Hello friends! I haven’t done a trope recommendation post in a while, so I thought it was high time for me to share one. A trope I haven’t done before but really love is rivals-to-lovers, which is frequently mistaken with hate-to-love. Granted, some books fall into both categories, but I think there is a big difference between these two tropes – for the most part, rivals have a mild dislike towards each other while hate to love romances tend to have characters who, you know, actually hate each other.
In today’s post, I’ll share seven novels with couples who, for some reason, have becomes each other’s rivals and who have to rethink said rivalry as they slowly start to fall for each other. Without further ado, let’s jump into my recommendations!
Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle
Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.
Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous—and it turns out he has very different vision for the property’s future.
Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.
☀️ age / genre:
adult contemporary romance, rom-com
☀️ other tropes:
sunshine x grumpy couple, forced proximity, secretly soft hero
☀️ who is it recommended for?
anyone who is looking for a soft, comforting novel with a daydream-y heroine and two characters trying to make their dreams come true
Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Today, she hates him.
It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.
Tonight, she puts up with him.
When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.
As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.
Tomorrow … maybe she’s already fallen for him.
🌊 age / genre:
young adult, contemporary romance
🌊 other tropes:
secretly in love character(s), rivals working together
🌊 who is it recommended for?
people who like romances that develop fast, but where the characters’ feelings have been there for a while
The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
Rhiannon Hunter may have revolutionized romance in the digital world, but in real life she only swipes right on her career—and the occasional hookup. The cynical dating app creator controls her love life with a few key rules:
– Nude pics are by invitation only
– If someone stands you up, block them with extreme prejudice
– Protect your heart
Only there aren’t any rules to govern her attraction to her newest match, former pro-football player Samson Lima. The sexy and seemingly sweet hunk woos her one magical night… and disappears.
Rhi thought she’d buried her hurt over Samson ghosting her, until he suddenly surfaces months later, still big, still beautiful—and in league with a business rival. He says he won’t fumble their second chance, but she’s wary. A temporary physical partnership is one thing, but a merger of hearts? Surely that’s too high a risk…
🌸 age / genre:
adult contemporary romance
🌸 other tropes:
second chance romance, hard heroine + soft hero
🌸 who is it recommended for:
anyone who enjoys romances that also focus on the characters’ individual issues and that highlight the importance of friendship
Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert
When two “big name fans” go head-to-head at a convention, love isn’t the only thing at stake.
Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all…but in reality, he’s scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control.
Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection…but even he can’t help but feel a little broken inside.
When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way—even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical.
🎲 age / genre:
adult / new adult contemporary romance
🎲 other tropes:
secretly soft hero, forced proximity, road-trip romance, extrovert x introvert
🎲 who is it recommended for:
anyone who likes when two characters who thought they were opposites realize that they might have a lot in common and might make a good couple
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.
Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.
🌷 age / genre:
young adult contemporary romance
🌷 other tropes:
instantly into each other to rivals to friends to lovers
🌷 who is recommended for?
anyone who is looking for a heavier contemporary with incredible sister-relationship and who wants a meaningful look into cultural appropriation
Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.
Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.
All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.
As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.
📱 age / genre:
young adult contemporary romance
📱 other tropes:
rivals to friends to lovers, soft cinnamon roll hero
📱 who is it recommended for?
those who like books with lots of food in them as well as books that address academic stress and anxiety and parental expectations
Battle Royal by Lucy Parker
Four years ago, Sylvie Fairchild charmed the world as a contestant on the hit baking show, Operation Cake. Her ingenious, colorful creations captivated viewers and intrigued all but one of the judges, Dominic De Vere, the hottest pastry chef in London. When her glittery unicorn cake went spectacularly sideways, Dominic was quick to vote her off the show. Since then, Sylvie has managed to use her fame to help fulfill her dream of opening a bakery, Sugar Fair. The toast of Instagram, Sugar Fair has captured the attention of the Operation Cake producers…and a princess.
Dominic is His Majesty the King’s favorite baker, the go-to for sweet-toothed A-List celebrities, and a veritable British institution. He’s brilliant, talented, hard-working. And an icy, starchy grouch. Learning that the irksome Sylvie will be joining him on the Operation Cake judging panel is enough to make the famously dour baker even more grim. Her fantastical baking is only slightly more troublesome than the fact that he can’t stop thinking about her pink-streaked hair and irrepressible dimple.
When Dominic and Sylvie learn they will be fighting for the once in a lifetime opportunity to bake a cake for the upcoming wedding of Princess Rose, the flour begins to fly as they’re both determined to come out on top.
The bride adores Sylvie’s quirky style. The palace wants Dominic’s classic perfection.
In this royal battle, can there be room for two?
🧁 age / genre:
adult contemporary romance, rom-com
🧁 other tropes:
opposites attract, sunshine x grumpy pairing
🧁 who is it recommended for?
a must read for anyone who enjoys the great british bake off, as well as for those who like fun, lovable characters
Do you enjoy the rivals to lovers trope? What’s your favorite trope? I need inspiration for more posts like this! Have you read any of these novels?