Grown-Up Reads

10 Contemporary Romance Novels with Relatable Heroines

by Iva-Marie Palmer

Photo credit: RUNSTUDIO, DigitalVision/Getty Images

Falling in love with a romance novel is about way more than the starring couple or even the leading wooer. In these contemporary romances, the main characters aren’t waiting to be swept off their feet, and many of them have their feet firmly on the ground. The fact that each of the well-rounded protagonists of these ten new novels feels like someone with whom you might enjoy a coffee date — or book club! — only makes following their overarching love stories more compelling.

  • The Kiss Quotient

    by Helen Hoang

    Stella Lane believes in math. She also thinks French kissing sounds utterly unappealing. Stella, employed by a firm that creates algorithms to predict customer purchases, has Asperger’s, and her aversion to things like kissing has left her with little experience in the sex department. So, in her no-nonsense way, she hires an expert: an escort named Michael Phan. As Michael walks her through all things in the knee-weakening arena (yes, all the things), Stella finds their arrangement making some sense. Hoang’s smart and sexy debut will have you falling for both its characters, and anxious to see what she’ll write next.

  • You Me Everything

    by Catherine Isaac

    Jess has raised her 10-year-old son William more or less alone, with her ex (and William’s father) Adam playing only a bit role, and a not very reliable one at that. Jess’s mother urges her to take William to stay for summer vacation at the French chateau Adam runs, so that William and Adam might bond. William adores his dad, who — with his busy work life and new girlfriend — continues to be hit or miss on the father front. Meanwhile, Jess is hiding something big from both of them that makes the father and son bonding all the more urgent. Optimistic but also bittersweet, you’ll want the world for Jess and her son, and you’ll crave a trip to the Dordogne after reading Isaac’s lush descriptions.

  • The Proposal

    by Jasmine Guillory

    Some might find a major league scoreboard proposal the height of romance but writer Nikole Paterson isn’t that woman, especially since she’s only been dating the guy doing the asking for five months (and his kind-of-obnoxious dude friends are present). When another game-goer, Carlos Ibarra, rescues her from the camera crews and onlookers who can’t believe SHE SAID NO, Nikole embarks on a sexy rebound with him, thinking she has this fling under control. Readers will love Guillory’s (who also penned the fab The Wedding Date) dialogue, humor and the delicious meals her characters share. This one is yummy all the way through.
    (On sale: 10/30/18)

  • Marriage Vacation

    by Pauline Brooks

    Fans of the show “Younger” will realize there’s something familiar about this title. In the show, Marriage Vacation is a memoir acquired by the fictional Empirical Press (and penned by the fictional wife of the fictional Charles Brooks). While “Pauline Brooks” may be unreal, the premise is as real as it gets for many a wife and mother: Kate Carmichael, despite her perfect children, husband, and life, needs a break. She takes off on a trip halfway around the world — a midlife crisis moment if ever there was one — but when she returns, she finds she now has to fight to get her old life (and her husband) back.

  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

    by Gail Honeyman

    Eleanor doesn’t mind being just fine. As in: Just. Fine. Her life is short of big highs but she avoids social interaction in order to keep from feeling crushing lows too. She’s eccentric and highly regimented and even the more extroverted among us can understand why it’s sometimes easier to stick to yourself than reach out. But Eleanor can’t help but reach out when she finds an elderly man who’s stumbled on the sidewalk. Her oddball coworker Raymond happens to be there too, and Eleanor, Raymond, and the old man become friends. Eleanor’s uniquely witty voice makes her feel like a quirky friend you love getting together with and the sweet romance is sure to charm. (It already has charmed Reese Witherspoon, who made it one of her book club picks and is producing a film adaptation.)

  • Ghosted

    by Rosie Walsh

    For those who enjoy suspense as much as they do love scenes, Walsh’s debut novel is sure to please. When Sarah meets Eddie, the resulting insta-love might be too good to be true. And, maybe it is. Eddie leaves on a longstanding trip, then never calls again. Sure, Sarah knows he might be ghosting her, but she really doesn’t believe it, even if her friends — and some readers — surely want her to. As Sarah waits for the real explanation, she learns she’s right: There is a reason he disappeared. (And it’s not something we can even hint at here!)

  • Love and Other Words

    by Christina Lauren

    Mary Sorensen is being sensible: she’s working hard as a new medical resident and planning to marry a “safe” choice, someone stable and secure so that she can keep her heart locked away. Then her first love — her only love — Elliot Petropoulos, reenters her life. He broke her heart, not long after he got her to open it. Told on a timeline that jumps between then and now, we learn the reasons why Mary walled herself off, and also hope that Elliot can convince her to open up again.

  • When Katie Met Cassidy

    by Camille Perri

    Who can resist a big New York City romance, especially one being compared to the Nora Ephron-penned film par excellence “When Harry Met Sally”? In this romance, traditional Kentucky girl Katie Daniels has just been dumped by her fiancé when she meets Cassidy, a brash native New Yorker wearing a man’s suit. They’re opposites to be sure, but they also have undeniable chemistry. Katie finds herself questioning everything she thinks she knows and believes about herself, and readers will find themselves considering their own truths, too.

  • The Bucket List

    by Georgia Clark

    When 25-year-old Lacey Whitman is diagnosed with the breast cancer gene, she’s not ready to lose her breasts. Not that anyone would be, but she’s VERY not ready. She’s deciding between two possible career paths, plus she and her breasts haven’t, ahem, experienced much. So she draws up a bucket list of everything to do with and for her breasts before a possible surgery. Her ensuing adventures are sexy and fun, making you all the more invested when she finally has to decide what to do for her health and future.

  • Hate to Want You

    by Alisha Rai

    Livvy and Nicholas’s families owned a grocery store together, but when an accident tears apart their business partnership, they’re also forbidden from seeing each other again. And yet when their paths cross, a fiery attraction boils, so they make an arrangement to enjoy one night together a year. Though the premise strikes at the doomed love of “Romeo and Juliet,” the leads are well-characterized adults with their own issues. No-nonsense Livvy suffers from panic attacks while Nicholas struggles to get out from under his father’s thumb. The three-book series about a second-chance romance is addictive.

What are your favorite contemporary romance novels? Let us know in the comments below!

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