If you’re in the mood for something hot and steamy, check out these contemporary romance novels. They’ll sweep you off your feet!
I’ve always loved reading romance novels, but in the last few months, I think I’ve doubled down on this genre as if I’m being paid to read them. Spoiler alert: no one is paying me to read all of the romance novels! I am in so deep with this romance genre that I am seriously contemplating starting a romance novels blog just to share my love for these books.
To be completely honest, with all the changes that have been going on in my life over the last year or so, the predictability of a happy ending or even a happy for now, even if it’s only in a fictional world, has been a source of great comfort and healing for me personally.
So yeah, a lot of romance reading has happened in the last few months. And till I get around to creating that romance book blog (if ever, at that!), I have deemed that this will be the place for all of my romance books related confessions. :)
Best Contemporary Romance Novels to Add to Your TBR Right Now
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Of all the sub-genres within the romance novels space, nothing makes my heart beat faster than contemporary romance. It’s the romance sub-genre that I gravitate towards most often and I don’t think I will tire of it any time soon.
The list below is a mix of books I’ve read this year (new releases + backlist titles) and some new releases that I cannot wait to read. For the purpose of this list of my favorite contemporary romance novels, I’ve stuck to books that have mostly been set in (and released in) the last decade or so.
Oh, and as much as I love books like The Song of Achilles, The Idea of You, or Favourite Hello, Hardest Goodbye, you will not find them on the list below, because as I’ve learned in the past few months, books need to have happy endings or happy-for-nows to be classified as romances, and sadly, these above-mentioned books don’t.
And lastly, the books mentioned in this list can almost all be read as a standalone, even when they are a part of a larger series. I’ll probably do a separate post on my favorite romance novel series later – this post will never end if I start adding them too!
Okay, okay, enough talk now. Getting on with the list:
It Happened One Summer
I love just about everything Schitt’s Creek and when the blurb mentioned that this book was a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com, I was pretty much sold at that point.
Piper is a Hollywood “It Girl” who is cut off from her wealthy family and exiled to a small Pacific Northwest beach town for the summer where she butts heads with Brendan, a grumpy and sexy local fisherman who thinks she doesn’t quite belong there.
The romance is all sorts of steamy with the perfect dose of emotional connection and has a cast of lovable side characters (see: Hannah). The conflict in the third act was a tad too dramatic, but nevertheless, it was a super cute summer love story that I absolutely devoured!
People We Meet on Vacation
Despite having nothing in common, Poppy and Alex become best friends in college over a shared car drive home. They make a tradition of taking an annual vacation together, until two years back, since which they haven’t spoken to each other. Poppy decides to take a chance this year to convince Alex to take one more vacation together to see if they can fix things between them.
Poppy and Alex’s banter is hilarious and I ended up with so many LOL highlights on my Kindle. Their connection is genuine and heartfelt and the book totally delivers on the second chance + friends-to-lovers tropes. Oh, and there’s only ONE BED to share!!! Alex was the perfect cinnamon roll and I loved Poppy’s feistiness. Plenty of swoony, awwww moments in the book, and I’ll say, it was the perfect follow-up to Emily Henry’s smash hit, Beach Read.
Speaking of Beach Read…
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. They are sharing neighboring beach houses for the summer, and they both seem to be struggling with writer’s block. As they agree to help each other out of their respective creative rut, they expect only a finished novel to be the end result, nothing more.
Despite the light-hearted book title, it tackles some rather heavy and angsty subjects (which I weirdly love in romance novels!). It’s not all gloom though. The humor is wickedly clever and sarcastic, the chemistry between Gus and January is crackling, and there is so much tenderness when they are dealing with each other’s pain. I loved this book so much and I think it was pretty close to perfect.
Ever After Always
Aiden and Freya have been married for 12 years and they now find themselves on the brink of a crumbling marriage. As they wade through marriage counseling, they’re thrown together for an island getaway to celebrate Freya’s parents’ wedding anniversary. Will the tropical escape be enough to help them find their way back to each other?
I love second chance romances in general, especially when it is within the premise of a failing marriage. Aiden and Freya’s love for each other is never in doubt, and yet they find themselves unable to communicate with each other. Freya’s meddling family is hilarious though, and they all come together during the course of the island getaway to help the struggling couple.
The reconnection between Aiden and Freya is a steamy slow burn, and the mental health rep was really well done. If the marriage-in-trouble trope works for you, you should definitely give this one a go.
note: part of a series but can be read as a standalone. The rest of the series is pretty awesome too!
The Bromance Book Club
Lyssa Kay Adams
And on the theme of marriage-in-trouble trope…
When baseball hotshot Gavin Scott realizes that his wife Thea has been faking her orgasms all this while, he throws a massive fit which ultimately leads Thea to ask for a divorce. Not wanting to give up on his marriage, he attempts to woo his wife all over again with the help of a top-secret men-only book club where they treat romance novels as manuals.
This book was such a hoot! The story is cute, super steamy, and refreshing. The book club men come up with some hilarious conversations (though admittedly, I did find some of their dialogues on toxic masculinity a little on the nose). I adored Gavin for his earnestness, and boy, does he work hard to fix things!
On the whole, the book left me with a huge smile on my face and despite some minor quibbles, I’d wholeheartedly recommend this book!
ps – the fourth book in this series – Isn’t It Bromantic? – has been recently released and after a disappointing book 2 and book 3, I was happy to read Vlad’s suitably adorable HEA story.
Wes Van de Hoek, widely regarded as the best college football player in the nation, and Julian Swanscott find themselves in Paris for a French study program and end up with a sweet summer romance. Their return to university life forces them to reconsider their relationship in the light of Wes’ popularity as a football player and his sense of responsibility as the team captain.
I was completely blown away by this charming and moving gay romance by new-to-me author Tal Bauer a couple of months back. Since then I have devoured more of his works, but The Jock remains my favorite. Wes and Julian’s love is honest, captivating, and deep. They end up facing challenges that they never saw coming and it was more than just a little heartbreaking. I really love both Wes and Justin (and Justin’s dad!) and honestly, I would happily sign up to read more about their life together!
ps – Book 2 in the series – The Quarterback – is also a fantastic age-gap romance, featuring a couple that I really did not see coming in The Jock.
When Deacon returns home for his younger brother’s one-year death anniversary, he does not expect to develop feelings towards another man. And not just any man, but Julian, who was the boy next door and his brother’s boyfriend and someone he’s almost always disliked.
Remember when I said I like romances with heavy and angsty bits? Well, this book certainly delivers on the heavy and actually does a good job of dealing with it.
Both Deacon and Justin are such vulnerable yet strong men, and their happy ending is hard-won. They bolstered each other up and in their unexpected love story, they find a home in each other. Without You is a moving story of the healing power of love, and quite possibly one of my top 5 reads of the year.
ps – Can we take a moment to swoon over the perfection that is this book cover!!!
The Wall of Winnipeg and Me
After two years of working as star football player Aiden Graves’s assistant, Vanessa Mazur finally has enough money saved up to quit and start her own business. And then Aiden in his broody and grumpy best shows up at her door asking her for a favor that she ultimately can’t refuse.
So this is the book that started the romance craze for me late last year. Mariana Zapata is the queen of slow-burn romances and in Aiden, she gives us the perfectly yummy book boyfriend. Vanessa is a strong heroine and her family backstory is well-fleshed out. There is nothing insta about Vanessa and Aiden’s love story and when they finally get together, it’s all sorts of passionate and sensual and intense. Loved this book thoroughly.
Wait for It
Diana Casillas has almost everything she could ever ask for – a new house, two little boys she inherited the most painful possible way, a giant dog, a job she usually loves, more than enough family, and caring friends. Except for a boyfriend. Or a husband. But who needs either one of those?
I thought I would be hard-pressed to find an MZ book that I loved as much as The Wall of Winnipeg and Me, but Wait For It turned out to be even better if that was even possible.
Diana is an absolutely kick-ass heroine and a fierce guardian to her nephews. She has an awkward start with Dallas but their friendship grows beautifully, ultimately culminating in a solid relationship. This book is a gorgeous slow burn, friends to lovers romance that I absolutely loved!
Matt Argento is a man with a painful past, married to a successful musician, Rhys Nyland. Two years into wedded bliss, Matt wants to believe that he’s left the ghosts of his past behind, but when Rhys leaves to go on tour for his new album, it all starts unraveling for Matt until both Rhys and Matt are forced to confront the burden of secrets and Matt’s past.
This book was an easy 5-star for me, though the book isn’t really all that easy. It’s an emotional portrayal of troubles within a seemingly perfect marriage.
It’s a heavy read for sure, though there are some cute, light-hearted moments too. Neither of the main characters is perfect (Matt with his insecurities and secrets, Rhys with his savior complex) but their love is deep and I loved how they ultimately handled all the conflict within their relationship. The sex is unbelievably hot (roleplay and toys, yes please!) though it really just served to underscore the intense connection between Matt and Rhys.
I loved this book something fierce and have reread it a couple of times in the last few months!
note: part of a series but can be read as a standalone.
The Heart Principle
Facing professional burnout and an emotional breakdown, violinist Anna Sun decides to have a string of one-night stands, which leads her to the charming tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep. When a family tragedy finds Anna struggling with new responsibilities, Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.
I’d thoroughly loved The Kiss Quotient, and I’d mostly liked The Bride Test. But I just wasn’t prepared for how much the third book in this series would affect me. It’s intensely moving, and raw, and emotional, with characters that are vulnerable and with heavy burdens of their own. It’s so much more than a romance and I was just truly wowed by it in its entirety.
This book is definitely one of my top 5 books for the year!
note: part of a series but can be read as a standalone.
Down and Dirty
Parker St. John
Facing a suspension from his bull-fighting job, rodeo pro Lane Bell is forced to make his way back to the home and family that he’s as good as abandoned for the last decade. But going home also means confronting Denver Reed, the one who sacrificed everything to clean up the shattered mess that Lane left behind.
Wow, this was a delicious, angsty slow burn, with a lot of hurt/comfort theme going on. Both Lane and Denver have so much pain going on, and there is a lot of growing up and confronting the past that they both have to do. The chemistry between them is amazing and the cast of side characters was just as well done!
note: part of a series but can be read as a standalone. Book 1 in the series – Down Low – was also a really good hurt/comfort, second chances romance read.
Shane Hollander and Ilya Rozanov are crazy talented pro ice hockey players and legendary rivals playing for different teams. But they do in fact play for the same team when the skates come off, and their secret is all fine till Ilya realizes he wants more. In a world where part of their story is built around their intense rivalry, can they take the risk of coming out in the open?
I dare you to not fall in love with Ilya by the end of this book even though, yes, he is a bit of an asshole. There is a lot of teasing and banter going on, and plenty of sexy times too, with lots of swoony little moments especially as their relationship progresses.
This book was such a perfect execution of the enemies-to-lovers trope and it’s definitely one of my favorite m/m romances. Can’t wait for the second installment of Ilya and Shane’s story (releasing in 2022).
note: part of a series but can be read as a standalone.
The Hating Game
Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman work for the top two bosses at Bexley & Gamin and from the first day that they meet, they’ve been engaged in an endless game of one-upmanship. The stakes become especially high when a new promotion comes up for the taking.
Okay, I cannot talk about perfect enemies-to-lovers books and not talk about The Hating Game because it’s definitely a hall-of-famer in that trope! And yes, I am probably 5 years too late to the hype, but that doesn’t really diminish the awesomeness of this book.
There’s plenty of sexy teasing throughout the book, and the sexual tension is fantastically portrayed. The banter between Lucy and Joshua is funny and extremely well-done, and really, the entire book is just all sorts of cute and endearing.
The Friend Zone
An unexpected friendship develops between Gray Grayson, star football player, and Ivy Mackenzie, his agent’s daughter, when he ends up having to use her bubblegum pink car while she’s studying abroad. When they meet finally, sparks do fly, but he’s not really the kind to make friends with women, and she does not date her father’s clients. So do they manage to get out of the friend zone?
The Friend Zone is one of my favorite portrayals of the friends-to-lovers romance trope. Without meeting each other initially, Gray and Ivy become best friends through text messages (which are absolutely adorable and funny!). The chemistry between them when they finally meet is hard to ignore and I think every aspect of this book was amazing. The big challenges that they face are all well-handled, and this book is my absolute favorite in the entire series.
note: part of a series but can be read as a standalone.
New Contemporary Romance Releases That I Cannot Wait to Read
Old Favorites That I’ve Recommended Time & Again
Red, White & Royal Blue
Heir to the British throne falls in love with the son of the US President. This book left me smiling from head to toe.
Love & Other Words
A beautifully written second chance romance for a teenage love gone off the rails. The best CL book, if you ask me!
The Flat Share
How do you possibly fall in love with someone whom you share a bed with but have never met? Over adorable post-it notes, that’s how. :)
The Happy Ever After Playlist
A swoony rockstar hero + a healing and talented heroine + a cute little dog that brings them together makes the perfect recipe for an adorable romance read.
Not surprisingly, this has turned out to be a mammoth post! What other contemporary romance novels would you add to this list? I am always looking for amazing book recommendations, so I’d love to know your suggestions in the comments below!