Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and what better way to get in the spirit of love than to curl up with a new rom-com book? And with today's rom-coms, the old trope of boy-meets-girl isn't the only kind of relationship taking place between the (book) covers.
In this month's roundup, USA TODAY staff review books that revolve around an LGBTQ couple with polar-opposite personalities, two people who find love while overcoming grief and a look at Black love in all of its dimensions. There’s also an updated take on “Romeo and Juliet” where tacos feature significantly – who could resist?
Here are February's most exciting rom-com reads:
'Black Love Matters: Real Talk on Romance, Being Seen, and Happily Ever Afters'
By Jessica P. Pryde. ★★★ (out of four). Out now.
Black people falling in love and getting their happily ever after is just one reason why “Black Love Matters” is a necessary read. Pryde’s debut book “Black Love Matters” isn’t just an intersectional anthology, it’s a love letter to Black people past, present and future. Featuring essays from bestselling romance authors such as Beverly Jenkins and Jasmine Guillory, along with essays from Pryde, academics and librarians, readers get a broad look at why love between Black people is important. And it’s not just in terms of romantic relationships. Black romance is hope, but it’s also so much more. It’s a promise and a means of liberation for a people who were never meant to survive. In a world full of intense hatred, “Black Love Matters” is one form of resistance we all need. – Mabinty Quarshie
'Ramón and Julieta'
by Alana Quintana Albertson. ★★★ (out of four). Out now
Like William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, young lovers Ramón Montez and Julieta Campos' families are in a feud. Unlike the doomed love story by the bard, this far-less-tragic tale revolves around not just a generationslong feud but fish tacos. A particular fish taco recipe, to be precise. Ramón's family owns Taco King and are restaurateurs of the fast-food variety. Julieta is a chef whose family's recipe for fish tacos was stolen many years ago by Ramón's father. The couple first meets at a Day of the Dead celebration, both in costume, not knowing who the other is until later. Albertson writes a sweet and sassy tale of young lovers caught between their wants and their obligations which results in a page-turning tale that will surely touch the reader's heart. – Mary Cadden
‘Count Your Lucky Stars’
By Alexandria Bellefleur. ★★★★ (out of four). Out now.
Ten years after parting ways with her best friend and lover Margot, Olivia finds herself recently divorced and starting over. She’s building her career in Seattle when she gets assigned to plan a lavish wedding – for some of Margot’s best friends. Upon reuniting, it’s instantly clear that none of Margot and Olivia’s attraction to one another has faded, and when Olivia’s apartment suddenly becomes uninhabitable, Margot does the only rational thing and invites Olivia to become her roommate. Tension ensues! Margot and Olivia are a perfect grumpy/sunshine pairing. The chemistry between them is palpable immediately and ramps up throughout the book; Bellefleur doesn’t shy away from letting her heroines yearn for one another, which is a delight. This is the third book in the "Written in the Stars" series from Bellefleur. I loved how this book put Margot’s friends (and their budding friendship with Olivia) directly in the action. The genuine investment Margot’s friends had in her happiness made the happy ending all the sweeter. – Madison Durham
'Lease on Love'
By Falon Ballard. ★★★ (out of four). Out now.
If you can look past the first cringe-worthy, millennial-reference-laden page (and really chapter) of "Lease on Love," you'll be in for a fun and light read. The book follows a less-traditional romance. Sadie, who loses her job in finance after a needed – and deserved – promotion goes to her former boss's son-in-law. Luck turns in her favor when she moves in with Jack, a guy she matches with on a roommate-finding app. The story is a slow burn as Sadie develops feelings for Jack, who is patently not her type. Ballard intersperses the book with text conversations (emojis and all) between Sadie and Jack, as well as her group conversation with her friends, that make readers feel like they're really part of the story. When Sadie and Jack's feelings for one another are finally realized, you can't help but celebrate alongside the characters. – Lindsey Vickers
'Text For You'
By Sofie Cramer. ★★★½ (out of four). Out now.
"Text For You" ditches the traditional girl-meets-boy love story for something raw and honest. Clara is learning how to navigate the world after Ben, her beloved yet bad choice of a future husband, dies. Sven is finding it difficult to connect with the world after his girlfriend ends their relationship. But then, due to a technological hiccup, Sven starts receiving Clara’s sentimental texts to her deceased fiance. Her melancholy tone intrigues Sven just enough to dust a little funk off his shoulders and go solve the mystery of his widow texter – and Clara has no idea what awaits. What follows is a heartfelt, compassionate journey about the messy but real side of love. Stock up on tissues. – Joanna Nelius
'Not the Witch You Wed'
By April Asher. ★★★ ½ (out of four). Out now.
"Not The Witch You Wed" transports the reader to an alternate New York City where paranormal creatures have come out of the shadows and integrated into society. Leading lady Violet Maxwell is a magic-less witch who gets caught in a fake dating scheme with wolf shifter Lincoln Thorne, bucking archaic supernatural mating requirements. The situation is extra tense because Lincoln broke Violet's heart when they were teenagers. As if things weren’t chaotic enough, Violet's powers begin to emerge after 32 years, and they aren’t easy to control. This is a fun read. Lincoln is hot, but unlike some romance heroes, he is also a genuinely good guy. The book does a great job working in dialogue on consent alongside its sex scenes. The love story is predictable, but that is made up for by fun world-building, supernatural political intrigue and light-hearted humor. – Sara Tabin
'One Night on the Island'
By Josie Silver. ★★★★ (out of four). Out now.
This rom-com is filled with unexpected twists and engaging details and has a truly heart-lifting ending. It begins with Chloe, a columnist who wants to get a new perspective on her work and a bit of solitude and books a vacation on a remote island. Mac, who lives in Boston, also wants solitude and books a vacation on the same island, accidentally in the same one-room cabin, and the two end up having to stay together for a couple of days. That's the beauty of this novel: It is often in the most unexpected places we find friendship and warmth. It also takes a unique approach to exploring what solitude means and gives a fresh perspective on romantic relationships in modern-day life. With the hustle and bustle of work, family and friendships, it is not often that we get to escape to our own reality. – Sudiksha Kochi
'Delilah Green Doesn't Care'
By Ashley Herring Blake. ★★★★ (out of 4). Out now.
Take a rebellious New York lesbian, throw her in the small town she grew up in, and she's bound to cause a ruckus. But fall for her sister's best friend? "Delilah Green Doesn't Care" does exactly that, with a little more nuance. There's family drama, trauma, childhood memories, love, romance, diverse relationships between not just the main couple, but everyone in the book, that'll have you on the edge of your seat. The novel also does a great job of inputting a queer love story in the middle of an enticing read. While many others in the genre tend to mostly focus solely on the individual relationship, this book focuses on all the little details surrounding a truly successful relationship in the making. – Melissa Rorech
Also this month
"Good Girl Complex," by Elle Kennedy (Out now). People pleaser Mackenzie "Mac" Cabot wants to focus on her internet business, but at her parents' insistence, she needs to get a college degree. So she heads to the beachside town of Avalon Bay to attend Garnet College and meets local bad boy Cooper Hartley, who changes everything.
"Lockdown on London Lane," by Beth Reekles (Out now). When the inhabitants of a building are notified that they will be under quarantine for the next several days, some relationships and friendships blossom while others are tested.
"I'm So (Not) Over You," by Kosoko Jackson (Out now). Aspiring journalist Kian Andrews has not heard from his ex-boyfriend Hudson Rivers for months. Then he gets an urgent text from Hudson asking Kian to pretend to be his boyfriend again at an upcoming family wedding. Will old feelings lead to a new start?
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rom-coms: February's most delightful new romance novels