Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and many are relieved to have escaped a holiday seemingly manufactured by greeting card companies to encourage couples to buy each other cards and flowers and to encourage singles to eat an excessive amount of chocolate. While it is typically viewed as a time for celebrating romantic love, the month of February can also be a reminder to show appreciation for family or platonic loved ones. Here are three books that showcase all kinds of love, ensuring that all readers, single or taken, can feel enamored February and beyond.
“A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles
Amor Towles’ bestselling historical fiction “A Gentleman in Moscow” is a delightfully sweet, comforting novel showcasing how friendships can make any situation bearable and any life meaningful. At the novel’s outset, protagonist Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to permanent house arrest in the Metropol Hotel by a Bolshevik court that deems him an unrepentant aristocrat.
While the Count struggles to find hope or purpose at the beginning of his sentence to a life of mundanity and monotony, an unlikely friendship with a precocious young girl, Nina, shows him how to find fun and adventure in his seemingly dull circumstances. As Nina cannot stay at the hotel forever, after her departure, the Count makes new friendships — both fleeting and long-lasting — with hotel staff, residents and guests that give his life purpose.
Towles loads every chapter with charming descriptions and meaningful interactions between the Count and the various other characters that come and go in the Metropol. Filled to the brim with friendship in all its forms, “A Gentleman in Moscow” celebrates the life-changing significance of the kind of love that is often easy to forget during a month so synonymous with traditional emblems of romance.
“If We Were Villains” by M.L. Rio
If Valentine’s Day left you feeling a bit moody, this book might be more up your alley. A quintessential dark academia novel, M.L. Rio’s “If We Were Villains” tells the story of Oliver Marks — an inmate at the end of a 10-year prison sentence for murder — as he confesses to the officer on his case what really happened a decade prior. The main storyline follows a younger Oliver and six fellow actors studying Shakespeare alongside him at an elite arts academy. Together, the seven of them navigate close friendship, romance and a competitive rivalry with one another that ultimately turns deadly.
In spite of the murderous undercurrent present from the novel’s beginning, Rio’s main focus throughout the novel is the fierce bonds that Oliver and his classmates maintain with one another and the ability of these bonds to endure even through increasing competitive aggression and personal challenges. With steamy kisses, fierce friendships, a murder mystery and plenty of Shakespeare, “If We Were Villains” offers something for every type of lover this February.
“The Sun is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon
“The Sun is Also a Star,” a young adult romance novel from the author of “Everything, Everything,” is a love-at-first-sight romance with a twist. At the novel’s opening, Natasha — a Jamaican immigrant and determined realist — reveals that she and her family are set to be deported at the end of the day. When the novel switches perspectives, Korean-American poet Daniel sees Natasha walking down the streets of New York City and knows instantly that she will change his life. Natasha initially resists Daniel’s advances, knowing she has less than a day to be with him, but his charm and enthusiasm wear down her cynicism.
While “The Sun is Also a Star” has plenty of sweet and swoon-worthy romance, it also tackles important issues like racism and immigration that are just as relevant to Americans today as they were when Yoon published the book in 2016, especially during Black History Month. Even for readers not looking for romance this February, “The Sun is Also a Star” offers food for thought that pairs nicely with one — or several — pieces of chocolate.