I, for one, cannot wait for Taylor to get to the Speak Now and Red re-recordings, but I want her to follow her joy and her muse wherever it directs her so despite my anticipation, I will patiently wait for her to give me what I need. In the meantime, we have now reached the Speak Now era and at this point, there’s probably going to be a mix of YA books and romance novels, so let us begin! As a reminder, I do not support giving Scooter Braun or Scott Borchetta money and therefore I will not be linking to the songs!
Mine + How Not to Fall by Emily Foster
If I’m being honest, I based this off the whole, “You were in college” line and went with my favorite New Adult duet, the Bellhaven series, which is honestly angstier than “Mine” but also gives me the whole “you are the best thing that’s ever been mine” vibes. How Not to Fall is about Annabelle, a college senior who is headed off to med school soon and she has a giant crush on the post doc in charge of her lab. She tries to hit on him before the semester is up and he puts her off, but then they get together for what is meant to be a purely physical thing during the summer post-graduation. There’s a book two because book one does not have an HEA and it’s really good and really angsty.
Sparks Fly + Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno
It’s the “my mind forgets to remind me that you’re a bad idea” line that had me immediately thinking of this YA romance/coming of age, Don’t Date Rosa Santos. Rosa Santos is cursed. Well, her family is cursed, and basically if they love a boy, especially a boy with a boat, it means bad news for that boy. But when she runs into Alex Aquino, Rosa is pretty swept up in him. This book is gorgeous and also heartbreaking at parts.
(CW grief – fresh, in the second half of the book)
Back to December + One Last Chance by Therese Beharrie
In deciding what book was important to include here, I decided it was one where the woman (if in a m/f couple) had been the one to mess up because this song was really unique at the time for being the first break up song where Taylor made it clear she was at fault. My other thing too was that I wanted something where the connection to one another’s family was also present. I think One Last Chance works here because Zoey and Sawyer were best friends before things went wrong between them. I don’t 100% remember why things went wrong, but I’m pretty sure it was Zoey getting freaked out about how invested she was. Plus the line, “But if we loved again, swear I’d love you right” definitely works for a romance novel.
Speak Now + Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean
To be clear, I have nothing to recommend that fits in with the actual story of “Speak Now”, but I do feel like Hattie perfectly embodies the notion of speaking her truth and going after what she wants regardless of the opinions of anyone else. So for that reason, this is my choice.
Dear John + Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios
To be very clear, this is not a romance novel. Bad Romance, like “Dear John” is a look at a toxic relationship that is abusive even if not physically. Both the book and the song are so incredibly important. I still remember reading Bad Romance and feeling my experiences so validated even though I was a 3L at the time. I think Bad Romance is such an important book for teenagers because, honestly, our society still romanticizes so many red flags and it can be really difficult to navigate, especially when you’re first starting to date.
Actual romance novel wise though, please allow me to take a moment to yell about Rock Hard by Nalini Singh, which I adore (even though I literally cannot bring myself to finish my sixth reread because I am not in the headspace). It is relevant because Charlotte was in an abusive relationship when she was young and naive. She’s still dealing with the trauma and it’s impact today, which makes going toe to toe with her new boss a little nerve wrecking. I just love this book so much, but there are definitely a number of triggers related to intimate partner violence.
Mean + Never Sweeter by Charlotte Stein
I’m going to be honest, I had no idea what to pair “Mean” with because it is not something that works for anything even remotely related to romance novels. But I decided that a romance set after bullying works? Maybe? So we’re going with my favorite with that trope, Never Sweeter, in which Letty finds herself in the same college class and paired up with one of her high school bullies, Tate. The bullying was really bad in the past and I do not at all want to minimize that. If you can get past that part, Tate’s attempts to make it up to Letty really got me. I love this book even though I feel like if you described it to me I wouldn’t actually want to pick it up. But something about the way Charlotte Stein wrote this book just really works. It’s deeply emotional and I love the character development.
Another option with this sort of trope that worked for me is Dear Enemy by Kristen Callihan, but it may not work for you! Macon and Delilah very much did not get along as children. Macon was actually pretty awful to her. But in the present, Delilah’s sister has taken off with a family heirloom of Macon’s and Delilah offers herself as a sort of sacrifice if Macon will just not call the police. I really love Callihan’s writing and found this book incredibly engaging (I have an ARC review), but I know this book was really polarizing and didn’t work for a lot of people so do some investigating before picking it up!
The Story of Us + A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean
Some of the lyrics in “The Story of Us” are “I used to know my place was a spot next to you/ Now I’m searching the room for an empty seat/ ‘Cause lately I don’t even know what page you’re on” and I think that fits well with A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean. Specifically, Bourne and Penelope used to be really close as children and then right around the time Bourne’s parents died, he stopped responding to Penelope’s letters. In the present, he’s sort of blackmailed her into marrying him and she doesn’t know what page he’s on. I really love the way they come back together in this book. I think it’s really well done.
Never Grow Up + Just a Heartbeat Away by Cara Bastone
Okay, hear me out. Just a Heartbeat Away is a single parent romance after Seb’s wife dies in a car accident. He’s overwhelmed and his son, Matty, is precious. Matty’s preschool teacher sends home a note letting Seb know he’s got to get it together. Then we pick up a few years later and Seb is reintroduced to Matty’s preschool teacher who is now a teacher at his elementary school. “Never Grow Up” is a little bit melancholy and very much all about wanting the best for a little kid so this pairing makes perfect sense and I will not hear otherwise.
Enchanted + Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath
This book isn’t perfect, but it was so utterly delightful and has sent me down a Heath rabbit hole as I’m on my third book in this series in the span of just a few days. Mick and Aslyn are both immediately captivated by the other even though Aslyn knows nothing can ever come of it because he is a commoner and Mick just wants her for revenge. But this pull they have toward each other transcends a lot of petty things and I was very here for it.
Please share with me any books you think fit these vibes as I would love to know! Do you agree with these choices? Also, what’s your favorite song on the first half of Speak Now? Mine is probably “The Story of Us” but I love so many of the songs on this album and there’s not a skip for me on this half.