As our definition of love continues to bloom outward, past the heteronormative and binary, past the expected, past what centuries of love stories have taught us before, we enter an era where love is precisely what each of us makes it. Everyone has experienced love outside of the romance genre—whether it’s love for your work, love for your friends, or love for your partner that might not fit the “classic” bill. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, we here at Pub Club have compiled a short list of book suggestions for you, under the umbrella of “Unconventional Romance.” That means: romance out of the box, romance that might not match your own definition, and romance you can learn from. So if you can’t find a date this year—take yourself out on one! Pour yourself a mug of your favorite tea, grab a heart-shaped cookie from Tatte downstairs, and pick up one of these books.
Sending love this snowy season,
Your friends at Pub Club
Emma Shacochis, Blog Director: Persuasion by Jane Austen
Those who want their to romance novels to be full of the good stuff—longing, yearning, aching, et cetera—will lose their slow-burning minds over the crown jewel of the Pining Literary Canon: Persuasion, where the primary romantic relationship comes nowhere close to consummation until the penultimate chapter. It’s one of Austen’s best and quietest romances, and the number of Meaningful Glances will have you clutching your chest on Anne Elliot’s behalf.
Karina Jha, Blog Assistant: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
This queer, partially epistolary novella details the story of two time-travelling agents fighting on opposite sides of a time war. Far too evenly matched, they begin exchanging extremely unconventional letters for the fun of it, but soon find that there’s more to the other than each could have ever expected. This gripping read is only 208 pages (perfect if you don’t have a ton of time on your hands—no pun intended), but after the last page, you’ll find yourself wishing for more.
Kathleen Nolan, Blog Assistant: Beach Read by Emily Henry
Beach Read may look like a sickeningly sweet summer romance, but don’t be fooled by the cover. This rivals-to-lovers story follows two writers, January and Gus, who become next door neighbors in a Michigan beach town for the summer. What follows is a beautiful and painful journey as the two slowly discover each other’s secrets, heal from past trauma, and learn to love each other (and write their novels) through all of it. While it’s not the innocent beach-y romance that you might expect, it’s jam-packed with clever writing, lovable characters, and thoughtful reflection on what love is “supposed to” look like versus what it really is.
Annie Rinaldi, Event Coordinator: Writers and Lovers by Lily King
This novel captures the romance of falling in love with writing, with falling in love with the person you might become, and, of course, more conventional kinds of romance with another person, though I’ll leave it up to you to see how that turns out. It’s a warm and tender and thoughtful novel, perfect for anyone but especially for Emerson students, as it’s set mostly in Boston.
Alli Armijo, Blog Writer: Kink edited by R.O. Kwan
Kink is an anthology edited by R.O. Kwan which explores sexual desire, kink, and love across a spectrum of sexual expression. I chose this anthology because it is not only queer-inclusive, but explorative; it confronts anxieties one might approach when it comes to a sexual arena in a way other narratives about kink, namely BDSM, ignore. Above all, Kink is important because it broaches various – but similar – conversations surrounding consent and what it means to feel strong in both yourself and your partnerships.
Karina Jha, Blog Assistant: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Domestic abuse in the queer community is not something that is often discussed. In this fragmented memoir, Carmen Maria Machado writes about how a seemingly perfect relationship turned into one where she felt trapped, from first meeting to breakup and the lasting trauma beyond. This may not be your first choice of a read for Valentine’s Day, but this book can teach nearly everyone something new about love.