This week in our series about popular romance tropes we’re looking at the perennial ‘Enemies to Lovers’ plotline.
By Gracie MacGregor
‘My only love sprung from my only hate!’ William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
I know Jane Austen is often touted as the first romance novelist, but she had a helpful predecessor in her compatriot, one William Shakespeare, playwright and poet.
Shakespeare was a master romancer in the enemies-to-lovers trope.
Sometimes his enemies were purely circumstantial: the bitter feud between the Capulets and Montagues was never going to be enough to keep Juliet from her Romeo.
At other times, they were fiercely intentional, desperately protecting their hearts and souls from the threats they perceived came from love and vulnerability to another.
You could argue Katherina might have been better off if she’d fought her passion for bordering-on-misogynistic Petruchio just a little harder.
But we’re all better off for the barbed wit, the delightful antagonism, the animated animosity of Beatrice and Benedick, or the cat-and-mouse reversals of Henry V and his Kate.
For me, there’s nothing more energizing than the vocal thrust-and-parry that’s so vital a part of the great enemies-to-lovers romances. Imagine Pride and Prejudice without Elizabeth’s drawing-room sparring with Mr Darcy. Imagine Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind without Scarlett’s fiddle-de-dee contempt for Rhett.
Imagine Princess Leia and Han Solo without their testy, sarcastic, defensive repartee. Laugh it up, fuzzball.
Enemies-to-lovers stories have long been favourites of mine because enemies have to work a lot harder for their Happily Ever After endings. They have to work hard on themselves to build the trust, respect and empathy so fundamental to love.
There are no greater obstacles to enduring love than suspicion, contempt and hatred. When a pair of lovers is able to surmount these, somehow it helps me believe their commitment to one another really will last. To be brave enough to tear down your own barriers and risk loving somebody you’ve previously despised is, I think, the greatest courage of all. It deserves a happy ending.
If, on their journey, there are moments when I’m really not sure if two characters are more likely to kiss or to kill one another, to choose torture or tenderness, the frisson of suspense makes the romance all the more delicious.
And watching a towering rage turn into a towering mutual passion – complete with a kiss all the more devastating because it’s had to overpower determined resistance? Well, for me, there’s nothing better.
I love reading enemies-to-lovers romances, and that’s probably why I love writing them. In Hearts on Hold, Cate is naturally suspicious of the motives of mysterious interloper Brandon, who seems to be taking over her life at the same time his employer is trying to take over her village. The very last thing she plans to do is fall for a conniving, lying schemer, no matter how dreamy.
And in my next novel, A Case for Trust (out 1 March with Escape), Matt Mason sets out to destroy the gold-digger he’s convinced has destroyed his brother’s happiness, only to find he has to risk everything he holds sacred when love overwhelms hatred.
What are your favourite ‘enemies to lovers’ stories?
Emotional, suspenseful and set in paradise—where the strongest sunshine casts the darkest shadows…