By September 17, 2019 0 Comments Read More →

LOVER Tracks Belong to Lovers

We’ve all had a couple weeks to digest Taylor Swift’s latest album, Lover. And with Booklist‘s focus on romance this month—as of yesterday, the September 15 Spotlight on Romance is live on www.booklistonline.com!—I figured, what better time than now to explore TSwift’s most romantic album through the lens of romance novels? Sure, there are some more complex songs, but overall, this album begs for the HEA. PenguinTeen has already done a track-by-track breakdown of the album with YA titles, but as Taylor has grown (after all, she is turning 30 this year), I decided to examine Lover from an adult books angle. So here we go, track by track.

“I Forgot That You Existed” / The Proposal, by Jasmine Guillory 

Nikole goes to baseball game where her boyfriend proposes to her on the Jumbotron . . . and she says no. Luckily, bystanders Carlos, a doctor, and Angie, his sister, rescue Nik from the crowd and the descending photographers. Soon, a rebound fling with Carlos helps Nikole find happiness and move on from the revenge-seeking shenanigans of her ex.

“Cruel Summer” / Call Me by Your Name, by André Aciman

When Oliver comes to spend the summer at Elio’s parent’s Italian villa, heart-wrenching romance ensues. In the story, told from Elio’s point of view, what begins as indifference (or at least put-upon indifference) morphs into passion. During my first midnight listen of Lover, this song immediately brought Call Me by Your Name to mind. With lyrics like “I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?” Swift’s “Cruel Summer” echoes the secrecy and obsession of Call Me by Your Name‘s summer romance while also evoking the fate of Elio and Oliver.

“Lover” / Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

For being the most romantic track on the album, this song was also one of the hardest to find a read-alike for. But with lyrics like “Can I go where you go? Can we always be this close?” and “My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue,” I had to pair it with Outlander. In Gabaldon’s 1991 historical fiction novel, the relationship between protagonist Claire and Scottish warrior Jamie seems to span just as much time as this song. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not turning my back on almost a decade of fan vids that set Outlander to TSwift’s “The Way I Loved You”; it’s just that “Lover” also fits the steadfastness of Claire and Jamie’s romance.

“The Man” / The Right Swipe, by Alisha Rai

Rhiannon is the successful CEO of a dating app, Crush, but she’s not satisfied. Her main competitor is also her former place of work and a business she helped rise to success. When she left, her ex-boss/ex-boyfriend started rumors about her in the industry, attempting to ruin her reputation. Now both Rhiannon and her ex are aiming to buy out the same old-guard dating app, an app whose spokesperson has Rhiannon breaking her onetime rule, even after he accidentally ghosted her. “The Man” matches Rhiannon’s grit. She’s going to fall in love, but she’s going to reach her dreams in the meantime—and on her own terms.

“The Archer” / Rock Addiction, by Nalini Singh

Molly Webster does not want to be in the spotlight after her politician father was involved in a scandal when she was younger. Her relationship with famous rocker Zachary Fox was supposed to be a one-night stand, and then just a fling. But fate and love may have other plans. “The Archer” pairs well with both our hero and heroine, who see beyond one another’s pasts and public personas, and are ready to fight (“Combat, I’m ready for combat!”) for their happily ever after.

“I Think He Knows” / Intercepted, by Alexa Martin

Marlee thought she was with the man of her dreams . . . but when she discovers her spoiled NFL boyfriend’s been playing her for a fool, she packs up and leaves. Then Gavin Pope, the new superstar quarterback for the Colorado Mustangs, enters the picture. Marlee didn’t expect to become attracted to another man so quickly. And she certainly did not expect that man to be a quarterback who could determine the career of her ex. Still, the attraction between Marlee and Gavin is instantaneous. And they both know it.

“Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” / Prince on Paper, by Alyssa Cole

Nya Jerami and Prince Johan Maximillian von Braustein are both attracted to each other. But they are also both blinded by politics and what they think others think of them—and they definitely both have people “whispering in the halls.” For Johan, it’s because he’s a paparazzi playboy; for Nya, it’s because of her father’s actions. They team up to try and control the narrative, but they have broken hearts hiding behind their public personas. OK, yes, this book pairing is cheating a little bit because Nya is not American, but I stand by it: if the kingdom of Thesolo, where Nya was born, had a Miss Americana equivalent, she would 100 percent be it. Plus, Johan is absolutely a “heartbreak prince.”

“Paper Rings” / The Bride Test, by Helen Hoang

Khai Diep, who has autism, has trouble expressing emotions and doesn’t think he’ll ever fall in love. Then his mother brings Esme over from Ho Chi Minh City, hoping she’ll be a match for her son. The two become friends and roommates. Esme studies for her future, working to be able to stay in the U.S. independent of her relationship with Khai. Khai is a successful businessman who lives simply. In fact, Esme isn’t even aware of his financial success. Even though Esme doesn’t intend to fall in love with Khai, who says he’s not capable of love, neither may have much of a say in the matter. In the end, Esme loves glitz, but she would marry Khai with “paper rings.” 


“Cornelia Street” / Roomies, by Christina Lauren

It’s a modern-day marriage-of-convenience plot. Holland snags her favorite street busker, Calvin, an audition with her Broadway director uncle. When she finds out he’s in the country illegally, she marries him, hoping to keep her crush a secret. However, as they work to keep Calvin in the country, they both become conflicted about the changing dynamics of their relationship. Then Calvin becomes a Broadway darling. Like Roomies, “Cornelia Street” is very much rooted in NYC. Both stories also explore the idea of how a relationship can color a place.

“Death by A Thousand Cuts” / Normal People, by Sally Rooney

Normal People is one of my favorite novels of the year so far. It examines the relationship between Connell and Marianne. Despite being two small-town teens from different social classes and circles, they find themselves drawn together—and they continue to be drawn together over the years, by turns hurting and helping each other. Both Normal People and “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” delve into complicated relationships, and lyrics like “the only thing we share is this small town” and “If the story’s over, why am I still writing pages?” absolutely gut me when it comes to Rooney’s novel.

“London Boy” / The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, by Lauren Willig

Eloise moves to England to work on her graduate thesis about the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. There, her research throws her in the way of the Selwick family archives and into the path of Colin Selwick. Listen, there are a lot of books that could vie for this spot. Similar to “London Boy,” Eloise and Colin’s love story spans years (The Secret History of the Pink Carnation is actually the first installment in a 12-part series); Eloise gradually gets to know Colin, his family, his friends, and the places he loves, all while mining his family’s archives for historical spies. I love this series.

“Soon You’ll Get Better (featuring Dixie Chicks)” / How to Walk Away, by Katherine Center

Margaret is on the cusp of the life she’s always wanted. Then she and her new fiancé are in a horrible plane crash and everything changes. Notoriously penned about Swift’s mother’s fight with cancer, “Soon You’ll Get Better” was the quite a difficult track to pin down. Ultimately, even though How to Walk Away deals with Margaret’s own journey rather than the journey of sick parent, Margaret nevertheless goes through the variety of emotions Swift lays bare: denial, hope, resignation, fear, and anger.

“False God” / The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, by Olivia Waite

The saxophone melody says 80s, but the lyrics evoke another era; they’re too perfect for Waite’s early nineteenth-century romance. In this debut, protagonist Lucy Muchelney flees home after her father’s death and the wedding of her lover. An astronomer, Lucy wants to be welcomed into her father’s scientific society in her own right and ends up crossing paths with her longtime correspondent—and widow of one of her father’s peers—Catherine St. Day. Soon, Catherine is funding Lucy’s translation of a seminal text, and the two are falling in love. Still, they must deal with their personal fears, their places in society, and how both impact their relationship. Even though Lucy and Catherine worship one another, the lyrics in “False God” get at their societal and personal tensions.

“You Need to Calm Down” / Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston

Alex is the son of the president of the United States. Prince Henry is the grandson of the Queen of England . . . and Alex’s archnemesis. But when a cake fiasco at a royal wedding nearly causes an international incident, the two royals are required to participate in a publicity tour and fake a friendship for the sake of international relations. Red, White & Royal Blue is filled with freak-outs both personal and political. Alex and Henry live in the public eye and that factors into their relationship, whether they’re exploring their identities with the world watching or dealing with potential blowback. And yep, it’s safe to say: everyone just needs to calm down.

“Afterglow” / Too Wilde to Wed, by Eloisa James

Lord Roland “North” Northbridge Wilde left England after being jilted by Diana Belgrave. So after returning home from war in the American colonies, he wasn’t expecting to find Diana as a governess at Lindow Castle, his ancestral home—or with a young child rumored to be his own. Soon, North realizes he still wants Diana. And while Diana never meant to hurt North, she’s also hesitant to give in to his proposals. Sometimes, we unintentionally hurt those we love. Sometimes, as Taylor would say, it’s still possible to find love in the “afterglow”.

“ME! (featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco) / The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne

Lucy and Joshua are trapped in a shared office together, vying for the same promotion. Similarly, “ME!” features two iconic voices, Taylor Swift and Brendon Urie. While The Hating Game follows the couple’s transformation from enemies into lovers, it’s also upbeat and electric like “ME!,” which references relationship conflict with lyrics like “fight out in the rain.” But once Lucy and Joshua are on the same team, you can bet their energy will be funneled into loving each other best (“I promise that nobody’s gonna love you like me.”)

“It’s Nice to Have a Friend” / Sundays at Tiffany’s, by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

When she was a little girl, Jane was able to survive a lonely life with an oft-absent mother thanks to her imaginary friend, Michael. He was there for her when she needed him, but then she grew up. Now in her thirties, Jane doesn’t expect to see Michael again. And Michael definitely doesn’t expect to be seen by Jane. But their connection reignites in new ways. “It’s Nice to Have a Friend” celebrates a lifelong friendship and how it can grow and Sundays at Tiffany’s, too, explores love at different points in our lives.

“Daylight” / Brazen and the Beast, by Sarah MacLean

Lady Henrietta has a plan for her twenty-ninth year, and it includes taking over her father’s business. That plan does not include finding Saviour “Whit” Whittington, one of the underground rulers of Covent Garden, bound in her carriage. Sparks fly immediately, but that doesn’t mean Henrietta is going to give up on her plans—and that puts her and Whit at odds. Like Taylor’s beau in Lover‘s final track,” Henrietta helps Whit wake up from a “twenty-year dark night,” and they both redefine their idea of love, stepping into the “daylight.”

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About the Author:

Melody’s love of words has taken her on a variety of adventures, beyond the adventures on the page, including librarian, bookseller, literary intern, dramaturg, and script reader. Reading hundreds of books a year, she's constantly seeking that next literary fix.

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