliff and Catherine of Wuthering Heights, and Alex and Harry from Red, White, and Royal Blue.

Enemies To Lovers is a favorite of many romance readers, but it's one I tend to have conflicting feelings about.

That may come as a surprise to longtime followers of the blog since one of my WIPs, Forged in the Salle, follows an Enemies To Lovers relationship (something I didn't even plan for and did not initially realize while I was working on its first draft).

The thing is, just as we can dislike aspects of tropes we enjoy, we can also find things to like about tropes we aren't as into. That's something I'll be playing with more when I start edits on Forged in the Salle, as one of my primary goals will be embracing the Enemies to Lovers nature of Nancy and Marcus's dynamic.

For this post, I'll be taking a look at the Enemies To Lovers trope as a whole, why readers love it, and what about it doesn't always work for myself and others.

What Is Enemies To Lovers?

As the name implies, Enemies to Lovers revolves around characters who start out as adversaries who want nothing to do with one another. As the story progresses, these characters realize their beliefs towards the other were misconceptions and ultimately set aside their differences, ending up in a romantic relationship.

The "Enemies" portion can take several forms.

Sometimes, the characters in question will simply get off on the wrong foot or a misunderstanding will lead to unsavory opinions of one another. They might be rivals pitted against one another in a competition. Or it could be something more imposing, like being on two opposing sides of a longstanding feud and needing to look past the prejudices their environment or circumstances taught them to believe.

As such, depending on the circumstances, Enemies to Lovers might also be called Rivals to Lovers or Frienemies to Lovers.

There are plenty of reasons a reader might enjoy Enemies to Lovers. I took to social media to ask my followers how they felt about the trope and got a fairly wide range of responses. Some are diehard fans, others consider it one of their guilty pleasure tropes or are lukewarm to it, and some just hate it.

Why Do Readers Love Enemies To Lovers?

Fans of Enemies to Lovers cited a number of reasons the trope ranks highly among their favorites.

One response mentioned that they feel protagonists in an Enemies To Lovers romance feel more fleshed out because of their flaws. Their personal demons and struggles only heighten the mutual conflict between them.

Some said they love the dialogue that the trope can inspire. Characters embroiled in a hot mix of romantic tension and fierce conflict can make for some delightful snark and banter. It's also interesting to catch the minuscule shifts in dialogue hinting at underlying, changing feelings leading up to that first confession of romantic attraction.

Enemies To Lovers comes with an enticing tension beyond "will they/won't they?". Characters are forced to take a hard look at themselves in the mirror and reconcile with their imperfections, and work to better themselves. It adds another layer to the characters that readers can resonate with while setting up a path for internal growth as a person. That can be a formidable challenge.

There's also the aspect of characters, for lack of a better term, having to get to truly know one another in a way that characters in other tropes like Friends To Lovers don't. These characters need to prove themselves and defy the stain of a bad first impression; that moment characters are willing to look past the surface hits in all the right ways because it signifies their newfound, softened emotions taking shape.

Sexual tension was also a key factor. Watching these characters dance around their mutual attraction out of spite often has readers on the edge of their seats.

And when they do finally get together, it feels rewarding because they (and the reader) have been wanting for this for oh so long.

Readers also said there is something inspirational in Enemies To Lovers, specifically in its common themes of redemption and forgiveness. They're stories that prove you can be loved in spite of your flaws and mistakes. In that sense, they can be refreshing among the myriad of perfectly sculpted chests and Mary Sues who are good at everything and can do no wrong. These characters see each other at their absolute worst but still fall in love. It's loved out of the yearning for acceptance, imperfections and all.

These stories also prove that love can conquer any hardship, whether it's a mere misunderstanding or feuding countries.

Why Do Readers Dislike Enemies To Lovers?

While some readers love Enemies To Lovers, others don't.

Some of the responses I got on social media indicated a dislike of the trope because it feels overdone. Enemies to Lovers feels like it's everywhere these days. On the fanfic scene, you'd see a lot of Hermione x Draco ships way back when whereas Rey and Kylo Ren are sitting on the Enemies to Loves fanfic throne nowadays; this conversation was revitalized with the release of Ali Hazelwood's The Love Hypothesis, which many feel is Reylo-coded.

In short, readers are over Enemies To Lovers and want to see other tropes in the spotlight and want to see something new.

Several responses also expressed the feeling that Enemies To Lovers romanticizes toxic and unhealthy relationships. One individual said they felt the trope either justified abusive behaviors or glossed over them because the love interest is, "conventionally attractive and is a 'nice guy' half the time," and that it encourages readers to turn a blind eye to these treacherous situations. Another mentioned not being a fan of bully romances for similar reasons.

I'm all for morally gray characters. I love a good antihero. However, it becomes harder for me to ship characters whose "love" is often shown through apologies and grand gestures after manipulation and malicious behavior.

Romance plots built on the Enemies To Lovers trope often revolve around forgiveness. While these stories can be endearing, they can also be troubling. You don't have to forgive someone who's hurt you or has caused you harm. There are lines that need to be drawn.

That's kind of why the redemption arcs found in Enemies To Lovers stories can be a downfall. For me, it depends on why these characters start out as enemies and how they become lovers. How deserving of redemption is this foe-turned-flame? If the characters were adversaries because they made a rough first impression but are otherwise likable, that's one thing. But if they were enemies because one violently attacked the other, then it's harder for me to get behind their eventually being lovers.

Enemies To Lovers invites readers into an intricate dance of lust and loathing. But it's not just about amorous angst. The trope comes with all sorts of tension and conflict that often has its readers' eyes glued to the page and hearts racing.

While it does have its strengths, Enemies to Lovers also has its share of pitfalls. The portrayal of potentially toxic relationships brings challenges writers have to navigate.

For the most part, the way I feel about Enemies To Lovers isn't that far off from how I tend to feel about Second-Chance Romances: they're something I'm more likely to enjoy under specific circumstances. In both, it's a matter of why. Why are these characters at odds with one another? Is it something they can come back from—and do they deserve to?



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