Do you wanna play?
Think of a sports romance book. What comes to your mind? Even if you haven't read one. (as yet)
Sinfully hot, sweaty, grumpy, and flirtatious sports jocks vs. a save me from the world 🤩love interest. The labels are easy to slap on the book heroes' jersey from this part of the romance genre world. But not all are "players." Not everyone has a level playing field. Many of our bookish sports heroes have to bring their A-game to these pages because not every love interest is ready to fall at their knees.
Here is a list of some of my favorites from an ever-burgeoning library of sports romance books. Some are quirky, others are super-mushy, but all are swoon-worthy.
Deke- by Eden Finley. This is book 3 in the fake boyfriend MM romance series by the author. Ollie is an ice hockey star out to his family but not the world. What hooked me to the book was the first meeting with the love interest- Lennon, a sports journalist. The story weaves around their stormy encounters with some great family drama. There is a bit of jock vs. nerd angst with pinches of comedy to make it a heady read. The entire series is excellent.
Another good series to read if you are into MM sports romance is by authors R.J.Scott and V.L.Locey. They have multiple series on ice hockey sports stars with some lovely cast of characters. I have mostly read the Harrisburg and Raptors books. Poke Check (Harrisburg series book 5) is my favorite because of Stan and his cat. This second chance MM romance has the adorable self-talking Russian goalie with a hulking frame hating Erik, his new teammate. But how long can Stan detest the man who broke his heart many years ago? Not when Erik comes with a baby in tow.
Crossing the Touchline (Auckland Med book 2) by Jay Hogan. What chance does a closeted rugby player have against a headstrong flamboyant out and proud ER nurse? None. The effects of that first kiss in the dark still linger on, and Cameron is hard to resist a second time. Reuben has a lot on his hands- a toxic father, a nephew who needs all the support he can get, and a closet that is suffocating him. It is these conflicts that will keep you turning the pages.
All books by Jay are entertaining for the deep emotional struggles portrayed through the protagonists. Like, Against the grain (Auckland Med book 4), which puts Miller, a Paralympian rugby player, in the orbit of Sandy, a forensics nurse, as they deal with homophobia in their entwined world of family, sports, and the hospital. While Miller struggles to come out to himself, Sandy is up in your face, who gives a f@#k man who likes to dress as he wants.
If ice-hockey and rugby are not the games you play, how about soccer? Yes.
Well, you will love Only when it is us (Bergman Brothers book 1) by Chloe Liese. A classic enemy to lover's trope with an angsty soccer girl and an injured flannel addicted jock; who can't decide whether they hate each other or … (er, cough, cough). You will giggle, smile, and hate, Willa and Ryder's jostling soccer match. This story is one hell of a roller coaster ride from laughter to anger to grief and love. You feel everything in the chest. As a writer, every word made me envious. Damn, what a narration. What a story. Keep the book by your bedside, read at leisure, let the words settle, and enjoy.
While you are busy swirling the soccer ball, how about Amy Daw's- Challenge. The first book in the Harris Brothers series. What is it with these sportswriters? Why so many series? Or perhaps it is me? Anyway, meet Indie, the doctor trying to keep Camden, the proverbial 'player' standing straight or probably on his knees. Indie shouldn't engage, but what if for once she gives in. It may help with her secret list.
Team sports not the right sneakers for you; how about boxing? The only image that comes to one's mind is- muscled, rugged, bruised fists, and broken jaws. Well, Adam fits all those labels. Meet him in Beauregard and the Beast by Evie Drae. A MM beauty and beast retelling. However, Bo does not check any boxes on your traditional beauty list. The slow burn will keep you captivated from the first chapter.
Outmatched by Kristen Callihan and Samantha Young is a fake boyfriend trope that matches Samantha (the geek) with Rhys (the ex-boxer turned gym owner) after a mix-up or was someone being manipulative. Don't judge Rhys until you understand his reasons. There is a lot he has to say (or do) with his foul mouth.
While we are still faking it, have you met Zara and Caleb in Parental Guidance by Avery Flynn? For the vice-captain of the ice-hockey team, it may have started as a misconceived PR stunt by Caleb's mother. But now? Zara's miniature world rocks his celebrity universe. Meeting a stereotypical sports jock after being set up on a dating app was not on the cards for Zara. Despite their protests, Caleb and Zara do need each other. If only they can keep their meddling parents away.
Ice-hockey. Not again. 😒🙄. Hey, please stay with me because Beauty and the Beefcake is hilarious. Book 3 of The Copper Valley Thrusters by Pippa Grant has an impressive cast of characters. Ares- the grump who uses more words with his pet monkey than with people. The sports jock is as alpha as they get. He is forced to stay with Felicity, who does enough talking for both of them. Why? Because she is a ventriloquist. And before I forget, there is something fishy about the house they share.
When you read sports romance books, many common themes, tropes, and character traits will emerge. American football, ice-hockey, baseball, basketball, and soccer take up major shelf space in this genre. Few stories have been written with protagonists in other sports or with diverse characters from non-American/ European settings like Asia, Latin America, or Africa. Female sports stars also lag behind their male counterparts in wooing their love interests as main characters in these novels. (or perhaps I haven't read one as yet). If you have any recommendations, please leave a recommendation.
To make up for the lack of South Asian sports stars in romance books, I wrote one of my own- SHY. Saaransh's story is being published with @ninestarpress in 2021. Add it to your TBR list to read how two men on different sides of the closet struggle to find love. Follow me on Twitter as I share Saaransh's 'coming out' story.
If you wish to join me in this sports romance reading journey, connect to my Pinterest board - Wanna play.
While you are here- take a look at Sharon and Jon's story. 'All the lines to cross' is a comic journey of a geeky doctor and an American football quarterback as they fall in and out of love, watched over by a 6-year-old who is hell-bent on playing cupid.
Pic credits: Created on Canva. Illustrations by the author.