20 contemporary romance novels

A fresh, fun, and flirty new romance novel about a soap opera star and a telenovela hunk who are both trying to catch their big break with their brand new bilingual TV show. Jasmine and her sisters come up with some rules to guide her on the path to success, calling it the "Leading Lady Plan." One principle: "leading ladies do not rebound with their co-stars." This shouldn't be difficult. Ashton is banking on this new series to make his career, too. He's perfectly professional...but of course, despite their reluctance to let romance get in the way of their dreams, these two can't deny their chemistry. Heads up for a few spicy scenes and open door moments.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this slow-burning, sexy, and socially engaged series opener, with cameos from some Reluctant Royals characters, featuring a whip-smart queen and a shy but sexy king. When Shanti Mohapi marries the king of Njaza, he tells her that they're to be married in name only, with no relationship and practically no contact with each other. But when he realizes that he needs to make changes to the fabric of his country, Shanti is the best advisor and partner he could ask for. As they work together to create new beginnings for Njaza, they can't help but fall in love. Cole has a well-deserved reputation for writing intelligent, inclusive novels, and also for writing open door romance, so heads up for several such scenes.
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This smart contemporary romance series follows a group of seven friends in Chicago, whose relationships blossomed thanks to Knit Night. They rally around each other no matter what's going on and their relationships continue to be a priority even as they each fall in love. Penny Reid's characters have distinct personalities and quirks and it's delightful watching them grow individually and as a group as the series progresses. You'll wish you could be friends with them in real life! (Heads up: the first two books are on the chaste side, but the series grows in steaminess as it progresses and is considered "open door" after book 3.)
From the publisher: "Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon's sparkling romantic comedy debut. Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can't imagine working anywhere else. But lately it's been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who's fresh off a journalism master's program and convinced he knows everything about public radio. When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it's this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it's not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts. As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers."
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When I found out there was a new novel that featured two urban planners falling in love, you can bet I was all over it: I'm fascinated by urban planning, yet this topic never comes up in fiction! In this short book—just over 100 pages—two professional planners get to know each other by touring homes all over NYC's Uptown. I so enjoy a book that makes me google locations, and this one had me searching for Strivers' Row and Forest Hills Gardens. This was fast and fun, but take note: this book was spicier (that is, more open-door) than I'm typically comfortable with.
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If you enjoy the "fake dating" trope and British humor, this charming romance novel is for you. (I particularly enjoyed it on audio, as narrated by Joe Jameson). As the son of big time rockstars, Luc O'Donnell is reluctantly famous-by-association. Known as a "bad boy" in the press, Luc has seen his fair share of trouble—but he's put that lifestyle behind him. Now that his estranged father is making a big musical comeback, Luc is back in the media and needs to clean up his image in order to maintain his career. Enter Oliver, a straight-laced, super responsible (and handsome) barrister, vegetarian, and good guy. Seemingly polar opposites of each other, Luc and Oliver start fake dating...and if you've ever watched a rom-com, you can guess what happens from there. Full of heart, humor, and endearing side characters, this closed door romantic comedy is completely swoon-worthy.
Lucy Parker is one of my favorite authors for fast and fun romance; she's the author that inspired summer's 10 Romance Novels That Are Perfect for Summer Reading post. in her newest novel, out January 20, two rival tv presenters who hate each other's guts suddenly become colleagues who must not only work side by side, but act like they like it. (It's not essential that this series be read in order, but if you want, go back and read the first, Act Like It, it just might be my favorite.)
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MMD team member Chelsey recommended this rom-com in our Best Books of the Year event, and as soon as she said "unique structure" I wrote it on a sticky note. Olivia Dade weaves television and movie scripts, fanfiction excerpts, and a modern day romance together in her latest novel about fandoms, friendship, and fame. Marcus Caster-Rupp stars on a popular TV show by day and writes fanfiction <em>about that show</em> under a pseudonym by night. April Whittier has hidden her hardcore fangirling from friends and coworkers for years. When she finally works up the courage to post a photo of her cosplay online, it goes viral and lands her a date with the hottest star of her favorite show: Marcus Caster-Rupp. The real plot twist? They've been talking to each other on the fanfiction forums, workshopping their stories as writing partners and friends for years. Marcus discovers this first, but he can't reveal his identity without risking his acting career, leading to some serious fictional drama. Dade writes romance with realistic characters, a balance of serious and sweet moments, and open door scenes.
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Perfect contemporary romance recommended for fans of Sally Thorne, Jasmine Guillory, and Helen Hoang. From the publisher: "Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she's come up with seven directives to help her 'Get a Life,' and she's already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family's mansion. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job. Redford 'Red' Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He's also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit. But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe's wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior."
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Donna, our MMD spreadsheet guru, enthusiastically recommended Morgenthaler's Moose Spring series for cozy rom-com reading. Set in a small Alaska town populated with charming side characters, the first book features a romance between a grumpy diner owner and a smitten tourist. Graham owns The Tourist Trap, the aptly named diner where his customers come and go each season. He barely notices when a new face enters the restaurant, until Zoey Caldwell shows up. Zoey has been saving for a trip to Alaska for years, and she quickly falls in love with Moose Springs and its beauty. Of course, when she crosses paths with Graham there's even more of a pull to stay there, forever. Fun, witty, and low on the steam scale—pick this one up when you need a quick feel-good read.
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From the publisher: "The first rule of book club: You don't talk about book club. Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott's marriage is in major league trouble. Welcome to the Bromance Book Club. Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville's top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it'll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife."
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Surgeon Dr. Nicole Allen finds her hard-earned career in jeopardy when she scolds an out-of-line hospital intern, only to find out he was a powerful donor's son. With her prestigious fellowship in the balance, Nicole turns to her hunky just-a-friend roommate to see if he and his powerful family can help. They strike a deal: Nicole will pretend to be Ben's girlfriend on his family's trip to Martha's Vineyard and Ben will pull some strings to see if his wealthy family can intervene with the hospital. Faking a romance comes easily to Nicole and Ben, maybe too easily, but a week away from the world can't be the foundation for a real relationship, can it? Perfect for fans of Jasmine Guillory, Livesay's Girls' Trip series is full of friendship, romance, and open door moments. This is the second novel, but you don't need to read them in order.
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A funny and moving contemporary romance about love, friendship, and the ways we make a place home. Hand-letterer Meg designs custom journals and sees the world in fonts and signs. In fact, she first fell in love with New York City by walking every inch of it, drawing inspiration from the omnipresent custom signs. Meg also sees the signs other people miss, like the time she wove a secret message into a doomed couple’s wedding invitations. She didn’t count on the groom to notice—or for him to track her down one year later and demand answers after his relationship dissolved. Meg is desperate for his forgiveness, especially because her creative well has run dry—and so she impulsively invites Reid to accompany her on her walks through the city. He turns out to be nothing like the callous Wall Street type she’d expected, and their tentative friendship evolves into a slow burn romance. Open door. For fans of Clayborn’s Chance of a Lifetime series and Emily Henry’s Beach Read.
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A dreamy, breezy debut novel. From the publisher: "With nods to Bridget Jones and Pride and Prejudice, a charming #ownvoices queer rom-com debut about a free-spirited social media astrologer who agrees to fake a relationship with an uptight actuary until New Year’s Eve—with results not even the stars could predict! But maybe opposites can attract when true love is written in the stars?"
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From the publisher: "Mia Sosa delivers a sassy, steamy #ownvoices enemies-to-lovers novel, perfect for fans of Jasmine Guillory, Helen Hoang, and Sally Thorne! A wedding planner left at the altar? Yeah, the irony isn't lost on Carolina Santos, either. But despite that embarrassing blip from her past, Lina's offered an opportunity that could change her life. There's just one hitch… she has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from her own failed nuptials. Max has been public enemy number one ever since he encouraged his brother to jilt the bride. If they can nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead."
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When Hollywood showrunner Jo is photographed making her assistant Emma laugh at a red carpet event, it sets off a chain of paparazzi-fueled rumors about their relationship. Mindful of their precarious position in Hollywood, Emma and Jo resort to "no comment" when asked about their romance, but as they spend more and more time together, they realize that they get along  really well and might even have feelings for each other. The author navigates complicated office romance with care in this slow-burn debut novel.
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I devoured this fun and thoughtful romance. After witnessing many live-tweet moments on Twitter over the years, Farrah Rochon decided to turn live-tweet-gone-viral into a fabulous rom com premise: her heroine Samiah Brooks catches her three-timing boyfriend after reading about his date with another woman—on Twitter. When the three “girlfriends” Samiah, London, and Taylor go viral, they meet up, become besties, and vow to focus on their single selves by not dating for six months. With her newfound free time, Samiah pours herself into developing her passion project. But just as her dream app starts to take shape, she meets a sexy coworker who seems like he could be perfect boyfriend material. Steamy, smart, and centered around friendship, I’m so glad Rochon is continuing the series with books for London and Taylor, too.
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From the publisher: "Opposites attract when a computer geek meets billionaire bad boy. The last thing Melody expects when she accepts a dream job offer is to run into her college one-night stand again. Not only does the hunky blast from her past work at the same aerospace company where she's just started in the IT department, he's the CEO's son. Jeremy's got a girlfriend and a reputation as a bad boy, so Melody resolves to keep her distance and focus on building a new life for herself in Los Angeles. But despite her good intentions, she can't seem to stay away from the heavenly-smelling paragon of hotness. As the two begin to forge an unlikely friendship, Melody's attraction to Jeremy grows deeper than she's ready to admit. Can the woman who always plays it safe take a risk on the man who's all wrong for her in all the right ways? This slow-burn romance is the first in a series of standalone rom-coms featuring heroines who work in STEM fields."
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