This Valentine's Day, Make A Date With A Book Sure, it's great to celebrate love, but why not escape all the relationship pressures, buy yourself some chocolate and make a date with a good romance novel? Here are five our our all-time favorites.
NPR logo This Valentine's Day, Make A Date With A Book

This Valentine's Day, Make A Date With A Book

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Happy Valentine's Day!
gregchu/Getty Images/500px

Well, Valentine's Day is upon us, and whether or not you're in love, I think we can all agree that sometimes the pressure to be in a relationship, or celebrate the fact that you're in one, can get a little ... less than delightful.

So whatever your status may be (it's complicated, isn't it?) it's a good day to make a hot date with a book. Me, I'm planning to curl up with one of my all-time favorites, Joanna Bourne's The Black Hawk, because Adrian Hawkhurst— in all his sardonic, skinny, floppy-black-haired glory — is pretty much every guy I ever crushed on in high school and college and ummmmm maybe adulthood too. And in that vein, I asked some of our reviewers and Romancelandia pals to talk about their favorite book dates. So pour yourself the beverage of your choice, and settle in for some good old fashioned Happily Ever Afters!

Romancing Mister Bridgerton

by Julia Quinn

Paperback, 408 pages, Avon, $5.99, published November 24 2015 | purchase

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Romancing Mister Bridgerton
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Julia Quinn

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The number of romance novels I have read is vast; the number I have reread again and again is about five. One of those is Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. Penelope Featherington has been in love with Colin Bridgerton since forever. Their first meeting is a thrilling, breathtaking affair (it involves the wind, her bonnet and his fall from a horse). And then years pass, in which Colin never really takes note of Penelope, who's a friend of his younger sister. In fact, no one ever really notices Penelope — which means that she can get away with some pretty outrageous stuff (no spoilers!) and that when Colin finally does notice her (and oh, he does!) it truly is thrilling and breathtaking. (Full disclosure: Julia Quinn and I are both Avon authors.)

-- Maya Rodale

Maya Rodale is a best-selling romance author. Her new book is Duchess by Design.

The Unleashing

by Shelly Laurenston

Paperback, 406 pages, Kensington , $7.99, published February 23 2016 | purchase

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The Unleashing
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Shelly Laurenston

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This Valentine's Day, I invite you to join me in hanging out with your sister Crows. The women of Shelly Laurentston's Call of Crows series are reborn into a second life as warriors for the Norse goddess Skuld, and they're here for battles, sword fights, rescue dogs, romances, and let's not forget: burning everything down. These second lives are like a superpowered do-over, and you might ask as I did, what do I want in my life right now? It's a big question. Watching the reborn Crows decide put their desires first is hella inspiring. The Crows squabble and fight, but without hesitation they have one another's backs when it matters most. Who is in your sisterhood of tenacious, unquestionable support? Maybe invite them over and give them a copy of volume 1, The Unleashing. This fierce mix of Norse mythology and adventure, set in a campy, violent, and inclusive world is perfect for a night in with wine, and possibly a sword. If you have one lying around, which of course you do.

-- Sarah Wendell

Sarah Wendell is one of the founders of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and the author of Everything I Know About Love, I Learned From Romance Novels.

The Hating Game

by Sally Thorne

Paperback, 374 pages, HarperCollins, $14.99, published August 9 2016 | purchase

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The Hating Game
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Sally Thorne

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As someone who loves enemies-to-lovers romances (and comedies!), I always use The Hating Game as my standard. Lucy Hutton and Josh Templeman have such a fun and fiery relationship, and – at the risk of sounding too lovesick – Josh's penetrating blue eyes and charm can make me forget about men in real life.

Lucy and Josh are polar opposites, except in their seemingly mutual hatred, and their shared goal: a promotion at the book publishing house where they both work (and an equal balance of power to boot). We all know love and hate go together in a rom-com, but Thorne's tense yet sensual build-up to Lucy and Josh's inevitable union – with heaps of punchy banter – locks us into the story and turns the outside world into a blur of romantic platitudes. This whip-smart, feel-good romance has all of the stomach butterflies and natural sweetness of a solid love story, and unlike a box of chocolates, it won't give you cavities.

-- Kamrun Nesa

Kamrun Nesa is a freelance writer based in New York. Her work has been featured in Bustle, HelloGiggles, PopSugar, BookBub, RT Book Reviews, and Alloy. She also contributes to USA Today's Happy Ever After romance blog.

A Discovery of Witches

by Deborah Harkness

Paperback, 579 pages, Penguin Group USA, $16, published December 27 2011 | purchase

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A Discovery of Witches
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Deborah Harkness

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A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness, is a richly crafted tale of witches, vampires, daemons, history, and oh, yes — romance.

On date night, I could see myself in Oxford's Bodleian Library, thumbing through a volume of some ancient text, waiting for Matthew Clairmont, our handsome vampire love interest.

Clairmont is a genuine man of all seasons, well-traveled, debonair, and wise, as you might expect of a 1500-year-old man. He's also still pretty — despite that advanced age! — and extremely protective, and he craves the heroine.

Diana Bishop is his perfect match. She is a historian, a witch, and her forbidden love for Clairmont drives her heroine's journey, along with the awakening of her magical powers.

Bishop and Clairmont's origin stories feel unique, an excellent introduction to a new kind of restrained-but-alluring vampire and some outstanding witch powers. And a man with that much control of his desire for Diana — remember how I mentioned craving? — is powerfully seductive.

-- Denny S. Bryce

Denny S. Bryce is an aspiring author of historical fiction and urban fantasy/paranormal romance. She also is a reviewer for NPR Books and Washington Independent Review of Books, and a contributor to FROLIC Media. You can follow her on Twitter @dennysbryce