It’s Valentine’s Day!
Hearts and sparkles and candy for everyone!
For as much as I love heart-shaped things and red things and L-O-V-E, there’s something undeniably cheesy — albeit fun — about this holiday. I have fond memories of writing out little cards for my classmates growing up, then waiting for my latest crush to declare his feelings on February 14. When the proclamation wasn’t forthcoming, I tried to tell myself there was always next year. Always the romantic!
My fiance and I will be cooking up a storm at home and avoiding the crowds tonight, and that’s just fine with me. On our first and only “engaged” Valentine’s Day, I’d rather avoid the chaos and catch up on “Downton Abbey” (though sweet Cupid, it’s been really depressing lately). We went out on Sunday for our traditional French dinner in a nearby town, and it was a sweet and personal evening!
And on this day devoted to romance, I’ve been thinking about love stories. I haven’t read enough good ones lately. I’m always seeking something sweeping in magnitude — yet grounded in reality. I want a give-and-take relationship between two people who recognize that while they could stand separately, they’re better together. I want my novels to be romantic without provoking frequent eye-rolls, and y’all know I can get down with an eye-roll. (It’s how I roll.) (And sorry for that bad pun.)
When it comes to love stories, I usually require them in my reading. An otherwise fabulous book without the emotion and drama of a blossoming romance just doesn’t hold the same appeal. There are exceptions to this, of course — and the love story itself is a delicate balancing act. It’s crucial to have things develop naturally — or for me to feel like they do, anyway.
I’m probably not making any sense. Too many contraband Valentine’s chocolates. Sugar rush!
(Only kidding. I’m still committed to healthy living, though those heart-shaped Peeps are eyeballing me.)
And so, in honor of this day of love, I present to you . . .
Meg’s Favorite Love Stories
(That Won’t Make You Gag)
Okay, I’m a little biased with this one — because it’s one of my favorite books of all time. No exaggeration. In fact, if I can convince you to read one book in my years of book- and life-blogging, I hope it’s Eva Rice’s The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets. It’s that good — and I’m that serious. Though the romance in Rice’s novel isn’t center-stage, it’s unforgettable . . . just like this story. In fact, I really need to pluck it back off my shelf; we’ve been separated for far too long.
Beyond its quaint setting in the English countryside, Harriet Evans’ I Remember You is everything I devour in a novel. Particular care is paid to the two leads: childhood best friends who grow up in one another’s pockets, but separate over the years through grief, romance and everything in between. Though it occasionally falls victim to some chick-lit cliches, it’s a sweeping tale of first love that really resonated with me — and was one I recommended for months.
Separated by war, hostility and racism, Kristina McMorris’ lovebirds in Bridge of Scarlet Leaves face impossible heartache in their quest to just be together. (Makes online dating look like a cakewalk, eh?) This historical novel, set in World War II, is meticulously researched — and absolutely engrossing. Maddie and Lane make an unforgettable pairing.
When you pair romance with the undeniable pull of Italian cooking, you get a savory dish like Melissa Senate’s The Love Goddess’ Cooking School — and I gobbled it up. A budding romance told against the backdrop of familial love on the coast of Maine, this fun story left me with a full heart . . . and a growling stomach.
There’s no denying the allure of Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss, a young adult novel that took the reading community by storm. With its Parisian setting, dreamy male lead and enticing will-they-or-won’t-they premise (they always start out as “just friends,” don’t they?), Perkins’ debut had one of the best finales I’ve read. I was literally swooning, if such a thing is possible, and I didn’t want it to end. If you’ve refrained from grabbing it until now, consider this your homework. Your Valentine’s Day homework.