11 Sports Romances That Hit a Romantic Home Run

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11 Sports Romances That Hit a Romantic Home Run

Romance trends come and go, but one of the hottest trends of the moment is the rise of the sports romance book. These books take the usual tension inherent in the world of competitive sports and give it an extra shot of giddy will-they-won’t-they. As Challengers taught us, everything in sports can be a metaphor for sex and romance (and vice versa)!

Some sports, like hockey and soccer, may be represented more than others in the world of romance books, but if you take the time to look, there’s a sports romance for every fan! Check out our picks for the best sports romances you should add to your shelves right now.

Cleat Cute Best Sports Romances

Cleat Cute by Meryl Wilsner

If Ted Lasso’s Roy Kent and Jamie Tartt got transplanted into a setting reminiscent of A League of Their Own, you’d have this soccer-set sapphic romance from Meryl Wilsner! Grace, an aging phenom hiding an injury, butts heads (and then other parts) with Phoebe, a fast-rising younger star who once hero-worshipped Grace. There’s a touch of the real world that intrudes on the narrative — the book was released in fall 2023, just as the real USWNT’s widely-expected triumph in the World Cup fell to pieces (and the team’s real-life superstar couple split in a tabloid whirlwind). 

Still, it’s hard not to love these disastrously messy, painfully ambitious women. They, and their teammates, are complicated and funny and horny and heartfelt. It also hinges some of its plot on the reality of just how short a pro athlete’s “lifespan” really is, and why athletes might push their bodies beyond their limits in hopes of extending their careers. If you love sports but also want to think about the sports-PR-fan complex, this one’s for you.

The Prospects YA Books April 2024

The Prospects by KT Hoffman

Most sports romances get their drama from the pressures of participating in either the major leagues or high-profile college settings. KT Hoffman switches gears for this baseball romance, set in the minor leagues. Optimistic and hopeful Gene, the first openly trans player in pro baseball, has his happy career turned upside down with the arrival of Luis, his former teammate and current sworn rival. 

If you were to categorize this book in popular “trope” parlance, it’d be a grumpy/sunshine dynamic with an enemies-to-lovers arc. Sticking with tropes, though, would be a disservice to these characters and their depth. Gene isn’t just a sunny golden retriever; he has his own challenges to deal with, but still approaches life with a sense of hard-won joy. Luis isn’t just a brooding grump; he’s quiet, reserved, and secretly a big softie. Reading this book gives you the same feeling as when your favorite team wins the championship: a big smile and a feeling of well-deserved victory.

Intercepted Best Sports Romance

Intercepted by Alexa Martin

Mean Girls meets the NFL in Alexa Martin’s football-set romance. After dating her NFL-star boyfriend for a decade, Marlee gets her life turned upside down when she finds out he’s been, shall we say, racking up the “holding” penalties with other women on the side. Her solution seems obvious: vow to never date an athlete again.

That might be harder than it seems though, because a blast from the past is about to rock her world. The team’s new quarterback, Gavin, is actually Marlee’s fling from long ago. Gavin still remembers Marlee—and she certainly remembers him too—and he’s determined to win her over. Pair her reluctance with the unmitigated cattiness of the other football WAGs, and you’ve got a recipe for drama or comedy (or both). Martin is, herself, the wife of a former NFL player, so you get the feeling that she’s speaking from experience when she lays out the kind of behind-the-scenes drama that would put the Real Housewives to shame. You’ll get plenty of reality-show-worthy drama, along with a warm and funny romance arc that will leave you smiling by the end!

Him Best Sports Romance

Him by Elle Kennedy & Sarina Bowen

At nearly a decade old, Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen’s hockey romance should probably be considered a classic of the genre. On the heels of a bet-gone-awkward four years ago, BFFs Jamie and Wesley drifted apart and haven’t really reconnected since. And, yes, of course it’s exactly the kind of bet you’re thinking of. When their hockey teams face off against each other for the championship, they’re left with more questions than answers. To complicate matters further, they’re stuck with each other for one more six-week coaching stint at hockey camp. 

Even if you don’t know much about hockey, you can easily get right into Jamie and Wesley’s story. It’s steamy, fun, and features just the right amount of pining and angst along with an authentic-feeling friends-to-lovers dynamic. Yes, it has some plot points and conflicts that are very mid-2010s in every way, but it’s still largely a great intro to hockey romance for anyone who’s just getting into the subgenre.

The Rule Book Best Sports Romance

The Rule Book by Sarah Adams

A little bit of juvenile revenge never hurt anyone, right? That’s at the heart of Sarah Adams’s football-set second-chance romance The Rule Book. Nora and Derek had a bad breakup in college (mostly on her end). Of course, you know the story has to throw them together years later, and that’s exactly what happens when sports agent Nora makes the questionable decision to take on NFL star Derek as her first full-time client. Not only has he gotten even hotter, but he’s out for a little friendly revenge on the girl who once broke his heart. When Nora fights back, things devolve in a comedically childish way… until they wake up married in Vegas and have to decide what this means for them, both professionally and personally.

There are a lot of tropes in this one, but there’s also a lot of joy and story to tell. It also will likely feel quite relatable to women who have felt pressure to tone down their natural personalities or styles to “fit in” to a “good old boys” work environment. Ultimately, it’s a celebration of being who you really are and finding the people who love you for it, and we can all love that.

Fangirl Down Best Sports Romances

Fangirl Down by Tessa Bailey

For anyone who has ever secretly (or not so secretly) lusted over their favorite athlete comes Tessa Bailey’s steamy romance about one of the last sports you’d expect. Golf may not be one of the sports that screams “sexy,” but here, it definitely is! As Wells’s once-promising golf career flounders, one thing is constant: the presence of Josephine, a sunny fan who’s always cheering him on. Through a series of events that could only happen in a romance novel, Wells decides to give his career one last shot—and asks Josephine to be his caddy and new advisor. Sexual tension ensues, etc.

Look, sometimes you just want your romance novels to be sexy, fluffy fantasy, and that’s exactly what this one delivers. The grumpy/sunshine dynamic is a time-honored trope for a reason, as is the “I hate everything but you” one (no, not the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song… but also, yeah, lil’ bit!). Wells and Josephine’s chemistry is fierce, and there really is something to be said about romances that are all about learning to see yourself as positively as those who love you do.

Always Only You Best Sports Romance

Always Only You by Chloe Liese

If you prefer your sports romance men to be charming, Shakespeare-loving cinnamon rolls instead of brooding grumps, this one’s for you! Part of Chloe Liese’s Bergman Brothers series, this romance features Ren, a sweet and sunny hockey star, and Frankie, the team’s no-nonsense social media manager. She’s been burned too many times by would-be partners who only see her autism and rheumatoid arthritis diagnoses and want to “fix” her, so she won’t let him get close.

To be honest, the “sports” part of this is more the setting than the actual plot driver, and that actually works well for keeping the focus on two well-drawn characters. What it’s really about is Ren’s efforts to prove to Frankie that he’s serious about his feelings for her, before it’s too late. It touches on real, serious topics, but it doesn’t feel like a heavy book. It’s warm and cozy enough to melt the ice — or just your heart!

You Should Be So Lucky Best Sports Romance

You Should Be So Lucky by Cat Sebastian

The 1960s setting of Cat Sebastian’s queer baseball romance provides both atmosphere and significant tension. Baseball star Eddie and reporter Mark are both having the worst years of their lives, professionally and personally. When they’re thrown together to do a series of PR interviews, neither is thrilled about it. Without meaning to, though, they begin to connect, but in the context of the 1960s major leagues, there’s a lot more standing in their way than just their own hang-ups.

Sebastian has always excelled at combining the super-emotional stuff with the kicking-your-feet romance, and that’s definitely true here. It’s a deeply felt romance that allows us to see the real grief, loss, and fear that lie beneath both men’s carefully crafted exteriors. Despite the presence of serious subjects, it’s never heavy, only tender and thoughtful. And like many of the best rom-coms, that kind of balance is what makes the HEA all the sweeter when it comes around.

Fake It Til You Bake It by Jamie Wesley

Prefer your sports romance with a little less focus on the actual sports? Jamie Wesley’s fake-dating romance is for you! After getting villainized on a reality dating TV show, Jada just wants to live a low-profile life working at a local bakery. Said bakery is run by Donovan, an uptight pro football player, and their respective high profiles soon lead the press to assume they’re dating, and they lean into that misunderstanding for their own benefit.

Sometimes, the best books don’t feel like they have to reinvent the wheel; they just tell a warm and fuzzy story with care and joy. That’s exactly why reading this book gives you the same feeling as pulling a batch of your favorite cookies out of the oven. Jada and Donovan have a lovely, sparking chemistry that elevates the classic tropes (fake dating, celebrity romance, enemies-to-friends-to-lovers) and, like a great recipe, transforms the individual components into something loveable. 

The Art of Catching Feelings Sports Romance

The Art of Catching Feelings by Alicia Thompson

Baseball meets You’ve Got Mail in this swoon-worthy sports romance from Alicia Thompson. Bitter (and a little tipsy) after signing her divorce papers, Daphne takes out her aggression by heckling players at a baseball game. When she goes too far in insulting player Chris, she feels awful and sends him a message… but fails to mention who she is. As they begin to communicate more, the truth of her identity looms over their potential romance.

There’s a reason that this particular premise sticks around in all its variations, and it’s because it absolutely delivers on the tension! Personally, I love a romance where the characters aren’t perfect from the get-go, and where they have to earn their HEA a little bit. Daphne is a mess, but she’s my kind of mess, and Chris is just a sweetheart. Romance fans definitely will not be striking out with this vulnerable, complicated, and hot story of communication gone wrong and love gone right. 

How You Get the Girl Best Sports Romances

How You Get the Girl by Anita Kelly

Here’s a sports romance about what happens after the final buzzer of a career. When high school coach Julie welcomes a new student to her basketball team, she’s surprised to learn that the newbie’s foster parent is Elle, a former WNBA player whose career was cut short by injury. Julie fangirls a little, then persuades Elle to join as an assistant coach for the year. 

What results is a lovely give-and-take story, where both women help each other figure out the very things they’re most insecure about. Julie encourages Elle to get her head back in the game, which she hasn’t really done since leaving basketball behind when her own career ended. In turn, Elle helps Julie figure out the ins anduts of dating and gain confidence… and, of course, lines get blurred and love is found. The best romances are the ones where the characters help each other grow, and there really is nothing more joyous to read.

Amanda Prahl is a freelance writer, playwright/lyricist, and copywriter/editor. She loves all things pop culture and has strong opinions about books, Broadway, coffee, and Oxford commas. She’s always in search of great stories — wherever they can be found. Amanda has also contributed to Popsugar, Slate, Bustle, Mic, Fangirlish, and others. Find her on X/Twitter at @amanda_prahl.

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