The days might have slowly started to bleed into each other with most of the world in isolation, but that doesn’t mean I’m letting any of you forget that today is #TropeTuesday. I thought long and hard about what trope to focus on this week — maybe something to lighten the mood given the state fo the world? — and then I thought, “What’s a cheerier feeling than going from wanting to rip someone’s throat out to their pants?” Thus, I decided to recommend some of my favourite enemies to lovers books.
Don’t forget to check out last week’s #TropeTuesday if you like fake relationships too. You can find that here.
1. To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.
The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?
To Kill A Kingdom is one book you need to stick with for a little while, but I promise it’s worth it and you’ll soon be sucked in. Although this sounds like a retelling of The Little Mermaid, it is twistier and darker with main characters that are both morally ambiguous at best. This is a romance between a siren and a siren killer or, alternatively, a prince and a prince killer, so it’s a slow burn and you need to be prepared for that. This is such an exciting and compelling read that you’ll finish the book and question your life’s purpose after it, I swear.
2. Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.
Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.
The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.
And love makes fools of us all.
Serpent & Dove gives us enemies to lovers, slow burn and a (forced) marriage of convenience, so it’s literally ticking every box for me. Lou and Reid have such fun flirty banter along with some serious moments, which I adore because it makes their relationship feel established and realistic. Sometimes, in a world of fantasy, it’s those types of relationships that can anchor the plot and make you believe in the unbelievable. I do think the world building could have been better, but if you’re a fan of books heavily focused on characters, then this could be for you.
3. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.
With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.
As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.
Cruel Beauty was one of those that got recommended me to a lot, but I put it off because I am very much anti dumb fantasy names and this book is full of dumb fantasy names — IGNIFEX, I MEAN, COME ON! Dumb fantasy names aside, I was pleasantly surprised by the book itself. I predicted some elements, but there were some twists that left me gaping like a fish too. I especially appreciate how Nyx holds out on her plan for so long — sometimes, the characters enter with revenge in mind and forget about it the second their enemy smiles at them. Nyx doesn‘t and it takes time for her mind to change.
4. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.
One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.
But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
In The Winner’s Curse, Arin is a slave and Kestrel is his owner, but they fall in love — that’s the epitome of enemies to lovers. One part I really loved in this was how many sweet moments there were on top of all the action and plot-driven scenes. Their romance turns out being very soft in the end, but it has a lot of layers to it and feels well-developed, so even when things can feel like they’re happening fast, it makes sense and you can understand why the two of them fall in love.
5. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
The Cruel Prince is quickly becoming a YA staple and I genuinely think Jude and Cardan are one of the best written enemies to lovers pairings I’ve ever come across. The moral greyness! The sexual tension! The tail! Um, what what? Okay, if we ignore the fact one of the characters has a FREAKIN’ TAIL, then this is such a transportive book with incredible world building and a slow burn that made me think it would have been less painful if I set myself on fire.
6. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.
Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.
In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light.
Wicked Saints is definitely more on the insta-love side of things when compared to my other recommendations, but it has a girl who talks to god falling in love with a boy that had a hand in the war her country is in and it’s . . . intense. The relationship between Nadya and Serefin is refreshing because it’s flawed, but they both know it and it’s never made out to be anything less. It’s quite fast paced, if you like that, but it’s by no means an easy read as there’s a heavy focus on religion and the writing is stunning, yet complex at times.
7. We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal
People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.
Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.
Zafira is a hunter and Nasir is sent to kill her, but they’re forced to be reluctant allies — can you feel the tension yet? They’re opposites in every way and — admittedly — this wasn’t the type of romance that left me with heart palpitations, but it was a strong effort at slow burn enemies to lovers. The real strength of this book, to me, is in all the side characters and the eloquent writing style.
8. And I Darken by Kiersten White
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
And I Darken is something I read a few years back, but it’s something I come back to a lot. It’s gritty and dark and gory and has a badass anti-heroine. Albeit, I think it’s a love-or-hate situation and won’t be for everyone. Romance isn’t an overwhelming focus in And I Darken, instead it’s packed with social commentary and political intrigue. I’d argue Mehmed is more representative of Lada’s enemy, rather than a direct enemy, but I just couldn’t resist including it.
9. The Wrath and The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.
Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?
The Wrath and the Dawn — wow. I don’t know where to begin, but I’ve been on this reading kick of books that have females looking for revenge then falling in love in the process. Anyway, this is a retelling of 1001 Nights and is as every bit as romantic and angst-ridden as you’d expect. I do think Shahrzad missed a lot of opportunities to do some real damage and I almost expected more from her at times, but I was able to look over it because it’s such a beautifully written book. Ahdieh has such a poetic writing style.
10. Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon
Will the princess save the beast?
For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?
His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…
As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.
Since most of this list has been fantasy, I thought I owed you at least one contemporary with Of Curses and Kisses. There are moments you might have to suspend your disbelief, but this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling where Jaya and Grey are caught in a centuries-old family feud. Jaya goes in with every intention of breaking Grey’s heart and I love that. One reason there aren’t many contemporaries in this list is because I didn’t want to mix in any rivals to lovers — which is a totally different thing — but these two are enemies. The hatred and conflict goes beyond a pretty rivalry. Maybe it’s more so on Jaya’s side, but centuries of superposition mixed in with media accusations make for the perfect enemies to lovers story.
Let me know your favourite enemies to lovers pairing in the replies or what trope I should focus on next week!
read it and weep,