How was your Valentine’s Day? From a literary standpoint, I mean.

Mine was a bust. 

Last year, February brought me Anna and the French Kiss (swoon!) and The Big Crunch (bittersweet swoon!). So this year, I went looking for more contemporary romance.

Read the last Bookshelves of Doom on the fantastic new book 'The Girls of No Return.'

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First, I picked up Heather Hepler’s Love? Maybe, a book about cynical Piper, a girl who Finds Love Where She Least Expects It. The problem? The characters all go through the motions of Falling in Love (or Realizing That They’ve Been In Love The Whole Time), but there’s no spark. No swoons, no squeals, no sighs, no zings, no whooshes, no stomach-dropping passion. The story begins, slowly walks its path and then, it ends. Full stop.

Oh, wait. Not exactly full stop. In addition to finding love, Piper Learns An Important Lesson About Life. I don’t know about you, but I always like my romances to come with a Big Ole Message.*

mad love Next, I read Suzanne Selfors’ Mad Love, which recently came out in paperback. I went into it with high hopes, as the premise suggested laughs—the daughter of an incapacitated romance author attempts to write a novel** so as to avoid a breach of contract suit—as well as romance. Heck, the heroine’s name is Alice Amorous, and Cupid himself—or at least, a guy who might be Cupid—is a character. There must be a few swoons in there somewhere, right?

Not so much. Selfors contrasts Cupid’s Arrow Love (desperately passionate, but ultimately empty) with Real Love (Errol’s life story; Alice’s burgeoning romance with a new boy in the neighborhood), but again, there’s not much of a spark. The problem with Love? Maybe is simple: it reads flat. The problem with Mad Love is very different, but also simple: it has so many threads*** that none of them feel satisfying. As none of them feel satisfying, there’s no opportunity to form an emotional connection. No emotional connection in a story about romance...well, that’s never a good thing.

And so, I come to the plea portion of this post: Somebody out there has to have read a Way Swoonworthy Contemporary YA Romance recently—I’ll take science fiction or fantasy or a historical if I must, but what I’m really craving is Straight Up Contemporary—if you’re that someone, GIVE ME A TITLE.

I’m begging you. Please. Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease. Make me swoon.


*Yes, I’m being sarcastic. And it’s possible that I’m being harsh, but I find Blatant Messaging offensive.

**Full disclosure: I was half-hoping for the YA version of My Angelica, which is hilarious and awesome, and lo these many years later, I still adore. So that may have (unfairly) added to my disappointment.

***Alice’s romance with Tony. Alice’s relationship with Errol. Errol’s relationship with the girls of Velvet’s Temple of Beauty. Alice’s feelings about her mother’s bipolar disorder, the consequences of hiding it from the world, and her fears that she will inherit it. Alice’s attempt to write a novel in three weeks. Realm’s blackmail plot. Realm’s anorexia. Mrs. Bobot’s unrequited love. Rev. Ruttles’ disrespectful treatment of Archibald. There may have been more. Oh! Right. Alice’s MAGICAL ABILITY TO SEE PEOPLES’ AURAS.

Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.

Note: Hepler is a freelance contributor to Kirkus.