10 modern love stories

Take your National Book Token on a date to a bookshop! Modern novels show us what love is like in the 21st century, from first love to love that crosses borders, from fictional worlds to the real world. We've recommended 10 beautiful contemporary stories to fall in love with this Valentine’s Day.

Which love stories sweep you off your feet? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Thirst

Thirst by Kerry Hudson

Finding love in the unlikeliest of places always makes for a good story, and in this hard-hitting yet tender novel, Alena and Dave do just that. Alena seeks an escape from poverty in Siberia; Dave dreams of travelling. When their paths collide in London, it seems they have little in common – and both have too much to lose. Will love be enough to set them both free?

The Kiss Quotient

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Stella is smart, successful and driven, and thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe, but becoming an expert in data hasn't left much time for affairs of the heart (and her Asperger's doesn’t help either). Deciding it’s time she got some practice with an expert, she hires Michael Phan, an escort, to teach her how to be a good girlfriend.

Don't You Forget About Me

Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

McFarlane's romcom is about Georgina and Life at 30. Georgina is fired from her job and discovers her boyfriend’s cheating all on the same day. If only there was someone out there who truly loved her, who she truly deserved. Twelve years ago a boy wrote four words for her: "I love your laugh". Now that boy is her new boss – could this be fate? Only trouble is, he doesn’t remember Georgina at all...

Exit West

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Nadia and Saeed are just two young people falling in love… but when civil war comes to their city, their lives are torn apart. This powerful novel follows their journey from the Middle East to London and beyond, asking what it takes for a person to leave everything behind, and what a world without borders would look like.

The Lost Letters of William Woolf

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives at the Dead Letters Depot, who spend their days solving the mysteries left behind by smudged addresses, missing postcodes, torn packages and more. When he discovers letters addressed only to "My Great Love" he sets out on the biggest mystery of all – and starts to wonder if he could be that great love, after all.

Less

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Arthur Less is recently single and finds his latest book rejected by his publisher. To top it off, his now-ex announces his engagement to someone else. Not admitting how heartbroken he is, Less sets off on a round-the-world tour to every literary event he’s been invited to, neatly sidestepping the wedding and his own impending 50th birthday. This Pulitzer-winning novel lambasts the publishing industry brilliantly, but still has room for a lot of heart.

Normal People

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Connell and Marianne are childhood friends from the same town in rural Ireland, who both get places to study at Trinity College Dublin. They’re from opposing worlds, but as their connection begins grows despite their differences, Normal People reminds us what it’s like to be young and in love.

Proud

Proud by Various

Celebrating first love in all its forms, this anthology features the first flutterings of romance for LGBTQ+ teens. From a Chinese lesbian fairytale, and a trans teen starting a new life with her boyfriend, to a modern Pride and Prejudice retelling (with popular new girl Darcy Pemberley), and even what to do when your prom proposal gets overshadowed by gay penguins, Proud has romance for everyone under the rainbow.

The Bones of Grace

The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam

This romantic tragedy about love and lonelines, migration and conflicted identity, follows Zubaida on a journey to unearth the past, from the corridors of Harvard to the scorching deserts of Pakistan, and to the man she loves, but whose heart she may never win back.

 




Americanah

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Childhood sweethearts Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West – but their lives take different paths. 15 years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion.

Which stories about modern romance have you fallen in love with?

Congratulations to Hilda Hazel White who won a £30/€35 National Book Token for commenting. The competition is now closed, but you can still comment with your most highly-anticipated books below - we'd love to hear about them!

National Book Tokens gift cards can be bought and spent in thousands of bookshops across the UK and Ireland, including independents, Waterstones, WHSmith, Easons, and Blackwells, and can also be spent online and on eBooks. Find your nearest bookshop.

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