Learn more about contemporary romance novels and my best contemporary romance novels recommendations!
What Is Contemporary Romance?
The contemporary romance genre is my favorite subset of the vast romance genre. Contemporary romance novels are traditionally defined as romance books that take place within the past few decades. They are also referred to as modern romance novels.
The time period, most often they take place in current day, is what typically sets these book apart. They also typically don’t feature specific characteristics that define other subgenres, like paranormal romance or erotic romance.
The development of the relationship between the main characters is the primary focus. Also, an HEA (happily ever after) ending is all but guaranteed!
Lately, it’s pretty easy to spot a contemporary romance book based solely on the cover! Cute, colorful, illustrated covers are all the rage. You won’t find any shirtless hunks or partially clothed women in this genre. Personally, I adore this trend since it makes my bookshelves look amazing, but I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Who Should Read It?
Contemporary romance novels are perfect for any reader who loves both the emotional and physical aspects of relationships. You’ll also adore these books if you love a bit of humor, stellar side characters, a bit of tension that threatens the relationship, and ultimately a feel good result.
Now that you have a basic introduction to this genre, keep reading to discover the best contemporary romance novels, in my opinion! I certainly haven’t read them all, so please add your favorites in the comments!!
Don’t forget to check out my list of 2021 contemporary romance new releases that is updated throughout the year too!
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Best Contemporary Romance Novels
Life’s Too Short
by Abby Jimenez
Summary: This is easily my favorite of Abby’s books and is absolutely going to be one of the best books of the year.
Vanessa has a successful business showcasing her travels on Instagram. She makes sure she enjoys every moment of her life, even when her sister abandons her daughter, leaving Vanessa to pick up the pieces once again. When her ridiculously hot next door neighbor steps in to help, she can’t help imagining a future life with a husband and kids, something that is never a guarantee.
This is emotional and bold and full of learning to live life to the fullest. Incredible.
by Jen DeLuca
Summary: A renaissance faire, a bookstore, a slow burn romance! What more could you want?? This book easily jumped to the top of my list of contemporary romances. It’s one of my best novels of 2020 and also of all-time!
Emily reluctantly agrees to volunteer at a local renaissance faire and has no idea why one of the organizers, Simon, seems to hate her. The two constantly clash during prep for the event. However when the Faire starts, their new identities indulge in an unexpected flirtation.
How To Fail At Flirting
by Denise Williams
Summary: An incredible love story with a powerful message about how to recover from an abusive relationship.
When Naya decides it’s finally time to step out of her shell, the charming man she meets at the bar is a perfect candidate to help her check a few items off her to-do list. However, a disastrous attempt at a one-night stand instead turns into a budding, real relationship. However, she eventually discovers his career and hers may be at odds.
Naya and Jake are the epitome of a cute couple and I adored all the flirtatious texting and chatting. This is a step above the usual contemporary romance book as it dealt with standing up to an aggressor and learning to heal.
by Angie Hockman
Summary: A super cute rom com that also deals with the important issue of conservation.
Graeme and Henley are vying for the same promotion when they’re sent on one of their company’s cruises together to come up with the perfect marketing pitch. Henley has hated Graeme since practically his first day, when he stole her thunder on a conference call. As she spends time with him though, she can’t shake the feeling that there might be a bigger issue in her company that has nothing to do with Graeme.
I loved the cruise setting and learning about the Galapagos Islands! There is so much meat to this story, both in the growth of the characters and the conservation efforts happening in the world.
Save For Later!
by Beth O’Leary
Summary: The Switch is O’Leary’s second novel (and her first, The Flatshare, was one of my top books of 2019). Leena and her grandmother decide to switch lives after they both realize they need a break. Leena is taking a much needed hiatus from work after a personal tragedy, so she fills in for her grandmother’s small town duties. Meanwhile her grandmother sets off to London to start online dating, with Leena’s flatmates to guide her.
I can’t get enough of O’Leary’s humor and quirky characters. I wanted to curl up with this book forever and keep reading about their adventures. It’s got a little bit of love, a little bit of healing, and a whole lot of charm.
My Favorite Half-Night Stand
by Christina Lauren
Summary: Christina Lauren are two friends who co-author some of the best contemporary romance novels in the business. Honestly, you can throw a dart at their list of books and find a gem, but this just happens to be my favorite of theirs.
In this book, Millie and her group of guy friends turn to online dating to find plus-ones for an upcoming event. Just before they get started though, she hooks up with one of them in a mutually agreed upon one-time only event! Well, at least they both think they’re better off as just friends…
Waiting For Tom Hanks
by Kerry Winfrey
Summary: It doesn’t get any cuter than this for a contemporary romance! If you enjoy a good rom-com, you’ll undoubtedly fall for this novel. Annie is every girl who’s waited for her own perfect “meet cute” moment. When a movie starts filming in her town, she accidentally runs into the star. However, he’s immediately ruled out as her potential Tom Hanks.
In true rom-com fashion, the two dance around each other trying to figure out what they want. I ate it up in just two days! This has all the cutesy, feel good moments we look for in the best contemporary romance novels.
Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe
by Jenny Colgan
Summary: Jenny Colgan is my go-to author when I need a perfect chick-lit/romance escape from reality. All of books could easily land on this list of the best contemporary romance novels. Her books are witty, charming, and often feature some type of bakery, dessert shop, or candy store! What more could you want??
Anyone who wants to see behind the scenes of opening your own business will adore this story about a women leaving behind her finance job to open her own cupcake shop. Issy knows she can bake…really really well. But, she’s discovering there’s a lot more to running a bakery than just talent. Thankfully, she find some new friends willing to help and a reluctant and disheveled (but cute!) bank manager.
Share your best contemporary romance novels in the comments!