15 Rivals-to-Lovers Romance Novels That Will Have You Rooting for Both Sides
They say that love is a battlefield, and in rivals-to-lovers romance novels, that couldn’t be more true.
Rivals to lovers is slightly different from enemies-to-lovers in that the characters in books with this trope are usually vying for something and there’s genuine competition between them aside from their mutual dislike.
These books are all about the intense chemistry and fiery passion that comes with two characters who start off as enemies but end up falling madly in love.
In this article, I’ve curated a list of the 15 best rivalry romance novels that will have you cheering for the underdogs and swooning over the steamy romance.
Get ready to be captivated by these unforgettable stories of love, redemption, and second chances.
Here are some of the best rivals-to-lovers romance novels to read now:
1. A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
Bao Nguyen and Linh Mai both work at their family’s pho restaurants and have avoided each other for years due to their families’ feuding. But when a chance encounter brings them together, sparks fly.
In this funny and smart romantic comedy, two Vietnamese-American teens must navigate their families’ age-old feud while falling in love.
This is a fantastic pick if you’re in the mood for a young adult novel with the rivals to lovers plotline.
2. Not Here To Be Liked by Michelle Quach
Eliza Quan is running for editor-in-chief until ex-jock Len DiMartile decides to run against her.
When Eliza’s frustration spills out in a viral essay, she unknowingly inspires a feminist movement and finds herself caught in the middle.
To make matters worse, the school asks Eliza and Len to work together. As they get to know each other, Eliza realizes she might be falling for the face of the patriarchy.
3. Salt and Sugar by Rebecca Carvalho
Love is in the air, despite a generations-long feud between two rival bakeries in Olinda, Brazil.
Lari Ramires knows that her family’s bakery, Salt, and the Molinas’ bakery across the street, Sugar, have been at war for as long as she can remember.
But when Lari’s grandmother passes away and a big supermarket chain threatens their small businesses, Lari does the unexpected—she teams up with Pedro Molina to save both bakeries.
As they work together, Lari discovers she may not know Pedro as well as she thought, but their family feud bristles between them even as they start falling in love.
4. Made In Korea by Sarah Suk
Valerie Kwon is a sales queen, and with her cousin, Charlie, she runs the school’s most successful student business, V&C K-BEAUTY.
Enter Wes Jung, the new kid who wants to pursue music, and when he starts selling K-pop branded beauty products, he becomes Valerie’s biggest competition.
As the two try to outdo each other and resist their chemistry, their competition becomes much more than they bargained for.
With spies and high stakes, only one Korean beauty business can reign supreme in this romantic comedy about entrepreneurship and love.
This is another spectacular novel featuring rival love interests. Valerie is one fictional character that’s easy to love, and Wes was a good opponent – that’s to say, he gave as good as he got.
5. My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth
Bel hates thinking about her future until she discovers her engineering talent at school and is forced to join the robotics club.
The boys ignore her, and Neelam doesn’t like her either, until Mateo Luna, the captain of the club, recognizes Bel’s potential.
As they work on a combat-ready robot for the championship, Bel and Teo’s differing priorities create tension, but they also discover they’ve made each other and the team better.
This is another academic rivals to lovers YA book that everyone should read at least once. The cover is stunning, and the author explores the vulnerability of first love with wit and honesty.
6. Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid
Shane Hollander, captain of the Montreal Voyageurs, is focused on one thing: hockey. But his sexy rival, Ilya Rozanov of the Boston Bears, is a distraction he can’t resist.
They’ve built a career on their intense competition, but off the ice, their chemistry is off the charts.
As they struggle to keep their relationship hidden, their attraction only grows stronger. But their careers and reputations are on the line, and the risk of being exposed is too great.
In this steamy adult romance featuring rival characters who are fiercely competitive, Shane and Ilya must navigate their desire while protecting their careers.
7. As If On Cue by Marisa Kanter
Natalie and Reid have always been enemies, but now they must work together to save their school’s arts budget. Natalie needs funding for her student-written play, but that means Reid’s award-winning band will have to lose out.
The two engage in a prank war that results in them being forced to write and direct a musical together.
As they navigate their new co-director roles, they also find themselves developing feelings for each other.
This YA romance novel with rivals to lovers and characters with a love-hate relationship is perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Morgan Matson.
8. You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith
In this heartwarming YA romance, Adam Stillwater is determined to save his dad’s pinball arcade from being turned into another soulless gaming café.
But when he’s trapped inside the arcade during a snowstorm with Whitney Mitchell, who’s been tasked with running her dad’s gaming cafés, they must put their rivalry aside to survive.
As they work together to stay warm and pass the time, Adam and Whitney’s animosity turns into something more.
But when the storm ends, they must face the reality of their different lives and responsibilities.
9. The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
Carolina Santos, a successful wedding planner, gets a chance of a lifetime to work with an influential guest but discovers that she must collaborate with Max Hartley, the infuriatingly handsome brother of her ex-fiancé who left her at the altar.
Max is eager to make his own mark, but his partnership with Carolina could be rocky since she despises him.
They need to work together and win the client over if they want to succeed. However, as they spend more time together, their animosity turns into something else entirely.
This is another amazing adult romance novel with rivals to lovers and a slow-building chemistry.
10. Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey
Madeline Moore loves the scent of old books, and her family’s bookstore, Books & Moore, is her home.
She’s determined to take over the store from her beloved aunt, but a chain bookstore, Prologue, threatens to shut them down.
Madeline sets out to demolish the competition, but Jasper from Prologue seems intent on ruining her life, even though he’s extremely cute.
But that doesn’t matter. Jasper is the enemy, and all’s fair in love and book wars.
11. Recommended For You by Laura Silverman
Once Upon is the only place where Shoshanna Greenberg feels at home, away from her troubles.
When her boss offers a holiday bonus to the best bookseller, Shoshanna sees a chance to fix her car and maybe even more.
The only obstacle? New hire Jake Kaplan, who doesn’t even read. Jake’s sales start to rival Shoshanna’s, but she’s determined to beat him.
Despite their rivalry, the two grow closer and realize they have more in common than they thought.
12. Battle Royal by Lucy Parker
In this book about rivals falling in love, Sylvie Fairchild wowed audiences on Operation Cake four years ago, but was voted off by the hot-shot pastry chef Dominic De Vere.
Now, she’s running Sugar Fair bakery and has caught the attention of a princess.
Meanwhile, Dominic is a top baker, favored by A-Listers and royals alike, and he’s not impressed that Sylvie will be a judge on the upcoming Operation Cake.
When they discover they’re competing for the chance to bake a cake for Princess Rose’s wedding, the battle is on. Sylvie’s quirkiness is favored by the bride, while the palace prefers Dominic’s classic style. Can both win?
13. Rival Radio by Kathryn Nolan
In the radio booth, Theo and Daria bicker like it’s their job, and outside of work, they can’t keep their hands off each other.
Theo wants love and marriage, while Daria is happy with a collection of bedroom toys, making them polar opposites.
The more they push each other’s buttons, the hotter their attraction becomes, leading to a steamy one-night stand.
However, when their radio station faces an uncertain future, they’ll have to work together and put their differences aside.
Forced proximity, breakroom bickering, and beachy, retro boardwalk magic make this a must-read rom-com featuring rivalry and a slow enemies-to-friends-to-lovers progression.
14. Shipped by Angie Hockman
Henley Evans is a workaholic marketing manager who barely has time for herself.
When she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, her arch-nemesis Graeme Crawford-Collins is also up for the same position.
Their boss tasks them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos, but there’s a catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands together.
As they explore the islands, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. With a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices in this witty and engaging rom-com.
15. Own The Eights by Krista Sandor
Georgie Jensen runs a successful blog, Own the Eights, which advises women to avoid shallow men obsessed with appearances.
Meanwhile, fitness trainer Jordan Marks’s blog encourages his followers to be the best and always aim for a ten.
When Georgie and Jordan team up for an online competition, sparks fly as they clash over their differing opinions. But when Georgie’s bookshop is on the line, she’s determined to come out on top.
As they spend more time together, however, they realize that there’s more to love than just a number.
So, there you have it – My list of the top 15 rivals-to-lovers romance books that will have you swooning and cheering for the unexpected couples.
Featuring rivals to lovers and a lovely mixture of other tropes, these stories are all about the transformative power of love and the beauty of finding connections in unexpected places.
I hope you enjoy these unforgettable tales of love, redemption, and second chances.