Five romance books better than a bouquet for Valentine’s Day

From hot to sweet, The Ripped Bodice has your Valetine's romance recommendations.
(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

A rose is a rose is a rose. Yawn. We’d rather give and get books for Valentine’s Day.

Nothing picked out and it’s (really) down to the wire? Leah Koch, co-owner of America’s sole romance-only bookstore, The Ripped Bodice in Culver City, has had ample time to consider the possibilities. “It’s kind of Valentine’s Day all year around here,” she laughs.

Her top picks for amorous book-lovers:

“Edge of Glory,” by Rachel Spangler


When Valentine’s Day happens to be during the Winter Olympics, you can’t go wrong with a lesbian sports romance where the love interests — a skier and a snowboarder — actually train for the current games in PyeongChang. “There’s a bit of speculative, revisionist history happening,” says Koch, but the timeliness can’t be beat. She recommends it for readers commemorating their first Valentine’s Day together in 2018.

“American Queen,” by Sierra Simone

“It’s one of those books where you explain the premise to people and their eyes go wide,” says Koch. A love triangle about a fictional president, vice president and the president’s wife, Koch calls it “a good antidote to the political situation right now.” It’s also her recommendation for the sexiest title. “It’s gloriously filthy,” she says.

“The Unleashing,” by Shelly Laurenston

A good choice for “spicing things up” in a long-term relationship, this paranormal romance based on Norse mythology is about human warriors who fight on behalf of Viking Gods. “It’s like, bonkers crazy,” Koch admits – and funny and fun.

“Heroine Complex,” by Sarah Kuhn


If you’re treating your own self for Valentine’s Day “Heroine Complex” is just the thing. A novel about a woman recognizing her own power, “Heroine Complex” stars Asian American super-heroines and explores rich and complex female friendships. Koch quotes her sister and co-owner, Bea, when describing this particular romance: “It’s about learning how to fall in love with your life.”

“The Remaking of Corbin Wale” by Roan Parrish

What about a book for a romance-skeptical Valentine? Of course, Koch says, at The Ripped Bodice, “this is our main thing.” A gay romance between two men, “The Remaking of Corbin Wale” gets extra points in Koch’s book for a hero with an atypical mind, and calls its distinct prose, with touches of magical realism, “some of the most beautiful writing I’ve read recently.”