enemies-to-lovers: the beauty of the trope
In honor of Valentine's Day, R.M. Archer, Kellyn Roth, and I have joined up to bring you three fantastic posts about some the top romance tropes! Y'all be sure to check out R.M. and Kellyn's posts here and here!
If you’ve hung around the romance reader community long enough, you’ve probably seen/heard all the opinions out there on enemies-to-lovers (also known as hate-to-love) romance. Personally, I hang around the anti-TikTokxic community, where tropes like enemies-to-lovers are bashed because they’re considered toxic. And some of them (not naming any names, but basically all the ones that are famous on TikTok) really are toxic.
But here’s the kicker: it’s not the trope itself that’s toxic but rather how it’s written/portrayed. There’s actually a certain beauty, if you will, to enemies-to-lovers romance, which is one of many reasons why I love writing it so much!
Before you turn your nose up, humor me for just a second as we explore the themes of a well-written enemies-to-lovers romance.
love overcomes prejudice
There’s a reason why the world is in love with Pride and Prejudice, and one of those is the theme of overcoming prejudice and seeing people for who they really are. Whether the enemies-to-lovers (or ETL) romance is based on workplace rivals, arch nemesis, or opposing sides of a war, the hero and heroine are bound to have some prejudice against one another, be they large or small.
ETL romances center around those conflicting prejudices and, most importantly, how the hero and heroine work to let go of those and see each other as fellow humans and deserving of love and understanding. Putting yourself aside and someone else first is noble and biblical, and a lesson we could all learn!
relationships take work
But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
One of my absolute favorite parts of ETL romances are all the trials the hero and heroine face…and rise from stronger and more secure in their love for each other. They may turn the tide of a war by uniting two opposing forces, or they may simply learn to share the coffee machine at the office—whatever the case, there’s always a lot of work that goes into an ETL relationship, and it’s that work and effort that cultivates and stronger and longer-lasting relationship for your hero and heroine.
Plus, it makes the romance all the sweeter once they emerge from the fire as gold!
love is more than lust
I guess this is what a badly written ETL romance will teach you, but it’s still a valid point. Many other romance stories and tropes can get away with a shallow, attraction-based romance—but not enemies-to-lovers. There isn’t such a fine line between love and lust when the characters are enemies, so their persistence in overcoming the obstacles, desire to put their love interest over themselves, and the shift between “I hate you” to “I love you” has to have a lot more behind it than just lust.
Hence why most badly written ETL romances are seen as toxic—because they do focus more on lust and view it as enough to break down the barriers of hate. But despite what pop culture will lead you to think, lust is only strong enough to get you what you want and leave you feeling hollow, empty, and ruined once you have it and see all the destruction in your wake. (Y’all excuse the sermon. 😅) Love, however, is a force as strong as death (Song of Solomon 8:6) that can redeem hateful relationships to love stories, restore selflessness and compassion, and renew hearts to purity and peace.
So why do I love enemies-to-lovers so much when other readers and writers turn their nose up at it? Why do I adore writing and reading the trope? Why do I think you should give it a try once in a while? 😉 Because it truly is (or at least can be) one of the most beautiful romance tropes out there!
What are your thoughts on enemies-to-lovers romance? What novels have really pulled it off and made you appreciate the power of love over hate? What is your favorite romance trope and why? Do you wanna know how to write an ETL romance that embodies these themes? If so, check out this post HERE!