Updated 06 February 2024
If you love writing the enemies to lovers romance trope but want even more sexual tension between your characters, then the bully romance trope is for you.
What is the bully romance trope?
Think of the bully trope as enemies to lovers romance's thornier cousin. Your characters don't just hate each other. One of them has taunted or is actively taunting the other, making their life miserable.
The bully romance trope is both a relationship trope and a character trope. It describes the way the main characters initially interact as well as how one of them appears at the book's outset. And it requires careful character development.
Why does the bully romance trope require careful character development?
Like the enemies to lovers trope, the bully romance trope requires you to write a story that presents your main characters with challenges that push them to change. These challenges usually take the form of internal conflicts, and as the characters battle these conflicts, they slowly transform from someone the other main character/s hate to someone they love.
But with bully romance, those conflicts have to be dramatic enough that responding to them transforms a character who, according to Merriam-Webster, is "habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable" into someone readers can root for and the other main character(s) can fall in love with.
What are some examples of conflict that inspire character development in bully romances?
Seeing a bully get a taste of their own medicine—i.e., being bullied themselves—often makes them realize that what they're doing isn't just wrong, it's destructive. Being on the receiving end of the same cruelty, insults, and threats they've thrown at someone else can turn an unlikeable bully character into a redeemable, sympathetic character capable of change.
This is exactly what happens in Penelope Douglas' Bully, one of the best examples of the trope in contemporary romance.
What other books can you read for examples of the bully romance trope in action?
Bully for Sale by Leta Blake
House of Pain by Karolina Wilde