Welcome To Enemies-To-Lovers Summer

At a time when we’re all at each other’s throats, the romance trope offers a salve.

by Ginny Hogan
Emily's Henry's new book, Funny Story, is the latest example of the enemies-to-lovers plot.

Enemies-to-lovers romances are hardly new — in fact, Jane Austen may have captured the phenomenon best in 1813’s Pride and Prejudice, in which Lizzy Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are so perfect together that they can’t help but antagonize each other for 400 pages — but the trope is having a particularly intense moment right now.

I cannot sit down on a subway without seeing a book cover featuring two hot people glaring at each other. I can’t walk past a bookstore without going in and buying four books that all feature the world’s most irritating man somehow turning into Prince Charming (that may be more about my own personal spending habits, but facts are facts). It’s time to declare this Enemies-to-Lovers Summer.

Given Austen’s contributions to the genre, it’s fitting that Audrey Belleza and Emily Harding’s Elizabeth of East Hampton, a Pride and Prejudice retelling, is among the enemies-to-lovers romances out this season. But it’s hardly the only one: No. 1 New York Times bestseller Emily Henry – who’s been leading the enemies-to-lovers genre for a while, including with her hit Beach Read – penned the new Funny Story, in which two total opposites are forced to become roommates after getting dumped at the same moment, and love blossoms; in Summer Fridays, Suzanne Rindell puts a fresh twist on You’ve Got Mail; Sajni Patel’s The Design of Us features two co-workers who hate each other (classic) start a fake romance (classic-er) and wind up in love (classic-est), while Cat Sebastian’s You Should Be So Lucky offers a queer take on the classic plot, set in the world of 1960s baseball. In Yulin Kuang’s How to End a Love Story, the hate and trauma run a bit deeper, but it’s enemies-to-lovers nonetheless.

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Admittedly, the trope is always resonant in hotter months. Everyone seems like your enemy when the traffic to the beach is brutal and when CVS is out of your fave sunscreen brand. If the winter holidays are the time to be grateful and cozy, summer is the time to be overheated and mad that you still have to work Fridays.

But there must be some reason this trope is particularly prevalent this summer. Maybe it’s because we live in polarized times, and this season is our last hurrah before the presidential campaign kicks into high gear (so sorry for the reminder). Maybe it’s because we can go online and find out the most embarrassing things about everyone we match with on Tinder, so potential lovers seem like enemies right away. Maybe it’s because friends-to-lovers feels ideal, until the romance doesn’t work out and you think, “Wait, did I just lose a friend? I’d much rather lose an enemy!”

You surely have enemies, too (for many, they’re called “exes”; for others, “co-workers”), so if these characters can do it, why not you?

Or maybe it’s because dating is unusually hard right now, especially for straight women. Some of us have been swiping on dating apps for over a decade at this point, and after that much time on Hinge, there’s so much angst and competition; it’s hard to see anyone online as a friend. With a phone full of adversaries and dozens of stilted first dates under your belt, going Boysober — the new trend of giving up dating in the name of self-care — might seem like the only option. But there is one way to stay hopeful: to sink into a story about enemies who make it work. You surely have enemies, too (for many, they’re called “exes”; for others, “co-workers”), so if these characters can do it, why not you?

Plus, enemies-to-lovers tales are thrilling, fun, and downright sexy. And we need sexiness now more than ever. It’s not exactly the happiest of times; even gossiping about the royals has gotten dark. Falling into a steamy read is one of the best and only ways to get off of your phone, get away from your ex’s Instagram, and fully escape.

If it’s going to be the hottest summer on record temperature-wise, it may as well also be your personal hottest summer on record. Time to dig up your enemy’s digits.