After two parts of this makeshift series, I still love sharing recommendations for my favorite tropes, so here we are today, with part three: opposites attract couples.
In the previous installments we had:
When I was working on the sunshine post, I realized that I had so many opposites attract pairings – including some of my top otps! – that would not totally fit into the sunshine x grumpy category, but deserve to be mentioned nonetheless. Thus, today I’m here with a great variety of opposites attract pairs: shy & confident? cold & warm? introvert & extrovert? I have all these and more!
Yes, I originally promised another sunshine x grumpy post, but this is better, I promise!
Glitterland by Alexis Hall
Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and—most of all—himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.
Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.
But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?
✨ Genre/Age: Adult, Romance | TW: depression, anxiety
✨ This is a typical and wholesome example of the sunshine and grumpy character trope, recommended to me by the wonderful Olivia.
✨ Ash is an incredibly smart writer, while Darian is… not that smart, but they make sense together. I’m sorry, I don’t know how to say that nicely!! Darian is not quite Jason from The Good Place, but there’s some resemblance and let me tell you, he is 1000% as lovable as Jason.
✨ By wholesome, I meant the dynamic between the characters, the actual book is incredibly hard to read at parts, as Ash has a lot of self-hatred and is not very kind to himself.
Work For It by Talia Hibbert
In this village, I’m an outcast: Griffin Everett, the scowling giant who prefers plants to people. Then I meet Keynes, a stranger from the city who’s everything I’m not: sharp-tongued, sophisticated, beautiful. Free. For a few precious moments in a dark alleyway, he’s also mine, hot and sweet under the stars… until he crushes me like dirt beneath his designer boot.
When the prettiest man I’ve ever hated shows up at my job the next day, I’m not sure if I want to strangle him or drag him into bed. Actually—I think I want both. But Keynes isn’t here for the likes of me: he makes that painfully clear. With everyone else at work, he’s all gorgeous, glittering charm—but when I get too close, he turns vicious.
And yet, I can’t stay away. Because there’s something about this ice king that sets me on fire, a secret vulnerability that makes my chest ache. I’ll do whatever it takes to sneak past his walls and see the real man again.
The last thing I expect is for that man to ruin me.
✨ Genre/Age: Adult, Romance | TW: depression, mention of suicide
✨ Work For It is an A+ example of the charming, extroverted + shy, introverted character pairing. Olu is everyone’s favorite charmer, while Griff is an awkward, shy giant.
✨ Their relationship has an awfully rocky start, but it creates an interesting dynamic; they effectively go from lust to hate to love.
✨ Family and friendship are so, so, so important for these characters. Olu essentially brought up his sister, and he’s incredibly close to her and her husband. Griff, on the other hand, has lost her mom to suicide but they had a strong bond, and his best friend is wonderful.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.
When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
✨ Genre/Age: Adult, Historical Fiction| TW: biphobia, homophobia, domestic abuse, death
✨ This is an F/F romance where one of the characters is calculating and cold, while the other one is a lot softer. It’s basically a Slytherin + Hufflepuff pairing, and I lived for it.
✨ I’ve said this before and I’ll 1000% say it again, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is one of the best novels I’ve ever read.
✨ I love Evelyn’s character, she’s certainly morally gray and has done some questionable shit, and yet, she’s relatively easy to like.
Trade Me by Courtney Milan
Tina Chen just wants a degree and a job, so her parents never have to worry about making rent again. She has no time for Blake Reynolds, the sexy billionaire who stands to inherit Cyclone Technology. But when he makes an off-hand comment about what it means to be poor, she loses her cool and tells him he couldn’t last a month living her life.
To her shock, Blake offers her a trade: She’ll get his income, his house, his car. In exchange, he’ll work her hours and send money home to her family. No expectations; no future obligations.
But before long, they’re trading not just lives, but secrets, kisses, and heated nights together. No expectations might break Tina’s heart…but Blake’s secrets could ruin her life.
✨ Genre/Age: New Adult, Romance | TW: eating disorder, drug use
✨ This is such an excellent example of an introverted + extroverted couple! Tina doesn’t like crowds and big groups, while Blake navigates through them easily.
✨ The only billionaire romance I claim, and that tells you how special this novel is.
✨ Trade Me has some fun scenes with Tina and Blake’s parents, who are all fleshed out and interesting characters in their own right.
✨ Fun fact: Courtney Milan is one of my favorite authors, and my journey through her books started with Trade Me, so this novel is extra-special for me.
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.
✨ Genre/Age: Young Adult, Contemporary | TW: misgendering, anxiety
✨ Ben has been thrown out of their house by their family, and all they want to do in their new school is to lay low and stay invisible. Enter Nathan, the epitome of a sunshine character, who is not about to allow the new kid to hide in the corner. With Nathan’s help, Ben slowly finds their footing in their new school, and starts trusting people again.
✨ I adore Ben, so seeing them open up to their sister, new friends – and to the idea of a relationship with Nathan – made me beam a lot.
✨ While I Wish You All the Best is a rough read, because god, Ben’s parents are horrible, it’s also a hopeful, beautiful little book.
The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller
It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time. However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor, Samuel Moore, appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life―especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam.
Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history―and her heart.
✨ Genre/Age: Adult, Historical Romance | TW: domestic abuse
✨ In a way, the dynamic between Alva and Sam is akin to Ben and Nathan’s dynamic. Alva has been abused by her now dead husband and is despised by English society, which makes her want to keep to herself as much as possible. Sam, on the other hand, is a tad eccentric, incredibly kind and energetic, and he loathes seeing Alva without any friends.
✨ Their romance is tentative and careful, and it made me so damn happy.
✨ Sam’s family is wonderful; they’re all scientists who get into all kinds of trouble and and they love each other fiercely. I was beaming extremely wide every time they appeared on page.
Other Note-Worthy Titles
Who are your favorite opposites attract couples? Within opposites attract, which tropes do you like the best? (e.g. sunshine + grumpy.) Have you read any of these titles?