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Valentine's Day Book Picks

As a rom-com author, I feel like I can’t not put up a blog post celebrating Valentine’s Day. This Hallmark holiday (dreaded by some and revered by others) is nothing if not an in-your-face reminder that love is worthy of celebration!

Despite the fact that it might be easier to overlook this year (being that it’s on a Monday, and that yesterday was also the Superbowl), you’ve got to admit that there’s something to be said for a heart-shaped box of chocolate that threatens to undo your six-week-old New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. In our house, it’ll be sushi tonight, as my girls are desperate for a “special meal,” and my hubs and I are desperate to not have the scale move too much in the wrong direction!!

Anyway, love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is here to threaten your emotional stability and your waist line.

In it’s honor, I offer to you my top five favorite romance books. In fairness, some of them wouldn’t technically be classified as “romance” on the bookshelves of your local library, but they have enough of a love story involved that I believe we can list them here. Also, these are really listed in no particular order because I love each of them for different reasons… and these are five of many, so if you ever want more recommendations, please feel free to hit me up!

5) Seven Days in June (Tia Williams) – I’m pretty sure this one made the list because I just finished reading it about a month ago, but I’ve gotta tell you, once I was done with it, it stuck inside my head. That’s one of the marks of a great story, in my humble opinion. So, here you go: This is the story of Eva and Shane. Eva’s a romance author with a cult-like following, who makes herself totally accessible to fans and puts up this huge front in service to her brand. Meanwhile, she’s hiding an empty love life and a debilitating pain condition behind the smoke and mirrors. By contrast, Shane is a literary figure who’s good looks are matched only by his ability to stay under the radar. He, too, hides secrets – most notably, his daily battle with sobriety. The two authors collide at a panel event, sending each other into a tailspin, as their week-long romance from years ago is brought back into the forefronts of their minds. The writing here is raw and sardonic, grounded in reality despite a heavy nod to the showmanship that accompanies stardom. The characters are flawed in ways that make them not only lovable, but also hot as hell.

4) The Hating Game (Sally Thorne) – This gem encapsulates the enemies-to-lovers trope, marrying witty banter with deep chemistry, causing fireworks to legitimately explode off the page. Lucy and Joshua are working as executive assistants to co-CEOs in a newly-merged publishing company. Each one is fueled by the discomfort of not exactly knowing where he/she stands on the food chain of the org chart in this new corporate machine, and as a result, sparks fly. There is a scene in an elevator that will make you never looks at elevators the same way again. This was Sally Thorne’s debut, and my God, the heat in this book could burn your fingers. Perhaps most remarkable, though (especially for me, since I write the funny stuff), was how the steamy stuff was balanced out by spit-out-your-coffee belly laughs. I don’t know what witchcraft Sally Thorne practices, but whatever it is, sign me up.

3) In Five Years (Rebecca Serle) – Totally on the other side of the laugh-o-meter, In Five Years follows protag Dannie through a dream sequence that only last an hour but is so intense that it stays with her well beyond that. Dannie’s a super type-A chick, killing it in work, in love, really checking off the boxes on the to-do-list of life. Which is why when she lives inside that crazy hour, it shakes her to her core, because it shows her how much of life simply cannot be planned. This isn’t a traditional romance in the same vein as The Hating Game or Seven Days in June. Instead, it turns into a tear-jerking hot mess of a thing that will leave you wishing you wore waterproof mascara and then calling your mom and your closest friends just to tell them how much you love them. Dannie’s story examines all forms of love – not just romantic – and reminds us that life is a gift. But, underneath it all, there’s still a lovely romance to be had. Just maybe don’t read it when you’ve got your period. (Unless you enjoy a “good cry,” which I typically don’t.)

2) The People We Meet On Vacation (Emily Henry) – Okay – back to the fun stuff! You know that college essay question, “If you could have dinner with one person in the world, who would it be?” And how most people say something deep like “Jesus,” or “Theodore Roosevelt” or some shit like that? I would probably have dinner with Emily Henry. She is a master of romantic comedy. Yes, this is the third book on this list that could be considered “bookish” in that it is set somewhere in the publishing world, but the premise of this one is the tried and true friends-to-lovers trope. In the same vein as When Harry Met Sally (which is my all-time favorite movie), The People We Meet On Vacation brings us travel-blogger Poppy, whose best friend since college (strait-laced Alex) only gets to see her once a year for an epic, week-long vacation. Two years ago, they screwed everything up and had a massive falling out, and now Poppy reaches out to Alex for a last hurrah to Palm Springs to try and fix what’s broken. Emily Henry’s recipe for the perfect book mixes equal parts comedy, heartbreak, steamy sex scenes, and sweet, tender speeches and It. Just. Works. Where Sally Thorne has an elevator, Emily Henry has a broken air-conditioner. Take my word for it. The outcome is sublime.

1) 28 Summers (Elin Hilderbrand) – The only reason I wouldn’t choose Elin Hilderbrand as my college essay dinner-date is because I already had lunch with her! A few years ago, at a ritzy event in Cape Cod, I was fortunate to hear Elin’s thoughts on all things book-related, and it was nothing short of a delight. Hilderbrand, who hails from Nantucket (not originally, but now), weaves together characters who almost always reside on the island, and this rings true for this book. 28 Summers bases its premise on the classic movie Same Time Next Year, starring a young Alan Alda and Ellyn Burstyn. It’s the story of Mallory and Jake, a couple who fall in love with one another one young summer on Nantucket and decide that, instead of completely upending their real lives, they should reunite every year on the island over Labor Day weekend. In a tale that doesn’t follow the traditional rules of happily-ever-after, Mallory and Jake discover that sometimes it’s best if love and life don’t mix in the usual way (dating, marriage, babies, retirement, death) but that instead, maybe love is better off captured and tucked away in a special space all its own, where it can’t lose its luster or fade/shift over time. I think this is what I liked most about this book: it’s different approach to mixing life and love. It was really insightful and beautifully done, with nods to the passing years and the news associated with those years. Keep the tissues close by, and an open mind, and you’ll definitely find yourself looking inward and wondering what if? A beautiful homage to the passage of time and the sanctity of love in this gorgeous book. Okay. Maybe I would choose Elin as a dinner-buddy after all.

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