May 29 2012 1:00pm

Fit, Hot, and Rich: Why Athlete Heroes Score with Romance Readers

Line of Scrimmage by Marie ForceI 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.

Lady Be Good by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsOne 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.

Body Check by Deirdre MartinA 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?


Limecello is a reader, reviewer, lawyer, foodie and discusser of all things random. You can also visit her at her blog or Twitter.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. huntece
I dont think much of MMA but I really enjoyed Lori Foster's books that featured fighters.

I play rugby so I think it would be interesting to read any of those books. Does anybody know any author or book names?
2. Marie Force
Thanks for including Line of Scrimmage in your roundup! So glad you enjoyed it!
Lime Cello
3. Limecello
@huntece - I have a few rugby romances to you that I crowd sourced. (Unfortunately I haven't read/found one myself - until today!) I imagine there might be a few from Harlequin Desire with all their Down Under authors, but for sure, there was a series from Harlequin Presents. (India Grey, Sarah Morgan, and Kate Hewitt were all part of it. Kate said to google "Presents Rugby books.") Then also, Red Hot Christmas by Serenity Woods.

I'm with you on the MMA - not my sport of choice, but I did like her books, and also the newest (?) book by Kele Moon. Really liked that one.
4. Kim
I am a sports fan and I definitely enjoy novels with sports as a backdrop. You've already mentioned two of my favorite sport series: Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Rachel Gibson's books.

One interesting bit of trivia on Nora Roberts book: I enjoyed it, but she got many of the tennis details wrong. She had characters playing tennis on grass when the surface had been changed years before the book was published. I could only conclude she never watched a tennis match. Something major like that takes the reader out of the story.
5. Clau
I have not read a book that features a MMA figther, but i want to do, because, i train MMA, and is a great sport, what are good books in this theme?.
Lime Cello
6. Limecello
@Kim Yes! There's just something about sports too. The camraderie, parties, and fun. Although, I love college football the very most but a story featuring college kids would freak me out. Just not my cuppa.

On the Nora Roberts - how very interesting! Do you think perhaps it's that she wrote it while it was still grass and the editor never changed it? Or... I read it in the... gosh early/mid 2000s, but it had been re-released. No idea when it was first published though, the 80s? Was it grass then or not?

And!! Nice catch. I think that'd be some great question for upper level romance book trivia!
Lime Cello
7. Limecello
@Clau - I enjoyed Defying the Odds by Kele Moon. It had some head desk moments for me, but they were explained well, and necessary. (Also not as bad as I thought.) ... Wow I suck at recommendations. I really liked it, and the secondary characters.

Otherwise, really light into MMA is Jude's Law by Lori Foster. And she has a whole series with MMA heroes - Causing Havoc, Simon Says, Hard to Handle, Back in Black, and more. Her SBC fighters books. I would avoid My Man Michael though.

And then there were some Presents authors that did a series that I mention above.
8. Gina Rossi
Yum, love sports' heroes. Am writing (read: trying to write) a series of 3. Have a way to go still but am enjoying myself!
9. Gina Rossi
And didn't Mills & Boon do a rugby series in the past few years? Any rugby fans out there needing material to research should check out the 'Dieux du Stade' calendar (French Rugby Team). Happy perusing!
10. Mary Kirkland
I have read a few stories mentioned here and don't mind the different sports in the stories as long as there's more to the story than just the sports. I do like Jaci Burton and Lori Foster.
11. sassytarheel
Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Rachel Gibson and Deirdre Martin are my go to authors for sports related romance. I already liked sports (football, basketball...college not pro, baseball, hockey). So, when I stumbled upon these ladies I was in heaven. Although, recently they all seem to have stopped with the sports books and moved on to other things. Come on. Please bring back the sports books.
Alexandra W
12. parasolprotectorate
SEP's Chicago Stars are a definite favourite of mine.

Which is Nora Roberts' tennis hero? I'm up to nearly 3/4 of her books, but haven't come across this one. I remember Josh from Daring to Dream played tennis ...
Jessica O'Brien
13. JLOBrien
I don't think I can rank a favorite author, but I have read Bella Andre, Rachel Gibson, Deidre Martin (love love love hockey related story lines) Jaci Burton and Marie Force (football being my second favorite).

I did like Lori Foster's MMA related books, with the exception of My Man Michael (as mentioned above).

I think I could get into a rugby book...a rugby team marches in our local St. Patrick's Day parade and they definitely got my attention.
Ellen Hutchings
14. shadowmaster13
I prefer sports to anything hollywood, because as an Aussie, I don't know of any American footballers or ice-hockey players or baseballers (you get the idea) so if a real life athlete is mentioned it sails over my head and I dont feel the need to stop and giggle at the ridiculousness.

And naturally they are highly paid to stay in shape, what's not to like?
15. Kim
The Nora Roberts book is one of her category romances, Opposites Attract.
@Limecello - I read the book when it was first published, so the real life courts were already on a different surface.
Lime Cello
16. Limecello
@Gina yes! We've been talking about the M&B/HP rugby series! Have you read them? The authors that were part of it all are good ones.

@Mary Oh for sure it still has to be a romance, with a good heroine that is believable and everything. Definitely definitely.

@sassytarheel - wait - I can't guess which team you root for. Help me out? ;) Hmmm I'm trying to think of new sports books. Have you read Bella Andre's? It could be "new to you."

@parasolprotectorate I'm so sorry - maybe @Kim can answer? My copy was a duet of re-released Harlequins, but it's in storage right now.

@JLOBrien oh you lucky girl! A whole entire rugby team marching by? Oh my! My one friend who plays rugby seriously is definitely "one of those" - the "stereotypical" one girls talk about. His wife is also a lucky girl. ;D

@shadowmaster13 what? Hollywood ridiculous? Why I NEVER! ;D And that's a great point with names being thrown out - it dates a book and potentially ruins it. Like the 90s etc books that say a hero is just like Mel Gibson. :X

@Kim oooohhhh how annoying! Did it ruin the book for you? (Seems it detracted.) Sometimes it's the little things but that are so basic/obvious, you know? Those get me, at least. But I know I'm picky. These days you can just put that in a review and be all SEE!?
Yet another sign ignorance is bliss. You're just too smart for your own good. ;)
Alexandra W
17. parasolprotectorate
@Limecello - Google helped me out :) It's Opposites Attract and there's a whole list of sports romances on AAR here.
Lime Cello
18. Limecello
@parasol oh how fun! Thanks. :X although I noticed it's possibly 2 years out of date... but yes! That's the one!
Post a comment