The Most Captivating Historical Enemies-to-Lovers Romance Books

There's nothing like some cantankerous and downright angry enemies falling in love.

Mmmmm, enemies-to-lovers romance has a power like no other to get ALL our rage going! Whew, sometimes the hate just stresses a girl out! Sometimes we even have to take deep breaths and remember the characters aren’t real and the story isn’t actually happening! Really, the best enemies-to-lovers books are the ones that get under your skin like that. And when the characters finally get together, it hits hard.

So here are short snippets our favorite historical enemies-to-lovers romances. For longer reviews of these and all kinds of books, check out our Reviews page, and for Modern Enemies-to-Lovers Books, check out our earlier post! Hope you find some books you love!

The new heir, the beautiful widow, lots of hatred turned into....

The first in the memorable Ravenels series, Cold-Hearted Rake introduces a ton of interesting characters in addition to the mains, Devon and Kathleen. Devon’s a complete rake who never in a million years thought he’d inherit a earldom drowning in debt after his cousin Theo dies in a horse accident. When Devon arrives at the estate, he makes an instant enemy in Theo’s widow, Kathleen. But underneath the chemistry burns and love grows…

Cold-Hearted Rake is also the perfect setup for the rest of the series, one of my all-time favorites.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Widow, Reformed Rake, Unexpected Heir
Pair With: Bordeaux Blends, Wines Associated with Horses

I’ve been waiting for Vesper’s story! She was easily my favorite character from the first book in the series (Always Be my Duchess), but you don’t need to read the first one to enjoy Never Met a Duke Like You.

Lady Vesper is all about propriety on the outside. So much so that she keeps her substantial charitable activities under wraps, as well as any true feelings she might have for Aspen, Duke of Greydon and her best childhood friend turned enemy. She’s strong-willed with a heart of gold and maybe some annoying decisions.

Reeling from his mother’s betrayal and coldheartedness, Aspen gets out of England and onto dinosaur excavations in America. He returns only when he hears mummy dearest wants to have him declared dead to get more control of the dukedom. And he’s determined to find evidence that will make her pay for her heartbreaking actions toward his father (she had him fraudulently committed to an asylum—yikes).

Misunderstandings from their late teens cause Vesper and Aspen to put on armor against each other. Each misjudges the other, but as the story unfolds, they make new discoveries and rely on each other.

Overall, I really liked the book—high points were the development of the relationships, Vesper’s wit and care for others, Aspen’s commitment to finding out the truth about his mother’s fraud, and just the funny dinner scenes.

One major low point: the third-act obstacle was SO DUMB that it almost ruined the book. I would have easily given it a 4+ but I can’t with the end.

Rating: 3.8
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes and Tropes: Childhood Friends, Enemies to Lovers, Villainous Mother, Miscommunication
Pair With: Vesper, a company that sells wine online (or in-person if you’re in Houston).

“An ocean would not be far enough away,” he growled, “to relieve myself of the affliction of you.”

Smart, savvy, and always underestimated Arab-American Raya Darwish arrives in England to visit her cousin. Instead finds out she inherited a crumbling castle from said cousin, the late dowager Duchess of Strickland. What? The Duke of Strickland (cousin’s stepson) is even more dumbfounded, as he expected to inherit the castle and restore it to its former glory.

So Raya and Strick must work together to save the castle and estate from financial ruin. Raya ran a highly successful factory business in the U.S., yet everyone here thumbs their noses at her and discounts her abilities. She’s also seen as a crass American who doesn’t understand seemliness. But since she owns the castle, they can eff off and let her find ways to make a profit.

Raya and Strick’s bickering and bantering can only lead to one place in a romance, right? And lead there it does—their desire is raging and there is some serious hate-sex going on! While that’s all well and super hot, more of an emotional connection amid the banter would have been nice.

I really liked the book, but I had a big issue with it going in circles for too long without moving forward—Raya (understandably) doesn’t trust Strick and he doesn’t trust her. Sometimes they inch forward and often it just stalls, with Raya often going in full bi*** mode (sometimes justified, sometimes just for the purpose of being obnoxious) and the story takes a while to get anywhere.

Still, great characters, some legit hatred, a different spin on an 1800s England novel, and an interesting side plot of murder made this at least a 4-star read for me.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Proximity, Opposites Attract, Racism
Pair With: Desparada Wine

 

“You're not going to ruin my first kiss. I won't let you. You're going to kiss me again, right now. And make it better.”

Sweet, spunky, smart spinster meets damaged, dark duke in a possibly haunted castle…

Izzy is left with nothing when her father died. She receives a mysterious letter about an inheritance, and goes to a castle to learn more. She is so weak from hunger that she faints when she arrives and sees Ransom, the duke in residence, but he thinks she faints from his scarred face and appearance. He takes her into the castle with plans to get her out of there asap.

The executor arrives and tells Izzy she inherited the castle, but Ransom vehemently argues that the castle is his. She agrees to stay and help him go through months of ignored mail, which likely holds the key to the castle ownership.

And of course their feelings grow—damaged recluse and sweet, charming girl holed up together in a castle. Sound familiar? Plus, the characters are hilarious (the crazy visitors, lovely neighbor, devoted valet) and unique. One of my favorite Tessa Dare books!

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Proximity, Opposites Attract, Disfigurement, Beauty and the Beast-ish
Pair With: Wines from Castello di Amorosa

Hilarious banter, lovable characters, lots of fun moments, and quirky families = great entertainment

Talk about bad blood—Joan and Dash couldn’t hate each other more, or so it seems. Both 1930s movie stars from humble beginnings, they have a history of hatred stemming from one event. Joan thinks Dash set her up to be ridiculed and humiliated by the paparazzi, and she’ll never forgive him. Their pranks escalate until one goes too far: they’re legally married! What?

The book was hilarious, thoughtful, slow, fast, and aggravating all at once. I adored both characters once you learned their backstory, but just FYI the third-act breakup is super annoying and almost made me DNF. But at that point I was too invested and I’m happy I stuck with it!

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Actors/Hollywood, Proximity, Miscommunication, Secrets
Pair With: Old Hollywood Cocktails

Love masquerading as hate, passion simmering. Can they give it a second chance?

My favorite Vivienne Lorret book, When a Marquess Loves a Woman is the ultimate second-chance romance, with enemies-to-lovers passion brewing from years of separation after a complete disaster (and two books’ worth of a setup for the main characters to get together). 

Max and Juliet each blame the other for that disaster. Five years ago, after being discovered together, Max proposed to Juliet, the love of his life, even though he had little to offer. But the next day, Juliet was whisked away to marry an old, despicable, and wealthy lord. Max was left heartbroken and Juliet was left to the mercy of her disgusting husband. 

Now they’re back in town together, with Juliet a widow and Max still unmarried. And at each other’s throats. But how long will that last? 

LOVED it. So much passion beneath the surface. So much love between the characters. So much pining, heartbreak, and desire. Plus witty banter, surprises, a hilarious wager, and interesting side characters. A win all the way around. 

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Enemies to Lovers, Misunderstanding
Pair with: Regency Wines.  

“I hope that bite becomes infected,” Poppy said in a malevolent growl. “I hope your arm turns black and falls off. I hope your bollocks turn gree—”

Ridiculous but fun and endearing; enemies-to-lovers at its finest! Adventurous Poppy Bridgerton finds herself in a pirate cave at the wrong time, then bound and tossed into the captain’s cabin and off to sea. Captain Andrew Rokesby, secretly a spy for the Crown, knows exactly who Poppy is (his titled neighbors’ niece). But his urgent mission keeps him from letting her go and from telling her who he really is. And they’re stuck on the ship for a couple weeks on the way to Portugal.

Super fun! Poppy and Andrew spar and banter along the way. Both are witty and adorable. She grudgingly starts enjoying his company and he’s captivated and charmed. So many tense moments, some beautiful ones, you feel like you’re on the ship with them…

Rating: 4
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Proximity, Instant Attraction, Secret Identity
Pair With: Sailor’s Superstition Red Blend Rum Barrel

All Viscount Penvale wants is to get his ancestral home back from his asshole uncle. He’s finally saved enough and his uncle is finally willing to sell, but only if Penvale marries Jane, his uncle’s rather bitchy ward. Neither is all that thrilled, but they agree to marry and both want the estate to themselves. Jane enlists the servants to drive Penvale away by staging hauntings, but Penvale hasn’t spent the last 20 years of his life trying to get his home back only to be scared of some ghosts.

Jane is a sympathetic figure to a point: she’s massively introverted, hates small talk (I totally understand), and had a miserable upbringing, so I really want to relate to her but just can’t. She jumps right into manipulating Penvale and trying to ruin everything he’s worked his whole life for without a second thought. He’s kind and thoughtful to her, and she starts seeing how much his home means to him, but does she change her mind and decide to be a decent human? Nope. She has no conscience and no thought for anyone other than herself.

Despite my strong dislike of Jane, the book is still pretty good and the author does a nice job of finally bringing them together and forcing Jane to face her fears and find love. Also, quick note, skip the audio version.

Rating: 3
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Enemies to Lovers
Pair With: Bordeaux Blends, such as Chateau La Fleur Peyrabon Pauillac ($45), Chateau Bois Redon Bordeaux Superior ($15), or Chateau Haut Claribes Bordeaux Superior ($9, Trader Joe’s).

How will these vicious enemies and complete opposites ever get together?

Kind and generous Lady Evelyn Ruddick wants to help the children at an orphanage, but runs into the roadblock of the Marquis St. Aubyn, a/k/a Saint, who heads the orphanage’s board and wants her nowhere near. Evie decides to teach him lessons in compassion. Evie’s family and friends also want her nowhere near Saint and put up with him only because they wouldn’t dare cross a marquis. 

Parts of the story are a little much, such as the ways Evie tries to teach Saint lessons and the lengths both characters will go to (plus Evie’s super obnoxious family). The opera scene is fantastic, though. Plus, the ending is dramatic, memorable, and ties the story and its characters together beautifully.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Opposites Attract, Lessons, Reformed Rake, Family Meddling
Pair With: Regency Wines

“It's the perfect solution. We argue all the time. We can't stand each other. It's like we're already married.”

Another Lisa Kleypas gem, Married by Morning is the fourth book in the Hathaways series. The first three books set the stage perfectly for Leo and Catherine’s (aka Marks) transformation from nemeses to ardent lovers. The family hired Catherine years before to teach the unruly younger Hathaway sisters some decorum and serve as their companion/chaperone. And for all those years, Leo, their brother and earl, got under her skin like no one else, and she drove him out of his mind. But something shifts when they start seeing each other as more than just enemies and find deeper human feelings…

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Opposites Attract, Close Proximity, Persistent Hero
Pair With: Regency Wines