Being a romance reader can take you to a lot of places. You can travel to good ol’ New York City in one book, and then your next read can take you to a magical fantasy world that you couldn’t possibly imagine in your wildest dreams. Not only that, though! If you read historical romance, you can travel to other times as well as places, like England in the 18th century. Romance books show you places in a way that feels welcoming, easy, and so entertaining. With these stories, you can feel closer to a place that you have never seen before. In this list, you’ll find the best contemporary romance books that will put a smile on your face right away.
What is Contemporary Romance?
Contemporary fiction is fiction set in modern times. So, contemporary romance books are stories with a central romance arc that take place in the same time period they were written. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve included any that take place between the 1990s and the present day. Some may argue that the 1990s are already part of historical romance nowadays, but that’s a different conversation for another day.
How can you instantly find contemporary romances? If the book you’re currently reading is set around the same time you’re currently living, it means that it’s a contemporary romance novel. When it comes to other genres, like historical and fantasy, you can easily identify them as well because of the time period and fantastical elements. But genres and sub-genres can meet in the middle and you can find yourself reading a book that is considered a contemporary fantasy novel. You can play around with genres, for sure! For this list, I’m focusing on contemporary romance titles with no fantastic elements.
Another thing about the list is that I include newer book titles but also feature novels that have been loved for a long time. So, it’s really a mix of recent and older books for you, the readers, who want a little bit of everything.
Finding Gene Kelly by Torie Jean
Travel to the City of Love in Finding Gene Kelly, where one woman reunites with her childhood nemesis and pretends to date him for her brother’s wedding in order to appease her mother.
If you’re someone who prefers fluffy reads instead of angsty, intense stories, Jean’s novel would be perfect for you. Take a nice walk around Paris with Evie O’Shea, the guy she loves to hate, and all the delightful events surrounding their fake dating story.
Tis the Season for Revenge by Morgan Elizabeth
Holiday romance novels never go out of style. I’m a firm believer that you can pick up a holiday book any time of the year. And Elizabeth’s Tis the Season for Revenge is one you have to read immediately.
Are you someone who religiously watches Legally Blonde? If your answer is yes and Elle Woods is one of your favorite characters in media, you will adore Abbie Keller. After her boyfriend breaks up with her by telling her she’s not wife material, she decides to get revenge. What is she going to do? She will date her annoying ex’s hot boss and go to the firm’s Christmas party to show that she’s not someone just for “fun.”But what started as a revenge plan soon turns into something more when she meets charming Damien Martinez.
Midnight Kisses by Jeanine Bennedict
Midnight Kisses is a college sports romance featuring a grumpy girl and the Golden Retriever football player who wants to be more than her friend with benefits. But when he finds out she’s the coach’s daughter, their forbidden romance turns more complicated. Follow their daily lives as students, their romances, and their friendships in Bennedict’s debut novel.
Pets of Park Avenue by Stefanie London
The Paws in the City series is one book series I’ve been high-key enjoying lately. Think Emily in Paris but in New York City! You get to read about heroines working in the pet business (there’s a pet talent agency!) and it’s actually very entertaining. Pets of Park Avenue is the second book in the series and it follows Scout, a self-proclaimed hot mess who needs the help of her estranged husband to save her job.
Water Under the Bridge by Kels and Denise Stone
For fans of The Spanish Love Deception, Water Under the Bridge is a workplace romance between rivals who can’t help but fall in love!
In this book, you’ll meet Avery Soko, an ambitious woman who knows what she wants. And that is to get her dream fundraising job at Oceanic Research Organization. She never expects Luca Navarro, an annoying former corporate lawyer, to give her the bad news about not getting her dream job. But Avery won’t ever give up, so she takes a job at a struggling start-up, bringing her face-to-face yet again with Luca when they find themselves competing for a multimillion-dollar prize.
Gouda Friends by Cathy Yardley
The whole Ponto Beach Reunion series is worth reading. The second book, Gouda Friends, follows Tam Doan, who finds herself without a job and with no place to live after finding her boyfriend in the arms of another. When it comes to emergencies, her estranged best friend Josh was always there for her. So, she decides to give him a call, even if they haven’t seen each other in five years.
Sweethand by N.G. Peltier
An entertaining romcom with an enemies-to-lovers storyline, Sweethand is the book you’ve been searching for. The story starts with Cherisse, who, after a horrible and very public breakup with her musician boyfriend, decides to forget about love and focus on her baking business instead. All goes well until she reunites with the most annoying man she has ever met, Keiran, her childhood nemesis and the best man for her sister’s wedding. Cherisse happens to be the maid of honor, so now they’re going to have to spend a lot of time together. They always say there’s a small step between hate and love, right?
All Downhill With You by Julie Olivia
The first thing that immediately caught my attention about this book is that it is set at an amusement park in a small town. Lorelei is actually the marketing manager and she knows the perfect way to make this park a success. But everything comes crashing down when she suddenly has an accident while she’s on one of the roller coasters. Even though she decides to sue the company, she knows she doesn’t care about the money — she only wants to find out how it happened. She never expects the grumpy, icy man before her to be the one who created the rollercoaster.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
Emily Henry crafts contemporary stories like no other. It’s easy to love her books — with their charming characters and enthralling stories. Book Lovers follows a literary agent who decides to take a trip with her sister to a small town and suddenly bumps into a book editor who she has never understood. Nora believes she’s not the main character of her story, but maybe meeting Charlie and staying in this small town will make her realize that everyone is the creator of their own little stories.
Go Deep by Rilzy Adams
An erotic writer experiencing writer’s block needs a little bit of inspiration before she releases her next story. Good thing she has a best friend who is ready to provide her with his body and heart! And maybe, in the process, she might finally fall for him like he has been in love with her for all these years.
In A Jam by Kate Canterbary
What if one day someone calls you to let you know you just inherited a tulip farm from your late step-grandmother? But before they are able to give it to you, you need to complete two conditions: move to a small town and get married within the year. For Shay, this seems impossible, especially the getting married part. But if it means saving the only home she’s ever known, she might just do it. And Noah Barden, her childhood friend, is perfect husband material.
Icebreaker by Hannah Grace
Icebreaker is a New Adult college sports romance featuring a figure skater and a hockey player. It’s a fun, cozy slice-of-life romance where you get to enjoy the characters in simple, daily-life situations. Anastasia is training for the Olympics, but when the hockey team starts using her ice rink to train, she thinks her whole world is about to collapse. And all her anger is directed towards the team captain, Nathan, who she cannot seem to shoo away. These two are about to make you swoon on every page!
Heartless by Elsie Silver
If we’re talking about small-town romances, we cannot leave behind Elsie Silver’s Chestnut Springs, which is part of a magnificent, delightful series that will feel like a thousand suns just put their light on you. Heartless follows Cade Eaton, a single dad who needs a nanny for the summer. His sister-in-law volunteers her best friend for the job, but Cade Eaton never, in his wildest dreams, imagined Willa. Between sunny days and quiet moments, Cade starts to soften his grumpy edges around Willa, hoping for a future with her.
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
One book that must always be in a best contemporary romance list is Act Your Age, Eve Brown. To be completely honest, the whole Brown Sisters series deserves a spot in this list. But if I can only include one, I’m going to include this one.
Eve Brown is the last of the Brown sisters. And it’s her time to shine. In this book, Eve happens to find a “chef wanted” ad on a bed and breakfast out of town and she thinks it’s the perfect opportunity to prove to her family and friends she is not the hot mess everyone seems to think she is. But she never expected for the owner to completely shut her down. After accidentally hitting him with her car after the interview, Eve suddenly has a job.
Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Xeni is a marriage of convenience romance that will make you smile from start to finish. Two strangers who end up together because of an inheritance clause and end up finding love in such an unexpected place.
Matchmaking dead relatives really do the work. For Xeni, she only wanted her inheritance, but to get it, she must marry first! And her aunt has the perfect groom in mind — a handsome and deliciously thicc Scotsman.
Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake
A heart-warming queer romantic comedy about second chances and finding love awaits you in the pages of Delilah Green Doesn’t Care.
This book follows Delilah, who once upon a time swore she would never go back to Bright Falls. But when her estranged stepsister asks her to photograph her wedding, Delilah finds herself coming back to the town she used to call home. Her plan is to do the job and walk away, but then she bumps into Claire Sutherland, her stepsister’s annoying, stuck-up best friend, and things suddenly change.
Lovelight Farms by B.K. Borison
B.K. Borison continues to write wholesome, comfort favorites. Lovelight Farms is the first book in her Lovelight series and it’s about Stella Bloom and her plan to win a social media contest to save her Christmas tree farm. But to make her farm seem more like a romantic getaway, she wrote down that she owns it with her boyfriend. Thing is…she has no boyfriend. Enter best friend Luka, who just came home for the holidays and found himself getting a tree farm and a girlfriend in the process.
Funny Feelings by Tarah DeWitt
Tarah DeWitt is an author to look out for, and Funny Feelings is the ideal book to start with! Inside its pages, you’ll find a stand-up comedian who has to pretend to date her manager in order to create good publicity for her upcoming show.
I know you’re wondering why all the fake dating romance books? The answer is that the fake dating trope provides a lot of things that readers gravitate toward. Like pining, yearning, and moments where the characters have to pretend when in fact they already feel an enormity of emotions for each other.
Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley
Fake It Till You Bake It is a mix of celebrity romance and fake dating with a teaspoon of sports romance! In this endearing story, a reality TV star has to start working in San Diego’s newest cupcake shop in order to get her inheritance. But the uptight owner is not making things easy for her. Everything makes a turn for the worst when a reporter mistakenly believes Jada and Donovan are a couple! But this mistake might actually be of use to both of them…
Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese
This swoony reimagining of Much Ado About Nothing will make you unbelievably happy. What can you expect from a Chloe Liese novel? A fascinating main character who you will root for, a love interest who will pull at your heartstrings, comforting friendships, and a story you won’t ever forget.
Two Wrongs Make a Right introduces Jamie and Bea by way of a meet-disaster. But they don’t think they’ll ever bump into each other again…until their friends start to play Cupid and trick them into going on a date. They decide to get a little bit of revenge by pretending to date then eventually breaking up in the worst way possible, showing their friends they are complete opposites who do not match. But when they find themselves enjoying their outings together, they start to wonder if maybe Cupid’s arrow really was off about them.
Just One More by Jodie Slaughter
Sometimes you want to pick up a book and read it, but circumstances won’t let you. When times like this happen, you can get yourself a short novella and enjoy your evening reading about a tattoo artist who is spending Valentine’s Day alone, but somehow ends up in the same Uber as a handsome stranger who just got back from a bad date. Jodie Slaughter instantly charms you with Victor and Whitney in Just One More.
The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
Mia Sosa is the queen of romcoms. The Worst Best Man is an entertaining and hilarious tale about a wedding planner who was left at the altar and years later has to work alongside the man who ruined her nuptials. If you love You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle, there’s a big chance you will adore Sosa’s magnificent romance novel.
Restore Me by J.L. Seegars
What awaits inside the pages of Restore Me is a journey of forgiveness, love, and grief. J.L. Seegars is one of the most amazing writers out there and you better be reading her books.
Restore Me follows Sloane, who has been grieving her late husband for a few years now. She never expected to work side-by-side with her late husband’s best friend…the man she hates. But Dominic is keeping some secrets — secrets that could be life-changing.
Private Eye by Katrina Jackson
Sometimes you start to wonder if an FBI agent is keeping an eye on you through your webcam. For Maya, this is the case. Kenny isn’t an FBI agent though — he’s a spy! His latest mission leads him to Maya’s camroom…and he’s a goner. When there’s finally a lead on catching the bad guy, Kenny must reveal his secrets to Maya and finally let her know what’s been happening behind the scenes. Between catching a mobster and camroom sessions, they find that their online connection might be stronger offline.
Midnight by Shon
Midnight is the second book in a series of erotic novellas. It tells the story of Tyler and Midnight, two people who once upon a time had a one-night stand. But since then, they…have had some other one-night stands. Every time they meet, they can’t help but flirt with each other. Midnight knows she’s it for him, but Tyler is the one with the choices to make. Will she finally come to Midnight or will he have to make one last effort to steal her heart completely?
Even though this is the second in a series, you can read it as a standalone — but I highly recommend reading His Majesty as well. You’ll find yourself quickly falling in love with Shon’s writing and story.
As I mentioned before, genres can mix and match in any way. Genre-blending romance books exist! You can read a historical romance with a murder mystery or a cozy contemporary fantasy romance novel that will make your day. You just have to dig a little and you’ll find all of these hidden gems.