If your favorite part of Pride and Prejudice is Elizabeth cutting suitors to shreds with her wit, these books are for you. Although I am a Jane Austen fan, my personal favorite Enemies to Lovers couple is Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing. (Guilty secret, I like the movie better than the book. The dialogue really comes alive with Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh.)
When Benedick says “God keep your ladyship still in that mind, so some gentleman or other shall ‘scape a predestinate scratched face” and Beatrice fires back with . . .
. . . Ah. Perfection.
The main requirement for the books on this list is a couple who are on opposite sides of an issue and who are going to have to make a real effort to connect. Attitudes must change, hearts must soften and prejudice must be overcome before they can get to that satisfying Happily Ever After. Barbed comments to the love interest are a bonus.
*Note* We’re going to leave the obvious, millions-of-copies-sold heavyweights out of this list because A) everyone already knows about them, that’s why they’ve sold in the millions and B) there are lots of lists out there with those books on them and there’s no point beating everyone over the head with what they already know. Book descriptions come from Goodreads.
1. The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin (Historical)
Yue-ying is a servant to the Emperor’s concubines, and mostly interested in staying far, far away from rich men. Bai Huang is one of those rich men who move in parts of the palace she’s not even allowed to step in.
Murder and intrigues are going down, throwing them into the middle of it all, and they will have to work together regardless of her attitude towards rich playboys and his attitude towards servants who talk back.
Favorite part: The rich, beautiful, breathing descriptions of the culture. How many historical romances are set in China? A few, as it turns out, and all from Jeannie Lin.
2. Indigo by Beverley Jenkins (Historical)
Hester Wyatt escaped slavery and is now a dedicated member of Michigan’s Underground railroad. When one of her fellow conductors brings her an injured man to hide, Hester doesn’t hesitate.
The man in question is a vital member of the north’s Underground railroad network and has helped hundreds of her fellow slaves to freedom but Hester finds him so rude and arrogant, she begins to question her vow to hide him.
Favorite part: The slices of true history add extra interest to the story. For instance the reason for the title, which also happens to be why Hester wears elbow length gloves at all times.
3. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (Contemporary)
Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. They are executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company and they clash over just about everything as they navigate through life with completely opposite personalities. A promotion is coming up that they both want, upping the tension between them.
As they struggle they begin to find out that the fine line between hate and love is becoming thinner every day.
Favorite quote: “It’s a corporate truth universally acknowledged that workers would rather eat rat skeletons than participate in group activities.”
4. Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren (Contemporary)
Carter and Evie meet and are immediately attracted in a hilarious Halloween party mishap. They’re both high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood, but that isn’t enough to squash the fire. When their two agencies merge—causing the pair to vie for the same position—all bets are off. What could have been a beautiful, blossoming romance turns into an all-out war of sabotage.
Carter and Evie are both thirty-something professionals—so why can’t they act like it? OK, so this one isn’t coming out until June, 2017. But Christina Lauren has hit the New York Times bestseller list 14 times and knows her way around the romance genre.
Favorite Part: the anticipation of a great new book.
5. The Queen of Atolia by Megan Whalen Turner (YA/Fantasy)
When Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, stole Hamiathes’s Gift, the Queen of Attolia lost more than a mythical relic. She lost face. Everyone knew that Eugenides had outwitted and escaped her.
To restore her reputation and reassert her power, the Queen of Attolia will go to any length and accept any help that is offered…she will risk her country to execute the perfect revenge. Eugenides can steal anything. And he taunts the Queen of Attolia, moving through her strongholds seemingly at will.
When Eugenides finds his small mountain country at war with Attolia, he must steal a man, he must steal a queen, he must steal peace. But his greatest triumph, and his greatest loss, comes in capturing something that the Queen of Attolia thought she had sacrificed long ago.”
This book is YA/Fantasy genre and part of a series (Read The Thief first! You won’t regret it.) But the romance is central and every book in this series is better than the last. Genres are more like guidelines, anyway.
“I’ll be your minister–”
“Of the exchequer? You’d rob me blind.”
“I would never steal from you,” he said hotly.
“Oh? Where is my tourmaline necklace? Where are my missing earrings?”
“That necklace was hideous. It was the only way to keep you from wearing it.”
If you’re sitting there thinking we left out most of Georgette Heyer, Nora Roberts, Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, and all of Mary Balogh you are very right. They fall under the “already well known” umbrella. We also left out Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. There are hundreds of great romances with this theme, picking just five was difficult! Tell us your favorites in the comments and add to the list.-