The 55 best rivals to lovers romance books

Written by Silke, updated 30 May 2023

What are rivals to lovers romance books all about?

Rivals-to-lovers romance books typically involve two characters who initially compete against each other in some fashion, but eventually fall in love. This trope is similar to enemies-to-lovers in that the protagonists begin the story as antagonists, however as rivals some sort of competition as part of the plot is required.

In many cases, the characters may start off as adversaries in some sort of professional or personal context, such as in the workplace, a sport, a competition, or a family feud. As they spend more time together and get to know each other better, they begin to realize that their initial impressions were wrong, and that they have feelings for each other.

Jump to rivals in the workplace
Jump to competing athletes
Jump to rivals in historical romance books
Jump to urban fantasy rivalries
Jump to rivals in a high fantasy setting
Jump to classroom nemeses
Jump to other top rated rivals-to-lovers romance books
Jump to newly published rivals-to-lovers romance books

The following books are meant to be a great introduction to the genre and are some of the most popular rivals to lovers romance books out there. Highly rated by our users and vetted by me, I hope you'll enjoy them.

Rivals in the workplace

Office or workplace romance books often feature burgeoning relationships between colleagues or boss and employee relationships but can also involve people belonging to different companies. Rivals can fight about promotions, competing businesses or simply have opposing interests in an office / professional setting.

  • The Hating Game - Sally Thorne

    Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual. more

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  • Book Lovers - Emily Henry

    Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby. more

  • The Spanish Love Deception - Elena Armas

    Catalina Martín desperately needs a date to her sister’s wedding. Especially since her little white lie about her American boyfriend has spiralled out of control. Now everyone she knows—including her ex and his fiancée—will be there and eager to meet him. She only has four weeks to find someone willing to cross the Atlantic and aid in her deception. Enter Aaron Blackford—her tall, handsome, condescending colleague—who surprisingly offers to step in. more

  • The Rivals - Vi Keeland

    The feud between Weston Lockwood and me started decades before either of us was born. Our grandfathers had been best friends and business partners, at least up until my grandfather’s wedding day—when his bride-to-be blurted out she couldn’t marry him because she was also in love with Weston‘s grandfather. more

  • Falling for My Enemy - Claire Kingsley

    Corban Nash is a self-proclaimed data nerd with a sexy half smile and a set of abs that leave girls drooling. He developed a theory he claims will make two people fall in love. And after numerous tests on friends and family, it’s been successful for everyone who’s tried it. The problem is, it’s never worked on him. And he doesn’t know why. Still, he’s determined to prove his theory. The only thing standing in his way? His nemesis, Hazel Kiegen. more

  • Block Shot - Kennedy Ryan

    Two sharks in a fish tank... If I had a dollar for every time Banner Morales made my heart skip a beat... The heart everyone assumes is frozen over. Her anger is...arousing. Every glare from those fire-spitting eyes, every time she grits her teeth, gets me...well, you know. If I had a dollar for every time she's put me in my place, I'd be an even richer man. more

  • The Devil You Know - Elizabeth O'Roark

    There’s a devil on my shoulder, and every Monday morning she announces herself. She’s this delicious flame in my chest, a flurry of whispered suggestions in my ear. Suggestions I ignore…because every single one of them is about Ben Tate. Ben—Stealer of Clients, Evicter of Homeless Women, Nemesis... more

  • Irresistibly Yours - Lauren Layne

    Hotshot sports editor Cole Sharpe has been freelancing for Oxford for years, so when he hears about a staff position opening up, he figures he’s got the inside track. Then his boss drops a bombshell: Cole has competition. Female competition, in the form of a fresh-faced tomboy who can hang with the dudes—and write circles around them, too. more

  • All office romance books ❯

Competing athletes

Athletes are ambitious and when they fall in love with a direct competitor or a member of an apposing team, sparks are going to fly.

  • From Lukov with Love - Mariana Zapata

    If someone were to ask Jasmine Santos to describe the last few years of her life with a single word, it would definitely be a four-letter one. more

  • Heated Rivalry - Rachel Reid

    Pro hockey star Shane Hollander isn’t just crazy talented, he’s got a spotless reputation. Hockey is his life. Now that he’s captain of the Montreal Voyageurs, he won’t let anything jeopardize that, especially the sexy Russian whose hard body keeps him awake at night. more

  • The Risk - Elle Kennedy

    Everyone says I’m a bad girl. They’re only partly right—I don’t let fear rule me, and I certainly don’t care what people think. But I draw the line at sleeping with the enemy. As the daughter of Briar’s head hockey coach, I’d be vilified if I hooked up with a player from a rival team. more

  • Icebreaker - A.L. Graziadei

    Seventeen-year-old Mickey James III is a college freshman, a brother to five sisters, and a hockey legacy. With a father and a grandfather who have gone down in NHL history, Mickey is almost guaranteed the league's top draft spot. The only person standing in his way is Jaysen Caulfield, a contender for the #1 spot and Mickey's infuriating (and infuriatingly attractive) teammate. more

  • Face Offs & Cheap Shots - Eden Finley,Saxon James

    For the last three years, I’ve lived and breathed hockey with one goal: team captain. There’s only one thing standing in my way. TJ Beckett. Beck is irresponsible and immature, and I’ve hated him since the moment we met freshman year. more

  • Iced Out - C.E. Ricci

    My path to success never included an enemy as a teammate, especially one as infuriating as Quinton de Haas. Clawing under my skin is his favorite pastime, only feeding the animosity between us as the years pass. We’re as completely opposite as two people can be; the golden boy and the black sheep. more

  • The Boyfriend Comeback - Lauren Blakely

    Some men are just off-limits. Like, say, all the other football players in the league… I have to stop replaying the one night I spent with my rival. Trouble is, that white-hot encounter with the other quarterback answered a lot of questions I’ve had about myself, but it also led me into this mess where he hates me. more

  • She Drives Me Crazy - Kelly Quindlen

    After losing spectacularly to her ex-girlfriend in their first game since their break up, Scottie Zajac gets into a fender bender with the worst possible person: her nemesis, the incredibly beautiful and incredibly mean Irene Abraham. Things only get worse when their nosey, do-gooder moms get involved and the girls are forced to carpool together until Irene’s car gets out of the shop. more

  • All sports romance books ❯

Rivals in historical romance books

Rivals-to-lovers books that are set in the past, but are definitely not lacking lively competition between the protagonists.

  • Stalking Jack the Ripper - Kerri Maniscalco

    Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life. more

  • A Rogue of One's Own - Evie Dunmore

    Lady Lucie is fuming. She and her band of Oxford suffragists have finally scraped together enough capital to control one of London’s major publishing houses, with one purpose: to use it in a coup against Parliament. But who could have predicted that the one person standing between her and success is her old nemesis, Lord Ballentine? Or that he would be willing to hand over the reins for an outrageous price—a night in her bed. more

  • An Heiress to Remember - Maya Rodale

    Beatrice Goodwin left Manhattan a duchess and has returned a divorcée, ready to seize control of her fate and the family business. Goodwin’s Department Store, once the pinnacle of fashion, has fallen from favor thanks to Dalton’s, its glamorous competitor across the street. But this rivalry has a distinctly personal edge… more

  • The Spymaster's Lady - Joanna Bourne

    She's never met a man she couldn't deceive...until now... She's braved battlefields. She's stolen dispatches from under the noses of heads of state. She's played the worldly courtesan, the naive virgin, the refined British lady, even a Gypsy boy. But Annique Villiers, the elusive spy known as the Fox Cub, has finally met the one man she can't outwit. more

  • Bringing Down the Duke - Evie Dunmore

    England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women's suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain's politics at the Queen's command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can't deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for. more

  • All historical romance books ❯

Urban fantasy rivalries

Urban fantasy romance books about main characters who start out as rivals, but then become lovers. The stories are set in modern times, in a world similar or just like ours, but with elements of the paranormal and supernatural.

  • Burn for Me - Ilona Andrews

    Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile case. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire. more

  • Halfway to the Grave - Jeaniene Frost

    Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father - the one responsible for ruining her mother's life. Then she's captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unholy partnership. more

  • Death - Laura Thalassa

    The day Death comes to Lazarus Gaumond’s town and kills everyone in one fell swoop, the last thing he expects to see is a woman left alive and standing. But Lazarus has her own extraordinary gift: she cannot be killed—not by humans, not by the elements, not by Death himself. more

  • No Rest for the Wicked - Kresley Cole

    Centuries ago, Sebastian Wroth was turned into a vampire—a nightmare in his mind—against his will. Burdened with hatred and alone for ages, he sees little reason to live. Until an exquisite, fey creature comes to kill him, inadvertently saving him instead. When Kaderin the Cold Hearted lost her two beloved sisters to a vampire attack long ago, a benevolent force deadened her sorrow—accidentally extinguishing all of her emotions. Yet whenever she encounters Sebastian, her feelings—particularly lust—emerge multiplied. For the first time, she's unable to complete a kill. more

  • All urban fantasy romance books ❯

Rivals in a high fantasy setting

These books are set in a high fantasy setting, often in worlds which resemble past eras but with fantastical elements such as magic, supernatural beings and creatures.

  • A Court of Crows - Eliza Eveland

    A young queen in peril. A city under siege. An elven mercenary with a dark desire... Nineteen-year-old Eris Telari was never supposed to rule Brucia. She’s always been more interested in swordplay than courtly intrigue. After her brother’s assassination, however, Eris has no choice but to take up the crown and defend her city. With Brucia’s forces decimated, and a siege looming, Eris needs help. Who better to repel the elven invaders than a band of elven mercenaries? more

  • The Bridge Kingdom - Danielle L. Jensen

    Lara has only one thought for her husband on their wedding day: I will bring your kingdom to its knees. A princess trained from childhood to be a lethal spy, Lara knows that the Bridge Kingdom represents both legendary evil - and legendary promise. So when she is sent as a bride under the guise of fulfilling a treaty of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture the defenses of the impenetrable Bridge Kingdom. more

  • The Cruel Prince - Holly Black

    Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever... And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe. more

  • A Trial of Sorcerers - Elise Kova

    Eighteen-year-old Waterrunner Eira Landan lives her life in the shadows — the shadow of her older brother, of her magic’s whispers, and of the person she accidentally killed. She’s the most unwanted apprentice in the Tower of Sorcerers until the day she decides to step out and compete for a spot in the Tournament of Five Kingdoms. more

  • Daughter of the Pirate King - Tricia Levenseller

    Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship. more

  • All high fantasy romance books ❯

Classroom nemeses

High-schools and college classrooms are ground zero for dramatic encounters, especially when some sort of rivalry is involved.

  • Today Tonight Tomorrow - Rachel Lynn Solomon

    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. more

  • TJ Powar Has Something to Prove - Jesmeen Kaur Deo

    A charming rom-com about high school debater TJ Powar who—after becoming the subject of an ugly meme—makes a resolution to stop shaving, plucking, and waxing, and prove that she can be her hairy self and still be beautiful…but soon finds this may be her most difficult debate yet... more

  • Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute - Talia Hibbert

    Bradley Graeme is pretty much perfect. He’s a star football player, manages his OCD well (enough), and comes out on top in all his classes . . . except the ones he shares with his ex-best friend, Celine. more

  • I Kissed Shara Wheeler - Casey McQuiston

    Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny. more

  • Love on the Brain - Ali Hazelwood

    Like an avenging, purple-haired Jedi bringing balance to the mansplained universe, Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project—a literal dream come true after years scraping by on the crumbs of academia—Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward. more

  • My Mechanical Romance - Alexene Farol Follmuth

    Bel would rather die than think about the future. College apps? You’re funny. Extracurriculars? Not a chance. But when she accidentally reveals a talent for engineering at school, she’s basically forced into joining the robotics club. Even worse? All the boys ignore Bel—and Neelam, the only other girl on the team, doesn't seem to like her either. more

  • The Henna Wars - Adiba Jaigirdar

    Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, and it 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 decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. more

  • Filthy Gods - R. Scarlett

    Young. Wealthy. Elite. Attractive. The gentlemen’s secret society at Yale was filled with them. And Nathaniel Radcliffe, the bane of my existence, was one of them. As the right hand of the American Gods, he was conceited and arrogant. A dangerously handsome man in a tailored custom suit and shiny black oxford loafers. The classroom was our battlefield. We made a sport out of arguing and debating, ready to do anything in order to win over the other. more

Other top rated rivals-to-lovers romance books

  • The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

    The circus arrives without warning. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway--a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. more

  • The Inheritance Games - Jennifer Lynn Barnes

    Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why--or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man's touch--and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. more

  • You Deserve Each Other - Sarah Hogle

    Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They're preparing for their lavish wedding that's three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him. more

  • Kiss Now, Lie Later - C.W. Farnsworth

    One boy. One girl. Two feuding towns... I've heard a lot of things about Weston Cole. He’s popular. Conceited. Obnoxious. Most importantly, he’s spent the past three years steadily dismantling my family’s football legacy. I should hate him. And I did. Until I encountered him freshman year and discovered he’s also troubled. Captivating. Considerate. When our paths cross again senior year, that knowledge becomes even more dangerous than his suggestive smirk.... more

  • The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You - Lily Anderson

    Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Dr. Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing--down to number four. more

  • Savage Rivals - Becca Steele

    Asher Henderson. Captain of the Highnam Academy football team, and the bane of my existence. As Alstone High’s team captain, I’ve been pitted against him from the beginning, but our conflict isn’t only reserved for the pitch. Everyone knows we’re enemies. From our first encounter, our rivalry has been escalating, spiralling out of control. more

  • Love the One You're With - Lauren Layne

    As a leading columnist for Stiletto , Grace Brighton has built a career warning women about rotten, cheating liars. She just never suspected her fiancé would be one of them. After Grace takes a heart-mending hiatus, her first assignment is to go on a couple of dates with a counterpart from the men's magazine Oxford and report her impressions. Grace 1.0 may have been instantly smitten with the gorgeous correspondent, but Grace 2.0 has sworn off relationships for six months, and she's not falling for his outstanding bod and trophy-winning kisses... or is she? more

  • Danger Zone - Brooke Blaine,Ella Frank

    Reckless, arrogant, and bold, Solo is as known in the U.S. Navy for his bad-boy reputation as he is for his skills as a fighter pilot. It’s a surprise to his peers, then, when he’s chosen to train and compete at the most prestigious naval aviation academy in the world. more

  • Fated Blades - Ilona Andrews

    At first glance, the planet Rada seems like a lush paradise. But the ruling families, all boasting genetically enhanced abilities, are in constant competition for power―and none more so than the Adlers and the Baenas. For generations, the powerful families have pushed and pulled each other in a dance for dominance. more

  • How to Catch a Rival - Ana Ashley

    Wren turned up out of nowhere and now he’s my boss...kind of. He’s also a straight, closed-off, emotionless icicle. Who cares if he’s also drop dead gorgeous, with eyes you could get lost in? more

  • The Takeover - T.L. Swan

    I first met Tristan Miles at a meeting where he was trying to take over my late husband’s company. He was powerful, arrogant, and infuriatingly gorgeous, and I hated him with every cell in my body. In the shock of the century, he called me three days later and asked me on a date. more

  • Hotel Queens - Lee Winter

    Over one long night at a bar in Las Vegas, two powerful hotel executives meet, flirt, and challenge each other—having no clue they’re rivals after the same dream deal. Brilliant ice queen Amelia Duxton is a hotel vice president who thrives on control, truth, and efficiency. She’s in no mood for love or the mess it brings. All she wants is to buy the coveted Mayfair Palace—a massive deal that could finally help her land the CEO job in her family’s hotel empire. more

  • Appealed - Emma Chase

    When Kennedy looks at Brent Mason, all she sees is the selfish, Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue-worthy teenager who humiliated her in high school to join the popular crowd. A crowd that made those years a living hell. She’s not a lovesick social outcast anymore - she’s a DC prosecutor with a long winning streak behind her. Brent is the opposing attorney in her next case and she thinks it’s time to put him through a little hell of his own. more

  • The Predator - RuNyx

    In the dark underbelly of the mob, Tristan Caine has been an anomaly. As the only non-blooded member in the high circle of the Tenebrae Outfit, he is an enigma to all - his skills unparalleled, his morality questionable, and his motives unknown. He is lethal and he knows it. As does Morana Vitalio, the genius extraordinaire daughter of the rival family. more

Newly published rivals-to-lovers romance books

  • If You Could See the Sun - Ann Liang

    Alice Sun has always felt invisible at her elite Beijing international boarding school, where she’s the only scholarship student among China’s most rich and influential teens. But then she starts uncontrollably turning invisible—actually invisible. more

  • Egotistical Puckboy - Eden Finley,Saxon James

    Partying, dudes, and hockey. What more could a gay NHL player want? If it weren't for Anton Hayes, my life would be perfect. Not that he affects my life in any way. At all. That would imply I care what the winger from Philly thinks of me. Which I don't. Not even a one-night stand with him can thaw his misplaced animosity toward me. more

  • Falls Boys - Penelope Douglas

    Hawken Trent. So polite. So sweet. Such an upstanding young man. A virgin, too, I hear. He never gets naughty with a girl. Probably because Jesus told him not to. And now here he is, trying to be the hero by protecting another girl from me. more