In the last of our ‘Enemies to Lovers’ posts, Susanne Bellamy writes about Engaging the Enemy, with its family feud set in contemporary Melbourne.
The timeless story of ‘a pair of star-cross’d lovers’ fascinated me as an impressionable teenager and ever since, I’ve loved this trope. The idea that love can conquer even those who begin as enemies is life-affirming in a world where random acts of violence and hate dominate the news. Finding something that draws people together and which is worth fighting for makes writing this trope optimistic and uplifting. Alison Stuart writes wonderful ‘enemies to lovers’ in her English Civil War series. Against a backdrop of war, when brother might turn against brother for an ideal, what could be more challenging in a relationship than falling in love with your enemy?
On a tram ride in Melbourne a couple of years ago, as I clung to the overhead strap and daydreamed, idly watching the streetscape unwind, the tram stopped and a derelict red-brick building appeared, framed in the tram window. Something about that building spoke to me. Who would love this building enough to want to preserve it? What if there were two people who both wanted it enough to fight for it? Given Melbourne’s record in conservation of heritage buildings and even alleyways, this kernel of an idea felt right at home, and suddenly I ‘saw’ the first meeting between my protagonists as they established their battleground…and the prize!
Andie and Matt live in present-day Melbourne, and their conflict originates in an ongoing family feud. The biggest issue I faced was making what happened in the past realistic and capable of still affecting my protagonists.
When the lives of those we love and care about are part of the equation, we become fierce in our defence of them. Matt’s mother and Andie’s difficult relationship with her father push these two to make choices they might not otherwise follow for themselves alone. Torn between loyalty to family and belief in the old stories handed down from generation to generation, and the burden of guilt and self doubt, both hero and heroine have a lot of emotional baggage to work through as they fight their growing attraction.
What is the tipping point from hate to love? Getting to know the real person and being willing to see beyond the past. Preconceived ideas and lessons instilled as children are difficult to throw off. But in the end, our protagonists might just discover that what they thought separated them actually binds them—love of family, social justice—and the person least likely to be their one true love is the one who makes them the best they can be. After all, isn’t that what a happy-ever-after should deliver?