For someone who's never been in a serious, earth-shattering, soul-binding in-real-life relationship, I know a great fictional romance like the back of my hand courtesy of the years spent on exile in fictional lands and fawning over book boyfriends as a combined result of the strict upbringing by my stereotypical Filipino mom™ who made sure I was never gonna have a boyfriend until I finish school (I love my mom btw), and my introverted personality that puts me in socially awkward situations, hence blocking any chances of having a romantic partner --- [dramatic pause] [side-eyes my annual three blog readers] [cues jopay on spotify] --- is this too relatable? should I go on? am I being too loud in here? if not, get off my page.
lol. just kidding.
Carry on whether you're single or not. I really don't care. In this economy and cultural climate, you do you. Be a serial monogamist, or stay single until cosmic fate does its magic and finds you the love that you yearn and deserve; or maybe, if you have the time to do so, you might just want to pick up these romantic book selections that I personally curated as a bookquet to fill the void of your broken heart or longing soul. Trust that this list doesn't include any of Colleen Hoover's works.
These selections are mostly adult picks, so to the young readers who happen to stumble on this list, I suggest adding these books to your TBR list and set them aside until you're in a formative state to read them.
For your [cold] Valentine's Day, here are my five favorite romance books to mess with your emotions:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Year after year, a variety of romance books hit the shelves and rise to the bestseller's list, yet not one has stood out to me as much as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. From the witty and charming words of Austen to Joe Wright's artful screen adaptation featuring the swoon-worthy hand flex™ scene improvised by Matthew Macfadyen's Darcy, the romance and soul of this book will remain infinitely resilient with grace as it endures the passage of time.
Alone With You in the Ether by Olivie Blake
Olivie Blake excels at writing characters who aren't easy to like but are interesting to read about and I think that's what drew me to her works: the realistic characterization of her protagonists and the intimate way she writes them.
Alone With You in the Ether is an exploration of love between two flawed people; a love that feels universal yet intimate --- one without an audience but genuine in the eyes of the other; a love between two fractured people whose broken pieces fit one another. It's heartachingly beautiful, sad, and hopeful all at once. This is the perfect read for the romantics who wish to be seen and loved by someone who truly understands them.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
At this point, I probably sound like a broken record given the number of times I have featured this book in my feed; yet a timeless classic such as Normal People deserves heaps of praises for its honesty.
Normal People is an intimate and complicated yet astute love story between two young people who understand each other and open themselves to moments of joy and vulnerability despite wading the world of adulthood while being gripped in existential anxiety --- it's a story that dwells on the philosophy of love, the art of finding one's self, and the nuance of navigating the wavering grounds of life.
Not many will love this for its unconventional writing style but you may always give it a try by watching its faithful screen adaptation featuring the award-winning performances of Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones.
The Six Deaths of the Saint by Alix Harrow
Life-changing, mind-altering, and simply one of the best short stories that speaks to the soul. The Six Deaths of the Saint is elegantly written in the second point-of-view, a perspective that was perfectly utilized by the author to capture the main character's yearning for love and recognition, supported with a simple plot imbued with themes such as power and glory essential to the development of its central characters.
Alix E. Harrow, the talented storyteller that she is, manages to emotionally capture and incapacitate readers with her prose in just under thirty pages. It's magical, heart-wrenching, and hopeful. I suggest sparing 30 minutes of your time to read this masterpiece.
(p.s. no physical copies of this short story exist; this is just a manip of the e-book's cover)
By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept
by Paulo Coelho
To cap off my Valentine recommendation list, Coelho's By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept was one of those books that I loved to reread as a teen. I'm not a huge fan of books about spirituality and religion, but I found this one perceptively nuanced.
A story about childhood sweethearts reuniting and finding love, forgiveness, and faith, with no unnecessary backstories or tedious histories of their past; just the two of them living in the moment and wading through the uncertainties of their future. It's purely character-driven and it heavily brims with religious (christian) and philosophical elements, but none of these thoroughly ruin the reading experience at all --- which for me, felt like watching a quiet but colorful indie film based on the imagery and prose used by Coelho.