10 Contemporary Romance Book Recommendations for Straight Men
Not long ago, I wrote a piece about why more men should read romance novels. It was pretty good (if I do say so myself) and my points are valid. But I made a huge oversight (thanks ADHD). I didn’t give a list of books that straight men could read to get started.
Why straight men? According to RWA, in 2017 18% of romance readers were men and 82% were women. The sexuality breakdown has 86% heterosexual or straight readers; 9% bisexual, pansexual, or other bi+ identity; 2% gay or lesbian. So if 82% of readers are women and 86% are straight, then there’s a serious vacancy for straight men.
If more straight men read romance novels, there would be less confusion about what straight women want. Turns out, it’s mostly mutual respect, kindness, and communication about emotions. I don’t think straight men understand what a big turn on vulnerability can be for women, and reading romance can show them that. Many dismiss romance because they say that it holds men to unrealistic expectations since the genre is full of billionaires and cowboys and dukes. While dating someone with no financial worries would be nice, a job resume is not the takeaway here, it’s the motivation behind the actions. Respect, kindness, and communication are modeled over and over throughout all the sub-genres.
Speaking of sub-genres, the romance genre is vast. This is another misconception about romance, that it’s all heaving bosoms and clinch covers. You can find any interest explored in the sub-genres. There’s romantic suspense with spies, action, adventure; there’s paranormal with vampires, orcs, mythological creatures; there’s historical, the sub-genre that typically comes to mind for people when the romance genre is mentioned; there’s erotica, dark romance, and everything in between. For the sake of easing in, I’m only recommending contemporary romance novels here. Those are romances written in the present day with everyday people.
This is a good place for newbies to start because they are the most like real life and are easy to draw parallels to in the reader’s own life. The books I’ve picked cover a lot of emotional territory. There are big, soft, sweet cinnamon roll heroes, grumpy heroes, heroes with over the top personalities, and considerate guys. There is a hero in this list that you will be able to relate to, admire, and learn from.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Beautifully written and full of miscommunication to start, this is a good one for straight men to read because it shows how a misunderstanding doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship. After a near-death experience, Chloe Brown is determined to start living her life and not just existing in the world. So she does what any self-respecting woman would do — she makes a list. Step one: get her own apartment. Step two: do not murder the infuriating building manager who is also one of the cutest men she’s ever seen. Redford Morgan doesn’t want anything to do with his new stuck up tenant anyway, he’s got his own life to get back on track. The two realize that they can help each other and agree to give it a shot, albeit grudgingly. It turns out there’s more than just a few misunderstandings between the two.
Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn
Perfect for men who are the strong, silent type. We get half the book from Levi’s perspective and when he confuses feelings for Georgie to being hungry, it’s easy for us to see the writing on the wall, which could make it easier to see in our own lives, too. When Georgie is let go by her director boss who decides to retire, it gives her the perfect excuse to go back to southeast Virginia to help her pregnant best friend settle into their home town before the baby comes. She’s determined to get her life back on track and stop being such a mess. She doesn’t expect Levi Fanning, resident outcast and grump, to literally crash her plans by walking in on her in her underpants at her parents’ house. When she finds a friend-fic that she and Annabel wrote in middle school, she decides to do all the adventures they wrote about to find out if the person 14-year-old Georgie dreamed of is at all the person current day Georgie is. Levi agrees to help her with the list, and face some demons from his past he’s been going out of his way to avoid.
American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
Both characters have to overcome obstacles in their own lives before they can fully commit to each other, making this an excellent example for “doing the work” before committing to another person. Nesto Vasquez is taking a chance on his dream to run a food truck full time. He thinks the best way for success is to leave the city and go upstate to Ithaca where the competition isn’t so steep. When librarian Jude Fuller can’t stop hearing about the new Afro-Caribbean food truck everyone is raving about, he decides to check it out for himself. He surprises himself by flirting with the sexy food truck owner, and before he knows it, he wants more of Nesto and his food, but he has to let go of his past first. And Nesto needs to remember that there’s more to life than work.
In a Jam by Kate Canterbary
Sometimes, unrequited love isn’t reciprocated because one person doesn’t know how the other feels and because it’s scary to be vulnerable. Noah and Shay are a perfect example of how being brave about emotions can pay off. Noah Barden has loved Shay Zucconi his whole life, but thought that when she left their small Rhode Island town he’d never see her again. Thanks to being stood up at the altar and an unexpected inheritance, she’s back and just as oblivious. This time, Noah has more than himself to think about since his niece has come to live with him. Shay is an elementary school teacher and agrees to help the little girl get caught up in school. Through her tutoring sessions, and Noah’s obvious attempts to take care of everyone, they grow close again, like they were in high school. This time, both are determined for it to go differently.
The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
The hero here is an example of a man who is in tune with his feelings and has strong relationships with his friends, while the heroine is the one who needs to be vulnerable. It’s not always the men who are the problem. Rhiannon Hunter is a giant in the tech world, having created one of the most popular dating apps online. Samson Lima is a giant in real life and on the football field. The two right swipe on each other and have a glorious night together. Months later, they run into each other and Samson is working with Rhiannon’s nemesis. He promises not to screw up a second time by leaving her high and dry, but she’s been burned before and doesn’t trust any feelings beyond the physical. Samson is a cinnamon roll hero who isn’t roped in by toxic masculinity and is willing to stand up for his beliefs.
The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
A literal example of how reading romance can help relationships. This is an obvious choice that couldn’t be left off the list. Gavin is a star on the baseball field, but he’s striking out at home with his wife Thea. He loses his temper after realizing that she fakes orgasms, and it’s the last straw for her in their already contentious marriage. She wants a divorce. Devastated and willing to do anything, Gavin goes to his friends for help, who give Gavin romance novels, of all things. Turns out that reading books for women — about women, by women — are a pretty good playbook to understanding what they want. With the playbook in hand, coaching from his friends, and the tenacity built over a career as a professional athlete, Gavin is determined to win Thea back.
You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria
Families can be complicated and play into a couple’s relationship. Alexis Daria writes epic families and how two people can create an even better one together. Jasmin and Ashton are both in precarious places in their acting careers. She’s all over the tabloids post break up, and his character on a longstanding telenovela is killed off. Neither can afford to mess up this next opportunity, so they take rehearsals off set to ensure that they get it right. Their characters have to kiss, and kissing off set leads to kissing in the bed and things heat up between the two very quickly. This might be the scandal that will end both their careers.
Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
This book gives insight into what the world can be like for fat women and the men who love them. Plus, it’s perfect for fanfic and fantasy nerds. Marcus Caster-Rupp is the lead actor in a huge fantasy TV show based on a book series (á la Game of Thrones) and writes fanfic for said show in his spare time. He loves the anonymity of the message boards and loves his relationships with his beta readers. April Whittier is one such beta reader and a secret member of the fandom who keeps her real life separate from her online life. One day she decides to post a picture in a cosplay costume online, and it goes viral with fans and trolls alike commenting on her plus-sized body. Marcus sees it and decides to ask her out on a date to silence the haters. Slowly, the secrets about their online lives are revealed, and so are their feelings for each other.
Scoring Off the Field by Naima Simone
This book illustrates what it’s like to not realize what you have until it’s gone, and the lengths you have to go to to get it back. Tennyson Clark is done waiting for quarterback, boss, and best friend Dominic Anderson to get a clue. She’s quitting her job and ending the friendship with Dominic because this unrequited thing is not working for her. Once Dominic realizes that she’s not kidding, he panics. He doesn’t want to lose her friendship. Plus now that he’s looking at her in a new, sexier light, he doesn’t want to lose her body either. But he’s got to come to terms with his own feelings, something he’s been very happy, and even encouraged, to push aside. By the time he does the emotional work Tennyson’s been asking him to do for ages, it might be too late.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
A classic enemies-to-lovers, this book shows how fine the line is between hate and love, and what can happen when you really examine which emotion you are feeling. In an alternate version of America, President Ellen Claremont’s son, Alex, gets in a little bit of a pickle with Prince Henry of England. Madam President doesn’t need any bad press right before her reelection bid, so her team coordinates with the UK people to have Alex and Henry flaunt their fake friendship to save face. The two start a real relationship during all the PR and are terrified that if their relationship gets out, it could hurt everyone involved.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
Nora Stephens is known as a shark in the book world as a shrewd literary agent. She takes care of herself, her clients, her little sister Libby, and will bulldoze anyone who tries to harm them. She and Libby leave New York City for Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, for a getaway before Libby gives birth and to complete a romcom list that Libby has concocted for them. In this tiny, no-place town, they run into Charlie Lastra, an editor from New York who Nora has no desire to work with, much less see. The more they run into each other, the more Charlie sees Nora’s vulnerable side and the more Nora sees that she doesn’t have to protect everyone all the time, especially against their own wishes.
Once you wet your whistle and want to go down an even deeper romance rabbit hole, you should check out the 20 most popular romance novels of 2022 and the 24 best romance novels of all time. Then you should check out which romance to read based on which romcom movie you liked. Also, here’s why romance novels do not, in fact, ruin relationships.