Valentine’s Day, Singles Awareness Day, Completely Contrived Hallmark Holiday … whatever you call February 14, it’s coming! And, fortunately or not, that means love is in the air. Celebrate the trials and tribulations of love this month with one of these non-traditional romance novels. They’ve been rounded up by our favorite member of the literary glitteratti, our Literature Corespondent Megan. She has read love stories of all kinds, so expect equal parts schmaltz, excitement, heartache and true romance from her list.
Warning though; Not all these “love stories” have happy endings. But you’ll have to read them to find out! So much for your happy ending…
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Le Cirque des Rêves appears at night, with no warning. Its exhibits are magical, gorgeous, out of this world … and behind it all is a gripping, star-crossed love story between two rival magicians’ apprentices: Celia and Marco.
Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo
In 1980s Nigeria, Yejide and Akin have been married for several years but have no children. When their families pressure Akin to take a second wife, the problems in their marriage are exacerbated, and Yejide takes desperate measures to have a child.
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
In a world where roses grow from wrists and pumpkins inspire utter fear, Sam paints and hangs moons for his best friend, Miel. But when a family of sisters rumored to be witches set their sights on Miel’s roses, they threaten to expose the secrets behind Sam and Miel’s relationship.
Peony in Love by Lisa See
In 17th-century China, young Peony meets a handsome man and immediately falls in love. When she discovers her family has already arranged a marriage for her, she falls ill with “lovesickness” and dies. This is only the beginning of Peony’s story, however, as she watches her lover continue his life from her place in the ghost world. You will learn much about Chinese traditions and beliefs regarding the afterlife from reading this book, which I found to be the most interesting parts.
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
“Ugly and wonderful” is right. This book is hard to read, but harder to put down. Wavy is the daughter of meth dealers, living in the Midwest and trying to take care of her younger brother in the absence of any responsible adult. When she befriends a man who works for her father, their relationship is questioned by people both near and far from them.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
In Oprah’s latest book club selection, newlywed Roy is arrested for a crime his wife, Celestial, knows he did not commit. But he is tried and sentenced to 12 years anyway. This exploration of American justice (or lack thereof) in the context of a fledgling marriage makes this new novel a must-read in 2018.
My Name is Memory, Ann Brashares
This is a love story unlike any other—one that repeats for thousands of years as the protagonist, Daniel, is reborn into new lives, always seeking the same girl. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have Daniel’s “memory,” so in each new life, she doesn’t know he exists. Can he find her, explain their history, and have her love him back?
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
This modern classic is part magical realism, part forbidden romance, and part cookbook. Tita is bound by tradition to never marry so she can care for her aging mother, so when her lover marries Tita’s older sister instead, flames spark (sometimes quite literally).
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
In this modern retelling of Antigone, Isma moves from London to America to attend school, where she meets the son of a prominent British politician. When he eventually meets Isma’s beautiful younger sister, Aneeka, politics and family secrets become an unavoidable part of their relationship. (Also, wouldn’t this book cover look great on your Instagram feed? Just sayin’….)
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Twins Noah and Jude both have love interests in this young adult novel, but the book is more about their relationship to each other as they experience family changes, grow up, and explore their individual personalities and talents as artists.
And honorable mention goes to…
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Finally, who says love has to be romantic? For an excellent novel about the nuances of female friendship, pick up Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn. This novel (her first book for adults in 20 years) tells the story of four young friends growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970s, and you may very well find yourself finishing this compact yet powerful story in one sitting.