8 Books to Feed Your “Love Is Blind” Obsession

Novels for people who can't get enough of this speed-marriage reality TV train wreck

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I don’t usually go in for reality TV dating shows. After a few too many “shocking revelations” on The Bachelor, I find it hard to believe in true love—that is, “true love” happening in front of a camera crew. But one night I was in need of comfort television, and Netflix’s Love is Blind came into my life. As reality TV premises go, this one’s a doozy: Fifteen men and fifteen women would speed-date, sight unseen, then decide to propose to one another, then meet in person, then plan a wedding in four weeks.

I binged all eight episodes of this delightful train wreck the way I speed-read a book you just can’t put down: Getting to know the characters’ emotional baggage to the point where I could comment on who their supposed soulmates were “in the pods.” Legitimately tearing up when these affianced folks met in the flesh. Texting my sister “Giannina’s middle name is Milady??” and “Jessica is feeding her dog wine?!” And yelling at the couples who made a mockery of marriage by leaving each other hanging at the altar. What a rush.

But like the whirlwind romances that defined it, Love is Blind was over in a flash, and I can’t be the only one feeling bereft. If you’re not ready to let go, do yourself a favor and spend some quality time with these books that will leave you similarly infatuated. From contemporary romances to social thrillers, they’ll bring back your favorite moments.

For Another “First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Love” Experiment

Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein

Who amongst us, when besieged by couples’ #blessed engagement posts on Instagram, has not drafted our own fakely preening announcement showing off an obscene rock? But unfortunately for Eliza Roth, co-owner of Brooklyn Jewels, her drunken Instagram draft gets posted—and as the online face of the millennial jewelry shop, she can’t just say “lol jk.” Instead, this #girlboss does the best thing for business: She goes ahead with the fake engagement, which spirals into a sponcon wedding in Williamsburg with a six-month deadline to find a willing (or unwitting) groom. But as Eliza tries to fit the perfect guy into this fantasy, she begins to wonder why a marriage is supposed to be the only thing that gives her life purpose.

If You Were Rooting for Lauren and Cameron the Whole Time

Not the Girl You Marry by Andie J. Christopher

Christopher’s wry, sexy contemporary romance proves that gender-swapping the rom-com classic How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days makes for a radical retelling of two savvy singletons using each other for their respective job promotions. While their intentions are less pure than that of Love is Blind’s most successful couple, protagonist Hannah’s struggles as a biracial woman mirror Lauren’s dating obstacles. What’s more, it’s further proof that not all whirlwind romances end in bitter disaster at the reunion show.

If You Miss Being Back in the Pods

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

In real life, Millie is one of the guys—the serial-killer expert in a group of professors, a sisterly presence to her four best guy friends. Except for Reid, after a drunken night that, despite their shocking chemistry, they agree to never speak of again. Online, Millie is Catherine: her online-dating alter ego who doesn’t have to be tough for anyone and can, behind a screen, speak honestly and vulnerably. When Reid and Catherine “meet,” Millie is forced into catfishing her best friend—and then giving him advice IRL, where their half-night stand grows longer and messier with every new message in their inboxes.

If You Goggled at Barnett Taking on Amber’s Debt

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Like the chattery post-date debriefs in the girls’ quarters on Love is Blind, Eugenides’ novel fails the Bechdel Test. Also like the series, however, it interrogates “the marriage plot” of 19th century novels through a contemporary lens: while Austen and Brontë made it so that any woman, regardless of class, could find the financial and emotional stability of marriage… should that be the highest achievement she can attain? And what does the economic reality of marriage mean today for millennials buckling under student loan debt and unable to fathom owning houses, let alone an emergency fund?

For Everyone Screaming Over Jessica’s Baby Voice

Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton

Whether it was Carlton’s erratic outbursts or Jessica feeding wine to her dog, all the participants seemed interested—possibly more than the whole getting-married bit—in establishing themselves as reality TV personalities. They could have taken some tips from Louise, a 29-year-old writer who failed before she even started, yet finds her most brilliant creation in her wealthy, worldly contemporary Lavinia. When Lavinia takes “you only live once” a little too seriously, Louise takes over her dead friend’s persona. This gender-swapped The Talented Mr. Ripley examines how all it takes to impersonate another charismatic white girl is access to her Instagram and her wardrobe… and a good fake voice.

Seriously, No One Hurt Lauren and Cameron, Their Love is Pure

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Of course there’s a fake-relationship book on this list! Drew asking Alexa, the stranger he has just met in a stalled elevator, to be his date for his ex’s wedding is only slightly less ludicrous than Lauren agreeing to marry Cameron after four days. But as Alexa and Drew actually explore the potential for a relationship, the realities of being an interracial couple threaten the fantasy they’ve constructed at wedding venues and in hotel rooms. Not to mention the long-distance, which is almost as awful as shooting your wedding in 2018 and not being able to go public until 2020. Overcoming all this, both couples give us hope.

When You Want More Stranger-Than-Fiction Stories

Modern Love, Revised and Updated: True Stories of Love, Loss, and Redemption edited by Daniel Jones

Without a doubt, Love is Blind operates on a bonkers premise. And yet, is it any more unbelievable than a woman experiencing the five stages of ghosting grief? Or an older woman confronting her own Mark/Jessica age-gap romance? Or Ayelet Waldman’s viral essay about her love for husband Michael Chabon versus that for her children? This multifaceted collection pulls the best installments from the New York Times’ Modern Love column, yet Jones’s introduction could be describing Love is Blind: “Taken alone, each story marks only a moment, a glimpse behind the curtain of one person’s most pressing romantic or familial drama. Cumulatively, however, they form the arc of a more complex and far richer story: how we seek, find, and hold on to love over the course of a lifetime.”

If You’re Still Not Sure Whether Love is Blind

Flawless by Lara Chapman

In the pods and in the confessionals, familiar refrains had the participants anxious about meeting in-person: What if I’m too old? Too short? Too curvy? Too plain? Cyrano de Bergerac would not be out of place in this experiment—nor would high school senior Sarah, who shares Cyrano’s hangups about her “big” nose. In this YA retelling, Sarah watches helplessly as her beautiful best friend Kristen sparks with heartthrob Rock Conway. And when Kristen begs Sarah to lend her wit via Facebook messenger, she can’t resist the chance to get to know the real Rock. Too bad she’s using another girl’s face to do so. Because as the lovers learn, at some point you have to meet and decide whether to keep moving forward as your true selves.

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