Read More Romance - Part II (Contemporary)

Several months back, I made a list of my Top 10 Historical Romance Novels...which was, quite possibly, the hardest thing I've ever done. I set out to make a list of my Top Romance Novels, period, before I realized that I could list 10 novels that I loved set between the years 1812 and 1815 off the top of my head.  So I went with historical.  And promised more lists soon. Soon, as many of you who are regular readers know, became not so soon.  But I did not forget you!  I swear!  This week, I'm tackling contemporaries.  Not easy.  Because contemporaries fall into so many different categories...there are the Harlequins and Silhouettes that I read voraciously every month after my sister's HQN and Loveswept Book-of-the-month club boxes arrived...and then the big, sweeping single-title contemporaries that make us all sigh...and that doesn't even touch Harlequin Blaze...or the new, hardcover single titles...or romantic suspense!

Sure, I'm a historical lover.  But, between us?  There's something about curling up with a good contemporary that is awesome.  Gone is your life...your problems...your world...and there is someone else's life...someone who could easily be you.  And there's a man...a pillar of a stud who just might live next door.  Or who might be sitting on a plane next to you the next time you fly somewhere for work.  And that's a powerful fantasy. But the contemporary romance seems to wax and wane...and I hate hate hate the idea of it fading away because people don't appreciate its power.

Which is why I was so happy when Smart Bitches, Trashy Books & Dear Author teamed up to Save the Contemporary earlier this year. And it's why I persevered in FINALLY building this list. Here we go again...in no particular order...my top 9 contemporary romance novels (because now that I have a book with a 9 in the title, I am eschewing lists of 10)!

**Disclaimer. This list was designed for people who are not romance novel readers. At least, not yet. And it's not comprehensive.  This list includes some classics. I like to think that what we're talking about here is a full on list of books that should be included in the canon of romantic literature. Yeah, some of them are old. But you know what? They're awesome.

  • Perfect by Judith McNaught - I got a complaint or two that McNaught's Whitney, My Love wasn't on my Historical list.  There are a few reasons why that is--but the most important is this: I think Judith McNaught's contemporary romances blow her historical ones out of the water.  Take Perfect.  If you've ever had that fantasy where a movie star falls in love with plain-old-you?  This is the book for you.  Yes, the plot is crazysauce: Falsely imprisoned movie star escapes and has no choice to kidnap a plain Jane teacher.  They hideout in a cabin in the snow and fall in love. Of course.  Don't judge me.  If you can stay dry-eyed through your first reading of this book, then you're allowed to judge me.  I see you judging me.    

     

  • Texas! Chase by Sandra Brown - Any list of best contemporary romance novels has to include two things: cowboys and military men. Here's my first nod to cowboys (but, as I'm typing, I realize that there's going to be at least one more).  This one is tough. The hero is SERIOUSLY wounded.  His pregnant wife died in a car accident, and he's roped into marrying the woman who was driving (and who happens to have loved him for her entire life).  IT COULD HAPPEN!  He's kind of an ass to her...until he realizes that ohmigosh he loves her. I know. But, I swear, as a reader, you go with it.  Because you can't help it.  It's just that good.     

  • Midnight Jewels by Jayne Ann Krentz - This was my first Jayne Ann Krentz book...and one of my first single-title contemporaries.  It is still my favorite of all of her books, and I'm not really sure if it's the nostalgia factor or the fact that I'm completely and utterly in love with the hero--and was from the very first second I saw his name.  I mean, who doesn't fall for Croft Falconer? Add to it the fact that the whole story is centered around a rare book, and stop it. I'm sold. This is also as close to romantic suspense as this list will get.
  • Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas - It's no secret that I think that Lisa Kleypas writes quite possibly the most perfect historical romance heroes (I'm looking at you, St. Vincent). And I will follow her blindly.  Regency? Victorian New Orleans? Gypsies?  Yes.  But when she went contemporary, I thought, Oh No! But...but...how could these heroes ever compete?  And what is this first person POV? And then I met Hardy Cates and....Oh YES. YES YES! Add to that the fact that the book deals with some really tough issues--spousal abuse--and still delivers a passionate, heart-wrenching lovestory, and...well, yes.
  • Nobody's Baby but Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - I was woefully late to the SEP party.  That said, I have made up for lost time in an extraordinary way. And, while I haven't completed my tour through her catalog, I've come close...and I feel confident in putting Nobody's Baby but Mine on the list.  Such a fun read. Brilliant physicist goes after hot hot HOT football player thinking he'll be dumb enough to both even out the gene pool and give up those genes without a fight.  Too bad he's clever, funny and smart himself.  When these two go head to head, you won't want it to end.
  • Sweet Liar by Jude Deveraux - As you know from my historical list, Jude Deveraux holds a very special, very important place in my heart as the author of the very first historical romance I ever read--The Black Lyon.  With that, she started a long and rich collection of books about a single family, The Montgomerys, who ultimately merge with the Taggart family.  There are about six centuries worth of Montgomerys and Taggarts in the Deveraux catalog, and when we get to modern day, there's always a risk that heroes living now can't possibly compete with dukes and earls and larger-than-life heroes of then.  And then you meet Michael Taggert, the hero of Sweet Liar, and you forget that there was ever a risk.  Because this book, a brilliant contemporary wrapped up in the history of the St. Valentine's Day-esque massacre, ultimately is one heckuva love story.  If you've never read a book by JD, don't start here...but definitely finish with this one.
  • Frisco's Kid by Suzanne Brockmann - Remember when I said that no contemporary romance list is complete without a Navy SEAL book?  Well, if you're going to read a Navy SEAL book, it ought to be by Suzanne Brockmann.  Because the woman does SEALs like nobody's business. Frisco's Kid is one of her Tall, Dark & Dangerous series, and my personal favorite.  I am a sucker for a wounded hero, who can only be saved by the love of a good woman (who isn't?).  Here, we've got wounded soldier + good woman + 6-year-old niece + the body and mind of a SEAL. Is it getting hot in here? Yum.
  • Warrior by Elizabeth Lowell - Ok...this one makes the list for nostalgia reasons as much as anything else.  This book was originally published as a Silhouette Desire and my friend Lindsay and I passed it back and forth and drooled over the hero--Nevada (wounded warrior and TOTAL Alpha male)--until the cover fell off.  I still have my original copy, Scotch taped together with love.  And the scene in the cabin when they finally FINALLY give into each other?  Knee-watering.  (NB: My version of this book is out of print.  This link takes you to an HQN reprint that includes another book in Lowell's series. That one's worth the read, too!)
  • And while I'm all the way down here on memory lane, discussing those series books that I fell in love with when I was 13, I have to give a slot to Diana Palmer. So... The Long, Tall Texans Series by Diana Palmer - More cowboys.  Yes.  But who doesn't love a good cowboy? Ok.  I'm totally cheating here...because when I was a kid, these books were individual titles.  But now, you can read about Calhoun, Justin and Tyler in one fell swoop. Start with Calhoun--Texas playboy and all-around bad boy.  But, oh. My.
Now, like always, I'm questioning the list...what about the newer authors?  The Harlequins I've loved recently?  Uhm...Toni Blake? Kristan Higgins? Jenny Crusie? Forget it. This is too hard. I apologize, in advance, for the books I've missed. It's your turn to tell me what I *have* missed. Did I pick the wrong book from one of these authors?  Or did i blow it by not including some other author altogether? 

Comment with omissions, debate (and recommendations, as always)! 

--- Looking for the earlier list of Historicals?  Here it is!

How about Paranormals?  Click here!