I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.
—The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
Today my super-cute husband (who also knows how to make all sorts of household repairs and use power tools—swoon) and I celebrate our seventh wedding* anniversary. Since I am a big fan of True Love, I thought I’d round up a few of my favorite books about love to commemorate the day.
Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (YA)
I just re-read this book (I think I’m going to write about it soon, more a reflection than a review), and it was pure magic the second time around. Anna is an extremely relatable character for me, and Etienne is a flawed character in realistic ways. I love that the relationship between the two grows over the course of an entire school year, as they go from being casual friends, to best friends to something more. Because the book is set in Paris and the teens are more independent than in most YA novels, I totally bought that Anna and Etienne will be together for the long haul. This is a stand out for me for a number of reasons, but I think more than many young adult novels, it’s very adeptly explores the difference between teen infatuation and Big ‘L’ Love and the importance of friendship in successful romantic relationships.
The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder (YA)
For me, this is a perfect book about beginnings, including the magic of the beginning of a relationship that may be something special—it’s also my favorite Lisa Schroeder book, which is saying something because they are all a-freaking-mazing. Amber and Cade meet in a not-at-all-perfect moment in both their lives and, despite their mutual fears of uncertain futures that are in many ways out of their control. The nervous exhilaration in Amber’s first-person point-of-view is very relatable, and the free verse will suck you into the pair’s story of a chance meeting on the Oregon coast.
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (YA)
The Truth About Forever is my favorite Dessen, but this one is close behind. In this case, it’s all about Dexter and his unplanned, laid back style contrasting with Remy’s cynicism about all things love and romance. For some reason, this is the Dessen pairing that swept me up the most, probably because I started out thinking that Remy was fairly hopeless. There’s a fine line in YA romance between characters who help each other become better versions of themselves and characters who change one another at a cost and in This Lullaby, the former is done very, very well. I love how Dex helps Remy grow and shake off the trappings of her previous cynicism.
Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey (Adult)
I could have picked any of Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski novels for this list, but while Yours to Keep is my favorite story, I love Joe Kowalski the most—and not just because Laura planted the image in my head that Joe looks exactly like Kyle Chandler. Ahem. He’s as prickly and smart and creative. Keri is driven and smart and gutsy. I love that it’s a story of two people who’ve gone in totally different direction in their lives reuniting. I love that Joe and Keri have a shared history and that they have real obstacles they need to overcome. I also love that ATVing features prominently in Exclusively Yours. Ahem. It’s also full of great humor and compelling secondary storylines.
Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts
I could have included many of Nora’s 200 (!!!) books on this list, including the Chesapeake Bay series (I may be in the minority in that I love the ghost angle in all its fabulous WTFery), but I have such a soft sport for this newer (2011) release about smoke jumpers in Montana. I think it’s because I love that Rowan is a more capable firefighter than love interest Gulliver and she’s actually more of a badass than he is too. That’s not to say he isn’t tough and capable, but one of the reasons he likes her so much for the outset is that she’s so good at what she does. Their chemistry is marvelous and the setting stands out as quite distinctive.
Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James (Adult)
This book has so many elements that should piss me off, yet it works. This is a classic opposite attracts romance, classic-movie style. But it’s updated and contemporary. One of the things I love is that this is one of the few portrayals of a self-identified feminist that’s not offensive. While cliches abound in the story of lawyers Payton (the aforementioned feminist) and J.D. (privileged conservative), it works. The two engage in a serious office rivalry that includes a prank war—and I’m a sucker for a prank war. This is a great read if you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted story about finding love where it’s least expected.
Twenty Love Poems & a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda (Poetry)
One of the many moments I loved about the first book on this list, Anna and the French Kiss, is Etienne buying Anna this book of poems by Pablo Neruda. Why? Because a million years ago (okay, it’s actually more like 15), the aforementioned husband, then my boyfriend of just a couple months, bought me this wonderful book of poetry—the only book of poems I own, actually. This collection is beautiful and emotional and even though it was originally published in Spanish in 1924, it reads beautifully in English and still feels fresh. I have a special message for all you guys out there—buy this book as “just because” gift for that special lady in your life. Trust me.
Then love knew it was called love.
And when I lifted my eyes to your name,
suddenly your heart showed me my way.
*We got married in a courthouse for $25 cash in Santa Fe, New Mexico—I highly recommend this approach over the traditional shindig, as it saves time, money and stress.