For the singles out there: the best romance reads for Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of the year — the season when Cupid flies his arrows, heartshaped boxes stock the shelves and campus couples come out of their hiding (Seriously, why are there so many?). For all the single people out there, though, Valentine’s Day is either a painful experience or a holiday that passes right by us, for better or for worse. But it doesn’t have to be like that. We can still appreciate the essence of what it means to celebrate love, and we can do it curled up on our couches with a good romance book in our hands. 

Listen, while Goodreads and BookTok may be your go-to sources for recommendations, there are definitely some books on there that you’ll wish you’d never spent money on. Here’s this list, instead, to help you decide on a book that deserves its place on your shelf and fills that little hole in your heart. No weird alpha males. No toxicity. Happy endings only. 

Love and Other Words – Christina Lauren

To say we’re starting off strong is an understatement. Christina Lauren — the pen name for collaborators Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings — are the queens of romance, and this is by far their best work yet. Combining second chance romance with childhood lovers, the book alternates between the past and present. It explores how main characters Macy Sorensen and Elliot Petropoulos grow from neighbors to friends to lovers and, ultimately, strangers, until a chance reunion years later changes everything. Lauren knows exactly how to tug on your heartstrings, and there’s no one you’ll fall in love with faster than Macy and Elliot. 

Book Lovers – Emily Henry

Speaking of authors who are carrying the romance novel industry on their shoulders, Emily Henry has been killing it since she released the instant bestseller “Beach Read.” She’s since written “People We Meet on Vacation” and, now, “Book Lovers,” which stars the uptight literary agent Nora Stephens. After years of crafting heroes in her clients’ manuscripts and neglecting her own happily-ever-after, Nora moves to a small town to change her luck, but keeps running into a brooding and curt editor who she can never manage to get along with. Surprise! It’s the classic enemies-to-lovers trope. Come on, you secretly love it.

Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

This one’s been the talk of the town since it came out in 2019, but, in case you haven’t read it, this is your (slightly unfriendly) reminder to. In this gripping and swoon-worthy queer romance, the United States’ First Son, Alex, is forced to fake a friendship with his nemesis, Prince Henry, for PR’s sake, but their relationship evolves into a messy romance and a secret relationship they must learn to navigate under the limelight. Is a plot centered around royalty slightly pretentious? Yes. But will Alex and Henry’s sizzling chemistry and witty banter make you have to stop mid-sentence so you can scream into your pillow? Absolutely.

Loathe to Love You – Ali Hazelwood

For all the STEM majors out there, this one’s for you. Also, if you thought that there wouldn’t be any more enemies-to-lovers books here, you were sorely mistaken, because Hazelwood gives us not one, but three of them. The book is a collection of the novellas “Under One Roof,” “Stuck with You” and “Below Zero,” which are all told from the perspectives of women climbing the corporate ladder. If you’ve read Hazelwood’s “The Love Hypothesis” and “Love on the Brain,” you’re more than aware that Hazelwood knows how to write the perfect slow-burn. If you’re not familiar with her, you’re in for a ride.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz

The moving coming-of-age novel is a little bit of a departure from the easy-read romance, but more than worth the read. In the moving Stonewall Awards winner, reserved and introverted Ari’s life is flipped on its head when he meets the outspoken, easy-to-love Dante. Over the course of several years, they develop a special friendship that forces Ari to either confront himself and his sexuality or run away from the potential to love. The way Sáenz explores identity and coming into your own in the face of adulthood is breathtaking and shows us that love must be found within ourselves before it’s found with another. 

The Soulmate Equation – Christina Lauren

Since we started with Christina Lauren, it only feels right to end with one of her newer books. “The Soulmate Equation” is one of the more unique plots seen in romance and a complete breath of fresh air. Lauren’s lighthearted yet soulful writing sucks you in immediately to the world of protagonist, Jess Davis, who believes in numbers more than the probability of finding love. Everything changes when she decides to give dating one last shot through GeneticAlly — the new-and-in DNA-based matchmaking app and the only thing she trusts to help her find her soulmate. Little does she know, she’s about to have a near impossible compatibility of 98% with the man she hates most … and the founder of GeneticAlly. With twists and turns, you can rely on Lauren to deliver a steaming one-sitter that’s near-impossible to put down.