Contemporary romance is more than a love story set in today’s world. The romances can be side-splitting funny, heart-wrenching or filled with suspense. They are set in small towns, big cities, exotic locations and fictional countries. A contemporary romance reflects the values of a contemporary woman who enjoys an adult romantic relationship and the stories are usually sexy. However, the heat level can range from sweet to scorching hot depending on the characters and the storyline.
What these stories have in common other than the contemporary setting is that they offer an emotionally-satisfying read and they promise a happily-ever-after ending.
If you’ve wanted to read contemporary romances but were afraid to ask for recommendations, here are a few books to get you started. All of these stories have won a RITA award for contemporary romance. A RITA is given out every year by the Romance Writers of America and celebrates excellence in published romance fiction.
There are a lot of choices. Let’s break it down according to your mood:
Need a laugh?
The following books are filled with bad luck, dating disasters and women who face the world with a sense of humor.
Boomerang Bride by Fiona Lowe is about an Australian woman who left everything to meet her online fiancé in Wisconsin, only to find herself scammed and stranded in a small town. The Maldivian Book Reviewer says, “For me, Boomerang Bride was just sheer magic to lose myself in. From page one Matilda and Marc’s witty banter reeled me in and the slumbering sexual tension that slowly awakens between the two was magic in itself as I reveled in each kiss and touch exchanged between the two until its very explosive conclusion.”
Kristan Higgins has had two books that won the RITA. RT BookReviews says that “Higgins has a unique and fresh writing style that captures your heart and imagination from the first page.” Booklist found Too Good to Be True “cheeky, cute and satisfying,” and Catch of the Day had ARomanceReview.com “grinning from ear to ear, crying, and enjoying Maggie’s adventures in dating and life.”
Jill Shalvis writes hot romantic comedy. Simply Irresistible shows the heroine trying to transform into a strong woman as she moves to a small town and claim her inheritance. Publishers Weekly says this book is “heartwarming and sexy” and has “an abundance of chemistry, smoldering romance and hilarious sisterly antics.”
Not Another Blind Date by Rachel Gibson is set in today’s world but it does have a light paranormal twist, which is often found in contemporary romance. This story is about second chances. BookLoons.com says “Not Another Bad Date is an immensely readable book. Adele is funny, quirky and realistic. She could be anyone’s sister, next-door-neighbor, or best friend. Her troubles with men are engaging and believable, and her reaction to the flame-who-did-her-wrong rings true.”
Or are you looking for a hero?
You want men of action and courage. You want heroines who thrive under pressure. They’re soldiers, spies or work for the police. They risk their lives and fall in love while saving the world.
Cindy Dees has two books that won the RITA for her action-packed stories. Soldier’s Last Stand is an opposites-attract story about a party girl who has to infiltrate a terrorist cell and a world-weary man as her handler. The Soldier’s Secret Daughter is about a spy who thinks he was betrayed by a woman who happens to be the mother of his child. Both stories are filled with life-and-death situations that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Helen Brenna also has two books that won RITAs for action-adventure romance. In The Moon That Night, the hero has to steal an artifact and the heroine is a major complication. Romance Reviews Today says, “This romance is a thriller that will keep your heart racing as the passion and danger come to the brink of disaster.” In Treasure, the hero and heroine have very different goals while looking for a Spanish galleon. CataRomance.com says Treasure is “fresh and gripping” and will “introduce you to an original, innovative, new voice in romance.”
Danger Signals by Kathleen Creighton is about a detective and an empath searching for a serial killer. The hero doesn’t trust the heroine or her special skills and she has had difficulties maintaining relationships because of her abilities. RT BookReviews says, “This terrific story is one of intense emotions and passion, with wonderfully drawn characters.”
Maybe you just need to escape and read a good story.
These stories are all from Harlequin. Harlequin has over a dozen contemporary series, ranging from classic romance and stories that focus on families to sensual romance and romantic suspense. These books are shorter but they are intense and take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride.
Doukakis’s Apprentice by Sarah Morgan is a Harlequin Presents. A Presents offers readers glamorous and international settings, powerful men and plenty of passion. In this book, the heroine is trying to save her family’s company from a ruthless alpha male. Pearl’s World of Romance says, “From the first page to the last I was drawn into Sarah Morgan’s fast-paced and attention-grabbing writing style and the intriguing premise. This is Harlequin Presents at its best! The tension, the daughter of the enemy-trope, the setting and the emotional back-stories, it all helped turning this book into an awesome read.”
For emotional stories that delve into complex issues, try a Silhouette Special Edition by Karen Templeton. A Mother’s Wish and Welcome Home, Cowboy both won RITAs. According to Enduring Romance, ” The beauty of Karen Templeton’s contemporary romance is it always feels so real, like it could happen to you, if it hasn’t already, and or to a couple of your best friends. It always *real.*”
A Not-So-Perfect Past by Beth Andrews is essentially a bad boy/good girl romance, and since it’s a Harlequin SuperRomance, the reader will get a central romantic relationship within a bigger story. The Good, the Bad and the Unread says, “It plucks all the right heartstrings and there is nothing more than I want right now than to read the story again, for the very first time.”
In Snowbound by Janice Kay Johnson, the hero suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Fans of this book loved the heartwarming story and the journey the hero and heroine go through as the struggle for a happy ending. This book is also a Harlequin SuperRomance. BookBinge.com finds that the story “packs quite an emotional punch.”
Readers, what would you recommend for someone who hasn’t read a contemporary romance?