February is Valentine season. Use this listicle to find your next favorite book full of love, hope and romance.
Overcoming the friend-zone — “People We Meet on Vacation” by Emily Henry
It has always been a tradition for best friends Poppy Wright and Alex Nilson to take sporadic vacations together. Trips with plane tickets and lodging funded by Poppy’s job as a travel writer — who would give up that opportunity? Certainly not Alex. Or, at least, until two years ago, when unexplored feelings threw their friendship into turbulent waters on their trip to Croatia. It’s been awkward between them ever since.
This book runs on a parallel timeline of that Croatia incident and a present-day trip to Palm Springs that Poppy summoned up the courage to invite Alex to. Reading about their moments of clumsiness, shared joys and disputes made me relive moments when my friendships were being tested. While there’s quite the plethora of friends-to-lovers novels out there, “People We Meet on Vacation” presents such comical and raw scenes that make this novel like none other.
An other-bodily love story — “Everyday” by David Levithan
“A” is not like you or me. “A” wakes up every day in a new person’s body, so “A” has gotten used to living a day as one person and then moving on. Until “A” meets Rhiannon while living a day in the body of her boyfriend Justin. Trying to be with someone as a physical human being with a single identity is already tough enough. So, to be jumping from body to body, person to person is relationship difficulties on steroids.
As a reader, I was constantly torn between supporting and opposing the potential relationship between “A” and Rhiannon. They are truly in love, but would “A” be unfairly defining the trajectory of another person’s life without their consent when “A” kisses Rhiannon in their body?
An “enemies-turned-lovers” plotline backdropped with political drama — “Red, White, and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston
For Prince Henry of Wales and First Son of the United States Alex Claremont-Diaz, to love each other freely is a scandal. Even though the two appear to butt heads upon first encounter, Henry, who knows he’s gay, and Alex, who then discovers he’s bisexual, hit it off after a fateful New Year’s Eve.
In this alternate world, Alex’s mom won the 2016 U.S. presidential election before running an intense reelection campaign against a Republican senator from Utah. So the last thing she needs is for her political opponent to use her son’s romance against her. For Henry, it’s clear that he is expected to maintain his appearance as a heterosexual royal. The two lovebirds thereby need to define their feelings for each other and hide their relationship from the scrutinizing public.
McQuiston leverages the familiarity of a slightly more cliche plot line as their characters navigate their familial differences and society’s expectations. With relatable teenage characters, the novel has the comfort and predictability of a conventional romance novel but situated it within the new context of political polarization.
For those classic-lovers (and those desiring a longer read) — “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon
This (kind of lengthy) time-travel, romance novel explores the choice between settling for a fizzing-out love and reaching across boundaries — and time periods — to seek out a love that is more passionately felt. You’ll time travel with Claire Randall through post-World War II and 1700s Scotland as she grapples with her feelings for her husband Frank in the former setting and the alluring James “Jamie” Fraser in the latter. As Claire slowly falls for Jamie, she must also learn to accept his entrenched patriarchal actions and the norms of his times
Gabaldon’s writing style is reminiscent of James Joyce’s stream of consciousness writing. Her detail to the imagery of scenes is impeccable, though potentially seen as long-winded by some. Writing style aside, Gabaldon takes her readers on a heart-wrenching roller coaster as Claire navigates controversial societal disparities and fluctuating emotions.
For those needing an intense “faerie” tale —“A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sara J. Maas
If you claim you’re a fan of fantastical-romance novels and you haven’t picked up a book by Sara J. Maas yet, I respectfully disagree with your claim to avid readership. Heart-racing and action-packed, “A Court of Thorns and Roses” will satiate your hunger for a wild ride in both emotional encounters and battle scenes.
Feyre Archeron is brought into the land of the Fae, a species that was said to have ravaged the world that she lives in. But after meeting faerie Tamlin, Feyre questions all that she has known and is forced to decide between love and familial allegiance. With the land of the Fae harboring disparate opinions on human-faerie relationships, Feyre and Tamlin have to fight for both peace within the Fae and prove that love can transcend differences in species. As a reader, your journey through this book will be accompanied by sparks flying from page to page as the duo’s adventure culminates in a bloody duel of human versus Fae.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.