Historical Enemies to Lovers

Staff Picks

Historical Enemies to Lovers

Bridgerton Read-A-likes

If you’re a Bridgerton fan, you probably have already devoured the second season. If you need something to tide you over, what better than historical romances featuring enemies (or rivals) who fall in love? Here are a few great stories with this trope.

It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas
Lillian is a blunt American heiress, and Marcus is a subdued British aristocrat. It was dislike almost instantly, with each thinking the worst of the other. Ensconced in the country at Marcus’ estate, it doesn’t take long for the tension between them to manifest. Unfortunately, along with the tension comes a reluctant attraction, and the uncomfortable reality that there might be something between them other than loathing.

Marcus and Lillian have excellent chemistry, and their verbal sparring is fun to read. Marcus has real reservations about opening up to anyone, given the discord in his family, but loosening up turns out to be worth the reward. I loved this one because neither character is really in the wrong, they just don’t communicate well. When they do find the words to express themselves, they come to agree and understand each other more complexly. 

For the Duke’s Eyes Only by Lenora Bell
Lady India Rochester is many things: adventuress, archeologist, historian. The one thing she isn’t is a fool, only a fool would be in love with their enemy. That enemy is her former friend and sweetheart, Daniel, the Duke of Ravenwood. When he broke her heart, she swore he would never have the chance to do so again. Too bad that Daniel and India both have a stake in a seriously convoluted mystery related to an artifact. When they are thrust into each other’s company again, it’s anyone’s guess how long they can keep their hands off each other. The only question is, will they be fighting, or falling in love?

I adored this book- India is a perfect blend of strength and independence, while maintaining empathy for others. Her grudge against Daniel is totally earned, and he deserves her anger and frustration. The narrative is very focused on their adventure, but that doesn’t detract from their romance, and the work Daniel needs to do to regain India’s trust and affection. 

Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh
The former Lady Camille Westcott and her siblings were discovered to be illegitimate following the death of their father, and Camille finds herself cast on the fringes of society, rather than at its center. Camille’s fiance throws her over, and she finds herself utterly without direction. Moving to Bath, Camille encounters a man she can only have antipathy for: her newfound half-sister’s best friend, Joel Cunningham. Joel is an artist who has begun to gain some notoriety for his paintings. When they are thrown together, impossibly, they feel a spark. Camille can’t imagine falling in love with someone so different, and Joel feels the same way. He’s not interested in the prissy, withdrawn sister of his childhood friend, so why can’t he stay away?

Camille is a great heroine because she’s really unlikable at times, but in a way that’s very sympathetic. She has been dealt a bad hand, and has to adjust to her new life in whatever way she can. Her new circumstances require Camille to reevaluate her actions and attitude, and find inner strength she never needed before. Joel is easy to like, and his struggles are the same as Camille’s: they both seek belonging and companionship in a world that will always judge them for their birth. Both are endeared to the reader by their compassionate natures and loving kindness towards others, and eventually to each other. 

Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James
Thorn is the illegitimate son of a Duke, but that hasn’t made things easy for him. Having made his fortune, Thorn seeks an appropriate bride to raise his social status and bestow his children with the polish he lacks. However, despite being acknowledged by his father, society seems ill-disposed to throw their daughters at him. To solve this problem, Thorn purchases an estate to establish himself. However, this creates another issue: the estate isn’t exactly impressive. Thorn’s stepmother calls in a favor from a friend to work on the house, the unconventional Lady Xenobia India St. Claire. Having made her own way in the world, India is not the simpering society miss her birth would lead you to expect. She had decided that this would be her last job before retiring and finding a husband, but what happens when the irritating owner of the estate turns out to be more fascinating than India anticipated?     
Thorn is a great romance lead, someone who thinks he knows what he wants but really needs to gain perspective. India has a lot of spunk, and is someone you really root for. India and Thorn are both very headstrong, which initially causes tension, but ultimately only shows how good they are for each other. This book is a really fun read, especially if you’ve enjoyed any of the previous series.  
The Most Dangerous Duke in London by Madeline Hunter
Adam, the Duke of Stratton, fled England following a family scandal, but now he’s returned, and he’s bent on revenge. Unfortunately, the target of his ire is a dead man, so Adam must resort to subterfuge to discover the truth of his father’s death. Lady Clara Cheswick is considered a shrewish spinster, but Adam decides that she is the key to the secrets he seeks.  

Lady Clara knows of the enmity between her family and Adam’s, but she has little interest in it one way or the other. She is an independent woman, with property of her own and an income. While her family nags her, Clara has the option to ignore them, and some of the rules of society as well. Instead, Clara devotes her life to her own scholarly pursuits, which would not be approved of if widely known. When Adam begins to call on her, Clara balks at his attention. She has no interest in marriage, and less interest in an affair. She knows he can’t be trusted, and soon she wonders if she can be trusted with him. But the secrets between them will not stay secret for long, and Clara and Adam must decide if they will allow old wounds to come between them, or start again together. 
This is a great book, and a fantastic example of enemies to lovers. In a lot of ways, Clara and Adam have opposing goals, and that makes for great tension. Clara is also a nonconformist, which doesn’t jive with society’s plan for young women, and she has to decide if she can trust Adam. Adam has to come to terms with his past, and reconcile with his future. The revelations between them force both to admit their feelings, but also to come to terms with the history of their families and the lives they want. I also love that Clara doesn’t compromise, as so many women are forced to do in stories like these. She holds fast to her identity and her goals, not changing the person she is for anyone else. Clara and Adam both have to be brave for each other, in order to get their happy ending, and that makes it all the better.