I have read my fair share of romance novels over the past few years and my favorite genre is by far contemporary. With realistic situations, relatable characters, and good pacing (no boring world-building at the beginning), there really is nothing quite like curling up with a romance novel and living vicariously through book characters. Whether you want a cute, sappy read, or are simply looking to find a new book partner, this list has something for everyone. Below are 10 of my favorite contemporary romance novels, including both young adult and adult fiction, in no particular order.
1. "Boyfriend Material" by Alexis Hall
Luc O’Donnell is the son of two famous musicians and his reputation has been dragged through the mud. With his estranged father back in the spotlight and his job on the line, he needs help to clean up his image. Enter Oliver Blackwood, a nice, respectable, and ethical barrister.
When both would benefit from having a date at important events, they decide to strike a deal and be temporary fake boyfriends. Alexis Hall takes the overused rom-com cliché and spins it into an awkward, hilarious, and witty story. I laughed out loud so many times reading this book and, with flawed and loveable characters, this novel is truly a memorable and sparkling love story.
2. "Four Doors Down" by Emma Doherty
Becca McKenzie hates Ryan Jackson, her ex-childhood best friend turned popular jock. All she wants is to finish her last year of high school and get out of there, but Ryan seems to have made it his job to be infuriating and annoying at every turn she takes. It also doesn't help that they're neighbors and their moms are best friends.
Becca decided long ago that he wasn't worth a second thought, but now he seems to be everywhere. This is my most re-read novel of all time and the execution of the enemies-to-lovers trope is one of the best I’ve ever read. All of the characters live rent-free in my head, and after you read this, you are bound to have a new book boyfriend.
I first read this years ago and I still constantly recommend it. If you are looking for an underhyped recommendation, this is the one for you.
3. "The Happy Ever After Playlist" by Abby Jiminez
Two years following the death of her fiance, Sloan Monroe is still unable to move on or resume her normal life. When she suddenly finds an adorable puppy alone in the middle of the road, she decides to take him in. After weeks of radio silence, she finally finds out the puppy belongs to Jason, a budding famous musician on tour.
As their long calls spark a connection, they have to decide if they can overcome the challenges of Jason's rising music career and whether it's worth the risk of another heartbreak for Sloan. This is a really sweet romcom that tackles the 'famous person' storyline realistically and with mature characters. This book is a part of a series but can completely be read as a stand-alone novel.
4. "Red, White, and Royal Blue" by Casey McQuiston
A book that needs no introduction is the incredibly popular Red, White, and Royal Blue. This is a forbidden romance between the son of the president of the United States, Alex, and the Prince of England, Henry. They start out as rivals, but after a fiasco at the royal wedding, Alex and Henry have to start a fake friendship that slowly evolves into more.
Almost everyone has heard of it by now and for good reason. It's a really cute and sweet rom-com that’s easy to read and is sure to get you out of a reading slump.
5. "Catching Jordan" by Miranda Kenneally
If you’re just starting to get into romance novels, this is a great starter. Catching Jordan is a sports romance about tomboy Jordan Woods. She is the captain and quarterback of her high school football team, which means that she is constantly surrounded by guys and is seen as one of them. When a new quarterback, Ty, transfers to her school, she starts developing feelings for someone for the first time.
As she fights for a spot on a university football team, battles gender inequality, and her own feelings, she realizes that maybe what she’s looking for has been right in front of her the entire time. This light and easy read was one of the first romance novels I ever read and one that I still enjoy today.
6. "You Deserve Each Other" by Sarah Hogle
If you're tired of reading the same romance tropes over and over again, then this one is for you. You Deserve Each Other features a unique 'falling back in love' storyline that is executed brilliantly. Naomi Westfield has a perfect, nice, and respectable fiancé, Nicholas Rose. The catch?
She is completely over him. However, she can't end the engagement because that would require her to pay the non-refundable wedding bill. As the tension between her and Nicholas escalates, so do their sabotage shenanigans and prank wars. Featuring an aggravating mother, a canoe, and lots of build-up, Hogle walks us through a relationship and why it breaks, then shows us how it was pieced back together.
7. "A Taste for Love" by Jennifer Yen
A Taste for Love is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice with similar character archetypes. The main protagonist, Liza Yang, is a smart and excellent baker who is sick and tired of her mom’s traditional values about dating. Their only common interest seems to be baking, so when her mom hosts a baking competition, she agrees to help out.
Her goodwill is quickly gone when she arrives at the competition on the first day and realizes that every contestant was chosen by her mom to be a potential love interest for her. However, as the days go on, she finds herself reluctantly attracted to the aloof and stoic James. Through the novel, she fights her feelings for James, struggles with being compared to her older sister, and fights for the approval of her mother. This book is a breezy summer read with Asian representation and lots of sweets.
8. "The Hating Game" by Sally Thorne
The Hating Game is one of the most popular romance novels at the moment, and for good reason! This office romance follows Lucy Hutton, an outgoing and peppy worker at publishing firm B&G who shares an office with her cold and reserved coworker, Josh Templeman. He has made his dislike for her clear since the first day they started working together and Lucy has returned the sentiment with passion.
They are both enthralled by their daily office games of one-upping each other and the disdain has only increased as they compete for the same promotion. As their office antics progress, so does the inevitable tension between them. This novel has great dialogue, steam, and lots of banter.
The pacing is also incredible and there is never a dull moment. Both main characters are well-written, and while it uses the enemies-to-lovers trope, it distinguishes itself from the rest with memorable characters and an original storyline.
9. "Girl at Heart" by Kelly Oram
Charlie’s dad is a successful MLB player, which means she grew up playing baseball and hanging around guys. When her childhood best friend asks another girl to prom, it sets off an identity crisis and she decides to quit baseball and learn to become more ‘feminine'. However, her team can’t afford to lose their star catcher, so the team captain, Jace, offers to help her become more ‘girly’ if she stays on the team.
I really enjoy how Oram reverses the stereotype of the tomboy stock character and doesn’t demonize more traditionally feminine traits, instead doing the opposite of what is expected and creating a unique storyline. The love interest in this book is an absolute sweetheart, and the entire book is a fast and sweet read.
10. "I Wish You All the Best" by Mason Deaver
I Wish You All the Best is quite different from the rest of the books on this list as it focuses more on the characters as opposed to following a specific trope. Ben is non-binary and is kicked out of their house when they come out to their parents, forcing them to live with their older sister. As a result, they have to transfer to a new school, where they meet Nathan, an outgoing and friendly boy.
As their friendship develops, so do their feelings for each other. Deaver portrays a lot of Ben’s struggles with coming out, mental health, and therapy, and it deals with more complex topics and problems. I think this is an important book for people to read, even if not for the romance, but for the well-written characters and meaningful conversations it can bring. It is truly a special piece of literature that stands on its own and will stay with you for a long time.
Alas, this is the end of the list. Hopefully, you have found some new books that you can add to your to-be-read list and that you will enjoy reading!