Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
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SALT LAKE CITY — The exact origin of Valentine’s Day is unknown, but there are several speculations surrounding a man known as St. Valentine. One of the more obscure legends claims that the heroic and generous saint was imprisoned for helping Christians escape the horrors of Roman prisons.
While in jail, the saint received a visit from a beautiful young girl, supposedly the jailer’s daughter, and he fell hopelessly in love. Valentine was to be put to death, a martyr for his cause. But before his last day, he wrote the girl a love letter and signed it with the now famous line, “From your Valentine.” This very first valentine letter is said to be the origin of the traditions of Valentine’s Day, which now includes more than 150 million letters sent each year.
Despite the question of its validity, I can’t think of a more deliciously tragic story to inspire a legacy of love and romance. So in honor of St. Valentine's love story and to celebrate the month of love, here are four romantic books, just as beautiful and some as achingly sad as the patron saint’s own story.
1. “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” With this haunting first sentence, the second Mrs. Maxium de Winter begins her tragic story of romance and mystery. Married young to a husband she barely knows, the new bride is forced to live in the shadow of the life of the first Mrs. De Winter, the beautiful Rebecca.
“Rebecca” is romantic suspense at its very best and one of my favorite gothic novels. Truly unforgettable.
2. “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger
This novel is brilliant. Author Audrey Niffenegger masterfully weaves a timeless romance with the intrigue of science fiction’s classic conundrum, time travel. Henry and Clare are caught in the turmoil of Henry’s “condition” as he pops uncontrollably in and out of time. Switching point of view between the two lovers, Niffenegger creates incredibly vivid characters, a heart-breaking love story and a fresh, unique book.
Content note: occasional foul language and a few descriptive sex scenes.
3. “Love Walked In” by Marisa de los Santos
This blissful story is about all the love — friendship, romantic and familial — that makes us human. With poetic prose and references to the fabulous old Hollywood movies, “Love Walked In” is a pure pleasure to read. I’ve read it twice and loved it both times. Cornelia and Clare’s interwoven stories of love and self-discovery are the perfect book to snuggle up with this Valentine’s.
Content note: occasional foul language.
(For a fabulous love-themed book club and classic movie night inspired by this book, check out my latest Studio 5 Book Club Segment)
4. “The Sugar Queen” by Sarah Addison Allen
Reading this book is like enjoying a delicious Valentine’s Day dessert. Sarah Addison Allen has an astonishing gift for descriptions and metaphors. Her words are like decadent treats, one savory morsel after another. This love story, appropriately set in winter, includes the startling power of the color red, books that appear when needed and passion that can make eggs fry. As warm and pleasing as brownies fresh from the oven, this book is delectable.
Content note: occasional foul language, a descriptive, tasteful sex scene and some sexual references.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Book Calendar- For the Love of Reading Conference: Feb. 17-18, Zermat Resort, Midway, Utah. Top literary experts and authors will present for parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians. Visit the website for more info and to register.
- Westminster College: Hosting a lecture with author Anthony Appiah, Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m.
- Timpanogos Storytelling Conference: BYU will host the conference, Feb. 9-11. To register and for more info, visit the website.
- The King's English Bookshop: Semiannual sale, Feb. 9-12 and hosting several author events. Visit the shop's website for all the info.
- Deseret Book: Author Shannon Hale signings, Feb. 11, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., 754 N. Main, Layton and Feb. 11, 2-2:30 p.m., 135 N. 545 West, Salt Lake City.
- Teen Author Boot Camp: Now accepting registrations for youth ages 13-19 years. Conference is March 10, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at Utah Valley University. Registration is $39 before Feb. 11 and $49 after.
- Weller Book Works: One World, Many Stories event featuring local residents with stories in the book, Feb. 18, 3 p.m. For more info and more events, visit the store's website.
- Dolly's Bookstore: Hositng several author events. Visit the store's website for all the info.
Teri Harman writes and reads from home amid the chaos of three young children. Her bi-weekly column, Book Matters, appears on ksl.com and in the Deseret News. For more book fun, visit book- matters.com.*