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Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, is a day for romance. So whether you’re planning for a grand night on the town or a cozy evening on the couch, here are some suggestions from Seattle Times writers to help put you in the mood.

Love stories

“Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin. This soaring fantasy, set in a sparkling, icebound New York City of the early 20th century, is the story of Peter Lake, a seafaring orphan who burglarizes a wealthy penthouse and discovers Beverly, his true love. She is dying, and other complications ensue, including a magic white horse, a titanic struggle between good and evil and a cunning villain by the name of Pearly Soames. (A movie adapted from the book opens in theaters on Thursday, Feb. 13.)

“The English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje. Two World War II love stories are intertwined in this book: The first love affair is between Kip, a young Sikh in the British Army who dismantles bombs, and Hana, a young Canadian nurse working in an abandoned North African villa turned military hospital. The second, told in retrospect: the incendiary love affair between Katherine and Count Almasy, who now lies, terribly burned, in the hospital, cared for by Hana.

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“Bridget Jones’ Diary” by Helen Fielding. This wonderful comic novel is told in the voice of Bridget Jones, a young English woman who drinks too much, smokes too much, eats too much and insists on falling in love with her cad of a boss, resolutely ignoring attempts to hook her up with good-guy Mark Darcy. A 1998 update of “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen — a thrilling love story in its own right.

Romantic movies

“Vertigo.” Hitchcock’s dark, swoony tale of romantic obsession sweeps me in, every time. Perfection.

“Moonstruck.” How many times have I watched this opera-drenched valentine of a rom-com? More times than I’ll admit. “Ma, I love him awful.”

“Ruby Sparks.” If you missed this one in theaters, and you probably did, check it out: a charming, sweetly magical tale of a writer who conjures up his ideal woman on the page — only to have her show up at his front door.

Romantic restaurants

Note: Getting a dinner reservation for Valentine’s Day at this late date may be harder than catching one of Cupid’s arrows midflight. So put these suggestions in your quiver for another special day.

Café Juanita. Quiet, gracious, white-tablecloth dining is hard to come by anymore, but you’ll find it here, enhanced by superior service and chef/owner Holly Smith’s refined Northern Italian cuisine. 9702 N.E. 120th Place; Kirkland (425-823-1505 or

La Bête. Wrought-iron covers the casement windows and pendant lights cast intricate shadows on art-covered walls, creating a fairy-tale setting in which you sit on salvaged church pews at hand-carved wooden tables, eating exceedingly well from an eclectic contemporary American menu. 1802 Bellevue Ave.; Capitol Hill (206-329-4047 or

Tilikum Place Cafe. At this intimate, relaxed Euro-style cafe, chef Ba Culbert cooks up smart comfort food for lunch (Dutch babies, quiche, baked beans on toast) and dinner (pan-seared chicken, grilled venison, celery root soufflé). 407 Cedar St.; Downtown (206-282-4830 or

Love songs

“Closer,” from Tegan and Sara’s “Heartthrob.” Love often begins with a physical spark. Tegan and Sara’s taste of clubby electropop perfection expertly captures those exciting first moments.

“Recovery,” from Frank Turner’s “Tape Deck Heart.” Breaking up is always hard, but it can spawn a break-up album when one party is still in love. Frank Turner is still firmly in the bargaining stage of denial in his singalong ode to rejection.

“Begin Again,” from Taylor Swift’s “Red.” Swift writes almost exclusively about (young) love — falling in love, being in love, being scorned by love. On “Begin Again,” Swift tackles the grown-up task of starting over.

Cheap dates

. Head up to Central Cinema for dinner and screenings of either “Pretty in Pink” or “She’s All That,” or check out the Grand Illusion for “VHSEX 2,” a collection of rare, racy and ridiculous VHS tapes from the Scarecrow Video sexploitation room. 7:30 and 9 p.m. Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave.; Central District; $7 (206-328-3230 or And 9 p.m. Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St.; University District; $5-$8 (206-523-3935 or

Comedy. Check out Jet City Improv’s parody, “Upside Downton,” where eight improvisers weave suggested story lines in with BBC’s “Downton Abbey.” 8 p.m., 5510 University Way N.E.; University District; $12-$15 (206-352-8291 or

Games. Fit in some fun before dinner by taking advantage of the happy-hour specials at Capitol Hill Garage for drinks, snacks, bowling and pool. Happy-hour special 3-7 p.m. everyday $10/hour lane and $5/hour table rentals, 1130 Broadway Ave.; Capitol Hill (206-322-2296 or


Scenic. After walking through the Olympic Sculpture Park, meander down to the waterfront for some quality views and seafood, and maybe a ride on Seattle’s Ferris wheel. Olympic Sculpture Park, 2901 Western Ave.; Belltown; free (206-654-3100 or 11 a.m.-midnight Great Wheel, 1301 Alaskan Way; Seattle Waterfront; $13 (206-623-8607 or

Classic. Bundled-up folks can cuddle while walking around Volunteer Park, then shed layers for a special cocktail party in the Volunteer Park conservatory. Cocktail party: 5-8 p.m., 1400 E Galer St.; Capitol Hill; $20-$25 (206-684-4743 or

Fun. Clown around at one of Wallingford’s playgrounds and fields, take goofy pictures in the photo booth at Archie McPhee’s, then grab a bite in one of the restaurants along 45th. Archie McPhee’s, 1300 N. 45th St.; Wallingford; photo booth $3 (206-297-0240 or

Zosha Millman, Seattle Times staff reporter

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