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Guest blogger: Sandy Barker

2 May 2021

Romantic tropes: enemies to lovers

I was thinking about romcoms recently—films, rather than books—and I realised that some of my absolute favourites are those based on the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope.

Boy meets girl, she thinks he’s a jerk. He thinks she’s stuck up. Hilarity and, eventually, love ensue.

For this trope to work, however, those initial perceptions have to be just a little bit true—he is a bit of a jerk and she is a little stuck up—but both traits are about self-preservation. As the audience or reader, we see that each character’s exterior self is a defence mechanism.

And, as we’re familiar with the trope, we just know these characters will shed those prickly layers because they’ve met the other person.

Some of the best romantic comedy films do this perfectly:

  • French Kiss (Kate and Luc)
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (Andie and Ben)
  • Overboard (Annie/Joanna and Dean)
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (Kat and Patrick)
  • Sweet Home Alabama (Melanie and Jake—also a ‘lovers reunited’ story)
  • Clueless (Cher and Josh)
  • The Proposal (Margaret and Andrew—although he’s not a jerk; he’s kind of terrific, actually)

Even the main characters in When Harry Met Sally, essentially a ‘friends to lovers’ story, start out as enemies. He’s an arrogant jerk. She’s a snooty cow. They become friends, then lovers, but this film—the perfect romantic comedy and my favourite ever—leans heavily on the ‘enemies to lover’ trope.

Engaging with the other person brings out something special in each character. Sally sees Harry’s vulnerable side, getting at the root of his arrogance, and drawing out his better self. Harry appreciates something in Sally that no one else does, and she can be her truest, best self with him.

French Kiss explores the depths of the trope. Yes, it is a light-hearted comedy, but when Kate and Luc are offered (very appealing) alternatives to each other (spoiler) they realise that they have fallen in love—the uptight American and the dodgy Frenchman. And (more spoilers) if that last shot of them kissing passionately in a vineyard doesn’t warm your romantic cockles, perhaps nothing will.

In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Andie and Ben are unknowingly pitted against each—enemies of circumstance—yet loves conquers all. And yes, Andrew in The Proposal is an unwitting victim to Margaret’s arrogance and entitlement—so bending the trope slightly—but they are still at cross-purposes for much of the story. By pretending to be with Andrew, Margaret’s vulnerable side shines through.

Admittedly, although I love this trope, I have yet to write it. Wait! I have an idea …

Tell us in the comments what your favourite ‘enemies to lovers’ story is—book or film.

Sandy Barker is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel One Summer in Santorini, the first in the Holiday Romance series with One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins. The Christmas Swap, Sandy’s fourth novel is a stand-alone and celebrates her favourite time of year. Coming soon are a stand-alone romcom set in the world of reality television, the next book in the Holiday Romance series, and another Christmas story!

You can find Sandy here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

One Summer in Santorini

Start your adventure today with Book 1 in the Holiday Romance series.

Sarah Parsons is on a mission to find her former fabulous self, the adventure-seeking traveller with a massive bucket list.

Step one: Trade in her cheating ex—a.k.a. the most boring man in the world—for a new leather handbag and a trip to Greece.

Step two: make her life bigger.

Step three: try not to panic while completing steps one and two.

Humiliated after discovering her boyfriend with her yoga bestie, Sarah breaks up with them both and decides it’s time to fall back in love with her first true love—travel.

She books the perfect trip to revive her humdrum life—ten days sailing the Greek islands on a yacht. Salty air, blue skies, the quiet pace of island life, and maybe making new friends—idyllic.

The last thing Sarah wants is to meet someone new… But then a gorgeous American man boards her yacht and she knows she’s in trouble. And when she also encounters a handsome silver fox who promises her the world, she realises that trouble really does come in twos.

Will Sarah dive into a holiday fling, embark on a relationship, or stick to her plan – steer clear of men and find her own way?

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