Maybe love is the theme of my next book reviews, but perhaps I should call it "maybe love," since the first novel, After Byron by Norman Beim, leaves the reader waiting awhile to find out if love is an illusion or just a twist of fate. Dark gothic mansions loom; dark deeds are hidden in the past; and dark ghosts roam while the pages of journals and letters reveal... well, something more. Simultaneously traditional and modern, and filled with many different shapes and forms of love, it's a perfect tale for untraditional Valentines, best enjoyed with some 5-star dark intense coffee.
On the trail of love, one must of course visit Jane Austen, so here's a book of traditional faith-based love which includes a visit to her home. In Mr. Shipley’s Governess, by Joanne Troppello, a young woman who's given up speaking to God becomes a young Christian child's tutor. There's a rich handsome father, the opportunity of world travel, and, of course, romance, making this a nicely traditional Valentine's novel, best enjoyed with bright, lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee.
Another (almost) contemporary novel with touches of romance is When the Drum Major Died, by Anjuelle Floyd. Set in the time of Martin Luther King marches, it deals with issues of race, skin color, prejudice and more in a slightly deeper was than usual, offering an intriguing picture of a neighborhood's tortured dynamics. There's romance in there too, and tales of many broken and wounded romances, with prejudice of many different kinds. Enjoy this slow tale with several cups of intense five-star coffee, but it's probably not one for Valentines.
Mama Cried, by Talia Haven, is a short story of a very different kind of love - that between mother and child. It offers a slightly disturbing view of man's vengeance and God's mercy, but it's a truly haunting, thought-provoking read. Drink some dark five-star coffee while you read it - definitely not one for Valentine's Day.
My Gift For You, by V. Moua, on the other hand, might be the perfect Valentine tale to read with your kids. Quick bright illustrations, quick bright text in big clear letters with great rhymes and great vocabulary, and a wonderful message of LOVE; enjoy this one with some one-star crisp bright coffee and have fun!
John R. Cobb's A Turtle Tale, is another children's picture book, with a message of love for nature, and friendship and hope. Enjoy this more complex read with a three-star full-flavored coffee, and let the kids have fun with some wonderful pictures. It works for Valentine's - there's definitely a touch of romance in the ending!
10, by Martin B. Flores, offers ten fairytales for children, but these are tales with a twist, inviting questions rather than sleep, and dealing with modern issues like divorce and the fair treatment of employees. There's definitely some romance in there, but probably not for Valentine's; it's a collection to read with some full-flavored three-star coffee to hand.
But now, at last, it's time to delve into romance of the past, and Helen of Troy, as depicted in Princess of Sparta, by Aria Cunningham. It's a complex novel, weaving myth and history together into something entirely plausible and enthralling. Nice touches of mysticism, well-woven social structures, convincing scenery and politics, and great characters make this is an enjoyable read. Raise a cup of four-star elegant complex coffee and wait for romance that just might have changed the world.