I'm in this great group on Facebook called Romantic Fantasy Shelf, where readers who love romance in their fantasy books, or fantasy in their romance books, get together to talk about all our favorite magic & kissing stuff. Last month we had a great discussion on the enemies-to-lovers romantic trope, and the Romantic Fantasy Shelf blog posted a list of recommended books featuring enemies who fall in love.
Enemies-to-lovers is one of my favorite romantic storylines. It brings in so much potential for conflict, angst, and character growth. When well done, it really addresses the main characters' core values and leads them to expand their world view, and to understanding and respect for each other.
In my preferred version of enemies to lovers, the enemy isn't evil, they just have opposing goals which aren't evil in and of themselves. In other words, just because the characters are enemies doesn't mean one of them is the bad guy. I differentiate between enemies to lovers, where the characters have opposing goals, and villain romance, where one of the characters is actually a villain. Note, there's also a difference between a true villain and one who everyone thinks is a villian but really isn't (I do love this take on villains!).
Anyway, I do have to be able to respect the "enemy." If I have no respect for him/her, I lose all respect for the other character for falling for him/her. Though, of course, there's also something to be said for a good redemption arc.
I also don't like when the "enemy" aspect brings in an unhealthy, abusive situation. If one character is inflicting a situation like that on the other character, I lose all respect for the abusive character and don't like to see the other character falling for the abuser.
A great example of a well-done enemies-to-lovers romance is Beneath Black Sails, by Clare Sager. The hero and heroine are enemies in that they have opposing goals, she's a pirate and he's a pirate hunter, but they both have good reasons for doing what they do and values and standards that I can respect. So I like both characters and respect them, and I enjoy seeing the process by which they come to understand, respect, and eventually love each other.
Another great example is the first book of the Emperor's Edge series by Lindsay Buroker. I love how Amaranthe and Sicarius start out as enemies then come to understand each other and agree to work for the same cause. The romance is extremely slow burn and continues to build slowly through the other 6(?) books of the series, but I especially loved the part at the beginning where they move from enemies to allies.
Among my own books, I think Urdaisunia is the best example of enemies-to-lovers. Eruz is the crown prince of the Sazar people, who conquered Urdaisunia and are subjecting it to a brutal rule. Rashali is an Urdai peasant, whose family has suffered greatly because of the Sazars. So, unquestionably, they're enemies. Eruz doesn't approve of his father's tyrannical rule, but he understands why the Sazars needed to find a new home and he wants to find a better way for the Sazars and the Urdai to co-exist. Rashali wants to drive the Sazars out and restore Urdaisunia's freedom. They both have worthy though opposing goals, and have to find a way to do what's best for Urdaisunia and all the people who live there - while falling in love in the meantime!
Want more enemies-to-lovers recs? Check out this post on the Romantic Fantasy Shelf blog, listing 20 enemies-to-lovers fantasy books (it's part 1; there'll be more to come sometime!)
My own picks from the list:
Beneath Black Sails, by Clare Sager (#7 on the list)
Master of Crows, by Grace Draven (#9)
Identity Revealed, by J.M. Butler (#10) (very villain-y)
Heiress of Healing, by Sonya Lano (#19)
For more book recs, book discussions, and to meet other readers and authors, come join us at Romantic Fantasy Shelf on Facebook! (Or follow the blog if you aren't on Facebook.) Right now, the Blizzard of Book Boyfriends read-and-review challenge is going on. Read books, share your reviews with the group, and enter to win prizes!
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