I like chocolate, and I like roses, but as with most of you (I'm guessing) my hapless Valentine's Days make better stories than my romantic ones.
For instance: When I was in my early 20s, upon finding out that my then-boyfriend had no intention of recognizing the holiday, his grandmother walked to the drugstore, bought a heart-shaped box of chocolates, gave it to him and demanded that he present it to me.
Did I eat the candy anyway? It was chocolate, so I probably did.
In the true spirit of the holiday, here are some books for you to read this Valentine's Day — anti-Valentines, you might call them, all about misfortune and heartbreak and love gone wrong.
'Wuthering Heights' By Emily Bronte
I can't even tell you how many different ways love goes wrong in this Gothic novel — the only one Emily wrote. But if you want misery, abuse and mournful ghosts — and, above all, the tortured on-again, off-again love of Catherine and Heathcliff — this is the novel for you.
'His Only Wife' By Peace Adzo Medie
A young Ghanaian woman is persuaded to marry a man she's never met in order to lure him away from the older woman he loves. The man doesn't even bother showing up for the wedding. (Would you?) And even though they eventually fall into some sort of love, things don't go well. (Are you surprised?)
'An American Tragedy' By Theodore Dreiser
When a young man (Clyde) gets one young woman pregnant (Roberta) but wants to marry a different young woman (Sondra), what to do? Take Roberta out in a boat, maybe. See if she knows how to swim. This dark 1925 novel was inspired by true events.
'Anna Karenina' By Leo Tolstoy
"What really interested Tolstoy wasn't love, per se, but its extreme consequences," wrote critic Joshua Rothman in the New Yorker. But most people focus on the happy love story of Kitty and Levin, and the parallel tragic love story of Anna and Vronsky. And look out for that train.
'Dog of the South' By Charles Portis
When Ray Midge's wife runs off with another man — in Ray's car, no less — Ray straps on a gun and goes after them. Mostly, he wants his car back. Maybe his wife, too. Funnier, many say, even than Portis' more famous novel, "True Grit."
'Héloïse and Abelard' By George Moore
When I read this in high school I thought it was the most romantic novel I'd ever read. Set in the 12th century and based on real people, it's the story of beautiful, intelligent Héloïse who, at age 16, is seduced and eventually impregnated by her tutor, Abelard — who is later castrated as punishment. Yes, when I was in high school this to me was the height of romance.
'Romeo and Juliet' By William Shakespeare
Ah, the pain of falling in love with someone from the wrong family.
'Shadow Tag' By Louise Erdrich
The story of a marriage so lacking in trust that the wife writes a fake journal for her spying husband to read.
'Brokeback Mountain' By Annie Proulx
This novella made me weep when I read it. I've never seen the movie because I'm not sure I could bear it. It's the story of two cowboys who fall in love. After one passionate summer they part, though they never stop pining for each other. The pain in this story is excruciating.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune's senior editor for books. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks.