Enemies-to-lovers has become such a popular trope that it’s now used to market books, whether they’re contemporary romance or YA fantasy, and even though I do enjoy any trope that’s done well, I tend to find enemies-to-lovers a little boring. Well, maybe boring isn’t the right word, but I don’t always trust the times a book is marketed as having enemies-to-lovers because it’s thrown around so often it doesn’t mean anything anymore.
So often these enemies aren’t really ‘enemies’, they’re just two people who’ve jumped to conclusions about each other and need to learn how to communicate.
Friends-to-lovers, on the other hand, seems to have been left behind. Lately it feels like the only romances in books are enemies-to-lovers and I’m a little tired of it. Honestly, having an enemy sounds exhausting.
Any trope is good when it’s done well and, just like enemies-to-lovers, there are plenty of times friends-to-lovers is rubbish. I’m not a big fan of childhood friends to lovers, for example, as early 2010s YA was awash with childhood friends (usually boys) who only realised they had feelings for their best friend (usually girls) when someone else (usually another boy) showed an interest in them, and I’m not here for that pettiness.
Being on the aroace spectrum also means that, for me personally, I find it much easier to relate to a well done friends-to-lovers relationship than something like enemies-to-lovers or love at first sight. I don’t need to relate to every romance I read, that would make reading very boring, but it does mean that the relationships that stick with me are usually friends-to-lovers—even the enemies-to-lovers relationships I love best are the ones that go from enemies to allies to friends to lovers. CW @ The Quiet Pond wrote a brilliant post about reading romance while demisexual which I really related to.
I love the banter, mutual pining and angst that comes with a really well done friends-to-lovers relationship, and here are five of my favourites…
Kaz and Inej from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
If, for whatever reason, I was asked to pick an ultimate OTP, it would be these two. I fell in love with Six of Crows when I read it back in 2018, with Kaz and Inej becoming instant favourite characters separately and together. Their relationship is just so well done – the mutual pining but fear of saying anything, mixed with knowing that the two of them have each other’s backs no matter what makes my cold heart feel feelings – and I still think about them all the time.
Tohru and Kyo from Fruits Basket
These two hurt my heart in the best way. In fact Tohru and Kyo also fit perfectly into another one of my favourite classic romance tropes: the ray of sunshine and the grump. I’ve loved Fruits Basket since my teens so these two continue to be one of my OTPs and they’re so damn cute.
Nikolai and Zoya from King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
I never thought I’d ship these two, and then I opened King of Scars and the chemistry between these two was *chef’s kiss*. They both have personalities that are simply too big for anyone else and I love them a lot.
Meche and Sebastian from Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This is one of the only instances in which childhood friends to lovers works for me. Moreno-Garcia’s debut is one of my favourite novels of all time and it deserves far more love, not only because it has such a cool concept – teenagers in ’80s Mexico using their vinyl records to cast spells – and such brilliant characters, but also because the relationship between Meche and Sebastian is so very good.
Dani and Zaf from Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
I love these nerds. What I love about these two is that they’re not best friends, but they’re two friends who both find the other attractive and both think the other wouldn’t be interested if they did anything about it. MUTUAL PINING. I love it. It’s still so clear that friendship is the basis of their relationship, though, because they play off each other so well the way only two friends can.