I always say that I’m a SFF reader all the way, but there’s nothing like a sweet spot of contemporary romance. Revealing in the feels, approaching tough topics in a way that will be resolved and manageable instead of bashing over the head overwhelming, and a guaranteed HEA with possible sexy times—what’s not to love? Also, contemporary romance is a fantastic palette cleanser to read in between dense or kinda heavy SFF, which is not to say that contemporary romance books are light and breezy. Some are, but quite a few deal with some really intense subjects that can be rather triggering.
However, I love me some romance, so here are 6 I enjoyed this year, and 6(ish) that are on my TBR.
Blurbs are from Goodreads.
Six I Loved
How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole
Heat Level: 🔥
Recommended if you like: The Runaway Royals/Reluctant Royals series, chaos/control pairings, royal romance, boat romances, fantastic secondary characters, learning to establish healthy boundaries and relationships
Makeda Hicks has lost her job and her girlfriend in one fell swoop. The last thing she’s in the mood for is to rehash the story of her grandmother’s infamous summer fling with a runaway prince from Ibarania, or the investigator from the World Federation of Monarchies tasked with searching for Ibarania’s missing heir. Yet when Beznaria Chetchevaliere crashes into her life, the sleek and sexy investigator exudes exactly the kind of chaos that organized and efficient Makeda finds irresistible, even if Bez is determined to drag her into a world of royal duty Makeda wants nothing to do with. When a threat to her grandmother’s livelihood pushes Makeda to agree to return to Ibarania, Bez takes her on a transatlantic adventure with a crew of lovable weirdos, a fake marriage, and one-bed hijinks on the high seas.
If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy
Heat Level: 🔥
Recommended if you like: shoes (omg, shoes), fashion, The Bachelor-type reality tv, contemporary fairy tale retellings, meet cute romances, fantastic secondary characters, closed door romance
After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion. Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration-and love-in the process.
Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Sutanto
Heat Level: 🔥
Recommended if you like: a lotta chaos and cozy mystery to go with your romance, kitchen sink storytelling (in a good way, I swear!), meddling aunties, baking, wedding planning, second chance romance
When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is inadvertently shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for the family wedding business—”Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!“—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream flowers.
A Lot Like Adios by Alexis Daria
Heat Level: 🔥🔥
Recommended if you like: second chance romance, family drama, relatable millennial life shit (burnout, hustle culture, etc), fan fiction, hilarious grandparents, nerd love
After burning out in her corporate marketing career, Michelle Amato has built a thriving freelance business as a graphic designer. So what if her love life is nonexistent? She’s perfectly fine being the black sheep of her marriage-obsessed Puerto Rican-Italian family. Besides, the only guy who ever made her want happily-ever-after disappeared thirteen years ago. Gabriel Aguilar is the successful co-owner of LA’s hottest celebrity gym, with an investor who insists on opening a New York City location. It’s the last place Gabe wants to go, but when Michelle is unexpectedly brought on board to spearhead the new marketing campaign, everything Gabe’s been running from catches up with him. Facing mounting pressure from their families—who think they’re dating—and growing uncertainty about their futures, can they resolve their past mistakes, or is it only a matter of time before Gabe says adiós again?
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
Heat Level: 🔥🔥🔥
Recommended if you like: the previous Brown Sisters books, enemies to lovers, B&Bs, chaos/control pairings, grumpy/sunshine pairings, steamy sex-toy filled sex scenes, quirky humor, cooking, the intense desire need to read a fake Captain America fanfic featuring titty fucking
Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how. Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should.
Happy Endings by Thien-Kim Lam
Heat Level: 🔥🔥🔥
Recommended if you like: second chance romance, sex positivity, middle finger to gentrification, POC-owned small businesses, steamy sex-toy filled scenes
Trixie Nguyen is determined to make her sex toy business a success, proving to her traditional Vietnamese parents that she can succeed in a nontraditional career. She’s made a fresh start in Washington DC, and her first pop-up event is going well—until she runs into the ex who dumped her. With a Post-it note. The last person Andre Walker expected to see in his soul food restaurant was the woman he left behind in New Orleans. Their chemistry is still scorching, but he’s desperately trying to save his family restaurant from gentrifying developers. The solution? Partnering with his ex to turn Mama Hazel’s into a vibrator pop-up shop for hungry and horny clients. Thanks to their steamy truce, both businesses start to sizzle and their red-hot desire soon reignites deeper feelings. But when Trixie receives an incredible career opportunity, will pride ruin their second chance at happiness?
Six(ish) on My TBR
The Hitchhiker in Panama by Liz Alden
I arrived in Panama with a limited budget for maximum exploration. I’ve only got a few months between my parents’ home in Sydney and the corporate world, so I better make the best of it. What I didn’t plan on was meeting Eivind. He’s got broad shoulders, top-tier flirting, and a sexy accent that pulls me in. But giving into him could jeopardize my whole trip. Ukulele ballads, long walks in the jungle, and sharing the space of a small sailboat together means the tension will be off the charts by the time we make it to the Pacific Ocean. Eivind and his boat are sailing west, while I’m traveling south. I came here for an adventure, but now I might have an even bigger one. One hot night in Panama might change everything.
Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake
Delilah Green swore she would never go back to Bright Falls—nothing is there for her but memories of a lonely childhood where she was little more than a burden to her cold and distant stepfamily. Her life is in New York, with her photography career finally gaining steam and her bed never empty. Sure, it’s a different woman every night, but that’s just fine with her. When Delilah’s estranged stepsister, Astrid, pressures her into photographing her wedding with a guilt trip and a five-figure check, Delilah finds herself back in the godforsaken town that she used to call home. She plans to breeze in and out, but then she sees Claire Sutherland, one of Astrid’s stuck-up besties, and decides that maybe there’s some fun (and a little retribution) to be had in Bright Falls, after all.
Along for the Ride by Mimi Grace
Former hot mess Jolene Baxter is committed to doing better. It’s why she offered to help her sister and brother-in-law move across the country. However, her goodwill is tested when last minute changes—mainly her father ditching her for an all-expenses paid vacation—forces her to make the journey with a man who is the human version of a pebble in her shoe. Jason Akana operates on lists and bitter coffee, but none of those things will help him on a sixteen-hour trip with the most infuriating woman. Maybe they can get along and forget their heated confrontation five years ago at his best friend’s wedding…when pigs fly. But the addition of vehicle problems, an unplanned pit stop in a small town, and chemistry that inconveniently tags along, shifts their perspectives. And once the dust settles after their trip, a tentative friendship emerges.
The Sweetest Remedy by Jane Igharo
Hannah Bailey has never known her father, the Nigerian entrepreneur who had a brief relationship with her white mother. Because of this, Hannah has always felt uncertain about part of her identity. When her father dies, she’s invited to Nigeria for the funeral. In Banana Island, one of Nigeria’s most affluent areas, Hannah meets the Jolades, her late father’s prestigious family–some who accept her and some who think she doesn’t belong. The days leading up to the funeral are chaotic, but Hannah is soon shaped by secrets that unfold, a culture she never thought she would understand or appreciate, and a man who steals her heart and helps her to see herself in a new light.
Get It Right by Skye Kilaen
Finn is finally out of prison, which is great. Having no job, no car, and no place to sleep except her cousin’s couch? Not so great. Plus, her felony theft conviction isn’t doing wonders for her employment prospects, so she can’t afford her migraine meds without the public clinic. The last thing she ever expected was for the gal who stole her heart to come walking down that clinic’s hallway: Vivi, the manicure-loving nurse who spent two years fighting the prison system to get proper medical care for her patients, including Finn.
Finn could never believe she imagined the attraction and affection between them. But acting on that in prison, especially as nurse and patient, had been a serious No Way. She’s had eight months to get over Vivi, who abruptly left her job without saying goodbye. Finn is over it. Honest! It’s totally and completely fine.
So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park
When investment banker Jessie Kim is laid off in a virtual meeting and then overhears why, she delivers an “eff you guys” speech and storms out. After moving back home to Tennessee to live with her loving but meddling mother and father, she runs into her childhood nemesis – golden child Daniel Choi – at the local Asian grocery store. The smart, charming lawyer appears to have it all…while Jessie has nothing. Jess begrudgingly accepts Daniel’s help to relaunch her long abandoned Korean cooking YouTube channel Hanguk Hacks, showcasing easy meal prep for busy professionals. But just as she discovers Daniel’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems and there’s more to him than meets the eye, he shows up for a life-changing business opportunity, and their rivalry is back on….
Battle Royal by Lucy Parker
Four years ago, Sylvie Fairchild charmed the world as a contestant on the hit baking show, Operation Cake. Her ingenious, colorful creations captivated viewers and intrigued all but one of the judges, Dominic De Vere, the hottest pastry chef in London. When her glittery unicorn cake went spectacularly sideways, Dominic was quick to vote her off the show. Since then, Sylvie has managed to use her fame to help fulfill her dream of opening a bakery, Sugar Fair. The toast of Instagram, Sugar Fair has captured the attention of the Operation Cake producers…and a princess. When Dominic and Sylvie learn they will be fighting for the once in a lifetime opportunity to bake a cake for the upcoming wedding of Princess Rose, the flour begins to fly as they’re both determined to come out on top.
Sweethand by NG Peltier
After a public meltdown over her breakup from her cheating musician boyfriend, Cherisse swore off guys in the music industry, and dating in general for a while, preferring to focus on growing her pastry chef business. When Cherisse’s younger sister reveals she’s getting married in a few months, Cherisse hopes that will distract her mother enough to quit harassing her about finding a guy, settling down and having kids. But her mother’s matchmaking keeps intensifying.
On Location by Sarah Smith
Alia Dunn has finally gotten her big break. After years of working her way up at TV’s top outdoor travel channel, she gets the green light from network executives to bring her dream project to life: produce a series about Utah’s national parks. Alia is thrilled—until she meets her newest crew member, Drew Irons. The same Drew she had the most amazing first date with two weeks ago—who then ghosted her. But when the series host goes rogue one too many times, jeopardizing the entire shoot, Alia realizes that she’ll need to organize one hell of a coup to save her show—and she’ll need Drew’s help to do it. If she pulls it off, she’ll end up with a hit series and her dream guy . . . but if it all goes wrong, she could lose both.