You always remember your first romantic encounter. Left behind on the night stand of a rented lake cabin, dog-eared and water-stained, its lurid cover slightly sun-faded. Smuggled into your bunk at overnight camp by that one girl who knew the names for acts you never even knew to imagine, with tell-tale spine cracks at all the juiciest bits. Late at night in a sleeping house, silent save for the hum of central air, when you finally worked up the nerve to click on the “M” rated Harry/Draco fic whose summary had been tantalizing you for weeks. Whatever your meet cute with romantic fiction, it’s probably seared into your brain — and it probably happened while the sun seared your skin in kind.
Summer, and the freedom from adult supervision it has historically promised, is the quintessential time to begin a torrid, furtive affair with romantic fiction, a genre that’s constantly bought but rarely discussed. And now, even though the only adult supervision most of us have to contend with is our own, something about summer still seems right for romance’s steamy sex scenes, improbable dukes and unabashed bombast.
Maybe because summer is when we decide that it’s simply too hot for pretense. Instead of striving for sophistication, we can finally admit what suckers we are for all the things we’re supposed to deem trite. We go for the movie with the most explosions, the pop song with the catchiest chorus, the s’more with the ooziest marshmallow, the pinkest rosé, and — of course — the reading material most likely to make being hot under the collar feel like a choice instead of an affliction.
So what One Pairing could ever be more True than that of roséwave and romance fiction? Both lifestyles are all about celebrating the straightforward pleasure of common delights without guilt, whether that means the unalloyed giddiness of a Carly Rae Jepsen bop or the pure satisfaction of a perfectly constructed happily ever after.
With this playlist, I set out not just to build a great soundtrack for romance novel reading, but to mimic the arc of one in song. There’s a star-crossed prologue! The (re-)meet cute! There’s the sex that’s hot beyond measure (but rife with Unacknowledged Emotions) and the sex where all Unacknowledged Emotions have been shared and reciprocated, and a Whole New Realm of Pleasure appears. There’s the third act fight that drives the couple apart and the profound mutual pining that follows it. And, of course, there’s a pop song crescendo to celebrate the best part of every romance: the part when the couple is finally together and you know it’s for keeps. In the same way that best romances render predictability delightful by crafting each component part perfectly, I tried to make sure that every song featured — whether an old faithful or new friend — was a joy to encounter. So whether this playlist is the closest you get to a romance novel or you’ve already got a reading list as long as my arm to tackle, I am confident that listening will give you butterflies.