I love rom coms as much as the next girl, but sometimes I want to read something heavier, more emotional. I want my heart ripped out and then put back together again by an angsty, powerful romance novel. From love triangles to second chance romances and forbidden relationships, each of these love stories are complex and anything but easy. The following 15 books all lean heavily on the emotion, with complicated storylines and relationships that have some roadblocks along the way. Many are written by my one-click authors, and they’re all engaging, unique reads.
Each of these contemporary romance novels was a 4 or 5-star read for me. I’ve included the blurbs, as well as links to my book reviews and Amazon for easy addition to your collection. Happy reading!
Managed by Kristen Callihan
Tortured hero • So much chemistry • All-time favorite
It started off as a battle of wits. Me: the ordinary girl with a big mouth against Him: the sexy bastard with a big…ego.
I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I was upgraded to first class on my flight to London.
That is until HE sat next to me. Gabriel Scott: handsome as sin, cold as ice. Nothing and no one gets to him. Ever. He’s a legend in his own right, the manager of the biggest rock band in the world, and an arrogant ass who looks down his nose at me.
I thought I’d give him hell for one, long flight. I didn’t expect to like him. I didn’t expect to want him. But the biggest surprise? He wants me too. Only in a way I didn’t see coming.
If I accept his proposal, I leave myself open to falling for the one man I can’t manage. But I’m tempted to say yes. Because the real man beneath those perfect suits and that cool façade just might be the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And I just might be the only one who can melt the ice around his heart.
Let the battle begin…
Dangerous Games by T.K. Leigh
Forbidden romance – ex’s brother • Rock star • Sexy
The voice of an angel.
The body of an Adonis.
And the man I happened to have a one-night stand with in Vegas.
No big deal, right? What happens in Vegas… Well, you know how the saying goes.
Did I mention I was once engaged to Asher’s brother?
I walked away, hoping my momentary lack of judgment would stay in the past.
I should have known it wouldn’t. Not with my luck.
Now Asher York is back in my life, and that flame I hoped would flicker and die still burns brightly.
But can I put my heart on the line, knowing this man has the power to obliterate it?
Can I allow myself to come between two brothers?
There’s only one way to find out.
Let the games begin…
Then You Happened by K. Bromberg
Young widow • Sexy • Enemies to lovers • Mysterious hero
From New York Times Bestselling author K. Bromberg comes a standalone contemporary romance about trusting fate and finding yourself again.
Jack Sutton was the man I didn’t want to need.
His know-it-all attitude. His annoying suggestions. His outlook on life.
He was determined to help me while I had resolved to figure it out on my own.
But he taught me things I’d forgotten.
How to trust. How to believe in myself. Who I was.
I went and fell in love with him.
Tatum Knox was the disaster I should have walked away from.
Her ruined reputation. Her failing business. Her chaotic life.
She hated me at first sight and yet intrigued me all at the same time.
I was only supposed to be there six months.
I was supposed to use that time to make amends for things I’d done wrong.
Instead I fell in love with her.
They say it’s better to have loved and lost, then not to have loved at all. Does that hold true when the love is based on a lie to begin with?
That Forever Girl by Meghan Quinn
Second chance • Hero messed up • Small town • Slow burn
USA Today bestselling author Meghan Quinn’s second book in the Getting Lucky series brings heart, humor, and heat back to Port Snow.
There are two little words every small-town man dreads:
Harper Sanders, the girl who was supposed to be my forever, has returned to Port Snow, Maine, for good—and she’s bringing back memories of our shared past.
We once had a bright future together, but when tragedy struck, I threw it all away and pushed her out of my life. People in our small town think I’m cursed, but I know better. I did it all to myself.
And now she’s creating a life of her own in the place where we first fell in love. I can’t fight my feelings for her—or the strong attraction that keeps pulling us together. But after all this time, can she forgive the past and fall in love with me all over again?
Everyone hopes to find that forever girl…I just hope I haven’t lost mine for good.
Trouble Me by Eliza Peake
Office romance • Sexy • Battling their demons • Addiction
A recovering alcoholic. A determined winery owner. An intense chemistry that could destroy them both.
Emma Reynolds is ready to start her life over—clean and sober. Unfortunately, the only job in the small, southern mountain town of Madison Ridge that can help her save her family’s estate is an executive job at a local winery. Her sexy and dangerously handsome new boss only complicates matters.
Shane Kavanaugh is the billionaire heir to a wine empire. But when his integrity is questioned, he makes plans to redeem himself and protect the family legacy. However, those plans don’t include distractions from the curvy brunette he hired as his new executive.
With every stolen glance and sizzling touch, the spark between them grows. But when secrets are revealed and her sobriety is tested, Emma and Shane will have to let go of the past if they want to have a future.
A Lie for a Lie by Helena Hunting
Sports romance • Half light/half heavy • Secrets • Sexy
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Pucked series comes a romantic comedy about instant attraction, second chances, and not-so-little white lies.
Sometimes I need an escape from the demands, the puck bunnies, and the notoriety that come with being an NHL team captain. I just want to be a normal guy for a few weeks. So when I leave Chicago for some peace and quiet, the last thing I expect is for a gorgeous woman to literally fall into my lap on a flight to Alaska. Even better, she has absolutely no idea who I am.
Lainey is the perfect escape from my life. My plan for seclusion becomes a monthlong sex fest punctuated with domestic bliss. But it ends just as abruptly as it began. When I’m called away on a family emergency, I realize too late that I have no way to contact Lainey.
A year later, a chance encounter throws Lainey and me together again. But I still have a lie hanging over my head, and Lainey’s keeping secrets of her own. With more than lust at stake, the truth may be our game changer.
Dear Ava by Ilsa Madden-Mills
High school • Enemies(ish) to lovers • Triggers • Loved it
WSJ bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills delivers a gripping enemies-to-lovers, secret admirer, high school romance.
The rich and popular Sharks rule at prestigious, ivy-covered Camden Prep. Once upon a time, I wanted to be part of their world–until they destroyed me.
The last thing I expected was an anonymous love letter from one of them.
Please. I hate every one of those rich jerks for what they did to me. The question is, which Shark is my secret admirer?
Knox, the scarred quarterback.
Dane, his twin brother.
Or Chance, the ex who dumped me. . .
Your eyes are the color of the Caribbean Sea.
Wait. That’s stupid.
What I really mean is, you look at me and I feel something REAL.
It’s been ten months since you were here, but I can’t forget you.
I’ve missed seeing you walk down the hall.
I’ve missed you cheering at my football games.
I’ve missed the smell of your hair.
And then everything fell apart the night of the kegger.
Don’t hate me because I’m a Shark.
I just want to make you mine.
Mature Content. Recommended for 18+.
The Better Choice by Kiersten Modglin
Love triangle • Unpredictable • Frustrating
This story starts with a question.
Six years ago, Blythe had a choice to make. A choice that would alter the course of her life, and the lives of the two men she loved, forever.
There was Finn, the tough and mysterious bad boy who took Blythe into his home, and Asher, the handsome go-getter who showed Blythe a world she’d never known.
Both men had secrets.
Both men wanted Blythe for their own.
The choice was hers to make.
This story starts with a question.
Six years ago, Blythe made her choice.
Did she choose the better man?
Unbreakable by Melanie Harlow
Mature hero & heroine • Both newly divorced • Steamy
In hindsight, I should not have had that fifth mimosa at Breakfast with Santa.
Or the sixth, seventh, and eighth.
But my shame over the public meltdown that resulted was nothing compared to being abandoned by my husband of fifteen years for a much younger woman—and did I mention she’s pregnant?
For the sake of my children and my pride, I packed up and headed for my childhood home and the small town where I grew up. Cloverleigh Farms would be the perfect place for a fresh start.
Falling for Henry DeSantis wasn’t part of the plan.
Sure, he’s easy on the eyes and hard in the bedroom (also the hallway, the bathtub, and on top of his desk), but he’s newly divorced too, and things between us are moving so fast I’m afraid neither one of us has had enough time to heal. Not to mention the fact that I’m a single mom now—my kids have to come first.
But Henry makes me feel beautiful and sexy and wanted and strong—I haven’t felt that way in years. We understand each other, and when I’m in his arms, I’m tempted to trust again. To love again. To let myself be loved without fear.
But deep down, I’m terrified.
Is this all too much, too soon? Or am I a fool to let a second chance at happily ever after pass me by?
Sledgehammer by P. Dangelico
Hate to love • Forced closeness • Slow burn • Loved it
Amber Jones is in a pickle. And when I say pickle, I mean a world of trouble. She knew she shouldn’t have gone to her ex’s New Year’s Eve party. And she reeeaally didn’t mean to almost burn down his house. Now she needs a good lawyer, stat. But where to find one?
Ethan Vaughn is a very busy man. He really shouldn’t have agreed to spring Amber Jones out of jail. As the most sought after lawyer in professional football, he should be focused on representing his NFL clients––not an accident-prone, struggling actress.
Now she’s remanded on bail, and living in his house. The woman is a walking talking disaster. And considering his track record, he needs to stay as far away from this one as possible. Problem is, he’s finally met the one he’s willing to risk it all for.
Take one outspoken actress, put her under the same roof with an overworked lawyer, and watch the slow burn bring down the house.
Dirty Letters by Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward
Pen pals • Slow burn to sizzle • Secrets • Complicated situation
From New York Times bestselling authors Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward comes an unexpected love story that started with a boy and girl and heats up when the man and woman reconnect.
I’d never forgotten him—a man I’d yet to meet.
Griffin Quinn was my childhood pen pal, the British boy who couldn’t have been more different from me. Over the years, through hundreds of letters, we became best friends, sharing our deepest, darkest secrets and forming a connection I never thought could break.
Until one day it did.
Then, out of the blue, a new letter arrived. A scathing one—one with eight years of pent-up anger. I had no choice but to finally come clean as to why I stopped writing.
Griffin forgave me, and somehow we were able to rekindle our childhood connection. Only now we were adults, and that connection had grown to a spark. Our letters quickly went from fun to flirty to downright dirty, revealing our wildest fantasies. So it only made sense that we would take our relationship to the next level and see each other in person.
Only Griff didn’t want to meet. He asked that I trust him and said it was for the best. But I wanted more—more Griff, in the flesh—so I took a big chance and went looking for him. People have done crazier things for love.
But what I found could change everything.
Regretting You by Colleen Hoover
Mature hero & heroine + teen romance • Widow • Family drama
From #1 New York Times bestselling author of It Ends with Us comes a poignant novel about family, first love, grief, and betrayal that will touch the hearts of both mothers and daughters.
Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.
Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.
With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.
While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.
Crank by Adriana Locke
Great chemistry • Grouchy hero • Secrets • Sexy
Crank is a standalone romance in a new small town, blue-collar series from USA Today bestselling author Adriana Locke. Join readers everywhere as they fall in love with the delicious Gibson Boys.
This is one mistake Sienna Landry can’t buy her way out of.
As Walker Gibson looks at her, then at the damage to his precious truck (that she may or may not have accidentally inflicted), she knows she’s in trouble. It’s not the busted headlight and dented grill that’s sunk her though. It’s the downright sinful man in front of her that’s the problem.
The small town mechanic is broody. Rough. Smells like engine grease and gasoline and Sienna isn’t sure why that’s so sexy, but it is. It so is. She’s ready to peel off her panties at the drop of his wrench.
He wants her too. She can feel it when he brushes against her. Experience it as he presses her against the wall of the shop. It’s thinly veiled in his deep, brown eyes when he looks at her like she’s everything he’s ever wanted. So why won’t he give in?
The damage to Walker’s truck is the first of many mistakes between the two of them, ending with truths that rock Sienna’s world. Nothing can fix her broken heart except the love of a man that won’t, maybe even can’t, love her back.
Disarm by Karina Halle
Forbidden romance – adoptive cousins • Family drama • Suspense
Karina Halle, the New York Times bestselling author of Discretion, lifts the veil off a privileged family dynasty to reveal a wealth of secrets and dangerous obsessions.
Seraphine Dumont seems to have it all: she’s gorgeous, brilliant, and part of one of France’s most illustrious dynasties. But underneath the facade, Seraphine struggles to hold it all together. Besides grieving her adoptive father’s suspicious and sudden death, she also shares a tenuous role in the family business with Blaise, her in-name-only cousin. As tumultuous as their history is, he may be the only member of the deceptive Dumont family she can trust.
Seraphine is a temptation Blaise can’t resist. The torch he’s carried for years still burns. It’s his secret—a quiet obsession just out of reach. Until his brother demands that he spy on the increasingly cagey Seraphine, whom their father considers a dispensable Dumont outlier. But the more Blaise watches her and the closer he gets, the more he sees Seraphine may have every right to be suspicious. And she could be the next one in danger—from his own family.
As blood runs hot and hearts give in, Seraphine and Blaise have only each other. But can their love survive the secrets they’re about to uncover?
Crowne of Lies by CD Reiss
Marriage of convenience • Steamy • Unemotional hero
Logan Crowne needs one year from Ella.
Twelve months living in his house, holding his hand, wearing his ring on her finger, and in exchange, she’ll get her father’s company in the divorce settlement.
They have one year to convince his skeptical parents that they’re happily in love, and he’s settled enough to run Crowne Industries.
Ella wants the company badly enough to live with a man who will never love her. She’ll sleep in his room and kiss him for show.
Her heart may melt whenever he’s around, and his touch may ignite a fire inside her, but surrender will break her heart.
She’s sure she can last a year without giving him her body.
Want more romance recommendations? Check out some of my other lists!
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