If you’re looking for the best academic rivals to lovers books worth reading then look no further than this book list!
Academic rivals to lovers books have that same tension that fuels the chemistry between characters but they feature characters who have an intense rivalry either at school or at work.
Trust me when I say you’ll love this take on the enemies to lovers trope with these academic rivals to lovers books you won’t be able to resist.
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The Best Academic Rivals to Lovers Books
The many lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have finally caught up with her.
By day, she’s an adjunct professor, toiling away at grading labs and teaching thermodynamics in the hopes of landing tenure.
By other day, Elsie makes up for her non-existent paycheck by offering her services as a fake girlfriend, tapping into her expertly honed people-pleasing skills to embody whichever version of herself the client needs.
Honestly, it’s a pretty sweet gig—until Jack Smith, the annoyingly attractive and arrogant older brother of her favorite client, turns out to be the cold-hearted experimental physicist who ruined her mentor’s career and undermined the reputation of theorists everywhere.
And he’s the same Jack Smith who rules over the physics department at MIT, standing right between Elsie and her dream job.
Elsie is prepared for an all-out battle of scholarly sabotage but…those long, penetrating looks? Not having to be anything other than her true self when she’s with him?
Will falling into an experimentalist’s orbit finally tempt her to put her most guarded theories on love into practice?
OK so we know Ali Hazelwood knocks it out of the park when it comes to STEM romance books but this academic rivals to lovers book is my absolute favorite of hers. Yep, I said it!
She pits Elsie and Jack, two physicists in rival disciplines – her a theorist and him an experimentalist, against each other in the world of academia and it is perfection.
Not only did I love the look at the feud between these two disciplines and the impact it can have in the working world and in research publications, but I loved how human these two characters are.
Jack is one of my favorite book boyfriends because he SEES Elsie, beyond just her academic genius, and demands she give him her true self.
If ever there was a reason to read an Ali Hazelwood book, it’s this one that truly brings out the best of the academic rivals to lovers trope.
Check out my book review of Love, Theoretically.
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.
Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. And sure, he caught her in his powerfully corded arms like a romance novel hero when she accidentally damseled in distress on her first day in the lab.
But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school—archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.
Now, her equipment is missing, the staff is ignoring her, and Bee finds her floundering career in somewhat of a pickle.
Perhaps it’s her occipital cortex playing tricks on her, but Bee could swear she can see Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas…devouring her with those eyes. And the possibilities have all her neurons firing.
But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there’s only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?
Since I seem to be all about Ali Hazelwood, I had to add this academic rivals to lovers book as well.
It totally fits the enemies to lovers trope in an academic/work place setting since Bee and Levi are definitely at odds with one another and yet find themselves working in the same lab.
It’s unclear if Levi is out to sabotage Bee since he’s not the best communicator but you come to discover that he is actually a man who sees everything and loves quietly. I love that quality in a romance book hero 😊.
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he destroys his entire cast.
They’re polar opposites.
In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.
Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel.
She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods cult (obviously).
Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
This academic rivals to lovers book focuses on two authors who appear to be opposites in their work and yet have quite a few commonalities after all.
It’s romance versus literary fiction in Emily Henry’s first breakout adult romance novel which is actually a bit more melancholy than I anticipated but I did enjoy how they flip-flop their respective genres and end up falling for each other in the process.
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.
Celine Bangura is conspiracy-theory-obsessed. Social media followers eat up her takes on everything from UFOs to holiday overconsumption—yet, she’s still not cool enough for the popular kids’ table.
Which is why Brad abandoned her for the in-crowd years ago. (At least, that’s how Celine sees it.)
These days, there’s nothing between them other than petty insults and academic rivalry.
So when Celine signs up for a survival course in the woods, she’s surprised to find Brad right beside her.
Forced to work as a team for the chance to win a grand prize, these two teens must trudge through not just mud and dirt but their messy past.
And as this adventure brings them closer together, they begin to remember the good bits of their history. But has too much time passed . . . or just enough to spark a whole new kind of relationship?
When I first think of the academic rivals to lovers trope, my mind immediately goes to young adult enemies to lovers romance that pits one teen against another vying for that top spot in school.
I love how Tibbert’s young adult romance debut brings two academic rivals together in a sort of second chance romance that forces two former friends to confront what went wrong while actually working together.
You know some shenanigans are going to crop up when you throw in a survival course in the woods which makes it all the more fun!
When TJ Powar—a pretty, popular debater—and her cousin Simran become the subject of a meme: with TJ being the “expectation” of dating an Indian girl and her Sikh cousin who does not remove her body hair being the “reality”—TJ decides to take a stand.
She ditches her razors, cancels her waxing appointments, and sets a debate resolution for herself: “This House Believes That TJ Powar can be her hairy self, and still be beautiful.”
Only, as she sets about proving her point, she starts to seriously doubt anyone could care about her just the way she is—even when the infuriating boy from a rival debate team seems determined to prove otherwise.
As her carefully crafted sense of self begins to crumble, TJ realizes that winning this debate may cost her far more than the space between her eyebrows.
And that the hardest judge to convince of her arguments might just be herself.
Yes, this book features two high school rival debaters, but what really shines in this young adult romance is TJ’s stance to no longer shave and her self-reflection of what it means to her to do so.
It’s not easy to go against “society norms and standards” even when you have a great reason to shed light on why those standards are ridiculous and conforming.
I love the academic rivals to lovers angle of this romance but the social message even more.
I’m a Gemini. Impulsive. Curious. Headstrong. A twin. Heir to a throne I know nothing about. And it turns out, I’m Fae.
But of course there’s a catch – all I have to do to claim my birth right is prove that I’m the most powerful supernatural in the whole of Solaria.
And sure, technically that’s true as I’m the daughter of the Savage King. But the bit they didn’t put in the brochure was that every single Fae in this Kingdom would claim my throne if they could.
The school they’ve sent me to is both dangerous and one helluva party.
Vampires bite weaker students in the corridors, the Werewolf pack has orgies in the Wailing Wood at every full moon and don’t even get me started on the dark and twisted ways the Sirens use their powers on people’s emotions, or how my sinfully tempting Cardinal Magic teacher hosts detentions that leave people needing therapy.
Classes are totally interesting if you manage to live through them. And that Gemini star sign I mentioned?
It now determines my elemental magic and affects my destiny, so learning astrology is essential if I’m going to beat down my classmates – which is actively encouraged by the way.
My biggest problem is the drool worthy Dragon shifter who has his eyes on my throne. He and his three psycho friends are determined to make my time here hell.
All I’ve got to do is survive. But fate might have other ideas.
Dammit, why couldn’t I have gotten a letter to Hogwarts?
This academic rivals to lovers book is set in a fantasy world where excelling at school is important because the throne and possibly the kingdom depends on you learning about this new world you’ve just been thrown into!
After an idyllic girlhood in Avonlea, Long Island, Anne has packed up her trunk, said goodbye to her foster parents, Marilla and Matthew, and moved to the isle of Manhattan for grad school.
Together with her best friend, Diana Barry, she’s ready to take on the world and find her voice as a writer.
When her long-time archrival Gilbert Blythe shows up at Redmond College for their final year, Anne gets the shock of her life.
Gil has been in California for the last five years—since he kissed her during a beach bonfire, and she ghosted him.
Now the handsome brunette is flashing his dimples at her like he hasn’t a care in the world and she isn’t buying it.
Paired with the same professor for their thesis, the two former competitors come to a grudging peace that turns into something so much deeper…and hotter than either intended.
But when Gil seemingly betrays her to get ahead, Anne realizes she was right all along—she should never have trusted Gilbert Blythe.
While Gil must prove to Anne that they’re meant to be together, she must come to terms with her old fears if she wants a happily-ever-after with the boy she’s always (secretly) loved.
Oh, how I loved Anne of Green Gables growing up so I was excited to see this modern retelling which looks to be a fantastic academic rivals to lovers book.
Gil and Anne are probably one of the first couples I ever loved and seeing their fierce chemistry onscreen was so dynamic but I’m loving Starler’s take as the two compete in grad school.
“Did you have relations with my brother . . .”
Good question. I’d like to preface this by saying it was never my intention to ever get involved in a workplace romance, let alone get involved with the most surly, agitating, and pompous man I’ve ever met who just so happens to be my new friend’s brother.
My intentions were to show students how English and reading books could actually be fun and make a new life for myself in the suburbs of Chicago.
But so far, I’ve managed to be called into the principal’s office. Coerced into participating in the teacher’s badminton league.
And instigated into passionate fights with Arlo Turner over education and decorum while losing my underwear at the same time.
Known as Mr. Turns Me On, he’s the reason I might get fired from my first ever teaching job.
Megan Quinn utilizes the grumpy sunshine trope to stir up the tension between Greer and Arlo in this academic rivals to lovers book between two English teachers.
While pranks ignite the animosity between these two colleagues, it’s undeniable that they clearly are attracted to each other as well.
Dig into this romcom if you love classroom shenanigans and teachers who don’t necessarily act any better than their students!
Corban Nash is a self-proclaimed data nerd with a hot 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? Hazel Kiegen.
Hazel refuses to be distracted by Corban’s adorable awkwardness or his temptingly muscular body.
He claims to have cracked the code to falling in love, and she’s going to prove him wrong.
This book had me at data analyst since that’s what my husband does 😊.
This academic rivals to lovers book is set on a college campus and pits a data analyst obsessed with numbers and the question “what makes people fall in love?” with a psychology researcher who loves science and doesn’t believe his theories.
They may be rivals but when they are forced to work on a project together, that’s when the real chemistry comes out!
Allison Avery loves to win. After acing every academic challenge she’s come up against, she’s finally been accepted into her dream Ph.D. program at Claymore University, studying medieval literature under a professor she’s admired for years.
Sure, grad school isn’t easy—the classes are intense, her best friend is drifting away, and her students would rather pull all-nighters than discuss The Knight’s Tale—but she’s got this.
Until she discovers her ex-boyfriend has also been accepted.
Colin Benjamin might be the only person who loves winning more than Allison does, and when they’re both assigned to TA for the same professor, the game is on.
What starts as a personal battle of wits (and lit) turns into all-out duke it out fest when their professor announces a career-changing research trip opportunity—with one spot to fill.
Competing with Colin is as natural as breathing, and after he shattered her heart two years ago, Allison refuses to let him come out on top.
But when a family emergency and a late night road trip—plus a very hot game of Scrabble—throw them together for a weekend, she starts to wonder if they could be stronger on the same team.
And if they fall for each other all over again, Allison will have to choose between a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and what could be a twice-in-a-lifetime love.
There are SO many things to love about this academic rivals to lovers book I just don’t know where to start.
I can’t say I’ve ever read a book about a heroine who loves medieval literature but if she has a similar obsession as I do with the movie A Knight’s Tale (starring the amazing Heath Ledger) then I totally feel her.
I love that these two rivals are TAs who have a history together and must now vie for the same research opportunity.
It’s a great story set up for a sweet second chance romance book too!
Related: Best College Romance Books
Victoria and Owen are bitter rivals.
Nora and Luke are friends online.
Who would believe these two couples have anything in common?
Of all the decisions brilliant lawyer Victoria Clemenceaux has made in her life, an unforgettable one-night stand with her opposing counsel Owen Pohl is either the worst…or the best.
One thing is certain: these long-standing rivals aren’t going to let their searing attraction stop them from winning the biggest case of their careers.
Thankfully Victoria and Owen have someone to vent to about their nemeses. But they have no idea that their online ‘friends’, Nora and Luke, are the very people they hate in real life.
As Nora and Luke grow closer online, and Victoria and Owen find their undeniable attraction harder to resist, the lines between love and hate blur.
When the truth comes out, will their online chemistry work in the real world, or will their constant rivalry sever their connection?
I ADORE books where two people actually fall for each other sight unseen online and never knowing that they actually DO know each other in real life. It’s so far-fetched but I think that’s why I like it so much.
Lawyers know how to argue so I can only imagine that Victoria and Owen bring the heat to the courtroom when they square off with each other.
But I’m most excited to see how that chemistry and heat translates into the bedroom when these two rivals become lovers.
If you too love romance books where lawyers square off, check out this academic rivals to lovers book.
Lucas Thatcher has always been my enemy.
It’s been a decade since I’ve seen him, but our years on opposite coasts were less of a lasting peace and more of a temporary cease-fire.
Now that we’re both back in our small town, I know Lucas expects the same old battle, but I’ve changed since high school—and from the looks of it, so has he.
The arrogant boy who was my teenage rival is now a chiseled doctor armed with intimidating good looks.
He is Lucas Thatcher 2.0, the new and improved version I’ll be competing with in the workplace instead of the schoolyard.
I’m not worried; I’m a doctor now too, board-certified and hot in a white coat.
It almost feels like winning will be too easy—until Lucas unveils a tactic neither of us has ever used before.
The day he pushes me up against the wall and presses his lips to mine, I can’t help but wonder if he’s filling me with passion or poison.
Every fleeting touch is perfect torture. With every stolen kiss, my walls crumble a little more.
After all this time, Lucas knows exactly how to strip me of my defenses, but I’m in no hurry to surrender.
Knowing thy enemy has never felt so good.
For a different twist, this book features two doctors who have been rivals their entire childhood with competitions over everything. Only now they are competing to take over the same family practice.
If you want a steamy rivals to lovers book with great banter then give this one a go. I love it because it has the same vibe as R.L. Mathewson’s Checkmate which I adored too!
Related: Best Friends to Lovers Books
Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman
Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate.
And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company.
Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.
Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…
But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either.
Or maybe this is just another game.
If you haven’t heard of The Hating Game then I’m not sure what rock you’ve been living under (jjk) because it’s a rivals to lovers book that became so popular it was made into a movie (which is actually really good)!
This is an academic rivals to lovers book in the workplace since Lucy and Joshua are vying for the same promotion. So, although they are not classmates nor work in academia, their rivalry in this office romance is epic.
It’s steamy, it’s both hilarious and heartfelt and definitely a must-read!
Related: Best Office Romance Books
Today, she hates him.
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.
Tonight, she puts up with him.
When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves.
But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.
As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years.
And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.
Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him.
OMG, this book just screams “adorable” to me. I can relate to wanting to one-up my classmates in pull-ups, but I really love Soloman’s idea of this senior class game. I want to play!
The fact that it brings these two academic rivals together is super cute and I cannot wait to read it.
Eliza Quan is the perfect candidate for editor in chief of her school paper. That is, until ex-jock Len DiMartile decides on a whim to run against her.
Suddenly her vast qualifications mean squat because inexperienced Len—who is tall, handsome, and male—just seems more like a leader.
When Eliza’s frustration spills out in a viral essay, she finds herself inspiring a feminist movement she never meant to start, caught between those who believe she’s a gender equality champion and others who think she’s simply crying misogyny.
Amid this growing tension, the school asks Eliza and Len to work side by side to demonstrate civility.
But as they get to know one another, Eliza feels increasingly trapped by a horrifying realization—she just might be falling for the face of the patriarchy himself.
Oh, I really like how this young adult, academic rivals to lovers book has important themes within it that explore what it means to be a leader and what factors actually make a great leader.
Do qualifications matter? Do looks?
Plus, what happens when you take up a voice and platform and then realize you’re falling for your rival?
This is just too good, plus I love its diversity!
Bel doesn’t want to think about the future. College apps? You’re funny. Extracurriculars? Not a chance.
Joining a robotics club filled with boys who ignore her or–even worse–constantly ask if she needs help?
Please, anything but that. But when she accidentally reveals a talent for engineering in class, she has no choice.
Enter Mateo Luna, the handsome captain of the club.
Teo instantly recognizes Bel’s talent. He needs her on the team. And not just because he can’t stop thinking about the tiny dusting of freckles around her eyes, or how she got him hooked on Taylor Swift–it’s because Bel sees him.
She challenges him. But when they seriously start butting heads, Bel wonders: Is there really room for a girl like her in STEM?
I had to add this book to my list because I think it’s one my daughter will love! I am ecstatic that it features academic rivals to lovers who are in the same robotics club and engineering class.
We definitely need more STEM romance books and I am hoping this one is super cute.
Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor 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.
Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben’s, including give up sleep and comic books—well, maybe not comic books—but definitely sleep.
After all, the battle of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade.
Over a decade later, it’s time to declare a champion once and for all.
This battle is Trixie’s for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice.
Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben’s cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship.
When Trixie’s best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they’re on—and they might not pick the same side.
An academic rivals to lovers books with comic book lovers with geeks and nerds at a school for the gifted? I’m so there!
This book carries a gentle balance between their goofiness and the seriousness of events that they face.
I’m all in for these characters alone and of course to see where Trixie and Ben actually land in class rank 😊.
Related: Best Forced Proximity Romance Books
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 the puritanical administration of Willowgrove Christian Academy.
The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.
But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.
On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush.
The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her.
It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair and square.
Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought.
And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.
I love the queer angle to this academic rivals to lovers book and yet it’s the mystery and scavenger hunt following Shara’s clues that really stand out and have me wondering “what happens?!”
And since McQuiston is the author, you know that she’s got something to say setting this book about queer youth in a Christian Academy in the South.
Related: Best Lesbian Romance Books
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Leela Bose plays to win.
A life-long speech competitor, Leela loves nothing more than crushing the competition, all while wearing a smile.
But when she meets the incorrigible Firoze Darcy, a debater from an elitist private school, Leela can’t stand him.
Unfortunately, he’ll be competing in the state league, so their paths are set to collide.
But why attempt to tolerate Firoze when Leela can one-up him?
The situation is more complicated than Leela anticipated, though, and her participation in the tournament reveals that she might have tragically misjudged the debaters — including Firoze Darcy — and more than just her own winning streak is at stake…her heart is, too.
This book is the jackpot – a modern Pride and Prejudice retelling AND academic rivals to lovers book in one.
I so love DasGupta’s young adult spin on this classic romance where two debaters go head-to-head to claim the title of the best in the state.
Related: Best Pride & Prejudice Retellings
Do you have a favorite academic rivals to lovers book? Share it in the comments below!
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