Contemporary Romance Novels

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Contemporary Romance Novels

Real world romance with no historical or magical obstacles

Contemporary romance is one of the hardest genres to pull off. Readers know a "happily ever after" is coming, unlike in other genres where the ending isn't guaranteed, which makes believable plot machinations that aren't too predictable or too stupid hard. It can be hard to generate conflict between characters that's believable and keeps you rooting for the ending. With historical or fantastical romance, writers can generate obstacles but when a book takes place in a recognizable world, the author has to make the conflict truly believable for the reader to care. Here are some books that I think do it well.
 

Act Like It by Lucy Parker
Lainie Graham is starring on the West End in London, a dream come true. Only her show also features her ex-boyfriend Will Turner and also Richard Troy, a magnificent actor and a colossal jerk. Richard's antics are bringing the show such bad publicity that the production decides that the only solution is to make the media think the love of a good woman has fixed him, and that good woman should be Lainie. Slowly, this mismatched pair develop growing respect for each other. Could this fake romance turn real? This romance was a little slow moving, but the characters feel realistic, the relationship is earned and the obstacles to romance are narratively compelling without being over the top. This title is only available in e-book format.

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
I picked this up initially because I was waiting for the sequel to The Royal We, but I loved it so much. Alex Claremont-Diaz is the President's son and a political junkie of his own, but he's never gotten along with Henry, one of the English Princes. When photos of a confrontation between them leak and threaten to cause political consequences, Alex and Henry are forced to pretend that they're actually longtime friends and the sparks that have always been between them begin to grow. I was initially skeptical about the concept, but was won over quickly. It's hard to find characters who are fun and smart and ambitious and silly and caring but real, but Alex felt like a real person. The romantic arc felt true to life to me; I could understand Alex's inability to be in touch with his emotions and density, and I loved the growth and the pace felt reasonable. My mom even liked it so much that after I lent it to her she asked to keep it longer so that she could re-read it!
 

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Hazel has thought Josh was super-hot and super-perfect since she first met him in college. Now it turns out that he’s actually the brother of her good friend and coworker Emily! Sounds like an opportunity for Hazel to become best friends with Josh, since her over-the-topness and his calm mean they clearly aren’t romantically compatible. They decide to start picking dates for each other and go on blind double dates together. Can either of them find love?

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Alexa and Drew meet in a stuck elevator and have instant chemistry, and Drew convinces Alexa to pretend to be his girlfriend at his ex’s wedding. This fake relationship turns into something, which is a problem both because they live far from each other and because neither of them is clear what they – or each other – wants and expects out of this relationship. This book is charming and fun, and it’s great to read an interracial romance where race is acknowledged but not the obstacle.

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
Min's boyfriend dumps her just weeks before her sister's wedding, and then to make matters worse Min hears him betting a stranger in a bar that he couldn't get Min to sleep with him. What Min doesn't know is that that stranger, Cal, has no intention of taking up that bet, but she still decides to take advantage of the bet to at least have a date to the wedding. I don't usually like romances about miscommunication, but this one is light and fun, with humorous dialogue and compelling secondary characters.