Genre Guide for Beginners: Chapter 2, Contemporary Romance

Do you know what some of most commonly asked questions are? Genre questions. Either asking us what genre a certain book or series is in, or what exactly is that genre. After spending so much time immersed in the world of romance, it has become second nature to instantly catergorise books into their respective genre, or sub-genre. Just a glance at the blurb, or even just the cover then I can tell you what genre it will be. Of course, not everything is black and white and not every book is so easy to label, but a majority are.

We have previously done a very concise guide about genres giving an overview of each, but we decided to take each genre and do a more general and indepth guide. In this, we will tell you the definition of the genre, what types of characters you may expect to see, popular troupes within a genre, some of our favourite authors and series within this genre. And anything else we can think of! By the end of the guide you should be able to tell what book is what and have a few recommendations to pick up.

In this second chapter will be…


Contemporary romance is one of the easiest genres to identify and I imagine the genre that has the most books. If you pick a book up set in contemporary society, then chances are it’s a contemporary romance. If you drill a little further into Contemps, then there are plenty of sub-genres where authors focus on one particular aspect, like, cowboys, small towns etc. But for now, lets stick with the basics.

The Basics

A contemporary romance can be defined as a romance is set in contemporary society. The main couple will not find themselves in any serious danger and the conflict in the book will mainly be interpersonal. The romance will have a main adult couple who by the end of the book will have a happily ever after (HEA).

But, you may find some of these romances shelved as something else. There are sub-genres within contemporary romance, some of which had a vast following and plenty of authors. Here are some examples:

  • Bikers
  • Small towns
  • Cowboys/westerns
  • Sports

Although these sub-genres may be classed separately they are still contemporary romances. If you still aren’t sure ask yourself these questions:

  1. Would you consider the central couple adults?
  2. Is it set in contemporary society?
  3. The main characters are never in any serious danger?
  4. Is there a HEA at the end of the book between the two main characters?

If all the answers to those questions are yes, you have yourself a contemporary romance. If they aren’t, you probably have another genre, maybe a chick lit, romantic suspense, new adult or young adult.


I thought that doing the guide for contemps would be easy, the principle is pretty basic. And then I thought more about it and realised that without adding certain elements it could be a completely different genre. The couple are too young and then it’s new adult or young adult, add some danger and it could be a romantic suspense. But, where do you draw the line, how young do you need to be for it to be a new adult? How much danger qualifies it into being a romantic suspense?

In regards to danger, if the main focus is the suspense plot and the couple meet because of this then this is most likely to be a romantic suspense. Normally, if a series is focused on a spec ops group then it’s likely to be romantic suspense. Sometimes the cover is a big giveaway, if there’s a half naked hot guy with a gun…it’s going to be romantic suspense.

Another thought that was buzzing in my head was, is a contemporary romance still a contemporary romance if it was written in the 80s or 90s? I would say yes, I have read some books written in the 90s and although dated, it’s still contemporary enough to count. Obviously judgment is needed, Jane Austen would have been contemporary at the time of publishing…not so much now.

Characters you may meet…

Contemporary romance encompasses so much! It is one of the biggest romance genres which contains a huge range of different characters. And yet, you can find yourself bumping into the same characters again and again throughout contemporary romance. There are quite a few of these archetypes, but these are some of the most recognisable:

She’s your everyday gal. The one that has been there all along, maybe as your best friend’s sister, your oldest friend or literally the girl next door. She’s never really stood out, but she’s always someone you have been able to rely on. Then one day BOOM, she does something unexpected and the previously unremarkable but pleasantly pretty gal you’ve always know becomes a siren…you can’t resist her call.



This type…he’s in every genre. The guy who just can’t keep it in his pants and the number of his conquests looks about the same as the population of an island, or perhaps a small country. He’s an unrepentant man whore who fully intends to enjoy his bachelorhood without being chained down with one woman. Until she comes along and destroys his seedy little bubble. Suddenly the only thing getting his much shot love gun primed and fully loaded is the heroine.



What I love about the Nerd is that it can apply to either the hero and heroine, the only criteria seems to be…you’re a nerd. This could be that you’re super brainy and your head is in the clouds figuring out very complicated math’s like problems. Or, maybe you they just watched one Star Trek episode too many…then decided to learn Klingon, from that point on they had no option but to hop on the train to Nerdsville. In romance, these nerds make fantastic hero/heroine’s, just whip off their glasses and pluck their eyebrows and BAM they have the looks of Chris Hemsworth/Ruby Rose and the brains of Einstein. How are we to resist?



Awww, even the thought of these guys has me smiling. Who doesn’t love an adorable grumpy slightly curmudgeonly hero? They always seem to be in a really bad mood and yet that dark perpetual scowl just leaves you weak at the knees. As soon as you are under this gruff exterior though he’s a marshmallow. Not to be confused with those annoying broody heroes, the grumpy hero is just a bad tempered teddy bear.




Popular troupes and themes


Where to begin… of all the genres in romance, contemporary has the most troupes that are likely to fit within it. This makes it a highly flexible genre, which allows people with vastly different tastes to find exactly what they are craving. I’m not going to give you an exhaustive list, but here is a mixture of the most popular ones and our favourites:


Yee-haw! I love a cowboy, be they in a historical romance setting or a contemporary romance one. It must be something about that Stetson…and the hero wearing nothing but that Stetson. Cowboys are a popular subject in contemporary romance, they are often the rough, rugged, outdoorsy types who are amazingly good with their hands…mouths and other body parts.


You can’t swing a cat in romance (any genre really!) without hitting a millionaire, billionaire, gazillionaire! They are all handsome, smart with seemingly all the time in the world to seduce and fall madly in love with the girl of their dreams. Often, the girl they least expected: their secretary, the girl at the local coffee shop, random down on their luck girl they just happen to run across…so guys, you never know it could happen to you!


Rough, tough and very very bad. These guys have sped into the romance scene and taken over. The range of biker romance novels is vast, you have the gritty ones showing a true depiction of biker life and then you get the fluffier versions which glosses over all the bad stuff. It caters to all tastes. One thing that these books do have in common? The sexy alpha male at the centre of the story.


These are a UTC favourite, we love a smalltown romance, especially as they tend to come in series so we have plenty to get our teeth into. They tend to be adorable stories giving us a sweet romance all of this set within a smalltown. Added to this you tend to have a cast of characters you come back to again and again, be it a previous couple, a future couple or just some kooky and eccentric folks who like in the town.

Friends to Lovers

The title pretty much says it all. They were friends…now their lovers. This often ties into the “Girl Next Door” character I described above. Some event usually triggers them seeing an old friend in a brand new light, then before you know it sparks fly and the fun begins!


We’ve all seen those sexy book covers of half naked men in just their jock straps, muscles (and other things) bulging all over the place. These tend to be sports romances, where the hero is a sports star of some kind, be it in football, hockey, baseball or anything else – although I am yet to see a romance with a curling sports star – they can be arrogant, they can be humble. They can be at the end of their career, the beginning or just blasted into mega stardom, either way these guys fall hard for their heroine.

Rock Stars

Rock stars, they have a reputation for excess, excess in sex, drugs, alcohol and any other hedonistic vice. And we love it. They really are the bad boys of contemporary romance, just waiting for the right heroine to come along and tame their wild ways…although we don’t want them too tame, they are rock stars after all.

Second Chances

This pretty much does what it says on the tin. A second chance, where the hero and heroine have already engaged in a relationship, but for various reasons it didn’t work and now they are giving it a second chance. Perhaps they were too young..perhaps the drifted apart…or an author favourite; perhaps there was a big misunderstanding. Now, they are on the road to getting back together again and we get to enjoy the ride!

Why UTC loves Contemporary Romance

It offers so much variety! You can read so many types of romances within contemporary, from something light-hearted and fun, to something that tears your heart out and has you weeping. If you know what you are looking for contemporary can cater to every mood you have. It is also great as a starting point to get you into other genres, if you find you like a little more action with your romance, you can branch off into romantic suspense, if you want to see some fang flashing you can pursue some paranormal romance. These are just some of the reasons we love contemporary romance, there are so many good books that we have read within it, we can’t help but have our very own romance with it.

UTC Required Reading List

*rubs hands together* We view all these series as required reading for you to fully immerse yourself into the contemporary genre. If this is a series – which, generally it is – then we will add the first book of that series ready for you to make a start.

What are your favorite contemproary romances?

We are celebrating our 6-year Blog Anniversary this month!!!
*throws confetti*

We want to thank you for years of support and hope that we can bring you more hours of good reading in the future.  And what better way to celebrate than with a giveaway??  Stay tuned this week because we will have a new giveaway bundle up for grabs!  Giveaways will be open until the end of the month. 😉

Bundle # 4

You will receive the books pictured below (at least one is signed!) as well as a UTC t-shirt and some book swag.
This is open internationally!

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Tammy V

I don’t have just one but my favorite tend to contain a humorous theme rather than dark. I like friends/enemies to lovers and opposites attract stories.


This is pretty helpful, the genre descriptions/definitions. Thanks for posting and for the great giveaway!!!!! 😀


I really like all book themes. Humor is always better, mystery is good to. Enemies to friends thank you for the chance


I love small town and second chance romance 🙂


I like a number of contemporary romance, but it’s hard to only pick a title. A recent new-to-me author find with Redwood Ridge series could be named as one! 🙂

Chris Alexander

I love small town, bikers, friends to lovers, …. Man, I love them all. They are really great when you have read a book that tortures you and the characters. You just slide into a contemporary and get your HEA.

Amy Ryan

I love Katy Evans contemporary novels! As well as Malibu Singh’s Rock Kiss 🙂

Christine Sheets

I really don’t really have a favorite. I go through phases as to what I’ll read. I really do love most, if not all of them

Dawn Roberto

I don’t really have a favorite but I do love small town stories and friends to lovers stories. All depends on my mood.

Kathleen Bylsma

I like them all….so much depends on the author and characters for the true story line…

Betul E.

I don’t have a specific favorite, however I love Kristen Ashley’s CR.

Darynda Jones

Fantastic post! I love so many and you’ve given me a couple of recs that I MUST read. Thanks!


I have few favorites, but one that comes to mind is Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina Bocci. I just loved the setting (Italy) and it has my favorite trope – second chance.

Latifa Morrisette

I love Katy Evans books and too many now to choose from


My contemporary love list is so long


I don’t read too much contemporary romance now, bit I really liked vicki lewis thompson, jane green (specifically mr maybe), sophie kinsella’s can you keep a secret to name a few.

Kathy Valentine

My fave contemporary writer is Lori foster!!! I love all her books,I haven’t read a bad book by her yet!!! Great article!!! Happy anniversary!! Love UTC blog!!!


I have a lot of favourites but the first one that came to mind was Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Ishabelle Manalo

I love that description “half naked hot guy with a gun”. LOL! 🙂

Maria Passia

I love Kristen Ashley!

Janie McGaugh

Black Diamond by Susannah Sandlin.

Chris Bails

I love sport romances. 2nd chance. Friends to lovers. Love all contemporary but those are my favs

Sue G.

Anything by Carly Phillips, Roxanne St. Claire or Jill Shalvis.

Dawn Roberto

I am loving Susan Mallery’s Mischief Bay series and Debbie Macomber’s books.

Amy R

I love Kristen Ashley and Penny Reid.

Kim Perry

I love Jill Shalvis, Carly Phillips, and Jaci Burton.

Cynthia N

Contemporary romance isn’t my favorite. I suppose it’s because it’s the here and now. But I do like to mix up my genres every now and again with a hot billionaire, sweaty cowboy, or bad boy athlete. I just have to be in the mood to read the story.

Texas Book Lover

Anything by Jill Shalvis, Jaci Burton, Robyn Carr, and a whole lot more!


i haven’t read any contemporary romance lately but i loved those i’ve read by jill shalvis before


Lorelei James’ cowboys are excellent but that doesn’t mean I like the cowboy genre per se. Samantha Christy is incapable of writing a lousy book, as is Kate Canterbary. I recently discovered Lauren Rowe and she has joined the “I can’t wait for her next one” club.

Artemis Giote

Colleen Hoover, Abbi Glines and Corinne Michaels!


My favorite contemporary reads….all the books by C.M. Owens, Xavier Neal and Penny Reid 😀

Joanne B

I don’t have a favorite, but I like most of Kristen Ashley’s books.

Barbara B

Love Lori Foster and Laura Kaye!

Jennifer Schaber

There are so many so it’s hard to pick a favorite. Here’s a few though – Laura Kaye, Jaci Burton, Max Monroe, Terri Anne Browning, Lex Martin, Mary J. Williams, R.L. Mathewson, Katie Lane, Whitney Garcia, Justine Elvira, Rachel Van Dyken and Julie James


I’m really into friends-to-lovers and small town stories. Something that won’t stress me out.


Colleen Hoover got me into contemporary. I can’t name all because it’s one of my favorite genres. I have so many.


Oh, I know a great curling romance (he’s not exactly a star, but it’s darling): Teegan Loy’s m/m THE MAGIC BROOM. An adorable, very klutzy Vancouver journalist has to try all the Olympic sports for an article, and he clicks with the guy on the curling team. It was my favorite that year, as I recall…


BTW, my favorite contemporary is definitely Damon Suede’s HOT HEAD (though I guess it’s technically a historical, since it begins on the 10th anniversary of 9/11…hmm).


Rival by Penelope Douglas.


I love Katy Evans contemporary novels!

Trinidad Lara

me before you

Kimberly Curington

Lately, I seem to be reading a lot of rock star romances…