Ah, Valentine's Day. You love it and hate it. You think the Hallmark dimension is smarmy and weird, but you can't help believing there really is a fat, little cupid hovering somewhere above your head, just waiting to let that arrow fly. The truth is, Cupid only does for those who do for themselves. So send up some smoke signals with these red-hot reads that offer both sex and sizzle.
"Dear G Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love" by Zane (Atria Books, $25)
As Zane advises, if you can't take the heat, stay out of her kitchen. Erotica novelist, advice columnist, editor and publisher, the Washington, D.C., native known as Zane does not shy away from any topic, including those that you would not divulge to your therapist or your priest. The black woman's Dr. Ruth (www.eroticanoir.com), Zane is appealing because she's both wholesome and nasty, and she has her facts straight about everything from venereal diseases to sexual addiction. Zane answers questions from the lovelorn, the innocent, the confused, the weird, the romantically challenged and the oversexed. Her writing is fresh, funny, shocking and educational. After reading a couple of pages, you might learn some things you never knew you wanted to know.
"I Love You, Let's Meet: Adventures in Online Dating" by Virginia Vitzthum (Little, Brown, $23.99)
If the 21st century begs a new dating manual, this is it. A how-to and a how-not-to, Vitzthum helps readers navigate the tangled web of Internet dating by displaying her mistakes and making them wickedly funny. "I Love You, Let's Meet" explores a range of situations particular to the online world of girl-meets-boy (and many other combinations), including the deceptiveness of the profile and the weirdness of cataloging human beings to find a date. With insider appraisals of a range of different sites, including eHarmony, Match.com, True.com and Nerve.com, Vitzthum explores snafus, conundrums and the rare happily-ever-after stories of those who've braved the newest frontier of love.
"Gamiani, or Two Nights of Excess" by Alfred de Musset, translated by John Baxter (Harper Perennial, $12.95).
Within the first three pages, this slender tome is sure to convince every generation since 1833 that they did not, in fact, invent sex. Or erotica. Or the sexual hypocrisy of the clergy. Or bestiality. Originally published not only under a pseudonym but also under a pseudo-country in order to protect the reputation and identity of the author, "Gamiani" is crammed with one man and two women's emotions at their most extreme, particularly the emotions of lust, disgust, horror, pleasure and sensual overload. Inspired by the unrequited love of French poet and playwright de Musset for the bisexual author George Sand, this book generates enough heat to ignite both the lonely and the coupled. S