Be in the Now: Top 10 Contemporary Romance Novels You Should Read

16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie MacomberBack in July, Megan Frampton wrote about The Ten Romance Novels You Should Read (An Opinionated Opinion). Since I read mainly contemporary books, I am weighing in with 10 Contemporary Novels You Should Read—and yes, it is an opinionated opinion.

10. 16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber

Why? Not only is Ms. Macomber's story to publication extremely inspiring, especially since she is dyslexic, but a new television series—Cedar Cove—is currently airing on Hallmark based on this book.  She also was a frontrunner in writing interconnected books and small-town romances.

9. Sarah’s Child by Linda Howard

Why? It is an perfect example of the '70s and 80s collective consciousness that love forgives most everything; or, in other words, love means you never have to say you are sorry. It is a great discussion book on when the hero's actions cross the line.

Can't Buy Me Love by Molly O'Keefe8. Can’t Hurry Love by Molly O’Keefe

Why? A great comparison to Sarah’s Child. Tortured hero in the 21st century, but the heroine’s motivation for staying in the relationship has changed. I love the juxtaposition of comparing it with Sarah's Child.

7. A Place to Call Home by Deborah Smith

Why? A book rich in heritage, history, family, and enduring love. This book has it all — humor, angst, friends to lovers, and a reunited couple! The setting is rich with Southern traditions.

6. Something About You by Julie James

Why? A refreshing story with a wonderful lack of gay-character stereotyping. Which is reason enough to put it on the list, but the book is also entertaining, funny, and sexy.

Ain't She Sweet? by Susan Elizabeth Phillips5. Ain’t She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Why? Susan Elizabeth Phillips gives her hero and heroine some of the most unlikeable traits—pompousness, and selfishness, not to mention some cruelty and spitefulness—but in the end we care about Sugar Beth and Colin. Textbook-perfect example of an author taking unlikeable characters and redeeming them.

4. I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

Why? Best of Chick-Lit. Forget your preconceived ideas of Chick-lit stories. This book is witty, amusing, and touching.

3. Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners

Why? Story that poignantly illustrates that with perseverance and patience, the nice guy can get the girl. I think of it as a modern-day version of When Harry Met Sally.

Where We Belong by Emily Giffin2. Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

Why? Bittersweet can be an ugly word for romance readers. But this book has the perfect blend of poignancy and optimism.  Plus one of the most realistic set-ups between an adoptee and her biological mother.

1. Vision in White by Nora Roberts

Why? With over 200 published romance novels, it is difficult to just pick one Nora Roberts book, but Vision in White is unique in that with this story Ms. Roberts returns to her roots of writing a simple love story. The hero, Carter Maguire, has a clumsy-cute meeting with the heroine, and later his guileless courting skills will bring a smile to your face.

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Leigh Davis, Blogger

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Lee Brewer
1. LeeB.
I've read numbers 2 through 6. I'd probably add a book by Kristan Higgins and a LOT more chick lit. :) But fun list!
Heather Waters
2. HeatherWaters
Nora Roberts for #1, natch. Have a feeling SEP's Ain't She Sweet is going to hold up really well in years to come--so well done. I do love Linda Howard's writing and Sarah's Child used to be one of my favorites of hers (I should read it again and see what I think now, though, hmm...).

@LeeB. -- Ah, yes, with the way she knocks comedy out of the park, I'd put Kristan Higgins on my list as well.
3. WendyL
Several I haven't read, including 1,2,3 and 4. The others I agree with, except I'd add Kristan Higgins too. Rachel Gibson and Susan Andersen are two more contemporary favorites.
Carmen Pinzon
4. bungluna
Where's Jennifer Crusie? Where's Jayne Ann Krentz? My list would be almost totally different. Different strokes, different folks. I do agree with #1, though.
Maggie Boyd
5. maggieboyd66
I love the Nora Roberts and SEP books. I have Sophia Kinsella on my TBR. I loved the Blossom Street books by Macomber and keep promising myself I will read the Cedar cove novels. Hopefully soon. . . .
6. Scarlettleigh
@ bungluna - I kept trying to put a Jennifer Crusie and Jayne Ann Krentz book on there, but no one book just jumped out at me. Personally my favorite of Jennifer Crusie is Fast Women, but most people think Welcome to Temptation or Bet Me are her best works. I have really liked some Jayne Ann Krentz books but again, I couldn't pick one that stood out a lot from the rest. Nora's books can be very similar too, but I felt that she took some chances with Vision in White. What Jayne Ann Krentz book and Jennifer Crusie book would you have put on the list?
7. Scarlettleigh
@ WendyL - again I really considered Kristan Higgins, Rachel Gibson and Susan Andersen, but like my dilemma with Jennifer Crusie and Jayne Ann Krentz - I kept coming up with consistently good books, but not one book that stood out as different from their whole body of work. Susan Andersen early in her writing career did write romantic suspense, which is different from her comedy books, and her present books, but I tried to pick just from the contemporary genre. Is there one book by these authors that really stands out for you?
Carmen Pinzon
8. bungluna
From Jennifer Crusie I would include "Anyone but You". It's a category but it broke new ground in its day. An older heroine (40), a younger hero (30), a divorce because she was bored with him (not because ex was horrible) and no babies in the HEA.

As for JAK, I think you're right! Once I started thinking about which one is favorite/ best representative I got boggled. Maybe "Absolutely, Positively"? Or maybe "Sweet Fortune" (after all, arranged marriage turned to passion!)? I just couldn't pick one.
9. Janga
I've read them all and enjoyed them, although I label some chick lit/women's fiction rather than contemporary romance. I'd have to have a Crusie on my list, probably Bet Me. It's not my favorite Crusie, but the body image issue, the power play, the tribe, the vulnerable hero, even the bar just make it the quintessential early 21st-century contemporary romance IMO. I'm also influenced by Crusie's own view of it and by the fact that in 2010 when we polled the EJ/JQ bulletin board members for their choice of Book of the Decade, Bet Me won by a substantial majority--and those voting were die-hard historical romance fans.

I'd also add a Kristan Higgins--maybe Catch of the Day or Just One of the Guys. And I think some of the best contemporary romances today are being written by category writers, so I would include something by Sarah Mayberry or Karina Bliss or Janice Kay Johnson or . . . I'd have a hard time choosing one.

Now if this were a personal favorites list, it would include Kathleen Gilles Seidel's Till the Stars Fall, Ruth Wind's In the Midnight Rain, and Kathleen Korbel's A Soldier's Heart.
10. Scarlettleigh
@ Janga you are so right about Seidel. Of her single type books only four were available in e-book format- One Summer, Please Remember This, Keep Your Mouth Shut and Wear Beige and A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity and I didn't think that these were her best works. And the books that I thought were her best are out of print.

And I love books by Sarah Mayberry. If this list was a list of my favorite authors, then she would have definitely been on it
11. Leslie H.
Thank you for your recommendations. I think a contemporary romance novel that should be added to your next list is "Come Fly With Me" by author Judith Whitmore ( The book is packed full of romance, action, suspense, and some plot twists that I was not expecting! The great thing about this book is that it doesn't focus on the main character, Kate, being "rescued by a knight in shining armor" it focuses on the power and strength that she finds within herself after being stuck in a loveless marriage and having to deal with death and adultery. Kate meets Rick (who just happens to be a handsome, intelligent pilot) and this is just the icing on the cake :) I feel the book really promotes the idea of a female hero and it was quite inspiring to read! I highly recommend it!
12. Heather4
Linda Howard's "Shades of Twilight" HAS to make this list... the character development and the "keeping it in the family" vein that runs through this - not to mention the hot love scenes - makes this number 1 on my list every time!
13. Tammye
For a Linda Howard book I would pick After the Night and my Jennifer Crusie book would be Bet Me.
14. Katjasomov
The GLASS TOWERS TRILOGY was amazing! Great romance, mystery, suspense and hot sizzling scenes!!!
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