Okay, who doesn’t love a good hate to love romance? I mean, the tension, the will they/won’t they can drive me through a book like nothing else. A truly good “hate to love” romance is not actually “hate to love.” It’s more of a passionate frustration, often driven by misunderstanding, between parties who are mutually stimulated/attracted (often intellectually) by the other. There’s just something so fun about this trope, and so satisfying, that it has been played upon again and again throughout the history of literature. “Hate to love” romances done well can truly explore a character’s growth and change, and I think that is why we can’t help but love this trope. Without further ado, here are my top 5 Hate to Love ships in books.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Okay, yes, I did start with Jane Austen again, but Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship is literally the best example of “hate to love” because it pioneered the trope. Almost everything that follows in literature is directly derived from Austen’s novel. Her satirical tone, her ease with language, not to mention the near perfect symmetrical structure of the novel single Austen out as a master of her craft. She truly understood her society as well as human nature in a way that makes her works so accessible today.
Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship is so enduring because the themes of “pride” and “prejudice” still plague our society today. Their story is rife with misunderstandings, false assumptions, and outright lies. Darcy originally cannot see Elizabeth except from the snobbery of his own standing in society, and Elizabeth, annoyed by his assumptions, labels him heartless. Because of her first impression, Elizabeth is easily led into believing him capable of a great wrong. As her opinion of him sinks, Darcy begins to see past the circumstances of her societal standing and to recognize her merits as a woman. Ultimately, this is the story of two people who initially believe they are far too different to understand each other, only to find that they are hewn from a more similar rock than they first thought. It is a story of forgiveness, humility, and love built on a foundation of mutual respect. But both characters have to go through fire to get there first and how brilliant it is!
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
There is a reason this book is one of my favorite books of all time. I have read it countless times since I discovered it at age 12 and with each successive reading I discover something more I never noticed before. That just speaks to the complexity of Smith’s writing, characters, and world.
Like Darcy and Elizabeth, Vidanric, Marquis of Shevraeth and Meliara, Countess of Tlanth, begin on the wrong foot. Literally. Meliara’s foot gets caught in a bear trap and Shevraeth, the commander of the opposing army, captures her and conveys her to his king where she is humiliated. Once again, their relationship is full of miscommunication, misinformed assumptions, and an inability–particularly on Meliara’s part–to see past her first impressions. Smith weaves a subtle change throughout the novel, however, as Meliara learns to accept her mistakes and slowly, painfully comes to trust the one man she thought she never could.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Also one of my favorite books of all time, the coming of age story of a spirited girl dropped into a society she does not understand, overcoming prejudice, standing up for what she believes in, but also coming to care for the people in her new home will never get old.
While the novel is not driven purely on Kit’s romance with Nat, a Captain’s son who shares her love for adventure, justice, and Hannah, an old Quaker woman known as The Witch of Blackbird Pond, it does add a level of excitement. Kit and Nat originally start out on level footing and mutual attraction, but when Nat’s pride is wounded by Kit’s actions, the pair continue to misunderstand each other at every turn, despite what is clearly mutual fascination both with each other and with the things they hold most dear. It is an exciting ride to watch these two finally come to understand each other and to gain a mutual and enduring respect for the other.
Sorcery and Cecelia by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede
The least serious of the books on this list, Sorcery & Cecelia is pure, unadulterated fun. Set in Regency London where magic is real, the novel clearly draws from Austen’s work. The relationships between James and Cecelia as well as Thomas and Kate are delightful as the characters have a clear and exciting chemistry while they do one thing after the other to frustrate, needle, and ultimately fall in love with the each other. Perhaps not as much of a “hate to love” as the other books on this list, the relationships certainly have their fair share of bickering and clashes to create tension and drive the novel forward.
The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
This is perhaps one of the strangest, most unexpected, but ultimately moving romances I have ever encountered. Irene, Queen of Attolia, and Eugenides, Thief of Eddis, are enemies, dedicated to their respective kingdoms. Embroiled in emotional and political turmoil after Attolia captures Eugenides and cuts off his hand, a punishment befitting a thief, the pair strive to outwit both each other as well as the threat of the Mede Empire to both of their countries. Turner weaves an incredible tale of unexpected alliances and unexpected emotion, all within an intensely political context where such a desolate beginning does not seem like it can ever turn into anything good.