With lipstick-stained kisses and love notes abound, the holiday of love has once again come to dominate conversations and grocery shop aisles. Regardless of romantic entanglements or capitalist commercialization, Valentine’s Day has an impervious, unavoidable impact on our collective lives. February is, for better or for worse, in permanent association with all things love and yearning. We paint our lives in swirling shades of pink, maroon and white, and every shape is replaced by a lace-brimmed heart. Love is in every breath of air taken in, and yearning is pumped straight from the heart — no artery is left unsaturated, and no vein can return back empty. While this year’s yearning may be for a real valentine, we have a variety of literary valentines to get you through Feb. 14.
— Senior Arts Editor Ava Burycki can be reached at email@example.com.
“Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating” by Christina Lauren
I love love. I love how irrationally it makes me act and how skittish it makes me feel. There aren’t many things in this world that I love more than I love love… except for romance books.
I’ve read my fair share of romance novels in my life, and I recognize that some are brilliant while others remain mediocre. On that note, “Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating” is the perfect romance for Valentine’s Day. It’s fun, it’s flirty, it’ll make you emotional and it’s very easy to get through.
The novel centers around eccentric elementary school teacher Hazel Bradford. She’s… something. She barely understands social cues and has a rabbit named Janis Joplin. Basically, she’s a lot and she knows it. She’s deemed herself seemingly “undateable,” that is, until Josh Im, a meticulous physical therapist, comes along. Where Hazel is quirky and out-of-the-box, Josh is put together and precise. They’ve known each other since college but had lost touch until Josh’s sister, Emily, unexpectedly – and unintentionally – reunites them. Josh thinks Hazel is insane. Hazel thinks Josh is attractive, but they’re just friends. Best friends. They start setting each other up on blind dates and going out on double dates with strangers on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, every single date seems to end in disaster, except for one thing: Hazel and Josh start falling for each other in the process, trying to deny it until they can’t anymore.
I’m a sucker for a good friends-to-lovers story, and “Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating” is friends-to-lovers excellence. Not only is their relationship extremely wholesome and remarkably layered, but Christina Lauren dives deep into both Hazel and Josh’s past lives and insecurities, making this romance novel all the more enticing.
Daily Arts Writer Graciela Batlle Cestero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Part of Your World” by Abby Jimenez
(Content warning: physical and emotional abuse)
I’ll admit the first thing that attracted me to “Part of Your World” by Abby Jimenez was the fact that it had a “The Little Mermaid” song for its title. But after I started reading it, I could not put it down.
The story follows city-girl Alexis Montgomery, an ER doctor who is expected to carry on her family’s legacy as world-renowned surgeons. When Alexis gets stranded in a small town, carpenter Daniel Grant comes to her rescue. The two are instantly attracted to each other and end up spending the night together. What was supposed to be a one-night stand turns into a very cute and wholesome relationship. But Daniel lives in a completely different world than Alexis does. Oh, and did I mention he’s ten years younger than her? Alexis must make the impossible choice between worlds and must decide if she wants everyone else dictating her life.
If you’re a fan of the age-gap or opposites-attract trope and love bookish boyfriends with golden retriever energy, you should read “Part of Your World” this Valentine’s Day.
Books Beat Editor Ava Seaman can be reached at email@example.com.
“The Fastest Way to Fall” by Denise Williams
(Content warning: mentions of drug abuse and eating disorders)
Books about fitness and body positivity can be motivational at times, which is why I enjoyed “The Fastest Way to Fall” by Denise Williams.
As an editorial assistant for a lifestyle website, Britta Colby wants her chance to shine as a writer. When assigned to write about her experiences with a fitness app called FitMe, she begins her fitness journey with a personal coach that’s included with the app. What Britta doesn’t realize is that her personal coach happens to be the CEO of FitMe, Wes Lawson. Britta and Wes chat constantly — not just about exercise routines — and eventually work out together in person. Their relationship isn’t exactly professional, but the two can’t help but fall for each other. Told from a dual point of view, “The Fastest Way to Fall” is a sweet slow burn story that everyone should read this Valentine’s Day. Another romance novel by Denise Williams that I would recommend: “How to Fail at Flirting.”
Books Beat Editor Ava Seaman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Honey Girl” by Morgan Rogers
I wish I could read this soft (and spicy) romance again for the first time. “Honey Girl” is Rogers’s debut work, which details the budding romance between protagonist Grace Porter and her one-night-stand-turned fiancée, Yuki Yamamoto. Grace is under a lot of pressure as she wraps up her PhD in astronomy and figures out what, exactly, she plans to do following graduation. As a Black, lesbian scientist, Grace confronts prejudice and racist treatment, adding unnecessary and unfair obstacles to her already difficult path. Of course, these stressors are only amplified by her pending divorce from a stranger she can’t quite bring herself to let go of. “Honey Girl” highlights a realistic (well, as realistic as it can get after an impulsive elopement) and tender romance in addition to an accurate portrayal of academic burnout. Rogers crafts dynamic characters along the way and ends “Honey Girl” with a plot that ties up sweetly for the characters and reader alike.
Daily Arts Writer Lillian Pearce can be reached at email@example.com.
“The Stand-In” by Lily Chu
It’s worth noting that the 2010 film “Monte Carlo,” starring Selena Gomez, is one of my favorite romcoms to ever exist. So when I discovered that “The Stand-In” was basically this movie in book form, I knew I had to read it immediately.
Shortly after getting fired from her job, Gracie Reed is desperate for a way to make enough money to move her mother into a nursing home that will give her the care she deserves. That opportunity comes in the form of Wei Fangli, a Chinese movie star — and Gracie’s doppelgänger. If Gracie agrees to take Fangli’s place, going to fancy events with her rumored boyfriend and fellow actor Sam Yao, then Fangli will give her the money she needs. But pretending to be a sophisticated actress is harder than Gracie thinks, and her growing attraction to Sam is even more difficult to navigate.
“The Stand-In” has a glamorous premise and a slow burn romance that’s both exciting and infuriating (as any good slow burn should be). At the same time, it prompts great discussions about multiracial identity, mental health and the struggles that women face in the workplace. If you’re looking for a romcom that’s fun and sexy, but also has something to say, then look no further. Lily Chu certainly did my favorite movie justice.
Daily Arts Writer Hannah Carapellotti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether your relationship status is single, taken or “it’s complicated” this Valentine’s Day, these romance recommendations can warm even a cynic’s heart. From sweet to smutty, we hope you read these five romances.
— Books Beat Editor Ava Seaman can be reached at email@example.com.