I enjoy a good romance featuring a athlete hero, and I also enjoy sports. But the thing is, a lot of women who are indifferent to sports, or even dislike them, love sports romances.
It’s not just the insane physical condition athletes are in, because soldiers, firemen, and others would fit the bill. There’s something about the athlete. If the athlete is from the MMA? Well, maybe it’s the especially primal, powerful aspect—you know he can protect you, because he could literally (and likely easily) kill someone with his bare hands. The dangerous bad boy is easily depicted here.
Obviously how the athlete looks is a part of it. Who doesn’t want a guy in mint physical condition? That’s his job—to be healthy, fit, and strong. Especially football players. And they’re not just dumb jocks; a lot of players are quite smart. Quarterbacks have to be strategists, and the game takes a lot of thinking and analysis. Dedication must be a part of it. The athlete is dedicated to the game 100%...and otherwise dedicated 100% to the heroine. That’s a lot of focus and intensity.
He also has a lot of groupies, so when the hero singles out the heroine, we give him extra gold stars and check marks. A guy who rises above temptation is to be commended, and generally liked, right? It also shows maturity and strength of character, and who wouldn’t want that?
It’s clear sports books get a lot of buzz, even based just on the covers. Look at Jaci Burton’s Play by Play series. Even the cover model has been invited to give interviews on romance blogs, and coverflats/postcards that he signed are desirable objects, with people clamoring for them.
One of my favorite sports romances is Line of Scrimmage by Marie Force, followed closely by the Bad Boys of Football books by Bella Andre. And how can any sports post be written without a mention of Susan Elizabeth Phillips? She even makes golf something sexy. Well, the heroes. Come on—who doesn’t want a Kenny Traveler? Golf. (Not a sport I love, incidentally. Nor basketball. There, I said it.) I also really enjoyed Jill Shalvis’s baseball romances. With baseball uniforms, you don’t think much of them. Erin McCarthy wrote a few as well in her Brava novellas. I remember the descriptions and thinking “hmmmm,” because if you watch a game, you definitely can’t see what the guys are hiding under those unflattering pants. And shirts. Does anyone remember when the naked Grady Sizemore pictures were leaked? I think a lot of women went looking for them, rather than men. ;)
Rachel Gibson’s Seattle Chinook books are very popular too. And even though it seems more women in the romance community dislike hockey as a sport, Dierdre Martin’s hockey books were so popular she’s got a spinoff series from them.
Rugby is an incredibly popular sport when it comes to the hot guys. A number of people who flat out say they dislike all sports will happily google image search rugby players—there are even videos, I believe, of interviews of sports illustrated type shoots of rugby players. Often shared by the women who say they don’t care for sports.
A professional athlete is also generally well off. A rich hero is appealing of course, because while there’s nothing wrong with a poor man (or one of average income) it’s not really a goal or aspiration of someone to find or marry an individual who is poor.
Even NASCAR books are popular. And I know I’ve read books where Formula One drivers are heroes. I don’t think I’ve read one where the hero is a soccer player, though, and can’t think of one off the top of my head. Do specific sports produce more “heroic,” or at least romance hero material? I know Nora Roberts has a tennis player hero, so it seems almost every sport is covered.
The thing is, a romance hero in 99.6% of books is incredibly hot, and in near perfect physical condition. And many of them are well off (pretty much all of them in category romances—doctors, tycoons, and the like.) So...why the athlete? Help me out here.
Do you like athlete heroes? If yes, which sports are your favorite? If you don’t care for an athlete hero, do you like sports? I definitely don’t think the two go hand in hand.
Lastly, do you have a sports romance to recommend? Have you read the ones I mentioned?