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“Athlete” Romance

What is the Athlete Romance Genre?

The “Athlete” genre is an interesting one since it is mostly male athlete heroes and female heroines who are like “Eww, I hate athletes” (until they don’t). However, there are also some novels where the heroine is the athlete –she usually falls in love with the son of her coach, etc, but these novels are not nearly as fulfilling simply because they are so apologetic for the heroine’s conditioning and circumstances.

Sadly, the female athlete novels are somewhat awkward since while the heroines are often in better physical condition than the heroes, rarely are they ever depicted as being able to beat the heroes, even at their own game – it’s unfortunate that most of these novels make excuses for the abilities/talents of the heroine, so they are either injured and need to be nursed back to health/convinced to take up their sport again, or they are constantly put into positions of weakness (being threatened/stalked by an unhinged fan, etc) where the hero still dominates and needs to protect them. So, while there are certainly some female athlete heroines, this review will focus on the male athlete novels, which make up about 90% (if not more) of the genre and are, at this point anyway, much more fun to read.

What to Expect in Athlete Romance Fiction

  • The male athletes are always incredibly competitive, passionate, loyal and are very physical
  • The male athletes are usually part of a team
  • They hate to lose, and don’t take “no” for an answer
  • Interestingly, the female heroines in the male athlete books are often tomboys and/or are very knowledgeable about the hero’s sport since they have a father/brother who is somehow involved with it or they work as a trainer/agent, etc. Sometimes they are fans, but usually they are directly involved in the sport in some way.

Characteristics of the Athelete Romance Genre

  • Level of Angst

    The level of angst in this genre is low, and a bit predictable. The hero is focused on his sport (and himself) and is interested in having a good time; the heroine knows that he won’t be able to commit since he is so dedicated (aka self-involved) to his sport and she knows she will get her heart broken; something occurs to make him realize he loves her; she still isn’t sure, but in the end she decides they are perfect together. The End.

  • Character Development

    I happen to really like football and baseball, so I enjoy reading novels in this genre. There are also quite a few about hockey, which I also enjoy. There are also a good number about boxers, which I don’t like as much simply because I don’t like the sport. That said, the character development is definitely better than some genres, but not as good as others. The historical romance genre, time travel romance genre and the gothic romance genre definitely have the best character development…as does the “love after loss” genre since you need to really care about the characters in these novels. But these “athlete” novels are often a fun read, and we can all imagine some of the heroes we watch in our favorite sports starring in these novels!

  • Plot Strength

    The plot strength depends on the ability of the individual writer and, since so many of these novels have been written, their ability to incorporate a twist that is unique can be a bit of a challenge. When they succeed, the results are fun and engaging stories; when they fail, I sometimes I feel like *I* could write one of these novels.

  • Romantic Tension

    The level of romantic tension is pretty high in this genre. As with all romance novels, we know how it will end, but the path to getting there with these athletes is usually pretty fun and interesting.

  • Level of Eros

    High – VERY high. You have hot bodies – literally – so a lot of sweat and heat; A lot of nudity (both accidental and intentional); A lot of showers (steam and steamy); Little clothing - or tight clothing – or both; and great bodies.

  • Prose Quality

    The prose quality in this genre is usually pretty good. There is often overlap in the different stories told in this genre, but the better writers know a lot about the sport they are featuring so it’s about more than just getting two hot bodies together.

Related Romance Subgenres



  • The subgenres for this genre include “millionaire/billionaire” since many of the athlete heroes have a lot of money, “contemporary” since they are not really more than 20 or so years old, “bad boys” since so many of the athletes have bad reputations and “alpha” – since, well, they are male athletes who like to be in charge.

“Athlete” Romance isn't for you if

You don’t like sports, you like the “average Joe” hero, prefer the hero who is a “rescuer” 

“Athlete” Romance is totally for you if

You like sports – especially hockey, baseball and football! You enjoy competition between the characters. You like a lot of physical descriptions/characteristics in the main characters

Popular “Athlete” Romance Books
  • 1 Straddling the Line (2014)

    By Jaci Burton. A story of football AND baseball hero Trevor Shay who has it all, but is willing to put it all on hold to help out Haven Briscoe, the daughter of his college mentor. A bit of mystery ensues, as his secret threatens to destroy everything Trevor has worked for, but not if Haven has anything to say about it.

  • 2 The Perfect Play (2011)

    By Jaci Burton. Is the story of a one night stand between an event planner and a football star – until he decides that one night was not enough.

  • 3 The Deal (2015)

    By Elle Kennedy. Tells the story of the “good girl” college tutor and the “bad boy” hockey captain. He needs her help to stay eligible to play, but soon realizes that he needs a lot more than just her book sense.

  • 4 Hot Property (2008)

    By Carly Phillips. Is one of four novels in a series by Phillips called “The Hot Zone,” which features a sports agency run by women. This is my favorite of the four, and is the story of a baseball player attempting to recover his career and his credibility after a spectacular collapse during the World Series. Thinking she was hired to help his career, the heroine soon finds that there is a lot more to her job than just helping him regain his reputation.

  • 5 Hot Stuff (2004)

    By Carly Phillips. Tells the story of another of the sisters who is a sports agent who falls in love with her former-football player-current-businessman client.

  • 6 Hot Item (2006)

    By Carly Phillips. Is a third book by Phillips featuring female sports management agents who get involved with their star athlete clients one by one. This novel presents the romance housed in a mystery as the heroine and the star football player work together trying to find his missing super agent before it’s too late.

  • 7 Taking Shots (2013)

    By Toni Aleo. s about a photographer who struggles with insecurities and a hockey player who is tired of what his life has become off the rink. Thrown together professionally, they soon realize how much they need each other personally.

  • 8 Hard Ball (A Kinky Sexy Dirty Stand Alone) (2016)

    By CD Reiss. Tells the story of a woman obsessed with the hottest baseball player on the planet. The subtitle pretty much says it all. It’s incredibly graphic and vivid, but also shows a love of the game – both on and off the field.

  • 9 It Had to Be You (2009)

    By Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Takes an interesting twist – the heroine inherits a football team and is determined to run it. She clashes with the know-it-all, sexist, former-star-turned-coach as the Windy City presents them with a rocky road to love.

  • 10 Sugar Rush (2016)

    By Tracey Ward. Is about a football star who has everything in front of him for the first time in his professional career. Of course he is determined to have the one woman who tells him “no,” and he pursues her until she finally changes her mind.