Top 5 Contemporary Romances When You Need To Believe In Love Again
While contemporary romance isn't a genre I'm published in right now (I do have plans for a series, though) it's one I love whole-heartedly. But this list is done a little differently, for a big reason I'll get to in a second. That means, though, that this list has a set of criteria that are very specific.
Because this list isn't just for good contemporary romances, it's for contemporary romances to read when you're having a sh*tty day. Week. Month.
The reason for these specific criteria is because this last year, I've been dealing with a lot. I'm not talking just a lot, a lot. I'm talking about so. freaking. much. that I've spent eleven months drowning, gasping for breath. (Literally. My first meditation class, they told me to breathe deeply, and I couldn't. I literally could not take a deep breath.) To give you a brief run down of my stress this year, my warrior woman mom, who has stage 4 metastasized breast cancer, has been in the hospital twice this year--once with a diagnosis of brain tumors, once with pneumonia. On top of that, she lost all mobility in her right side, got that back, went through extensive physical therapy, only for her breathing to get so horrible she almost died from it. I'm her primary caregiver. There's been my ADD diagnosis, I battled severe depression that had me so exhausted and mentally and physically depleted, I wouldn't even get out of bed for entire days. I've spent the year working three jobs, while dealing with awful TMJ pain and a mis-aligned spine, and we're in year five of a battle with our mortgage company.
So, when I could focus on something more complicated than Cookie Jam or I Love Hue, I would read. But I wanted books that made me feel, because I was emotionally dead. I wanted books that made my heart ache, made me want to kick this depression so I could get back to writing, that made me need to write again.
These criteria are:
* Characters that I could re-read over and over and over again. Even if I knew it by heart, or just read it a week before, I'm the kind of reader who enjoys diving back into a familiar story sometimes more than trying a new book or author.
* Same heroine and hero rules as my last Top 5 List (Paranormal Romances You Should Have Read By Now) but to recap: No stupid, bitchy heroines. Clueless can be fun, snarky is awesome, but there needs to be a solid reason, and it can't be all the freaking time. She has to get over it at some point.
As for the hero, alpha is definitely a great, big HELL YES for me. Command the space, be commanding in the bedroom (or kitchen, or bathroom, or on the stairs), but he has to have a heart. Even if it's reluctantly there (cough cough, Dallas, cough). He can be an ass, even, but it needs to be for a good reason, and he needs to have a soft spot for his heroine.
* And, as always, Happily Ever After is a must. Mandatory.
Eden's note: Some of these may be a series, so I'm linking to the first book. I'll put my favorites below.
Basically anything by Tessa Bailey
Like my last Top Five list, I'm starting this one out with my favorite. Not even my favorite book or series, but pretty much author.
You guys. If you haven't read Tessa freaking Bailey yet, stop reading this damn list and go read it now. Right now.
You can start with Protecting What's His, the first book in her Line of Duty Series, or the follow up series, Crossing the Line, or her amazing Made in Jersey series.
Or her Romancing the Clarksons series. Or the Serve series.
Seriously, READ THEM ALL.
Why am I yelling at you about this?
Because I've read every book she's written already. All of them. And I've read all of them at least twice, but some of them I've read several times this year alone.
You see, she has this ability to not just write the dirtiest, filthiest talkers out there, she does it all with a heart and humor and ability that makes you just love everything about the books. The heroines are perfect--whether or not they can't be touched without physical pain, or given up on love, or a southern thief, or the daughter of a wealthy couple, the women are all strong and capable. Completely able to stand on their own, and willing to walk away from the hottest sex with the hottest male if it's too protect them, or the knowledge they need more than what the hero is currently giving them.
And the heroes? Yeah, you'll want to keep a fan handy.
Favorite books (so far): Can I say ALL OF THEM? But since this is a top 5, mine would be Asking for Trouble, Make Me, Too Hard to Forget, Worked Up, and Baiting the Maid of Honor.
Hard to Let Go: A Hard Ink Novel by Laura Kaye
To be fair, this whole series is re-read worthy. But, as you may or may not have noticed about me already, I'm a sucker for a bad boy with a dirty mouth. Add in a giant body, scars, a painful past, and military experience?
My mother-f*cking panties will drop so fast your head will spin.
Beckett Murda is everything. He's part of a disgraced team of elite soldiers trying to clear their name. He's a giant of male with scars, a past not even his teammates know about, and he's lusting after the one woman in the world he knows he shouldn't touch (um, YES, PLEASE!)
And Kat is the epitome of what I love in a heroine. She's smart--an attorney for the Justice Department, she's feisty, she's sweet, and she knows what she wants. She's as capable of defending herself as she is healing the broken man she's not supposed to be having sex with.
I love all of her characters, but Kat and Beckett are unlike any of the other books in the series. Their sex is dirtier, the demons are darker, and the stakes are higher. But, God, she makes it work. Beckett will slay you in every possible way.
Favorites: Besides Hard to Let Go, my favorites in the series are Hard as Steel, and Hard to Hold On To.
Paradise by Judith McNaught
I read my first Judith McNaught book (Almost Heaven) when my oldest daughter was tiny. And that was it for me.
And I'm actually thanking myself for making this list contemporary romance, because if it was just a general romance list, I'd never be able to narrow it down to five. I love them all too much.
This book, like all of hers, aren't the quick, easy read like the others on the list. They're sweeping, usually covering large spaces of time. But instead of that being a negative thing when my attention span is limited to that of a gnat, it just gives me more story to fall in love with.
Matt and Meredith meet, have an intense, dizzying affair, break up under extremely bad conditions, meet again across the boardroom with new agendas, and fall in love so hard, they'll conquer the world together.
All of her books are like that--emotional, wrenching, frustrating, and perfect. No dirty talking here, and the sex scenes are rather tame, but Paradise was first released in 1991. So it's kinda to be expected.
Favorites: Perfect, Almost Heaven, A Kingdom of Dreams
Open Hearts by Eve Dangerfield
I wasn't sure if I was going to like this one. I'm as picky and critical about contemporary romances as I am paranormal romances, but I was intrigued by the blurb. Which is odd, because it was clear from the short description that Dean is not an alpha hero.
Ash is very clear about what she's looking for. Dean is in no way, shape, or form that man.
The blurb describes him as having the attention span of a Cocker Spaniel, and it's definitely true, but OHMYGODYOUGUYS, he's sooooo much more than that.
And while it took me awhile to emotionally connect with Ash--after all, she didn't want Dean, after that freaking amazing first meeting with him. But by the end, these two had me fist pumping the air and screaming HELL YEAH! at the top of my lungs.
Other favorite: Act Your Age (but, fair warning!!! AYA is not for everyone. The kink involved isn't everyone's cup of tea, but she handles it not just with an intensity and filthiness it represents, but with care and respect, as well. )
Pound of Flesh by Jessa Kane
I feel like this one should have a warning:
Scarred, impossibly tall giant ex-con, kidnapping, young girl, hot, dirty, freaking filthy sex inside.
I also feel like I should tell you this book probably isn't for everyone. It's implausible, probably impossible, and you definitely need to suspend your disbelief to read it.
But, if none of the above bother you, READ THIS BOOK.
Because despite everything I said, these two are so amazingly hot together, it's...wow.
Seriously, I bought this on October 17th. And I've already read it four times. Because I love it.
I don't care that his dick is probably half her size (seriously, dude is giant everywhere) and would probably kill her. I don't care that their age difference, appearance difference, and everything else makes it completely illogical.
What I do care about is the characters, who are damaged and broken, and so freaking perfect for each other, right from the beginning. They break your heart, and put you back together differently, in only 59 pages.
What are your favorite comfort reads? Why? Tell me in the comments, and don't forget to sign up to get notified when a new blog post goes live!
Eden Ashe is the USA Today best selling author of paranormal and fantasy romance. Happy endings are her life, whether they're dragons who will go to war to protect those they love, demon hunters who will stop at nothing, or small town ghost hunters who will risk everything for love, and the women who love just as fiercely, just as possessively as their mates.