Love stories never get old, and one couple’s romance is always different from the next. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, a number of authors are sharing their own tales of dating, mating and trying again. Learn from others’ trials and successes with four of this year’s best relationship memoirs.

Dating disasters
Julie Klausner still hasn’t found what she’s looking for, but as the lengthy subtitle of her dating memoir suggests, she’s spent time with a lot of the wrong guys. In I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Faux Sensitive Hipsters, Felons and Other Guys I’ve Dated, Klausner recounts years of dating the wrong guys. She never went through a boys-are-icky phase, instead openly chasing her crush of the moment since childhood. In fact, in the book’s opening pages she boldly declares, “I love men like it is my job.”

Klausner refuses to pussyfoot around her recollections of past lovers, indiscriminately flaunting her dirty laundry and theirs. (This is the kind of memoir an author hopes her parents won’t read.) But what could be an airing of grievances from the pen of another author is, in Klausner’s hands, an entertaining romp through a series of comic sketches. As a writer for VH1’s “Best Week Ever,” Klausner regularly transformed a week’s minutiae into pithy television, and she applies the same droll tone to her own missteps and willful mistakes.

And through failure after dismal failure, Klausner clings to one hope: The right man is out there, somewhere. If she’s got to date all the wrong ones to find him, she’ll do it, enthusiastically.

Matching wits
Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Girl doesn’t give boy the time of day for five years. And then boy’s wildest dreams are fulfilled when girl suddenly decides he is all she wants.

Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn’s relationship is far from a fairytale romance, but it’s a story filled with all the excitement and drama you’d hope for from a couple of writers and actors. They’ve had a lot of experience in telling other stories, after all: For years Gurwitch hosted “Dinner and a Movie” on TBS, and she has written for NPR and The Nation. Kahn wrote for “The Ben Stiller Show” and appeared in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and other films.

In You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up, Gurwitch and Kahn bicker as they recount their sometimes-conflicting tales of meeting, courtship, marriage and the journey toward “till death do us part.” And even as their lives turn gravely serious when their son Ezra is born with multiple birth defects, the couple injects humor into their otherwise terrified mindset.

This is definitely not a sweet tale, but couples who love and argue with equal intensity will find solace—and more than a few laughs—in Gurwitch and Kahn’s frank depiction of their relationship.

Something’s cooking
Elizabeth Bard spotted the classic tall, dark and handsome stranger at a conference in London. She was an American beginning a master’s program in art history. He was a Frenchman wrapping up a Ph.D. in computer science. When the opportunity arose, she made a point of meeting him. The bevy of emails that followed led to lunch—and then love—in Paris.

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes doesn’t stop with happily ever after. In fact, Bard’s wedding to the exotic Gwendal takes place halfway through the book. But the challenges of a life in a foreign country are just beginning. On the surface Bard’s life seems like a fairy tale: living in Paris, married to a Frenchman and dining on any number of delicacies. But what’s simple in America is a challenge for an American in Paris. A task as easy as buying curtains can become an all-day event.

A memoir with recipes isn’t a new concept. Amanda Hesser covered that territory well in Cooking for Mr. Latte, and in recent years there’s been an avalanche of relationship-and-recipe books. But if there’s anything that doesn’t get old, it’s a good love story and a good meal—all the better if they are crafted by someone who can both write and cook!

In Lunch in Paris, Bard shares not only her love story but her journey to finding a sense of self in a foreign land with a foreign man. Whether you read it with the love of your life at your side or while dreaming of meeting your own exotic other half, this story and its accompanying recipes will warm your soul.

A new dance
Maria Finn met her husband while salsa dancing. The couple danced their way into a relationship, then marriage. But after she discovers that he’s been cheating on her, salsa dancing has little place in her life.

Finn instead turns to tango, also a seductive Latin dance, but one that allows space for sorrow and loss. She quickly becomes addicted to tango, attending private lessons and dance classes and clearing space on her calendar for frequent milongas (social dances). While dancing, Finn learns to give herself over to a man, to allow herself to be pulled off balance and follow his lead, even while carrying her own weight. The dance carries her from her home in New York City to the dance floors of Argentina, but more importantly, it helps Finn rewrite her understanding of men and her own life.

In Hold Me Tight and Tango Me Home, Finn incorporates her deep understanding of tango into the story, revealing its history even as she explores her own relationship with the dance. Unlike many life-after-heartbreak memoirs, this one doesn’t end with the author tangoing into the sunset with a new beau. Instead, Finn repairs her outlook on life and men in general, while finding comfort, challenges and encouragement in the arms of strangers.

Carla Jean Whitley lives, writes and dates in Birmingham, Alabama.

 

RELATED CONTENT
Review of the audio version of Cooking with Mr. Latte

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