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What authors read on Valentine's Day

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No, I didn't just Google the word "romance" to come up with this. I actually remember the book fondly: John Casey's "An American Romance." It's a beautifully written story (something typical for Casey) of a love affair in the theater. It mixes art and passion and heartbreak. It's a great romantic read, and it's a portrayal that doesn't make all theater people look like antic little egomaniacs.

Rachel Basch 's "The Passion of Reverend Nash" was a Monitor top five pick in 2003.

"Bel Canto," by Ann Patchett, is an evocative illustration not only of romantic love, but of the passion for art, in this case music. The form and tone of the novel conspire to offer readers the experience of falling in love. Patchett's sensory descriptions reshape our own imaginations. To read this book is to come under a spell, to continually deny the reality of the tragic ending foretold right at the start. Well into the novel, Patchett writes of one of her many heroes that his "understanding that he would eventually lose every sweetness that had come to him only made him hold those very things closer to his chest."

Beth Lordan published "But Come Ye Back" last year.

I love Edith Wharton's "Age of Innocence." The story of Newland Archer and May, his appropriate bride, brought to the edge of disaster by his love affair with Ellen, May's inappropriate cousin, honors the reality and rarity of passionate romantic love while, to my eye, honoring as well the reality and importance of duty and responsibility that make marriages (and societies, and therefore families) possible. Still, every time I read the book, I wish they could be free to run away together and find out what that kind of love could grow into.

Dave King 's debut novel, "The Ha-Ha," was published in December.

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