As a publisher of romance, we feel beholden to provide some good, juicy picks for a Valentine’s Day read. It’s like the law or something. A law that is self-imposed. And that doesn’t really exist.
Anyway, without further ado, here are our picks for a go-to romance novel this Valentine’s weekend:
Sarah’s Pick: Pestilence (The Four Horsemen Book 1) by Laura Thalassa
Best For Those Who Think Love Stinks
God bless Kindle Unlimited. This gem of a book is lurking around on their pages, and it is probably one of the better reads you will find available via the source. The writing is snappy, the jokes actually land, and the story is…unique.
The premise of this post-apocalyptic novel is that the horsemen of the apocalypse have arrived on Earth, with Pestilence doing his thing in North America. Firefighter Sarah takes a very Fahrenheit 451 approach to her work and sets Pestilence on fire, hoping to save the world and those she cares about. But of course that does not succeed. That would be too short of a book, even for Kindle Unlimited. So Pestilence does his Old Testament thing and decides to severely punish Sarah for what she tried to do to him. This punishment involves (a) forcing her to come with him so she has to witness him spreading his puss-filled, feverish, slow killing sickness; and (b) physically abusing her in ways that even Christian Grey might deem “a bit much.”
Naturally, they fall in love. Cute, right?
If this isn’t the love story of your dreams, then I truly don’t know what you want.
Despite being so problematic that it makes my head spin, this book does manage to keep you hooked. It manages to avoid a lot of classic romance tropes and narrative arcs while showing true, and refreshingly realistic, character growth across the board.
So, while this book may be best for those of you that want firm evidence this Valentine’s Day that love isn’t always flowery, perfect, or even worth it, you aren’t going to be stuck with a bad read if you pick up Pestilence this February 14th.
As an added bonus, if you want something that reads like Dothraki fan-fiction, you can check out the sequel to this work, War. Personally, I did not find this one to be as good as Pestilence. It was far more predictable and relied on some of the tropes that Pestilence beautifully steered away from. But at least you can give your fanfiction.net account a break for the day.
Brit’s Pick: Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
Best for Those Who Love a Brooding Hero
Full disclosure, I am a Lisa Kleypas mega-fan. Whenever Lisa has a new book coming out, I hit that presale button as soon as humanly possible. However, for my Valentine’s pick I’m going to throw it way back.
First published in 1994, Dreaming of You is one of Lisa’s earlier works, but friends, it holds up. Set in Victorian-era London, it’s the story of a country spinster who stumbles into trouble while researching her latest novel and saves the life of notorious Cockney casino owner Derek Craven. What ensues is an endearing and epic tale of a powerful, brooding man being undone by an unassuming woman.
WARNING: this book is very romantic. There is a 99.9% chance you will fall in love with Derek Craven. Embrace it. This Valentine’s Day do yourself a favor and fall in love with Derek Craven.
*Content warning: There is an attempted strangulation at one point. It is not an act of violence leveraged against the heroine, but it does affect a female character. You may want to skip if violence is a trigger for you.
Rigney’s Pick: The Unhoneymooners, by Christina Lauren
Best for Those New to the Genre/Enemies to Lovers fans
I have to confess that I am a little new to the romance genre game, and like Sarah I am prone to fall down many a Kindle Unlimited rabbit hole. Generally I find myself underwhelmed, yet sucked in, by okayish writing paired with incredible, outlandish plots. This is coming from a girl who read every single 50 Shades book (yes, including the ones from Christian’s perspective) because it angered me/made me laugh but I just had to know what happened–do you see what I mean here?
Anyway, with a little of Brit’s guidance I happened upon writing duo Christina Lauren, authors of the Beautiful series and the Sweet series. I have gone through each of those books, and while I also recommend them, they do lean a little toward the style of Kindle Unlimited books…lots of novellas and each character is pigeonholed, for the most part.
The book of theirs that I suggest you start this weekend however, is their 2019 book The Unhoneymooners, which is not currently part of a series and is probably the most commercial of their books to date. It follows Olive, unlucky in love unlike her twin sister Amelia, who is soon to be wed. Olive is the maid of honor, and our hero Ethan is set to be the best man in Amelia’s upcoming nuptials. One thing leads to another (no spoilers!!) and Olive finds herself stuck on a trip to Hawaii with Ethan, her sworn enemy. The book is light, easy to devour, and the characters are all genuinely likeable. Even better, the plot choices are realistic so if you’re not into romance books that could easily be turned into a soap opera, this is the book for you!
So there you have it–something a little mystical, something historical, and something very modern. Take your pick, or read all three, just report back to us on how you find them. Happy reading and happy Valentine’s Day!