Jul 2 2013 5:00pm

Playing for Love: Sports in Romance Novels

It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsSports-themed romances are making a comeback—and I for one am thrilled. But in order for a sports romance to work, it needs a healthy balance of romance and plot, and not just a card-carrying alpha male. Humor is a bonus.

My first foray into this realm of sweat and testosterone was with Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Her Chicago Stars series centers around football; we learn the ins and outs of the game, from owner to players, in each fast-paced romance. Filled with SEP’s trademark eccentric characters and eye boggling, jaw dropping situations, you’ll chuckle your way from beginning to end. There are seven books total in the series, and the first book is It Had to Be You.

 The Windy City isn't  quite ready for Phoebe Somerville—the outrageous, curvaceous New York knockout who has just inherited the Chicago Stars football team. And Phoebe is definitely not prepared for the Stars' head coach Dan Calebow, a sexist jock taskmaster with a one-track  mind. Calebow is everything Phoebe abhors. And the sexy new boss is everything Dan despises—a meddling bimbo who doesn't know a pigskin from a pitcher's mound.

So why is he drawn to  the shameless sexpot like a heat-seeking missile? And why does the coach's good ol' boy charm leave cosmopolitan Phoebe feeling awkward, tongue-tied...and ready to fight?

Causing Havoc by Lori Foster

Next up is Lori Foster and her incredibly sexy and funny SBC series. Based on Ultimate Championship Fighting, Lori Foster creates a world of bad boy fighters and the women to whom they lose their hearts. This is a light-hearted contemporary series with mild engaging plot lines and super steamy sex scenes. From sexy Dean “Havoc” Conor to SBC President and confirmed male chauvinist, Drew Black, we meet and fall in love with these larger than life bad boys of wrestling. There are five books in all, and the first is Causing Havoc.

Orphaned and torn from  his sisters as a boy, sexy extreme wrestler Dean “Havoc” Conor gets a letter revealing how much his siblings want him back in Harmony, Kentucky. To stop his sister from marrying a sleazeball, Dean finds himself teaming up with her pretty-but-smart-mouthed friend Eve-who's heard of Havoc's reputation and doesn't need some hunk trampling on her heart. Now all Dean has to do is protect his sisters, win Eve over, and expose a devious criminal. And he thought winning the heavyweight belt was hard.

Want more sexytime with UCF fighters?  Try Kele Moon’s Battered Hearts series and Gina L. Maxwell’s Fighting For Love series. Both are erotic romance where the lovers fight extra hard—in and out of the bedroom—to secure their futures and hearts. Both are well written with everything you could want in your romances-love, sex, fussing, and of course...making  up. ;)

Simply Irresistible by Rachel GibsonFans of Lori Foster will appreciate the well-tuned hockey series by Rachel Gibson. Centering around the Seattle based Chinooks Hokey team, we get ringside seats as well seasoned players—on and off the ice—find their true loves, but manage to screw it all up. The real fun begins when they try to win them back. Gibson pairs these adorably stupid men with some  strong females who don’t make the journey easy for them. Lots of love, laughter, and emotional scenes makes for a fast delightful romantic contemporary. With eight books so far in series, I recommend you start with book one, Simply Irresistible, which is heralded as  a favorite by many readers.

Georgeanne Howard leaves  her fiancé at the altar when she realizes she can't marry a man old enough to be her grandfather, no matter how rich he is. Hockey superstar John Kowalsky unknowingly helps her escape, and only when it's too late does he realize that he's absconded with his boss's bride. This bad boy isn't looking to be anybody's savior but his own. Still, a long night stretches ahead of them—a night too sultry to resist temptation.

Seven years later, Georgeanne and John meet again. She is on her way to becoming Seattle's domestic darling and he is past his hellraising days. Shocked to learn that he has a daughter, John's determined to be part of her life. Georgeanne has loved John since the moment she jumped into  his car, but will he risk the wrath of his boss, and one final chance at glory, to prove that this time his love will be everlasting?

For even more sexy goodness on and off the ice, check out Deirdre Martin and Toni Aleo. Both authors produce winning heroes and heroines in this high-octane sport. Martin bases her romances on the fictional  hockey team the New York Blades, while Aleo bases her stories on the fictional Assassins. Both these authors blend romance with some serious subject matter. Some of the HEAs aren’t typical of romance but they work well with the storylines.

The Perfect Play by Jaci BurtonJaci Burton’s Play By Play series offers up some deliciously naughty sports figures, starting out with the exuberant and nosy Riley family and then branching out to additional family and  friends. A well balanced series with plenty of drama, emotion, romance, and laughter, this series is ideal for sport romance enthusiasts as it encompasses different sports such as football, hockey, baseball, motorsports, and more. First book in the series is The Perfect Play.

There are eight books in the series to date, with confirmation from Ms. Burton herself that there are nine books planned with a holiday novella coming in November  2013. The covers alone should make you run and buy. Nom Nom Nom.

Football pro Mick Riley  is an all-star, both on the field and in the bedroom. But a sexy, determinedly single mom just might be the one to throw him off his game...

For years Mick has been taking full advantage of the life available to a pro athlete: fame, fortune, and a different girl in every city. But when he meets and beds confident, beautiful event planner Tara Lincoln, he wants much more than the typical one-night stand. Too bad Tara's  not interested in getting to know football's most notorious playboy any better.

 As the single mother  of a teenage son, the last thing Tara needs is the jet-set lifestyle of Mick Riley; even though their steamy and passionate one-night stand was unforgettable. Tara's life is complicated enough without being thrust into the spotlight as Mick's latest girl du  jour. Tara played the game of love once and lost big, and she doesn't intend to put herself out there again, especially with a heartbreaker like Mick.

But when Mick sets his  mind to win, nothing will stop him. And he has the perfect play in mind.

Addicted to speed and hot men? Look no further than Erin McCarthy's Fast Track series which is based on the hot men and women of Nascar. Though the storylines are predictable, the steamy romance and sexy heroes will charm your panties off right along with the heroine’s. Seven books in the series to date, first book is Flat Out Sexy and features a younger beta hero. Be still my heart!

Independent single mother Tamara Briggs wanted to find a new, sexy, no-strings-attached man—just not one as young as NASCAR driver Elec Monroe. But he sure does get her heart racing. And after she’s tricked into a blind date with him, Tamara gives in to her passion. Things screech to a halt, though, when he asks to meet her children. Whatever happened to wham-bam-thank-you ma’am? Suddenly Tamara has to decide how much risk she’s willing to take to experience the power of true love.

Sierra Dean, author of the popular urban fantasy Secret McQueen series, is branching out and penning  a baseball series. Book one, Pitch Perfect, is set to release August 6, 2013 and it looks like a home run.

She’d be the perfect  catch if he could take his eye off the ball.

Emmy Kasper knows exactly how lucky she is. In a sport with few opportunities for women at the pro level, she’s just landed her dream job as head athletic trainer for the San Francisco Felons baseball team. Screwing up is not an option.

She’s lost in thought as she pedals to the spring training facility, her mind abuzz with excitement as she rounds a corner—and plows head-on into two runners. The end of her career dances before her eyes when she realizes she’s almost run over the star pitcher.

As Tucker Lloyd watches  the flustered Emmy escape with his bandana tied around her skinned knee, the view is a pleasant change from worrying about his flagging fastball. At thirty-six, the tail end of his career is glimmering on the horizon. If he can’t pull something extraordinary  out of his ball cap, the new crop of rookies could make this season his last.

The last thing either of them needs is a distraction.

The last thing either  of them expects is love.

The Perfect Game by J. Sterling If YA/NA is your soup du jour, try J. Sterling. Sterling's baseball-themed romance is The Perfect Game. Part of a series, this dramatic angst filled series is sure to keep you glued to your ereader.

Miranda Kenneally mixes high school football in love with her romantic and heartfelt Catching Jordon. What makes this YA extra  special is both the hero and heroine play football. Fun, family, first love, and some heartbreak follow these two athletes as they both vie for the prize.

I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg in this sub genre...what sport romance authors have you  taking one for the team?


Tori Benson can be found at Smexybooks and at Twitter.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
I'm not even a huge sports fan, but I do love sports romances, especially those by SEP, Rachel Gibson, and Miranda Kenneally. Good stuff!
Romancing the Jock
2. Romancing the Jock
Have you checked out our author blog dedicated to sports romances, Romancing the Jock? Three of the authors you recommended (Toni Aleo, Jaci Burton and Deirdre Martin) and fifteen others blog about sports on a daily basis and we have a HUGE list of recommended sports romance titles.
Romancing the Jock
3. Torifl
Romancing the Jock- I hadn't but I'm bookmarking you now.
4. carmenlire
I've read SEP's Chicago Stars, Rachel Gibson's Chinook series, and Lori Foster's SBC series. I love all of them and would definitely recommend these books! They're the only series I like that feature sports
Romancing the Jock
5. AG Starling
Love those raucous hockey players of the Seattle Chinooks, the gruff Luc Martineau and the scandalous Honey Pie in Gibson's "See Jane Score." A sexy hero, a real cheeky heroine and funnnnnnnny!
Romancing the Jock
6. Shelley Munro
I love a little sports with my romances and have read most of the ones you've featured. As a New Zealander, I'm a rugby fan, and I've written several featuring this sport, including one about a female rugby player. I believe Kat Latham (Carina Press) has a romance featuring a rugby player coming out very soon too.
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