10 Contemporary Romance Novels I Adore

Here’s a roundup of some of my favorite contemporary romance novels. Usually I organized books into more topic-related posts, but I also like having a space for some books to just hang out. I hope you find something new to enjoy! (Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links.)

Any book on this list I loved at the time I read it, whether I had a chance to write a review or not. Obviously a re-read years later might reveal a problematic aspect I didn’t pick up on back then. Please let me know via my contact form if you find something yikes in a book I recommend.

Welcome to the Show by Jules Kelley (Amazon / Goodreads)

“Rockstar Keith and actor Adam have the kind of relationship that keeps tabloids in business: Passionate and dramatic. They’ve mostly managed to keep their taste for threesomes a secret, though… until they meet Sebastian, a budding journalist who fits perfectly between them.

Navigating their careers and a long-term threeway relationship in the public eye of 2012 is playing with fire — and if the paparazzi doesn’t destroy them, their inner demons just might.”

The Opposite of Drowning by Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese (Amazon / Goodreads)

Love this queer f/m May-December workplace romance where he’s bi and it’s not a source of conflict – balm for my bi heart!! McRae and Maltese bill their work as “Happily Ever Afters for Difficult People With Complicated Lives” and this one certainly lives up to that billing – and I mean that as a compliment. McRae & Maltese are some of the best writers in romance for showing characters making totally understandable bad choices, and then having to seriously grapple with the consequences of those choices and rebuild trust with their love interests. This book should get more exposure than it does IMHO.

“Harry Sargent hates his job in publishing, his life in New York City, and his motley collection of disreputable best friends. Making everything worse? He’s about to turn 50 and has a crush on the much-younger woman his company just hired to move them into the digital age.

At 27, Elizabeth Anne Abgral loves her job, her life, and maybe even her fiancé. But no one can have it all, and as long as she does everything her old-fashioned, high-society New England family expects of her, she’ll probably be happy. Right?! But when she meets a handsome – and mischievous – older man at her new job, that illusion shatters.

As she and Harry bicker their way through industry events around the world, Elizabeth finds herself tossing rationality – and her plans – to the wind. But just because Harry has long wished his life were different, doesn’t mean he’s ready to risk his heart on a passion that frightens him… or a peculiar young woman with the uncanny ability to make cities flood every time they kiss.”

Too Like The Lightning by Travis Beaudoin (Amazon / Goodreads)

“Andrew Madigan had everything he ever wanted. He’d worked hard to build this perfect little life. A stable relationship with a successful man. A beautiful home in a quiet suburb. And best of all, a job where he spent his days talking about literature. Then his tenure was denied and, too quickly for him to stop it, everything crumbled.

Now, with his dreams in the dust and his confidence shattered, Andrew has one summer to figure out his next move. Bulbs, Florida, is like no place Andrew’s ever known. It’s small and provincial. It’s hot as hell. Storms roll through every single day. But Andrew just has to keep his head down. Finish his book, find a new job, put things back on track. Easy-peasy.

He didn’t plan on making a friend.

Coley Brandt has a green thumb and an easy smile. He’s much younger than Andrew, but he puts Andrew at ease, makes him feel at home. Their time together reminds Andrew what having a purpose feels like. Suddenly, this long, lonely summer feels too short. But Coley has dreams of his own, and they’re a million miles away from the life Andrew’s trying to get back.

Maybe this is just a summer fling. Maybe, like the lightning, it’s only meant to be glorious for a moment before it disappears.

Or maybe it’s something more.”

Jilted by Lilah Suzanne (Amazon / Goodreads)

Carter is a bi guy architect. Link is a nonbinary artist. They meet after Carter’s fiance leaves him to reconnect with an ex… who was supposed to be marrying Link, who just got left at the altar. Carter and Link decide to pretend to be married to get Link’s money’s worth out of the honeymoon vacatino package, but once that week is over, both still have to figure out how their lives are going to work.

It’s maybe a bit more Carter’s story of figuring out his own than it is a romance (55/45 split?), but honestly I appreciated how both elements interlocked. It’s a slower, quieter story about two creative people, with historical house remodeling and queer rep, by a bi genderqueer author, and yay for all of that.

Femme Like Her by Fiona Zedde (Amazon / Goodreads)

“Nailah Grant only dates studs, races her Camaro for therapy, and believes in leaving her exes in the past where they belong.

But, with a layoff looming and her retired parents about to take a life-changing step Nailah isn’t ready for, her world becomes far from stable. Enter Scottie, the only femme she’s ever allowed close enough to touch her heart. They say trouble comes in threes, and this femme is one with a capital T.

Scottie is an ex though, and somebody Nailah never should have been with in the first place. Yet, when the foundations of her life collapse, Scottie is the one Nailah finds herself clinging to. Just as things settle into a semblance of something Nailah could only dream about, a shattering secret from Scottie’s past threatens to destroy everything the two women have built together.

Will Nailah stay the course with Scottie, or allow her fears to ruin her chance at a real and passionate love?”

Falling Into Place by Sheryn Munir (Ylva Publishing / Amazon / Goodreads)

I would be 100% on board for a movie of this friends to lovers / slow burn / out for you F/F romance novel set in contemporary India, specifically the city of Delhi. For a first novel, it’s quite well done, though judging from Goodreads I’m not the only one who felt it was a bit choppy in the beginning before smoothing out. It’s worth hanging in there!

Tara, an introverted closeted sports journalist, connects by chance with outgoing Sameen, who works in publishing and lives with her long-time boyfriend. Tara’s sworn off romance for life because of her fears about the anti-gay climate in India, but after spending more and more time with Sameen, she’s horrified to discover that romantic feelings have found her anyway. It’s very Hollywood in its use of the classic romantic story beats, including longing looks across the room at fancy parties, an unplanned first kiss, and a “can this really be happening?” accidental reunion at a hotel after everything’s gone to hell. It’s very sincere with its characters feelings, even the messy ones, and I liked that.

Really looking forward to Munir’s next book! She was born in Lucknow, then grew up and lives in Delhi, and I’m so glad she dove into writing romance and gave those of us from elsewhere a window into life in her neck of the woods.

The Hate Project by Kris Ripper (Amazon / Goodreads)

To me, this M/M book is the perfect blend of romance, personal journey (for Oscar, the POV character, but also for Jack), and a kick-ass friend group that demonstrates the power of queer found family.

If you like your romance MCs grouchy, snarky, and arguing with each other even while they’re falling in love, you’re in for a treat with this one. (If you don’t, it’s not for you.) Oscar’s anxiety and depression are very real factors in his life and mindset for much of this story, but tbh I don’t think he would be a smiley ball of sunshine with those well-managed, and that’s okay.

“Oscar is a grouch. That’s a well-established fact among his tight-knit friend group, and they love him anyway. Jack is an ass. Jack, who’s always ready with a sly insult, who can’t have a conversation without arguing, and who Oscar may or may not have hooked up with on a strict no-commitment, one-time-only basis. Even if it was extremely hot.

Together, they’re a bickering, combative mess.

When Oscar is fired (answering phones is not for the anxiety-ridden), he somehow ends up working for Jack. Maybe while cleaning out Jack’s grandmother’s house they can stop fighting long enough to turn a one-night stand into a frenemies-with-benefits situation.

The house is an archaeological dig of love and dysfunction, and while Oscar thought he was prepared, he wasn’t. It’s impossible to delve so deeply into someone’s past without coming to understand them at least a little, but Oscar has boundaries for a reason — even if sometimes Jack makes him want to break them all down. After all, hating Jack is less of a risk than loving him…”

His Cocky Valet by Cole McCade (Amazon / Goodreads)

An age-gap D/S romance between the party boy son of a dying CEO, Ash, who is drafted into his father’s job, and Brand, the hyper-competent older man he hires as a valet and personal assistant. Written in approximately a week, the book focuses tightly on the growing attraction and affection between the two men, leaving some areas without detail. (For example, why would an acting CEO never have meetings with other staff, or consult with general counsel, and why would he do his own research?) But the emotional core of the story is so damn compelling, such excellent hurt-comfort and compassionate wish fulfillment, that I could handwave that away.

The writing is dramatic and lovely, and the characters are distinct and compelling. I particularly appreciated how both characters explicitly think about the issues inherent in boss-employee relationships, and Ash struggles to act ethically, because a workplace romance is DNF for me when those dynamics aren’t even addressed.

Grumpy Bear by Slade James (Amazon / Goodreads)

I always love to find a new queer guy author writing romance about queer guys! And I think one of the reasons I found this so pleasing was that it’s so clearly deeply rooted in a particular slice of gay male culture. There’s a richness and specificity that authors from a community bring to their books when writing about that community. I’m normally quite skeptical of boss/employee romances but the way this one is set up didn’t push any bad buttons for me. Luke and Coleman make a cute couple.

CW: positive mention of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s writing.

“Hooking up with an employee is not on my to-do list.

Making sure other men have a good time is my business, even if it means suppressing my own desires. It’s opening weekend at my clothing-optional campground, guests are starting to arrive, and I’ve got a pool party and a few hundred peoples’ vacations to save while battling Mother Nature’s tantrums.

The last thing I need is a temporary employee who can’t even put up a tent.

Luke Cody’s not my type. He’s too young, too pretty, and too much like my late partner. Another flaky musician? No thanks. But when a storm blows down his campsite, I can’t just leave him outside and soaked to the bone. Now he’s staying in my cabin, sleeping in my bed, and worst of all, he’s completely ignoring the proverbial sign over my head that says Grumpy Bear: Do Not Approach.

I’m not quite as immune to his charms as I want him to believe, but he’ll only be here for a few days.

Nothing’s going to happen…”

Note: I actually read the “prequel” short story, The Uncut Wood, after I read Grumpy Bear and I think I appreciated it more than I would have if I read it before, because I had so much more context about the community.

Shake Things Up by Skye Kilaen, who is me (Amazon / Goodreads)

“Allie and Matt’s happy open relationship means they’re both free to find hookups. When Allie gets duped by a date, though, she’s found with someone else’s cheating boyfriend. Ugh!

Meeting Noelle by helping her leave the guy isn’t the night Allie expected, but after the women bond over drinks and a seriously dysfunctional tape gun, Allie’s hesitant to say goodbye. It’s weird; she doesn’t normally like-like people who aren’t Matt.

Matt’s questioning whether he’s entirely straight, and he hopes to find answers on his and Allie’s impending road trip. But he’s cool with bringing her new maybe-crush along, especially since he and Noelle keep finding things in common. And staring into each other’s eyes.

Noelle lost her demanding job right before her boyfriend cheated, and she’s looking for her next career move—preferably back home in Chicago. Allie’s fumbling charm and Matt’s flirtatious humor, however, make her wonder if her life compass needs fixing.

Late-night talks on Texas highways, first kisses, and hotel confessions might change a lot… if there’s a next step for Noelle that isn’t leaving.”

Hope you found something interesting here! If you have any reading suggestions, let me know, and as always, if you found this post helpful, please share it!