Naturally, a contemporary romance is a romance set in the world the author lives in, more or less. It’s real-world stuff. The general term “contemporary romance” covers everything that doesn’t fit into a specific sub-genre based on profession or template. Remember that most of these can be all over the scale on sexiness portrayed, from sweet inspirational cowboy romances to cowboy erotica romances.
A special version is the category romance. This is about 50,000 words, which for modern novels is short. It’s designed to be a fast read, not a big commitment like a door-stopper saga. They’re always contemporary, and some publishers have quite a list of requirements as to age of heroine, if ever married, age and wealth of hero, &c. Do your research at their online guidelines.
The glitz romance is a romance set in the world of glamor and celebrity, wealth and fame — or notoriety. Remember, it still needs the romance focus on a single pairing, rather than playing musical beds like a good many straight glitz novels.
Skidding close to this may be the chick lit romance. Like chick lit, it’s urban, with a perky, quirky heroine and a fun touch. It depends on whether she’s working in a store or a TV station, how close to glitz it gets.
The opposite may be the hometown romance, or small town romance. Whether she’s been living in the big city or not, she’s come home now, often to take care of family problems, and it’s here she’ll find her real life with the love of her life. Re-adjusting to a place without a Starbuck’s (is there a place?) or a designer handbag shop may be difficult, as may be finding out those never really made her happy. Closely related is the cowboy romance. Some publishers don’t just have series of them, they consider them a regular line. The small town is in the West, and the hero has to be a cowboy, whether a ranch worker, ranch owner, or a rodeo athlete.
The military romance used to require an active-duty hero, who does not leave the service to be with the heroine — she becomes a military wife. Now she may be a soldier, sailor, Marine, or Air Force, too.
The medical romance is set in its own sub-culture of doctors and nurses (sorry, I don’t think they count veterinarians or dentists). Originally, it was doctor-and-nurse romances, growing out of all those nursing career novels, as it were, though now, naturally, the heroine may be a physician or surgeon, not to mention psychiatrist, physical therapist, &c.
Then there are the three areas of hybridization. The rule for these is simply that the story must be a romance primarily, but one using the other genre’s template to bring the h/h together. Over half the story should be the romance.
The oldest of these might be said to be the mystery romance, where the h/h are drawn together over solving a mystery. They may be co-sleuths, or one may be a suspect to the other’s sleuth, or they are counter-sleuthing in opposition.
The thriller romance is sometimes called the Intrigue® after Harlequin’s line. It can be a little difficult to tell this from the adventure romance, as it is to tell straight thrillers from straight adventure stories. Look for the ticking clock, the serial killers, and the other thriller/suspense clues.
Naturally, as soon as you have more than one axis, you can get complicated descriptions like mystery military romance or thriller glitz romance.
Also, while the major romance publishers do focus on one woman and one man, there are houses that have lines for GLBT and polyamorous romances that are not erotica — look around. Keep looking, because houses close, open, and flat change what they want.