The Role of Enemies to Lovers in A Heartbeat Away from You
Enemies-to-lovers: a classic trope
I’ve been drawn to the enemies-to-lovers trope ever since I shipped Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables. (Who can forget when Anne smashed the slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head??) I was fascinated by the push and pull of their relationship, the palpable tension that existed between them, and the sweet moments interspersed within that tension.
Countless works of fiction employ the enemies-to-lovers trope, and there’s a reason why—because it creates the kind of conflict that keeps readers glued to the pages, wondering if a couple’s differences are just too insurmountable... or if they can find a way to overcome them. After all, if the main romantic leads are always getting along, it can get just a tad boring. 😊
Max and Ali: childhood nemeses
The ‘enemies’ in an enemies-to-lovers scenario might be people who have just met and quickly discover they’re like oil and vinegar. Or they might have a volatile history. When I was dreaming up my two romantic leads for Heartbeat, I knew I wanted them to fall under the second category. I envisioned characters harboring residual anger towards one another, and I saw their animosity driving the story forward. At the same time, their opposing goals would continue to drive a wedge between them.
In Heartbeat, Max and Ali have been nemeses since the fourth grade, when an unfortune exchange of insults resulted in some frosty tension between them. At the beginning of the story, Ali is returning to her hometown after five years away. When she first sees Max, she’s floored by how much his looks have changed. She soon discovers that, while his appearance is radically different, his condescending attitude is not. By the same token, Max finds that the girl-next-door is ‘still the same hotheaded Ali.’
Both main characters are dealing with hardships in their lives. Max is struggling with the loss of his father, and Ali is clashing with her overprotective father, who forbids her to play ball after pacemaker surgery. Amidst these hardships, neither one of them is exactly in a forgiving mood and both are quick to lash out. Ali points out that ‘if I’d learned one thing from all those years living next door to Max Delaney, it was that you didn’t fraternize with the enemy.’
The enemies-to-lovers trope doesn’t necessarily have to involve two characters who are polar opposites, but I think it’s incredibly interesting when it does. I wanted to explore two characters whose vastly different personalities and interests serve to escalate the ever-present tension even further. Ali is an outgoing, impulsive girl who lives for baseball, while Max is studious, cautious, and more into astronomy than sports. It’s hard for Ali to understand why Max can’t just ‘live a little’ and take more of an interest in active pursuits. Schoolwork and stargazing are not high on her list of fun things to do! Max, on the other hand, thinks Ali is reckless and looks before she leaps. These differences lead to verbal sparring on more than one occasion.
Forced proximity = fireworks
In an enemies-to-lovers story, I absolutely love when the characters are pushed together. When Ali’s father recruits Max to steer Ali away from baseball, and Ali needs Max’s help to bring up her math grade, they’re forced to spend more time together than either would like. But, as Max and Ali get a taste of one another’s worlds—including their respective families, friendships, and individual struggles—they’re drawn to one another in a way neither of them thought possible. Max begins to develop an attraction to Ali’s strength and fearlessness; Ali is attracted to Max’s selflessness and caring nature. Suddenly, forced proximity lends itself to all kinds of fireworks—and not just the ones generated by a spark of anger.
Another thing I love about the enemies-to-lovers trope? The characters almost always learn something from one another. In Heartbeat, Max is having a difficult time with the passing of his father. When he lost his dad, he also lost a sense of control. The world—his world—no longer makes sense. His reaction is to hold on a little too tightly to things, situations, and even memories in an effort to regain some semblance of control. Ali, with her carefree spirit and spontaneous nature, helps teach him that it’s okay to let loose and that control is an illusion. By contrast, Ali is ready to set the world on fire after a brush with death. She’s not about to waste her second chance at life, even if it means defying her overprotective dad and breaking some rules. Responsible Max helps her realize she can exercise a little caution and still embrace her second chance. And, as Max and Ali’s feelings for one another deepen, they teach each other the most important lesson of all: balance is key.
The enemies-to-lovers trope can bring so much depth to a story. The conflict and tension between romantic leads can be exciting and complex, and it can shine a light on the ways in which people interact with their rivals. Oh, and in this trope, you’re sure to be entertained by characters who vehemently deny that they’ve developed romantic feelings for their nemeses!
I hope people will enjoy reading about my enemies-to-lovers, Max and Ali, as much as I enjoyed bringing their story to life. 😊