There can be a lot of pressure surrounding Valentine’s Day. Roses, frantic restaurant reservations, The Notebook on every channel. Let’s take out the drama, and simply do the things we love with the people that matter most. Whether that’s tucking into a home-cooked meal with a partner, calling a relative, or spending a delightful evening of self-care curled up with a decent story.
And if your plans do involve some candlelit reading (box of chocolates within easy reach), we have a few recommendations for the day. From the giddy rush of teenage romance to the rich bond between parent and child, from the affection we hold towards our friends to the love and acceptance we must remember to try and feel towards ourselves – here’s our round-up of books that celebrate love in all its forms.
The Phone Box at the Edge of the World – Laura Imai Messina (translated by Lucy Rand) (Manilla Press)
An unforgettable tale about the dark depths of grief and the eternal, uplifting nature of love. On a remote hill in Japan stands a disused phone-box, sought out by those who want to speak their secrets to the wind, and pass messages to loved ones no longer with us. It is here that Yui meets Takeshi – two bereaved souls at the start of a long journey out of despair. Don’t miss Messina’s startling book about the love we hold for those we’ve lost and for those we’re yet to meet.
Excuse me while I Ugly Cry – Joya Goffney (Hot Key Books)
Hilarious and heartfelt, Joya Goffney’s acclaimed debut has sizzling secrets and red-hot chemistry to burn. Quinn keeps lists of everything – all the things she’d never admit aloud. When this journal goes missing – and an anonymous online account begins to blackmail her – she must partner with the classmate she loathes above all others to track it down. A sweet slowburn YA romance that celebrates the power of being your authentic self, and the joy when it is recognised by another.
Prince and Knight – Daniel Haack (illustrated by Stevie Lewis) (Studio Press)
Once upon a time there lived a charming prince. When a fearsome dragon threatens the kingdom, a brave knight steps forward to protect its people. Could this be the prince’s one true love? A modern fairy-tale and a joyfully-depicted queer romance for younger readers, brought to life by Stevie Lewis’ timeless illustration. Author Daniel Haack grew up wanting to “save the day and get the boy”. In the brilliant Prince and Knight, our hero does just that.
The Couple – Helly Acton (Zaffre)
“A romcom with a difference…” Helly Acton turns the genre on its head with a thought-provoking twist on the old format. In Millie’s society, being single is the norm. No awkward questions about her love-life, no lost evenings scrolling through apps. But when she is partnered with Ben and tasked with launching a revolutionary new pill that prevents you from falling in love, tricky new feelings rise to the surface.
Love is… – Lily Murray (illustrated by Sarah Maycock) (Big Picture Press)
You’ll want to frame every page of this stunning title. A collection of animal similes that salutes love in its many different forms, including the strong bond between parents and their children and the oft-neglected importance of self-love. Packed full of nuzzling tigers, cuddling pandas and peacocks proudly flouting their plumage; Sarah Maycock’s illustrations are so expressive they’ll leap from the page and into your heart.
The Little Things – Emma Dodd (Templar Publishing)
One more for nature lovers! A giant panda and its adorable cub discover the importance of helping others. A colourful new book from the international bestseller Emma Dodd, The Little Things celebrates the bond between parent and child, and the power in smiling at a stranger or giving a friend a hug. This isn’t a romance, but rather a celebration of love in its simplest forms, and how those unsung acts of everyday kindness can make the biggest difference.
Rachel Ryan’s Resolutions – Laura Starkey (Embla Books)
Rachel Ryan is sure this will be her year. But come February, her career is in chaos and her life is falling apart around her. Boasting a fiery, frequently hilarious protagonist, Starkey’s sparkling debut is a romcom that deftly navigates through the hangovers, nightmare jobs and awkward romantic entanglements of late-twenties/early-thirties life and delivers a relatable romance that is unafraid to tug at the heartstrings too.
The Last Library – Freya Sampson (Zaffre)
Freya Sampson’s tender novel pays tribute to our one true love here at BBUK: books. What we read can reveal plenty about us. Reclusive library assistant June has learnt lots about the regulars at Chalcot Library, yet remains a mystery to many. But when the library is threatened with closure, she must reach out to this ragtag bunch of readers and fight for its future. The Last Library is a big-hearted tribute to the importance of community, with strong intergenerational friendships at its centre.
Honeymoon for One – Rachel Bowdler (Embla)
Christmas might be in the rear-view mirror, but we always have time for a sparkling, heartwarming festive romance perfect for these long winter nights! A broken engagement. A non-refundable honeymoon. And a standoffish ski instructor who captures Robin’s heart. This is a Christmas Robin and Neve will never forget… Rachel Bowdler’s debut is a gorgeous sapphic romance under the starry Canadian skies.