Do you love a grumpy/sunshine romance, the classic good girl/bad boy trope, the hot jock and the nerd? They’re all great opposites attract dynamics that make for fun, engaging contemporary romance reads. I love the tension that inevitably develops when two total opposites meet and start to fall for each other. There’s usually plenty of friction, sometimes an enemies to lovers vibe or just lots of sexual tension, and that always makes for a good love story. It’s those differences that keep things interesting, and they’re present in all of these books. Some are college or new adult romances, others are rom coms – each has a different vibe, but they’re all great reads.
The following 15 contemporary romance novels all feature couples who have major differences, but somehow find enough commonalities along the way to fall hard for each other. If I’ve reviewed a book, there’s a link to it; if I haven’t, there’s a link to the book on Amazon for easy addition to your TBR. Happy reading!
Million Dollar Marriage by Katy Evans
Reality TV • Sexual tension • Forced closeness • All-time favorite
From New York Times bestselling author Katy Evans comes a hot romance about two strangers and their race to fall in love.
If someone had bet Nell a million dollars that she would be saying “I do” to a complete stranger on national television, she’d have called them crazy, but with her crushing student loan payments sending her deep into the red, she’s out of options. This should be nothing more than a business transaction—until she sets eyes on her groom, and everything changes.
The game is on the instant Luke spots Penelope “Nell” Carpenter. He’s out for the money, yes, but getting a little dirty with Nell doesn’t sound too bad either. Everyone knows he’s not the marrying kind, so it’s a good thing it’s just for show. God knows he’s the worst guy his pretty wife should pick for real.
They have nothing in common, but if they want the grand prize, they’ll have to beat out eight other couples. Proving that total opposites attract should be easy enough…as long as they don’t fall in love in the process.
Easy Love by Piper Lawson
Nerdy hero • Great chemistry • Light with shots of angst • Sexy
How 20-Somethings Find Love in New York:
1. Meet for tapas.
2. Pretend you care more about his day than your career circling the drain.
3. Stumble to your place. Kick him out before he trips on dirty laundry. (Literal or figurative.)
It’s easy. That’s how I like it.
Before you crown me the least romantic person in Manhattan, meet my competition.
Dr. Wesley Robinson.
Keen blue eyes and fell-out-of-bed hair. Unhealthy obsession with 80s movies. Drier than a gin martini. Drive that makes Tony Robbins look like a slacker.
Yep. The hot genius I’m helping sell his DNA dating app has a plan:
Scale the highest peak of Mount Nerd. Then ride off with his genetic Cinderella.
I shouldn’t fall for him.
Even if Wes kisses like there’s something dirty under that pressed shirt.
Even if he opens me up like no man has.
Even if guarding my heart’s getting harder each day.
Because New York isn’t Wes’s mountain. I’m not his princess…
And nothing this easy can last.
From USA Today bestselling author Piper Lawson comes a slow-burn, opposites-attract romance about a hot nerd falling for the girl he could never have – with a little help from science.
Hate You Not by Ella James
Enemies to lovers • Small town • Sexual tension • Angsty
I didn’t know I was that person. You know—the one who gets the kids. But that’s what the will said. June Lawler: Legal Guardian.
My niece and nephew are 6 and 9, and all they’ve ever known is San Francisco. I arrive the day after the wreck, pack up my sister’s mansion, and fly them back to Georgia.
The small-town farm where their mom and I grew up isn’t what it once was, but it’s home. That’s all they really need.
I was courting an investor when it happened. Tromped all up and down the Himalayas, and he didn’t even buy in. It was a week before I found out what I’d lost. My little brother meant the world to me. Now even his kids are gone.
Spirited away to Heat Springs, Georgia—population 298.
They’re living on a farm that’s half a breath from bank foreclosure with a 26-year-old who didn’t finish high school. Nowhereville is not the place for little Mastersons. But I’ll get them back. It’s the money she must want, and I’ve got lots of that.
“June Bug” Lawler is poorer than that red dirt she comes from. I can make her dreams come true—and do one last thing for my brother.
I hate him.
She makes me crazy.
He thinks he can buy me off! I’ve never met a man so arrogant.
There’s no woman anywhere more stubborn.
I wish I had never met him.
But that’s not the story.
Accidental Tryst by Natasha Boyd
Phone swap • Texting • Feelings before meeting • Light and fun
Meet Trystan Montgomery. Suit monkey, commitment-phobic serial dater. No more than three dates, unless he hasn’t … you know.
What a disaster! I only just made my flight to New York to help my uncle, and the phone I’m holding is not mine! It seems to belong to some commitment-phobic serial dater who’s never made it past four dates (according to the constant notifications he’s getting from his fake dating profile…) And worse? I have a sinking feeling it’s that hot suit-monkey with the arctic grey eyes I just had a run-in with at the airport. Somehow I have to persuade him not to get a new phone until I get back. My whole life is on that phone. It’s only a few days. Surely we can handle it.
This is a joke, right? My life could not get more f*cked up. I’m in the middle of selling my company and on my way to a funeral and that hot mess hippie-chick stole my freaking phone. I’m not sure how she convinced me not to immediately walk into a smart phone store and get a new one, but now she’s going to have to play stand in and distract me while I deal with my long-avoided and estranged family. I don’t have my dating apps after all, and frankly she’s pretty funny. And sexy. And why can’t I stop texting her? And now we’re talking. And … look, I’ll admit that I usually run for the hills the morning after, but the morning after phone sex? That’s not really real, right?
Win Big by Kelly Jamieson
Sports romance • Light and sexy • Lovable hero • Great chemistry
When your name is Wynn, victory’s the only option…
Everly Wynn: As the only daughter in the Wynn family of hockey heroes, I never shared the ice with my brothers—or the approval they got from my father.
And that was before the scandal that ruined my life at sixteen.
Now that I’ve put all that behind me and built a successful career, the last thing I need is another hockey player in my life.
Especially one like Wyatt Bell.
He’s an arrogant, fast-living party boy. I hate how he gets by on his good looks and charm.
So why can’t I get him out of my mind?
Wyatt Bell: Life is short, and you’ve got to live it to the fullest. I learned that the hard way.
So on the ice, I always play to win, and on the town, fun and flirting are my game.
Because it’s better to laugh your way through the pain than to let them see you’re hurting—but I’ll never stop wishing I could find someone to share the real me with.
Something about Everly Wynn makes me think she could be the one.
But all she sees is a hockey jock hooked on good times.
If she didn’t take herself so seriously, maybe she would take a chance on being happy.
Nothing But Wild by P. Dangelico
New Adult • Friends first • Half light/half angsty • Troubled hero
Dallas Van Zant…
Water polo god.
Beautiful disaster in the most literal sense of that label.
Trust me, it’s not hyperbole. He’s in big trouble with the law.
What does this have to do with me, you ask? Unfortunately, a lot. For some reason, which I still can’t quite wrap my brain around, I’ve been talked into driving him around as part of his plea deal.
Problem is, he makes me nervous. I’m not good with people, men in particular, popular athletes especially. I’ve worked really hard to get my disability under control and one minute in his company and all my hard work flies out the window.
To top it all off, I promised myself that I was going to make some serious changes this year. I’m tired of feeling awkward around boys. I’m tired of never having had a boyfriend. I’m tired of being lonely. And he’s wrecking my plans.
But I’m also not the type to turn away a person in need. So I’ll do what I must to help him out.
I’ll just pretend that I’m not enjoying his company. And I’ll ignore the fact that he’s sweet and funny. And I’ll tell myself every day that he’s out of my league.
Because I’m as inexperienced as they come. And Dallas Van Zant is nothing but wild.
Frisky Business by Lila Monroe
Light and funny • Great banter and chemistry • Sexy
Noah Hathaway is infuriatingly hot, annoyingly charming… and my new room-mate?! This pet-sitting gig was supposed to be a vacation from drama, but that was before the hunky guy in the pool-house started sticking his nose (and his annoyingly chiseled abs) in my business.
I’m looking for Mr. Right, not Mr. Most Likely to Sneak Out of Bed (And Steal Your Breakfast Pop Tart On the Way Out the Door), so despite the red-hot sparks between us, I’m determined to stay away. But when one little party gets way out of hand, we’re suddenly both on the wrong side of trouble. Unless we can come up with ten thousand dollars in the next three weeks, we’re screwed. And not just when it comes to the adorable pooches.
With the clock ticking, we have no choice but to team up and embark on a madcap scheme to save our asses – with the help of a few furry friends. But with the chemistry between us reading Defcon-69, can I keep my hands (and heart) to myself? Or will this pup-tastic scheme leave us both in the doghouse?
How to Date a Douchebag: The Failing Hours by Sara Ney
New Adult • Lovable jerk • Great banter • Light & fun
Zeke Daniels isn’t just a douchebag; he’s an a**hole.
A total and complete jerk, Zeke keeps people at a distance. He has no interest in relationships—most a**holes don’t.
Being part of a couple? Nope. Not for him.
He’s never given any thought to what he wants in a girlfriend, because he’s never had any intention of having one. Shit, he barely has a relationship with his family, and they’re related; his own friends don’t even like him.
So why does he keep thinking about Violet DeLuca?
Sweet, quiet Violet—his opposite in every sense of the word.
The light to his dark, even her damn name sounds like rays of sunshine and happiness and shit.
And that pisses him off, too.
Fix Me Up Cowboy by Stina Lindenblatt
Light and sexy • Small town • Likable characters
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the sexiest cowboy of them all…
As a Beverly Hills princess, I prefer Egyptian sheets, designer clothing, and shopping on Rodeo Drive.
Cleaning stables? Definitely not my thing.
After my great aunt dies, I volunteer to go to Copper Creek, Montana to tie up loose ends and put the house she willed me on the market.
The last thing I expect to find is irritating, yet sexier-than-sin Noah Daniels.
Nine years ago, I left town only to return with a broken heart, a love for restoring vintage cars, and the plan to never leave Copper Creek again.
When hotter-than-hell Kate Snow decides to fix up her great aunt’s house, turning down her offer isn’t an option. She needs the extra hands so she can meet her deadline.
And I need the extra cash.
But the job comes with additional perks: Hanging out with Kate. Teaching her about horses.
The mind-blowing sex with her.
What I haven’t planned on is for my heart to be a willing part of the deal—a deal that could result in Kate landing her dream job. In Beverly Hills.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Enemies to lovers • Light and funny • Quirky • Office romance
Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman
Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.
Trapped in a shared office together 40 (OK, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.
If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth-shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.
Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.
Walk of Shame by Lauren Layne
Cynical hero • Bickering/bantering • Great chemistry • Light
Sparks fly between a misunderstood New York socialite and a cynical divorce lawyer in this lively standalone rom-com from the USA Today bestselling author of Blurred Lines and Love Story.
Pampered heiress Georgianna Watkins has a party-girl image to maintain, but all the shopping and clubbing is starting to feel a little bit hollow—and a whole lot lonely. Though Georgie would never admit it, the highlights of her week are the mornings when she comes home at the same time as her uptight, workaholic neighbor is leaving to hit the gym and put in a long day at the office. Teasing him is the most fun Georgie’s had in years—and the fuel for all her naughtiest daydreams.
Celebrity divorce attorney Andrew Mulroney doesn’t have much time for women, especially spoiled tabloid princesses who spend more time on Page Six than at an actual job. Although Georgie’s drop-dead gorgeous, she’s also everything Andrew resents: the type of girl who inherited her penthouse instead of earning it. But after Andrew caps one of their predawn sparring sessions with a surprise kiss—a kiss that’s caught on camera—all of Manhattan is gossiping about whether they’re a real couple. And nobody’s more surprised than Andrew to find that the answer just might be yes.
So, That Got Weird by Amelia Kingston
New Adult • Steamy • Light with shots of angst • All-time favorite
A painfully awkward love story.
Incomprehensibly awkward Elizabeth Wilde is desperate for love. Connection. Intimacy. After a lifetime of romantic failures, the twenty-one-year-old gamer realizes she needs help. Professional help. She needs…
A sex tutor.
The devastatingly hot jock Austin Jacobs is just the man for the job. As the reigning campus sex god, he has the playboy act down pat. But underneath those six-pack abs beats a broken heart. He doesn’t trust people and he sure as hell doesn’t believe in love.
The odd couple strike a deal. Four weeks of ‘tutoring’ for five thousand dollars.
When Austin coaxes Elizabeth out from behind her computer screen, the attraction they feel is undeniable. They’re both a little broken, but somehow their jagged edges fit. And when their world comes tumbling down on top of them, they each have to decide if this weird thing called love is worth fighting for.
Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid
Quirky characters • Light and fun • Start of a series
There are three things you need to know about Janie Morris:
1) She is incapable of engaging in a conversation without volunteering TMTI (Too Much Trivial Information), especially when she is unnerved,
2) No one unnerves her more than Quinn Sullivan, and
3) She doesn’t know how to knit.
After losing her boyfriend, apartment, and job in the same day, Janie Morris can’t help wondering what new torment fate has in store.
To her utter mortification, Quinn Sullivan—aka Sir McHotpants—witnesses it all then keeps turning up like a pair of shoes you lust after but can’t afford. The last thing she expects is for Quinn to make her an offer she can’t refuse.
Neanderthal Seeks Human is book #1 in the Knitting in the City series. Each book is a standalone, full length, contemporary romantic comedy novel, and follows the misadventures and exploits of seven friends in Chicago, all members of the same knitting group.
The Cruelest Stranger by Winter Renshaw
Lovable jerk • Sexual tension • Angsty • Twisty
The first time I saw him was at a bar called Ophelia’s on a misty Thursday night. I was there to drown my sorrows after a trying day, he was there to escape the storm. After a brief yet incredibly cruel exchange, the handsome stranger bolted before I had a chance to tell him off. Incensed and two cocktails deep, I followed him out the door, determined to give the audacious Adonis a piece of my mind—and the umbrella he left behind.
Tearing after him in heels and barely able to keep up in the freezing rain, I ended my chase when I realized where he was going.
They say never to judge someone unless you know their story.
I never could have anticipated his…
And I never could have anticipated the way our paths would cross again—or that I would one day find myself falling for a man with a hollow cavity where his heart should be, a man as callous as he was beautiful, as complicated as he was mesmeric.
They say never to judge someone unless you know their story.
This one’s ours.
Beauty and the Beefcake by Pippa Grant
Quirky characters • Light and funny • Teammate’s sister
She’s my sun and moon.
My stars, my air, my sunshine.
She’s every heartbeat.
There are two kinds of women in the world – those I can bang, and those I can’t.
My teammate’s sister?
She’s a can’t.
I moved in with her to protect her from a nasty ex, not to be the next guy in line.
She’s the brains.
I’m the brawn.
She’s the fruit.
I’m the sausage.
She talks too much.
I don’t talk at all, if I don’t have to.
Should be easy to resist her.
But every minute I spend with Felicity is another minute she gets under my skin. She makes me feel like something more than a dumb puckhead with a big Zamboni pony. And it’s getting harder to remember why I need to keep my hands to myself.
Beauty and the Beefcake is a vegan-friendly standalone romantic comedy featuring a hockey player whose vocabulary is the only thing smaller than a hockey puck, a book smart but aimless ventriloquist with too many voices in her head, a dilapidated old house that may or may not be haunted, and no cheating or cliffhangers.
Want more romance recommendations? Check out some of my other lists!
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