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Love-to-Hate-to-Love Romance: My Advice on Mastering the Trope (Guest Post by Grace A. Johnson)

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Hello Visionaries! I have an amazingly helpful post (for me anyway) from Grace A. Johnson! As many of you know, Grace is the queen of romance, her blog Of Blades and Thorns has tons of amazing and incredible romance tips! So be sure to check that out!

So, I asked Gracie for some help with Nano project, told her my trope, and received not only an email full of tips but also a full-blown three-page google doc! Which has been extremely helpful! I asked if I could post it and she organized her thoughts a bit more and gave me permission to post it!

I hope you guys enjoy this and that it is as helpful to you as it was to me!!!


Love-to-hate-to-love romance isn’t one you usually hear about when talking romance tropes. Enemies-to-lovers, friends-to-lovers, billionaire romances, marriage of convenience—that’s all quiet popular and easy to figure out. But LHL romances are full of convoluted emotions and back-and-forth feelings—usually the result of some major deception at play. When one (or both) character reveals their true identity or fatal flaw, their love interest is immediately turned away, causing hatred and disappointment to fester between them.

How do you make the change from love to hate to love again seem realistic and balanced? How do you keep from cheating your characters and readers out of a satisfying and well-developed relationship?

I’m glad you asked! Even though I cannot say this trope is exceedingly popular or even talked about much, I know I’ve read several books just this year that follow a very specific structure. Two of them included letters–one in which the man hid his true identity, and the other in which both remained anonymous while writing to each other but knew each other in person. The others don’t include letters; rather, in one the heroine disguises her true identity in person and in another the hero and heroine both do.

I actually love this concept. There is so much potential and just fun in it, as well as lessons to be learned–both by the characters and the readers. However, one must be sure that they do not follow the aforementioned structure, which I am now going to lay out.

(This was an awkward introduction. XD)

In insensitive rant format, the structure can be broken down into three stages:

  • the deception, the excuses, the half-truths, the hiding, the avoiding

  • the discovery, the rage, the spite, the depression

  • the taking fifty-five years to forgive the person and admit ya love ‘em.

A lot of times, I feel like the emotions of the characters are abused. Instead of having them react according to their personalities, values, life experiences, etc., they all outburst the exact same way. There’s a way to be balanced, authentic, and realistic without stressing out the reader or diluting the reactions.

In a slightly less insensitive format, the structure can be broken down into eight stages:

  • The character(s) deceive one another into thinking they are someone they are not

  • The characters begin to establish a relationship with one another

  • The characters fall in love/grow to love each other

  • The characters’ true identities are revealed

  • The characters feel betrayed by one another, are outraged, confronts the other, and promptly cuts off all ties

  • The characters return to their respective lives, mired in anger and distress and unforgiveness

  • The characters decide to forgive each other and make amends, admitting that they loved one another all along

  • The characters live happily ever after

When you write it out like this, everything seems entirely too cut-and-dry, and sometimes the story itself ends up coming off that way as well. (Side product of strict plotting/outlining, perhaps?)

However, when the readers can connect with the characters and the characters’ personalities come through strongly, the lines of the story blur into something believable and natural.

For example, I can totally see my character Elliot getting instantly ticked, threatening to kill someone, being angry for six months, and then all of a sudden talking himself out of his anger (probably after a conversation with Rina) and making amends.

But I can’t see my girl Daisy doing that. I see Daisy being shocked, perplexed, and surprised…slowly growing angry…and then quickly reevaluating her reaction and choosing to forgive them because she sees the absolute best in them and because she knows she loves them for who they are at heart.

Instead of focusing on the structure/outline, one must focus on the character and honing their reactions, as well as keeping all these things from being rapid-fire, you know? In some cases, just throwing everything out there at once works great; other times, you need to go slow and work through each emotion/thought/event one at a time.

Which is really why some stories fail at this trope and others don’t. For example, the anonymous letters story was pulled off perfectly–the characters already chose to let go of the person they were writing and to be with the one they knew in real life, so when they came forth about their identities (the hero knew he was writing the heroine), it was actually a bit of a pleasant surprise. My most recent LHL romance was absolutely perfect—the hero was exceedingly angry at the heroine for lying to hime, but it made perfect sense for him to be, and instead of the heroine getting mad back, she refuses to deny her feelings and instead stands by him throughout his hate and shows herself to be loyal and true, despite her dishonesty.

But in one of the non-letter books, the characters found out all of a sudden (after it was kinda like…how had you not realized that sooner???) and never had time to even really talk to each other about it, because five new things just waltzed right into the story at that exact time and took it over. They didn’t ever stop to really think about the situation after their initial shock and horror wore off; they immediately forgot all about the good times they had together; they decided to forgive and make amends out of the blue; they never discussed what had transpired after they made amends or why it all happened like that.

Maybe I’m just an overthinker, so it makes no sense for the characters not to think and perform psychological evaluations on people and discuss things with others and actually glean something from those conversations instead of just walking away and moving on…I don’t know. What I do know is that one’s personality dictates these aspects of their functionality.

It all depends on your characters’ personalities.

So once you can pinpoint their motives, their relationships, their fears and dreams and all of that, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, peg their personalities, then you can focus on the plot structure and the outline based on what you know about them, not based on how other people have written LHL romances or what you think it should be.

There you have it, folks. My advice on writing the complex love-to-hate-to-love relationship and actually pulling it off without losing the essence of your story and what makes it so special! Feel free to disagree or play around with your own tips and tricks, but take it from a reader of a TON of good and bad LHL romances: your very best bet is knowing and truly understanding who your characters are and how they operate!

What about you? Have you read an LHL romances? Can you guess the book I referred to in this post? Are you (or have you or do you plan on) writing an LHL romance? Do you prefer LHL, strangers-to-lovers, enemies-to-lovers, or friends-to-lovers? Let me know in the comments below!!!


About the Author

Grace A. Johnson is a teenage Christian fiction authoress, book reviewer, and avid reader. She lives in beautiful (but humid) South Georgia, surrounded by farmland and forestry, with her parents and six younger siblings. She has written four novels, three of which are published, and a smattering of short stories and novellas, which you can find on Amazon. She’s also a homeschooler who loves learning about history, linguistics, art, and the world around her. You can find her on Goodreads, Pinterest, BookBub, or blogging on her website at Join her for a virtual cup of tea and a free sneak peek when you sign up for her e-newsletter.

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6 comentários

Saraina Whitney
Saraina Whitney
29 de nov. de 2022

Oooh, I LOVE this post!!!! Fabulous tips!! *wants to try writing this trope sometime* Amen, characters' personalities and their life experiences, dreams, etc. should determine how they react - it always falls flat when a character has a (usually over-the-top) reaction that just doesn't fit them. Sometimes, to be honest, I feel pressure to have a character break down and cry melodramatically because that's the stereotypical response, even when it's not what fits my charrrie. 🤣 But anyway, yes, great advice, and thank you for sharing it here!! (Also, I don't see this trope a lot, so it just makes me SO excited that you're writing it, Kayti!!!! 😊💖)

Kaytlin Phillips
Kaytlin Phillips
30 de nov. de 2022
Respondendo a

(Aww thanks! I can't wait to share it with you!)


Judith McNees
Judith McNees
29 de nov. de 2022

Good thoughts. I guess I used this trope in book 2 of my series without realizing it. I actually didn't want my heroine to hate the hero, but I realized it was BECAUSE of who she is that she had to. I agree with Grace that you should always let the characters guide you rather than following a formulaic approach to a trope.

Grace Johnson
Grace Johnson
29 de nov. de 2022
Respondendo a

Thanks, Judith! When that's the direction the character guides you, that's the direction you should take, for sure! Letting the characters guide the story makes it seem authentic and natural rather than contrived and forced. Thank you for reading! :)

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