Contemporary romantic comedies are having a moment right now. Over the last year, novels featuring characters in search of love in the modern world have exploded in popularity. You can spot them by their covers, which feature bold colors and quirky illustrations of the main characters (who are eye-catchingly attractive, yet relatable), and their storylines, which feature a love story supplemented with side plots that veer into workplace issues, diversity, and friendship. Forget billionaire playboys and naive ingenues — these characters resemble everyday people.
A good contemporary romantic comedy needs a strong lead character the reader will root for. In “The Right Swipe” by Alisha Rai, Rhi Hunter is the brains behind the popular dating app Crush, which has been massively successful. But Rhi isn’t looking for love, just an occasional no-strings-attached fling. She spends a memorable night with Samson Lima, a former pro football player, but he stands her up for their second date.
A few months later, Rhi is shocked to find herself sharing the stage with Samson at a tech conference — he’s the new face of Matchmaker, an old-school dating website that is losing market share to dating apps. Rhi wants to acquire Matchmaker, and it looks like Samson’s support is the key to convincing the owners to sell their business. But first, Rhi needs to figure out why Samson ghosted her — and she is determined to control her attraction to him.
Alisha Rai doesn’t shy away from serious issues in her novels, and “The Right Swipe” touches on workplace harassment (in Rhi’s plotline) and the devastating effects of head trauma in professional football players (in Samson’s plotline). These issues add depth to both characters and explain their actions throughout the book.
An unexpected connection or a meet-cute is another must-have for a contemporary romantic comedy, and “The Flatshare” by Beth O’Leary features a delightfully screwball setup.
Tiffy is going through a devastating breakup with her live-in boyfriend, and she needs a new place to live. But London rents are through the roof, and options are limited. When she sees an ad for an unusual flatshare, she jumps at the opportunity.
She’d be sharing an apartment with Leon, a nurse who works the night shift. The space is hers during the evening and overnight, while Leon is at work; he occupies the space during the day. It sounds like an ideal setup for both — Tiffy needs an apartment, and Leon needs extra money to help his family.
Neither Tiffy nor Leon expected that they’d know each other’s lives so intimately without meeting in person. Tiffy’s free spirit and kitschy style breathes new life into Leon’s dull existence, and soon the two start sharing details of their lives via Post-it notes.
Six months after Tiffy moves in, they finally meet in person when Tiffy stays in the apartment beyond her allotted time. Soon, they’re spending time together, but their budding relationship is threatened when Tiffy’s ex tries to weasel his way back into her life.
O’Leary tells the story in alternating voices, and Tiffy’s quirky charm contrasts nicely with taciturn Leon’s thoughtful observations of his life and the people around him.
The secondary characters and side plots are engaging, with a focus on both characters’ professional lives, family relationships and friendships. The combination of depth and heart, plus a touch of early-2000s chick lit, make “The Flatshare” a great summer read.
Finally, the key ingredient to any kind of love story is chemistry between the main characters. Jasmine Guillory’s highly anticipated third novel, “The Wedding Party,” tells the story of Maddie and Theo, whose best friend, Alexa, is getting married.
Maddie is a professional stylist who hopes to take her business to the next level, and Theo works for the mayor of Berkeley, Calif.
Maddie thinks Theo is pompous, Theo thinks Maddie is frivolous and they don’t hide their opinions. Being in Alexa’s wedding party forces them to interact, and the chemistry is unexpected. They spend one night together and vow to never do it again, and to keep it a secret from their friends. But their connection is undeniable, and soon they’re enjoying each other’s company without the excuse of wedding preparations.
Enemies to lovers is a popular storyline in romance fiction, and Guillory brings her trademark humor to this steamy tale. As Maddie and Theo move beyond their preconceived notions of each other, they fall in love, but they’re convinced that their mismatched pairing won’t last. Although the happy ending is inevitable — this is a romance, after all — the joy of getting there is what makes “The Wedding Party” special.