Few tropes create tension-filled, page-turning romance novels better than enemies to lovers romance trope.
But if you're looking for a twist on the trope, try writing about professional-rivals-to-lovers.
I love this trope because it focuses on the ways characters define themselves and are defined by their careers. And the careers featured in professional rival romances are so interesting—academics, chefs, athletes, writers, lawyers. At the bottom of this post, you'll even see a romance about rival event planners.
The professional-rivals-to-lovers trope also takes the guesswork out of one of the most important elements of the "forbidden" class of romance tropes: the inciting incident. This incident explains why the characters hate each other and why they think they can never get over that hate or feel anything but scorn for the other.
With professional rivals to lovers, the key is in the word: rivals. The characters knock heads over who is best at what they do. The inciting incident jeopardizes their career goals and/or ruins the reputation they've spent so long creating.
There’s a reason why professional-rivals-to-lovers romances are often set in the food and sports worlds; those worlds lend themselves so well to the type of inciting incident necessary for the trope. Competitions, matches, award shows—all are rife with rivalry possibilities.
But if you want to step outside those worlds and craft professional-rivals-to-lovers romance in a more unique setting, check out these 3 books for inspiration:
A Rival Most Vial by R.K. Ashwick
A Reunion of Rivals by Reese Ryan
Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper