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    Soul food

    By NANCY PARADIS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


    Florists are gearing up for a rush of deliveries, heart-shaped chocolate boxes are filling store shelves and sentimental to downright mushy cards are flooding the post office. It must be February, the month of L-O-V-E.

    Publishers, too, are trying to cash in on Valentine's Day. The results, alas, are not always worth the paper they are printed on. Not all the books with love in the title or as a theme should be destined for immediate recycling, however. Here are a few that, depending on your tolerance for Cupid and all things related, might warrant a second look.

    TRY A BILLET-DOUX:

    How to Write a Love Letter: Putting What's in Your Heart on Paper, by Barrie Dolnick and Donald Baack (Harmony Books, $15) is a good place to start. "Sure, love letters seem a little old-fashioned," say the authors, but with a nod to e-mail, they insist such missives are modern, too. Not only that, love letters can vary from the casual and fun to the serious and profound. In other words, something for everyone.

    The problem, of course, is that letter writing has become an almost lost art. And just how do you translate feelings into words designed to please and entice? With references from history, literature, the Bible -- think of Song of Songs -- to examples from today, How to Write a Love Letter provides a crash course in doing just that.

    THESE BUDS ARE FOR YOU:

    So your loved one is allergic to flowers? It can happen, you know. Not to worry, you can still send flowers, of a different sort. Flowers Are for Love: A Bouquet of Inspirational Stories by Kathy Lamancusa (Fireside, $12) offers a potpourri of anecdotes, involving flowers, of course, from celebrities, writers and professional florists as well as useful advice on gardening and caring for the cut fruits of your labor. Plus, if you're concerned at the short life of cut flowers -- let's face it, that glorious Valentine's bouquet will be lining the trash can within a week -- Flowers Are For Love provides some good reasons for living in the moment and "seizing the day."

    CLOSE ENCOUNTERS:

    You walk into a room and see someone across the crowd. Your eyes meet and you're swept up in the certainty that you know this stranger somehow, from somewhere. This could be either the beginning of a romance novel or . . . well, some people do claim this has happened to them. Hot Chocolate for the Mystical Lover by Arielle Ford (Plume, $13) chronicles a number of these encounters, hence the subtitle 101 True Stories of Soul Mates Brought Together by Divine Intervention. It's hard to imagine reading through the book in one sitting, but a story here and there can be fun. Who knows, maybe they will prime you for meeting up with your soul mate!

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