It is a truth universally acknowledged that every lover of romance novels must also have a favorite romance trope. With the surge of popularity in shows like “Bridgerton” and niche sections of social media like “Booktok,” everyone and their mother can now pinpoint their favorite romance cliches.
From childhood friends, to fake dating, to forced proximity, the pick of poisons is endless. One trope has come to stand at the forefront, with millions of romance-lovers ready to defend it to the death: enemies to lovers.
“Enemies to lovers” is exactly what it sounds like: two enemies become lovers. While this seems like the weakest of foundations upon which to build a relationship, millions of adoring fans would argue that there are nuances to the relationship.
While characters don’t always start out as bitter rivals who set out to kill each other — although sometimes they do — what defines this cliche is the clear presence of tension and some sort of animosity between the characters. Oh, how romantic!
Enemies to lovers is by no means a new concept — “Pride and Prejudice” can speak to that — but its popularity seems to have skyrocketed since the early 2000s. Popular young adult books, such as “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent,” introduced this trope to younger crowds and since then it has been steadily growing in popularity.
The trope has since then grown wildly out of control, with its fans willing to “ship” even the most antagonistic characters.
The whole concept of enemies to lovers leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Who wants to be in a relationship with someone they hate? (Apparently, many people.) Rather than basing the relationship upon mutual respect and care for each other, enemies to lovers seems to capitalize on the sexual tension present.
Normal conventions for getting to know someone before you date them all get thrown out to sea when you’re enemies. Who cares about showing your partner that you care for their well-being and want to get to know them for some reason other than sex?
Enemies to lovers teaches audiences that what matters most in a relationship is passion and sexual tension, not creating a strong foundation with your partner that will last.
With this critique, I can envision angry fans carrying pitchforks and lighting fires. I will make one concession: enemies to lovers isn’t completely bad. Many fans enjoy characters that choose to love each other against the odds.
Fans enjoy themes of redemption and acceptance where two people are willing to look past flaws and pursue love.
What exists nowadays isn’t a logical argument for why enemies to lovers is an acceptable trope and deserves the hype. It’s an obsession, a dangerous infatuation, and one that romance-lovers must arm themselves against.
Many have fallen victim to enemies to lovers, even against their own will. It’s a sad situation and one that must be rectified, preferably with a greater appreciation for the “grouchy character that has a soft spot for only one person” trope. It’s time to redefine what love means in romantic literature: tenderness and devotion, not blind lust.