5 Anti-romance novels for Valentine's

Lucy Middleton

Valentine’s Day. A day to shower your loved ones with an excess of chocolate hearts, flowers and smiling teddy bears. But if you’re more likely to get a card from an aunt than an admirer this year, the sickly sweet celebrations can be vomit-inducing. If you fancy sitting February 14th out, here are five anti-romance novels where **Spoiler Alert** they didn’t all live happily ever after

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

New York in the 1920s. If you’re wishing for some escapism this February, then delving into the opulence and glamour of The Great Gatsby might be a good place to start. Yet while F Scott Fitzgerald’s characters certainly know how to party, it’s safe to say none of them have much luck when it comes to love.

Unhappy marriages, a lot of adultery and a strange relationship with a haughty golfing champion who once cheated her way to victory. That alone might be enough to feed the Valentine’s hate, but here it’s the doomed romance between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan that takes centre stage.

After fantasising about their reunion for years, poor Gatsby is faced with the discovery that his dreams are as hollow and fickle as the luxurious world around him. At least readers can learn one thing from his eventual fate—obsessing over your ex never ends well.

 

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

It’s that age old tale of man meets woman, man marries woman, woman cheats on man… so man plots to kill woman with a beautiful stranger he meets at the airport one day. We’ve all imagined killing a loved one at one time or another, but would you ever cross the line between make-believe and full blown murder?

Peter Swanson’s The Kind Worth Killing is a rollercoaster of a novel that will have you glued from the very first page. Changing perspective between the characters, we follow Ted Severson as he plans to kill his wife with the help of the enigmatic Lily Kintner. Little does he know she’s done this kind of thing many, many times before…

None of Swanson’s characters are sympathetic, yet it’s hard not be to enthralled by people who decide to put their deepest darkest thoughts into action. While Lily claims that murder “isn’t necessarily as bad as people make it out to be”, reading this book might be a better way to soothe any pent up anger—without the added jail time.

 

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

Tired of Prince Charmings and white knights coming to the rescue? Angela Carter’s work might have been inspired by favourite fairy tales from across the globe, but her love stories will be like nothing you’ve ever read before. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories is full of grizzly fables that hammer romance clichés to pieces.

Enter a world where Belle becomes as beastly as her captor, damsels in distress are rescued by their mothers, and Sleeping Beauty is a vampire who prays on the men who come to visit. With significant nods to the gothic genre, each tale is more likely to be red from gore and violence than thumping hearts for Valentine’s lovers.

Readers are warned throughout the stories not to expect a happily-ever-after, yet Carter’s work never ends on a bleak or miserable note. Instead, the author is urging her audience to be fearless, genuine and bold in their relationships—and take responsibility for saving themselves.

 

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Do you know someone with a terrible personality who still seems to get 50 or so cards on Valentine’s Day? If you’re desperate for a slippery character to finally get what they deserve, The Picture of Dorian Gray could be the perfect anti-romance read for you.

Oscar Wilde’s titular character is radiantly handsome—but his beauty only goes skin deep. Inside, Dorian is as nasty as they come: narcissistic, cold-hearted and selfish. But in a bizarre turn of events he is able hide his real self from the public and continue his dazzling affront. Of course, he begins to take advantage of this, breaking the innocent and naïve Sybil Vane’s heart in the process.

Unlike your 21st—century Tinder boy though who always gets off scot-free, Dorian’s despicable actions begin to catch up with him, his paranoia causing creeping shadows that make the nights long and tortuous. Readers can watch as he falls into a downward spiral caused by no one but himself. In the end Dorian’s treacherous personality eats him from the inside out.

 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

What anti-romance list would be complete than the ultimate tale of spousal revenge? Already a hugely popular movie too, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl makes staying a singleton look like the safe option.

When the beautiful Amy Dunne goes missing from her perfect life, her husband Nick is thrust into the spotlight as the nation searches for her whereabouts. Yet as the book alternates between the present and his wife’s blissfully happy diary, it’s hard to shake the unsettling feeling that someone is not telling the truth. But who are we to trust?

The power of Flynn’s novel comes from it’s shocking twists and turns, with the author constantly seeming to douse her plot in petrol and setting it alight. But first-time readers beware; while this twisted love story won’t leave you feeling warm and fuzzy—it might just put you off tying the knot all together.