More Like This Please: Bully Romances
This week’s topic is books that you loved that made you want to read more books like them (awkwardly worded but you get what I mean!) For example, say you read a historical crime novel and love it so much it inspires you to seek out more of the same. I can be funny with books in that as much as I like to read widely I can tend to stick to the same genre (mainly fantasy but I read a lot of contemporary now too).
I’m going to focus on bully romances. It’s not a sub-genre I ever thought I would actually like; I was badly bullied during my school days and it has had a real negative effect on my life. I’ve needed therapy to deal with it so colour me surprised that I actually ended up enjoying various ‘bully romances’ – almost against my better judgement.
I’m not saying I would consider it in real-life (I do not condone that kind of treatment whatsoever and I think it can be dangerous to present this as a good thing, especially for readers of an impressionable age) but darn it I can’t help but be fascinated by fictionalised romances with bully elements. I don’t know if I find it cathartic or something; but whatever the attraction is, I can’t seem to get enough.
Here are some of my… well, I won’t say favourites… but you get what I mean!!
1. Hood River Rat by K. Webster
Hollis is forced to start over at a new school after his parents marriage breaks down following his coming out as gay. His mother, unable to get over her spouse turning his back on his own son, moves Hollis and his sisters to a new town where he attracts the attention of the Hood River Hoodlums, led by the mean and broody Roan.
This is a prime example of a bully romance except Hollis pretty much gives back as good as he gets. His relationship with Roan doesn’t start out the best but they eventually have each other’s backs. I really thoroughly enjoyed this romance and it left me wanting more.
2. Hate Me by A. Jade
This one is double taboo because the bully in question (and love interest) is the main character’s new stepbrother! Aspen and Knox have pretty much hated each other for years ever since they met as kids. When Aspen’s mother marries Knox’s father, she is determined not to let him get to her but he is impossible to ignore and their mutual hatred and attraction is a thorn in her side but at the same time he is the only person who truly sees her.
This is a dark and messed up romance, no doubt about that, but it is like a train wreck – you can’t look away. Knox is a brutal thug but he is far from the worst character in this. Their connection is intense and very unhealthy but I was along for the ride and couldn’t help but take some kind of twisted enjoyment in their story.
3. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
A rare fantasy example! The Cruel Prince is one of my absolute favourites. Jude is a human living in the faerie lands and Cardan is the cruel prince who relentlessly and mercilessly bullies her. Over the course of the trilogy Jude and Cardan end up falling for each other and their messed up relationship is a delight. I shouldn’t love them as a couple – but I do, oh so much!
Holly Black excels at writing characters you love to hate (or just plain love) and I found myself shipping ‘Jurdan’ shamelessly even though as a pairing they should make me want to run for the hills! I can’t it it though, I love them both, separately and together – they are one of my top ten OTP’s and I will go down with this ship!!
4. Bully by Penelope Douglas
Well duh, of course the book called ‘Bully’ is going to have a bully romance! I read it years and years ago but it certainly made an impression. Tate and Jared are former best friends but then Jared turned into Tate’s biggest tormentor; she never knew why he changed and made her life an absolute nightmare when they got to high school. Tate leaves for a year studying abroad and upon her return vows to no longer cower before her friend-turned-enemy.
However, given that this is a romance, of course they realise their true feelings for each other. Tate never stopped loving Jared, even as he made her life hell. Jared also had strong feelings for Tate but they were wrapped up in his feelings of self-loathing and trauma. Their connection was raw and emotional and although I pretty much disliked Jared throughout (and thought Tate was an idiot for forgiving him so easy) I still really enjoyed the book – go figure!
5. The Nature of Cruelty by L.H. Cosway
I recently re-read this one and I enjoyed it just as much as I did first go around. Lana, the main character is best friends with Sasha but has a fractious relationship with Sasha’s twin brother Robert who always made a point of teasing and picking on her throughout their school years. So when she visits her friend in London, she isn’t happy to find Robert hanging around, seemingly wanting to put the past behind them.
At first, she isn’t sure she should trust him but against her better judgement, she gives him a chance and ends up falling for him. However, Robert may not be a good influence for her and she has to decide whether or not she has a future with him. I pretty much enjoyed this one and even though I disliked Robert at first, when Lana forgave him I couldn’t help feeling the same.
6. Feuds and Reckless Fury by K. Webster
I just read this one this week and it was a wild ride! Canyon and Alister are soon to be stepbrothers. However, Canyon cannot forgive his dad for cheating on his mother and breaking up their family for his long-time best friend (Alister’s adopted father). He wants revenge and sees the best way to achieve this is through tormenting Alister (figuring what hurts the son will hurt the father which will in turn hurt his own father). Convoluted but he is determined to get to the soon-to-be-married couple through targeting Alister.
What he hadn’t counted on was falling for Alister, even as they continually bumped heads. Alister (or Alis as he prefers to be known as) is more than a match for Canyon and the two relish their rivalry which soon turns to attraction then later love. This is just the kind of pairing that I like – both parties have their dark sides and they aren’t perfect by any means, but they are perfect for each other.
7. Reclaiming the Sand by A. Meredith Walters
I read this ages ago so my recollection of the story is a little hazy, but I really loved it when I read it and it was a slightly different take given that the bully in question was the main character (who is female). Ellie is a very damaged young girl but it really isn’t an excuse for what she puts Flynn (her eventual love interest) through. Flynn is on the autism spectrum and was tormented by Ellie and her friends throughout school though Ellie grew close to Flynn when her friends weren’t around – leaving him confused and hurt when she acted differently around her peer group. One day they go too far.
Years later, Ellie has returned to their town and reconnects with Flynn but forgiveness is something she feels she doesn’t necessarily deserve and they have various hurdles to overcome. I really liked this one. I felt so bad for Flynn and was frustrated with Ellie but couldn’t hate her because she had a terrible upbringing (though this doesn’t excuse her actions). The story is actually really beautiful.
8. The Cruel Prince by A. Jade
Heh, another ‘Cruel Prince’! This story is quite different though. Dylan was best friends with Jace and very close with his younger Liam brother too. She had to move away suddenly, not even getting a chance to say goodbye to Jace. However, now she’s back but Jace no longer seems to be the boy she left behind. In fact, it seems like he hates her. She is saddened to find out that Liam had died and the rest of Jace’s family also seems to despise her for reasons she cannot fathom.
However, Dylan and Jace cannot seem to stop circling each other and despite his attitude towards her she still has feelings for him. But can they overcome whatever is holding him back from her? This is a funny one because the two MC’s actually annoyed the crap out of me – but I loved the story and the other characters! The rest of the series actually kept my attention more but this one was still pretty entertaining, if a little frustrating!
9. Corrupt by Penelope Douglas
I adore this series! This is the first book and where everything is set up. Rika has been in love with Michael for years, even when she dated his younger brother, and there was a time he seemed to feel something for her too. Finding herself in a new city for college and living in the apartment below Michael is a shock to her, albeit a welcome one, even if he seems to be playing some kind of game with her. See, Michael blames her for his friends being arrested and jailed. They are out now and looking for a little payback. And now Rika has fallen into their laps…
Gah, this one drives me batty because Rika is such a doormat and complete moron in this! However, that didn’t stop me from loving this book. I love the ‘Horsemen’ despite (or maybe because of) how twisted they are. The rest of the series is also pretty great and I enjoyed getting to know Kai, Damon, and Will and their respective love interests.
10. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
This one is a little bit different because Regina (the main character) is the bully and a total mean girl, until something terrible happens to her and she ends up turning to one of her victims – a boy called Michael who is a bit of a misfit. It isn’t a romance per se though there are romantic elements, and I was a little bit unsure about whether to include it but it is an amazing book with a powerful message and I enjoyed the romance that underscored the plot even if it wasn’t front and centre.
Courtney Summers is one of my favourite YA authors and this was one of the first books of hers I read. It made a huge impact on me. Regina isn’t forgiven right away for her past actions (nor should she be) but Michael does help her despite what she had done to him in the past and does eventually give her a chance. It didn’t feel forced at all nor did it glorify falling for your bully.
Some more bully romances I’ve read you may enjoy: