May 3 2012 2:00pm

Beyond Roberts and Phillips: Best Current Contemporary Romance Authors

Her Best Friend by Sarah MayberryI like reading about people falling in love and their personal journey towards their happy ending; that’s why I read romance in the first place. I don’t need serial killers, vampires or dukes to make my day—two regular people will do. So it’s no wonder that Contemporary Romance is my favorite subgenre.

Choosing my favorite authors is hard. So instead of talking about how much I love authors like Nora Roberts and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, I’ll talk about other writers who may not be that well-known or have written so many books, those whose careers are relatively new and yet have won me over to the point of considering them some of the best current contemporary romance authors.

I can’t say the word Contemporary without thinking of Sarah Mayberry. This Australian author has written about a diverse array of topics that go from alcoholism to Alzheimer’s, and she hasn’t failed to deliver yet. She’s particularly good at writing friends-to-lovers stories so if you’re a fan of the trope I would recommend Her Best Friend or, if you like steamier reads, Anything for You.

Second-Chance Family by Karina BlissAnd speaking of Down Under: Karina Bliss’s books are beautifully written and touching. This New Zealand author knows all about angst. Second-Chance Family made me cry buckets, it has a painful subject and it wasn’t easy to read, but the journey was poignant and the ending perfect, and this applies to all of her stories.

Julie James, whose About That Night was just released, sure knows how to write likeable heroines, sexy heroes and hilarious situations. The first time I read one of her books I felt like I would never be able to stop laughing. If you’re new to her books, start with Practice Makes Perfect, about two lawyers battling it out to see who makes partner at the same firm. And if you like your books with a side of suspense, her FBI/US Attorney series should be perfect.

Is there anything sexier than a man who can cook? If your answer is no, you’re going to love Louisa Edwards. Her books are drool-worthy for several reasons: the covers, the heroes, and the food. She can make Brusselssprouts look good, especially if the person cooking them has a six-pack. And if you enjoy m/m romance, her first series has a romantic subplot involving two guys that was just as compelling as the main stories. Fans of Top Chef should love her Rising Star Competition series.

Double Play by Jill ShalvisSmall towns and contemporary romance are a match made in heaven—and in Jill Shalvis’s world, heaven is a lot like Lucky Harbor. Her stories are light and all about two people—and often their siblings in subsequent books—finding love, but there’s always a more serious undercurrent. My personal favorites are the Wilder Brothers series and her baseball books: Double Hit and Double Play. I love bromance, so series about brothers and teammates are the perfect setting for a lot a great interaction between guys.

If you like horses you must read Laura Moore’s books: Family drama, courageous heroines, temperamental heroes and lots of horses. She has a beautiful voice that makes you feel like you’re in the beautiful farms where most of her stories are set. My favorite books are Ride a Dark Horse, Chance Meeting and In Your Eyes.

I discovered Inez Kelley’s books last year when a book called Sweet as Sin caught my attention. It had a tormented hero, a heroine who was the owner of an adult candy shop, a story within a story and Chocolate Orgasms (it’s a brownie! Get your mind out of the gutter). Ever since then, I’ve been enjoying her stories and her ability to mix sexy playfulness with drama.

Undeniably Yours by Shannon StaceyAnd last but not least, there’s Shannon Stacey. She writes hilarious family dynamics, interesting and relatable heroines, and heroes that are a bit rough around the edges but adorable enough to admit that they have broccoli-phobia. Her books all have great dialogue and funny banter.

All of these authors write about real people, women and men whom I would like to meet and be friends with, who have real problems and situations that make it easy for me to relate and connect.

I’m always looking for new contemporary romance authors, so I would love to know who would make your list. Tell me all about your favorite authors and what you think of my choices. Do you agree? Am I leaving someone important out? 


I love talking about books just as much as reading them. I review Romance Novels on my blog Romance Around the Corner and you can also find me on Twitter.

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Kimberly Kincaid
1. Kimberly Kincaid
Many of my favorites made the list! I'm also huge on Victoria Dahl, Susan Andersen, Bella Andre and Susan Mallery. All fantastic! While I do love to "time travel" a bit with historicals and suspend my disbelief with paranormals, there's just something intriguing to me about contemporary romance. The heroine could be the woman in front of me at Starbucks, or the hero could be the guy who sold me my car. Everyday people in extraordinary circumstances. You just can't beat it!
2. Miss_D
I am a big fan of Sandra Brown, Karen Robards, Beverly Barton (R.I.P.), Diana Palmer (holdover from my youth) and Linda Howard as my contemporary romance authors.

I guess they could somewhat fall in the romantice suspense subgenre but if you're open to more contemporary authors, I'd say give them a shot. =)
Brie Clementine
3. Brie.Clem
"The heroine could be the woman in front of me at Starbucks, or the hero could be the guy who sold me my car. Everyday people in extraordinary circumstances. You just can't beat it!"
This! Contemporary Romance is special because it’s not. It’s about two regular people meeting and falling in love, characters you can relate to. The conflict comes from within themselves or from external situations that are realistic and mundane. Nothing special about that, except that it’s a real life fairy tale which makes pretty special to me.
Brie Clementine
4. Brie.Clem

I love them all! But the idea of this post was listing authors that may not be as famous, or who are relatively new. The ones you mention are great but I think of them in the same category I think of Nora Roberts. Karen Robards, though, it’s more suspense than anything else IMO. I like her books but I always find that they are a bit unbalanced leaning more towards the mystery than the romance.
Kimberly Kincaid
5. taragel
Yay! I'm excited to see this article. It sometimes seems impossible to find good contemp romance without any supernatural creatures in it. I've enjoyed some of Kristan Higgins' books , but haven't really found any new favorite must-buys. Will have to check out some of the authors on your list!
Vanessa Ouadi
6. Lafka
Lovely article! I don't read much contemporary romance, because it generally fails to make me "dream" as other romance subgenre. I do agree with what you said though, that good contemporary characters can be easier to relate and connect with :-) Among the few authors I read, besides Julie James you've mentionned, I really really love Bella Andre (her Sullivans series is delightful) and R.L. Mathewson (her Neighbour from Hell series had me laughing to tears!).

Thanks for all the recs, I shall give a try to some ;)
Kimberly Kincaid
7. LynneW
Thanks for the recommendations; I'll have to search out the Shannon Stacey titles. (I prefer lighter titles right now, having enough angst in my own life!)

Julie James and Jill Shalvis are auto-buys for me; they offer a fresh voice and an intriguing setup with every book.

Carly Phillips is usually on target for me. She's currently releasing the third in the Serenity trilogy set in upstate New York.

I'm also looking forward to Virginia Kantra's upcoming contemporary in July, introducing her new series set on (fictional) Dare Island in the North Carolina Outer Banks.

A few others are JoAnn Ross, Robyn Carr and Sherryl Woods. They're all midlist authors and I generally enjoy their characters and storylines.
Carmen Pinzon
8. bungluna
This is my preferred genre and I'm always on the lookout for new authors. Ones that haven't been mentioned yet:

I'm currently addicted to the Virgin River series by Robyn Carr.
Karen Hawkins has some funny contemporaries.
Susan Lyons does great mixed cultural contemporaries.
Lauren Dane's Chase brothers were great! The Brown siblings aren't bad either ;-D
Kimberly Kincaid
9. JacquiC
I love Janice Kay Johnson. She writes mostly for the Superromance line, I think, but I just love her voice and she seems to do intense emotion with a really deft touch.

Molly O'Keefe is also good in the Superromance category (as is Sarah Mayberry, but she's been mentioned). I just finished Stephanie Doyle's "The Way Back" which was also really excellent.

I also love Shalvis, Robyn Carr and Julie James. And Shannon Stacey. Also love the three Lisa Kleypas "Travis" contemporaries.
Brie Clementine
10. Brie.Clem
@taragel: Kristan Higgins is great, and her last two books are more Contemporary than Chick-Lit.

@Lafka: I’ve read one Bella Andre book, but can’t remember which… And I’m going to check out R.L. Mathewson because I’ve never heard of her/him. Thanks for the rec!

@LynneW: I’m a huge fan of Virginia Kantra, but I think of her as a PNR author, even though a few of her older books are contemporaries. I can’t wait to read Carolina Home, it comes out in July, right? So excited!

We have similar tastes, I enjoy all the authors you mention.

@bungluna: Yes! Another fan! Haven’t read anything by Susan Lyons but I will.

@JacquiC: must check Janice Kay Johnson, any book in particular for me to begin with?

I’ve read and enjoyed Molly O’Keefe’s books. There are so many great authors that choosing a few is almost impossible. And funny you should mention The Way Back, I talked about that book on my last post about cheating heroes. It’s a great book, isn’t it?

I’m one of those who prefer Lisa Kleypas’ Contemporaries instead of her Historicals. Blue-Eyed Devil is one of my all-time favorite books, is one I always recommend because it’s so touching and just plain amazing! But again, Ms. Kleypas is on a league of her own, and everyone knows who she is and loves her books, not to mention that she's more famous for her historical stories. That's why she's not on the list.
Carmen Pinzon
11. bungluna
@Brie - Try "Love, Unexpectedly". It's a friends to lovers, train trip, Hindu hero romance. It was published under Susan Fox and it's the first of 4 about sisters in Canada. Good stuff!
Kimberly Kincaid
12. Robyn26
I enjoy contemporary romance books but seem to drift toward historical romance books. I guess it's the romance of the time and the chivalry of the heroes. I recently read a really good one by Slannyn D'Arcy called "The Gift". For me, the twist of fantasy and paranormal abilities plus the plot of good vs evil, make it so much more exciting than a contemporary book.
Tonya Smith
13. TonyaSmith
I love Lisa Kleypas contemporaries. I find that she writes male and female characters equally well and compelling. I am happy to see others post about this area of her writing. She is one of the few authors that I want to read over and over.
Kimberly Kincaid
14. Misty H
There are so many good contemporary authors out there like Lori Foster, Victoria Dahl, Susan Andersen, Stephanie Bond, Jill Shalvis, Lisa Plumley, Jo Davis, Deirdre Martin , Julie James, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and one of my personal favorite Rachel Gibson. I could probably think of a few more but those are my must haves.
Kimberly Kincaid
15. Kimberly Kincaid
Oh, Misty, you and I were separated at birth! I love all of those authors too :) Such yummy characters and wonderful plotlines. I also forgot (shame on me!) Jenny Crusie. If you've not read Welcome To Temptation, Bet Me, or Maybe This Time, oh, how you're missing out. All incredible examples of how amazing this subgenre can be. My TBR just got shamefully long. Funny, I'm not that upset about it ;)
Kimberly Kincaid
16. JacquiC
@Brie -- for Janice Kay Johnson, you can start pretty much anywhere. She writes really good law enforcement characters, in my view. There is an older series of hers entitled something like "Patton's Daughters". I think there are four books in the series, and one sort of "spin-off" book. Several of the heroines are police officers and one is an arson investigator, if I'm remembering correctly. There is also a more recent series that has come out in the last few months, which I've really liked. I can't remember the title of the first one, but the most recent one is called "Call of Bravery". It's about three brothers, also law enforcement characters. They are somewhat on the angsty-side, but it is not overdone, in my opinion. And I find that she writes grown-up characters who struggle with real issues.
Brie Clementine
17. Brie.Clem
@bungluna: got it! I’ll go check it out now. Thanks!

@Robyn26: have you read Susanna Kearsley’s books? Some of them are time travel stories, so you get a historical and a contemporary romance for the price of one. It’s a win-win situation and her voice is one of the most beautiful and compelling I have read in a long time.

@TonyaSmith: another point for Team Contemporary Kleypas!
Misty H: you have some great picks there. The only names I’m not familiar with are Lisa Plumley and Stephanie Bond. Must fix that ASAP.

@Kimberly: those are my top 3 favorite Jennifer Crusie books. Love them!

@JacquiC: have you read From Father to Son? I went to Amazon looking for Call of Bravery and saw it. I have a soft spot for damaged heroes falling for heroines with kids! LOL They are so cheesy but I love them!

@Everyone: I’ve got another rec for you guys. This a new author and when I wrote the post I had only read her first book, so I didn’t add her to the list just in case that book’s awesomeness was a one-hit wonder. But I just read her second book and it’s even better. Her name is Ruthie Knox. Her first book is Ride with Me and the second one, which comes out in June, is About Last Night. They are great, check them out if you can!
Carmen Pinzon
18. bungluna
I swear, I'm gonna have to get an e-reader just to get all the tempting books y'all are mentioning here.
Kimberly Kincaid
19. nath
Great post, Brie :)

I know a lot of romance readers that don't read contemporary romance. I guess it's because it's too close to reality. However, me, I love them! Definitively the genre I go too... Unfortunately, I feel there's not enough being published.

I always look forward to books by Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, Susan Andersen, Robyn Carr, Kristan Higgins, Julie James and Jodi Thomas. Those are my go-to authors for contemporary romance currently. But seriously, I think publishing houses definitively need new talents in this genre.
Kimberly Kincaid
20. JacquiC
@brie -- yes, I have read from "Father to Son". It is the second in the most recent trilogy of hers that involves three brothers. The first one (the name of which escapes me) involves the older brother, Duncan. I loved it. I also loved the second one and thought the kid characters were quite well done. There is one kind of big coincidence (maybe) in the story that I paused over, but in the end, the rest of it was good and so I didn't quibble too much about the coincidence.
Kimberly Kincaid
21. Liz Mc2
I see Brie beat me to Ruthie Knox. I hope she has a long career ahead, because her debut was smart, funny, sexy and original. Loved it.
s butler
22. mssarahb
I also love Sarah Mayberry, Julie James, Jill Shalvis and Jenny Cruise, but there are a few others I want to mention:

From HQN, I LOVE Kelly Hunter. Favorites are "Trouble in a Pinstriped Suit", "With This Fling" and "Wife for a Week" (the first in the great series about the Bennett siblings). She also has a self-pubbed novel called "Wish" which is worth finding.

Alice Clayton's "Unidentified Redhead" and "The Redhead Revealed" are both great.

Meg Maguire's "Caught on Camera" (HQN Blaze), "The Reluctant Nude" and "Trespass" (both from Samhain) all have some heat, but are definitely romance (rather than erotica). She also writes erotica as Cara McKenna (fab!).

Teresa Medeiros writes wonderful historicals, but her contemporary, "Goodnight, Tweetheart" is fantastic.

Kristen Ashley's books are too long and need a good editor but there is something crackalicious about them. I somehow managed to read most of her books in a week. Favorites: "The Gamble", "Sweet Dreams", and "Mystery Man".

Theresa Weir is re-issuing her older titles and they are fun. I've recently read "Amazon Lily" and "Last Summer".

I enjoyed "On the Island" by Tracey Garvis-Graves, which has raised a bit of an (unwarranted, IMO) kerfuffle because of the characters' ages.

Louisa Edwards' books are a foodie's delight: "Can't Stand the Heat", "On the Steamy Side", etc.
Kimberly Kincaid
23. rootsgrrl
Oh, so many faves here; for some more, how about Kathryn Smith, Toni Blake, Erin McCarthy and Deborah Smith? The Smith ladies write very emotional and thought-provoking books, and Blake and McCarthy are more to the fun and sexy side, but they're all great.
Brie Clementine
24. Brie.Clem
@bungluna: I know, right? So many recomendations that I don't know what to do. I can hear my credit card weeping!

@nath: I disagree with you. I think there are a lot of great new authors out there writing quality contemporaries, hence this post, the idea was to highlight some of them (although not all are new). What I think is that there are certain recipes that are quite popular and we keep seeing them over and over again, like small town stories, or book series about siblings, so it may create the impression that there’s no real variety, both in stories and authors. But even if there are several overused plots, the voices and the storytelling are quite unique. So I think there are many authors to choose from.

@JacquiC: found Duncan’s book! It’s Between Love and Duty. My TBR pile is getting huge!

@Liz Mc2: I hope so too, she is very talented! Also, her books are hot. Ride With Me looked all sweet and deceiving and then bam! Hot smexy time galore! LOL

@mssarahb: I didn’t know Meg McGuire and McKenna were the same person! I’ve read the books you mention but I never made the connection. I’m not familiar with some of the authors on your list, I’ll have to check them out.

Amazon kept recommending On the Island to me and all those great reviews and weeks on the best seller list made me curious. But I admit that the age difference makes me cringe, not so much the age difference as the actual ages and their original relationship. I mean, I don’t care that she’s older but I do care that he is a minor and that she is his teacher. I believe that they don’t become lovers until years have passed, but still. The ick factor is huge. I’ll admit to being intrigued, even if it’s just because of the buzz.

@rootsgrrl: I love, LOVE! Deborah Smith. Her books are so emotional and engaging. I haven’t heard of her in a while, though. Must visit her site to see if she has a new book out.
Kimberly Kincaid
25. Holly Gilliatt
Great post! Familiar with so many of these names, but thanks for some great new suggestions. Brie, like you, I prefer straight-up contemporary romance. Modern day, normal people's stories are just fine by me. No gimmicks required. So always on the lookout for new authors.

One book I really enjoyed was "Wife by Wednesday" by Catherine Bybee. Thought this was a really good read. She normally writes other genres of romance, but I hope she writes more contemporary in the future.

I also enjoy more of the romantic women's fiction authors like Jane Green and Emily Giffin. I've got a novel along those lines being published in 2013, so if you like that genre, maybe that will be of interest to you. :-)
26. Janga
I'll add an "amen" to most of the contemporary authors mentioned. Jean Brashear, Beth Andrews, Helen Brenna, Kathleen O'Riley, Kathleen Eagle, Karen Templeton, and Ellen Hartman are other category authors whose books I never miss--a mix of long-time and newer authors.

I think contemporary romance readers are going to love Molly O'Keefe's first single-title, Can't Buy Me Love, which is being released June 26. It has the stellar characterization and fascinating family dynamics that are trademarks of her categories and offers a bigger story.

I also highly recommend Meg Benjamin's Konigsberg series (Samhain). Everyone I've persuaded to read the first, Venus in Blue Jeans, has gone on to read the other five and rave about them all.
Jennifer Meriwether
27. JenM
This thread is going to keep me busy for awhile. I've tried probably half the authors mentioned, but there are plenty of others that I haven't tried. I don't tend to read categories because the quality is so uneven, but I have recently discovered Karen Templeton and Sarah Mayberry, so I'll have to try a few of the others mentioned.

Meg Benjamin is an author I found thanks to Samhain's free ebook promotions and I'm totally hooked on her Konigsburg series. As for Ruthie Knox - as soon as I finished Ride With Me, I immediately pre-ordered her next book. I also want to mention Fiona Lowe who is Australian and normally writes for the Mills & Boon doctors line. She released a wonderful contemporary through Carina Press called Boomerang Bride that got me totally hooked on her. Finally, I didn't see Jane Graves mentioned. I love her books because her heroes are usually ordinary guys that you can totally imagine running into at Starbucks.
Brie Clementine
28. Brie.Clem
@Holly Gilliant: I have Wife by Wednesday (Amazon kept recommending it to me), but I’ve yet to read it. I’ll bump it up on my list. And congrats on your book! Is it your first one?

@Janga: I didn’t know Molly O’Keefe had a single title coming up! I read His Wife for One Night and loved it, so I’ll have to check that one out.

I must confess that Meg Benjamin’s books didn’t work for me. Well, I only read part of Venus in Blue Jeans, but I never quite got into it. I’ll have to pick it up again. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood the first time. Everyone loves this series, though.

@JenM: I have Boomerang Bride on my Kindle but I haven’t read it. She writes for the medical line? I love those books! Have you read Sarah Morgan? She writes for Presents and Medical Romance, love her books.

I also bought Heartstrings and Diamond Rings and is sitting on my TBR list. I keep hearing great things about that book and the author in general. Thank you so much for the recs!
Kimberly Kincaid
29. emmel
A shout-out for Deirdre Martin--her series on the hockey players of the NY Blades and their special women is just a lot of fun, and wonderfully written.
Kimberly Kincaid
30. Shark with Lasers
Thanks for the list! Love Stacey and Shalvis, so I will definitely check out your other recs.
viv ross
I have to recommend Suzanne Wright. Her only contemporary book is "From Rags". Wish she would write more contemporary. Also love:
Kristen Ashley, Ruthie Knox, Sarah Mayberry, SEP, Rachel Gibson, Victoria Dahl, Pamela Clare, Shannon Stacey, Julie James, Susan Andersen. Jill Shalvis has had some great books but is a bit hit and miss for me. Susan Donovan was a favorite but have not liked her last 3 books. I am constantly running out of books to read by my favorite authors and would love any recommendations if you agree with my favorites.
Brie Clementine
32. Brie.Clem
emmel: Deirdre Martin is great also! I don't love all of her books, but absolutly recommended to fans of sports romance.

Shark with Lasers: you have the awesomest name! LOL (did I already say this?)

vivross2010: I haven't read anything by Suzanne Wright so thanks for the rec. I think we have similar tastes, I love most of the authors you mention and they didn't make the list because some of them are more romantic suspense and super famous, so I wanted to keep it straigh contemporaries and not-so-big names. You should try Karina Bliss, Shannon Stacey and Louisa Edwards, and in terms of really, REALLY big names, have you read Nora Roberts and Linda Howard?
Kimberly Kincaid
33. nikatnite79
I love Susan E Phillips, Rachel Gibson, and Kristen Ashley. I also love Lisa Kleypas ' "Travis" series. I could read tem over and over. I fell in love with Kristen Ashkey's books. The best new romance author has to be Darynda Jones!!'nn. The Charley Davidson series is soooooo good! It has everything and yet it's fresh, real and supernatural all at the same time!!!
Kimberly Kincaid
35. Debbie Alexander
KRISTAN HIGGINS is one that should be on the list. Her stories are funny; witty; the characters are complex and you are able to relate. I picked up my first Higgins book because it had a pic of a dog and the people. She cleverly adds her love and relation ship with her family pet into her stories.
Kimberly Kincaid
36. im_a_sapiosexual
I loved all your book recommendations. This is what I'd been looking for! Thank you. Although, I'd love to recommend one of my personal favorite--- Ruthie Knox (Especially, Camelot Series and there's one more called Truly). In fact, all her books are great! Trust me, you wont regret it!!
Kimberly Kincaid
37. Camara
Please can someone recommend an author for office contemporary romance novels?
Kimberly Kincaid
38. Camara
So i followed the suggestion on Bella Andre, love her books. currently reading about the Sullivans!
Kimberly Kincaid
39. JoAnn Harris
I am looking for authors in addition to Julie Garwood and Sandra I'm taking your-all's advice. Thanks!
Kimberly Kincaid
40. Linda Vasseur
I am looking for books like The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons with a little bit more story and umph to them. I also enjoyed Gabriels Inferno.
Lindy Lou
Kimberly Kincaid
41. Ybhorton
Paulina Simons, Bronze Horseman series is excellent. If you liked her work you would enjoy Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.
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