It’s that time of year again, folks. Heart-shaped everything, red roses on backorder and the realization that it’s definitely too late now to break up with anyone you’re on the fence about without looking like a schmuck. (Sorry! But you know I’m right!) 

And maybe it’s because I’m not a fan of the conventional and ordinary, or maybe it’s because I honestly think love shouldn’t be limited to a day or a month or even a season, but I’ve been thinking a lot about love stories that don’t actually look like traditional love stories at first glance. Maybe your love language — like Gary Chapman proposed in his renowned book The Five Love Languages — is affirmation or service or touch, or maybe your love language is cooking or shopping. But my love language is and always has been … connection through story. 

To that end, there have been a handful of books I’ve discovered over the past few months, which I picked up for various reasons, having nothing to do with love (or so I thought!), but I quickly found my heart tugged and pulled and reshaped and filled up by what I discovered — by the stories. And frankly, you guys, if that’s not love, what is?

Eating Italy
by Jeff Michaud

This gorgeous coffee-table cookbook was written by James Beard Award-winning chef and restauranteur Jeff Michaud. Originally, I picked it up to peruse the recipes after a delicious meal at Michaud’s newest Philadelphia restaurant, Via Locusta. I quickly discovered, however, that the recipes are interspersed with Michaud’s stories of travel through Italy during a formative time in his career, including the meeting and courting of his wife, Claudia. Part travel log and part quest for the perfect truffle recipe, this cookbook has quickly become one of my all-time favorite love stories.

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Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology
Edited by Zibby Owens

This anthology is a potpourri of stories about topics ranging from working out to sex to breathing. Compiled by award-winning podcast host and book influencer Zibby Owens, the project is a tribute to motherhood and, in particular, to her mother-in-law, who lost her battle with COVID-19 in 2020. (Owens has pledged all proceeds from the anthology to a COVID-19 research program in her name.) With contributions from screenwriter and author Lea Carpenter, actress Evangeline Lilly, bestselling authors Gretchen Rubin and Chris Bohalian, just to name a few, this collection will soothe your heart and help you feel heard for the first time since the pandemic started — maybe even longer.

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Yellow Wife
by Sadeqa Johnson

While this book has been on many most-anticipated and most-buzzed-about lists — and deservedly so — you might not realize it’s actually a gorgeous, poignant story about making tremendous sacrifices in the name of love. I can’t say enough about this historical fiction debut by Johnson, and you should definitely add it to your list of love stories to read this month and beyond.

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Tiny Imperfections 
by Alli Frank and Asha Youmans

Can a book that explores entitlement and elitism in American education circles, while also addressing issues of race, class and gender, also be a love story? You bet. Written by two long-time friends, and often described as The Devil Wears Prada meets Class Mom, Tiny Imperfections takes on all of these topics with hilarity and grace and will leave you more satisfied than that same old heart-shaped box of chocolates, I promise! (Watch BookTrib’s interview with the authors here.)

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Not My Boy
by Kelly Simmons

At first glance, this new suspense novel is the story of two sisters and their mother as they navigate complicated relationships while their suburban town investigates a local girl’s disappearance. But it’s so much more than that. A story of fear and grief and the fierce, protective love between mother and child, this love-story-that-you-wouldn’t-know-is-a-love-story will grab a hold of your heart from its opening chapter. (Read also Nicole Baart’s review here.)

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One Life
by Megan Rapinoe

This beautiful memoir by Megan Rapinoe, a professional soccer player with FIFA World Cup Championship and Olympic gold medal accolades to her name, reveals the intimate and brave story behind her journey to become the woman, athlete and advocate she is today. It’s a love letter to the sport of soccer, the quest for authenticity, and ultimately, to the joyful embracing of life itself. Honestly, it’s the love story you didn’t even know you needed this Valentine’s Day.

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