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With Valentine's Day fast approaching, the pressure is on to find new and exciting ways to romance your partner. Making dinner reservations at her favorite restaurant may sound like a good plan, until you're crammed in the lobby with 150 other couples who had the same idea. Why not skip the crowds and trends this year and do something truly thoughtful for your partner?

As a romance author, I'm a firm believer in "It's the thought that counts." Taking the time to show your partner you put some thought into the occasion can turn any setting into a romantic one—even your home. For a change of pace, try these five ways to make your Valentine's Day more romantic without leaving your house:

Have a Romantic Dinner at Home

Putting forth the effort to cook a meal (and do all the cleaning up afterward) is one of the most romantic gestures I can think of. This is especially true if you live together, and your partner does the majority of the cooking. Can't cook? No problem! With services like DoorDash and ZulaFood, you can have a romantic meal delivered right to your door. (Just make sure you still do all the cleaning up afterward!)

Watch a Movie Under the Stars

If cuddling on the couch in front of the TV has become routine, why not move the movie outside? With a smart TV and a good wifi signal, all you need to do is run an extension cord outside. Set up some reclining lounge chairs or throw down a fluffy pile of pillows to cozy up on. If you can't get your TV outside, you can always watch a movie on your laptop—and it gives you all the more reason to be close, looking at that small screen.

Dance in the Living Room

Hang up some strands of white lights, move the furniture out of the way, and put on some soft tunes. Turn off the normal house lights and sway to the music. Make the moment even more romantic by personalizing the playlist. Play your wedding song or the first song you danced to together. Any tunes that are meaningful will make the evening even more swoon-worthy.

Give Her a Massage

And I don't mean a five-minute shoulder rub. Light some candles, buy some scented lotion, put clean sheets on the bed or sofa and rub her down like you mean it. Take your time and pay extra attention to the sore spots. She'll be putty in your hands.

Go Camping…Indoors

Have all night? Go all-out and set up a tent in your living room. Fill it with pillows and blankets and camp out…er…in. If you've got a fireplace, light it. Bonus points if you use it to make s'mores. No fireplace? Make your s'mores on a gas stove. A candle will work in a pinch.

The key to making these activities romantic is the effort you put into them. Don't expect her to swoon if you flip on the stereo and trip over your 3-year-old's toys as you try to dance around the coffee table. Clean up. Create some ambiance with music and lighting. Believe me, an ounce of effort is worth more than a pound of chocolate. 

Carrie Pulkinen is the author of Reawakened, a paranormal romance set in Houston and Scotland, complete with magic, mystery, vampires and werewolves.

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