I’m writing this on the day Rafael Nadal won his 13th Roland Garros final. I’m amazed by this man, but also by his ability to continue to be at the top of his game after so many years on tour. That’s the main reason that sports enchant me: athletes giving it their all in each and every game they play. These next must-read sports romances feature players who have worked so hard to be the best at their sport while also giving us a beautiful love story at their center.
My love story with sports romance took a dive a few years ago. I’ve always loved them and enjoyed them, but at one point in my reading life, I realized that sports romances were being whitewashed immensely. Ten months ago, Jess Pryde wrote a piece on sports romances that aren’t steeped in white supremacy culture, and if you haven’t read it, you should. When 70 percent of the NFL are players of color, reading sports romance book series where the majority of the players are white is very unrealistic.
Since then, I definitely think we’ve seeing a change in published books that feature players of color, and in how many books are written by authors of color. Though not nearly enough as I would like, it’s a good change from what we had years before. Let me support these books! I want to keep getting excited alongside the protagonists, whether they are achieving a dream of winning a championship or telling their love interest how much they love them (finally!).
One more thing to comment is that there is also a lack of queer sports romance books, though we’ve seen some growth in these past few years. Our own Rioter, CJ Connor, wrote this article with some great recs! Make sure to also check out books like So Forward by Mina V. Esguerra, Fire On the Ice by Tamsen Parker, and Off Pitch by Brianna Kienitz. (Note: they all feature women athletes too! We don’t get a lot of those either, sadly.)
Must-Read Soccer Romance Books
Only When It’s Us by Chloe Liese
This book not only gives you a soccer player heroine, it also gives you frenemies, prank wars, and a slow burn romance that you won’t stop thinking about even after reading it.
Only When It’s Us marks the start of the Bergman Brothers series, which focuses on a Swedish American family of five brothers, two sisters, and their individual journeys to their happily ever afters.
I love that we see Willa’s undying love for soccer. She lives and breathes the sport. It’s always nice to get that little glimpse of how the main character interacts with their sport and maybe experience important matches on text.
The Player by Claire Contreras
Warren, a talented soccer player, is used to women falling in love and in lust with him. When he wants something (or someone), he goes for it. Nothing has been denied for him. Nothing, or no one, expect Camila.
When these two meet, Warren is instantly captivated by Camila. It comes as a surprise to him when she turns him down. You see, she doesn’t want to enter his world. But the chemistry is undeniable, and Warren will do anything—turn up that charm!—to have Camila be his forever.
Well Played by Katrina Ramos Atienza
College-set Pride and Prejudice retelling: do I need to say more? It also features soccer, hilarious banter, a math nerd, and a main character who focuses on her goals.
Patrice thinks this year is going to be an epic one. Her classes are looking good, she has a good chance at winning the regional soccer championships, and her rock star crush might reciprocate her feelings. But then a new classmate arrives at her university—an arrogant math nerd she cannot stand—which was not in her plans for her perfect school year!
Sweet on the Greek by Talia Hibbert
Aria has sworn off dating after her ex tried murdering her best friend. Maybe her taste is questionable! She has decided to not get into any future relationships—enter millionaire soccer player Nikolas Christou.
He claims he needs a fake girlfriend to protect him from “misunderstandings.” He finds Aria to be the perfect person to help him, but he wants her for more than just a fake relationship; he wants her for a real one.
Football Romance Books
Determining Possession by Christina C. Jones
Determining Possession is a friends-to-lovers romance that shows the benefits of proper and healthy communication.
Christina C. Jones never disappoints. I swear that each and every one of her books is a must-read. This one right here is going to mess you up (in a good way!). You will have so many emotions while reading about America’s sweetheart, Wil, and former NFL star, Ramsey.
Make the Play by Jamie Wesley
Jamie Wesley is the queen of sports romances—Make the Play is only one of them. She also has a whole series with basketball at its center, so if you are into that other sport, check out Slamdunked by Love and the rest of the series.
Make the Play is the start of the Body and Soul: Those Jones Boys series, about three brothers who play football. Carter Jones, the youngest of the brothers, needs a new place to stay. When he drives by an open house, he thinks things couldn’t get any better. But they do when he meets the real estate agent.
Field of Pleasure by Farrah Rochon
Jared Dawson is used to getting hit on the field. That’s his job! But he definitely didn’t anticipate being sucker-punched by finding his long-time girlfriend in bed with an ex-teammate. He’s done with relationships and decides to find a no-strings-attached fling.
Chyna knows not to get involved with football’s Most Eligible Bachelor, Jared. He’s a heartbreak waiting to happen! But how can she deny the way he makes her feel? Will she be just a fling for him or will this become a happily ever after for both of them?
Hockey Romance Books
Off the Ice by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn
If you are a big hockey fan, I recommend reading the Hat Trick series. Off the Ice introduces Tristan and Sebastian to us, and to each other. It’s a wonderful romantic ride that you won’t be able to stop reading.
Tristan knows he cannot play hockey forever, so he decides to go back to school to finish his business degree. He doesn’t expect the attraction he feels to his sociology professor, Sebastian. But Sebastian has his sights set on tenure, so he cannot afford any distractions, especially not from this student who tempts him.
But after summer classes end, that’s another story.
Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid
I’m a huge fan of the rivals-to-lovers trope, and if you include it in a sports romance, it definitely makes me more excited to read it. Multiply all that intensity and passion you see by a thousand! When it comes to rivals to lovers, everything heats up.
Two pro-hockey stars have built their careers around a legendary rivalry. But when the skates come off, they cannot deny their attraction for each other. When Ilya realizes he wants more than some secret hookups, the game changes completely for both of them.
Kiss and Cry by Mina V. Esguerra
I love it when the couple already has a history before the story starts, you know? This is the case with Kiss and Cry.
Calinda and Ramirez met each other ten years ago when she was the rising star of women’s skating and he was the superstar forward of men’s hockey. But Calinda eventually chose skating over a guy and decided to focus on her career. Ten years later, they meet again. The attraction is there, but it’s still not a good time to be together. Yet she proposes to spend these three weeks together to see what could have been.
Basketball Romance Books
The PreGame Ritual by Alexandra Warren
Bringing you college sports romance, Alexandra Warren will make you feel all the emotions while you read this book.
Ava knows she’s the best girls basketball player in the country and that going pro is just around the corner for her. Once her senior year ends, the big leagues await. She knows she doesn’t have the time to find a man, but surprises are everywhere and they come in unexpected ways. When she meets a freshman who has no idea how college life is, Ava’s world turns a bit sideways and her plan changes.
Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan
Kennedy Ryan knows how to write a good romance story. Her stories come from the heart and are presented to you in the most caring way. Before you read Long Shot, you should be aware of some content warnings, like rape, domestic violence, and abuse.
August meets Iris at a bar. They laugh, they connect, and they know they could easily fall in love. But their life paths end up being different and soon, they separate after that one epic night. Long Shot is about second chances: for August and Iris, for life, for a future.
Settle the Score / Hustle Play by Tara Frejas
Good friends score in this college romance. I truly love how Tara Frejas made me so invested in this story very quickly. As soon as I met the main characters, I was rooting for them and their futures.
Basketball ace Garnet knows she can bring a championship to her team. Her good friend (and long-time crush) Charles is a cheerleader on the team, so everything really feels good. But then she finds out Charles’s girlfriend is cheating on him and her emotions get the best of her. What’s going to happen next?
Shots Not Taken by Nicole Falls
Another sports romance queen is definitely Nicole Falls. Shots Not Taken is the first book in the Nymphs & Trojans series which is a collaboration with author Alexandra Warren. Two masters of their craft, pairing up to write a sports romance series? Sign me up.
A songwriter and a basketball player meet in this delicious romance novel. This couple will make it easy for you to fall in love with them because their relationship is so natural. Get ready to have a big smile on your face the whole time reading this novel!
Love Rekindled by Nyora René
We all love second chance romances, and Love Rekindled brings it to the table when Malcolm and Charmaine reunite after years apart.
NBA superstar Malcolm has a perfect life. The only thing missing is someone to share it with. When his ex, Charmaine, comes to his town to sing the national anthem at the All-Star Game, he cannot contain all the emotions he still has for her. But this time, if they want a shot at a relationship, they will have to put in the work!
Baseball Romance Books
The Changeup by Nicole Falls
I am telling you: Nicole Falls is a must if you want to read sports romance. Not only did she bless us with a basketball romance, but she also has a baseball player heroine for us.
If you were sad and hurt when Pitch was canceled, The Changeup is going to be the perfect recipe to relive all those epic emotions. Softball coach Geffri becomes a viral sensation when she enters a pitching competition that leads to an opportunity to pitch for Team USA. But with great success comes the trolls and Noah Fence is that opinionated sports blogger who cannot stop bantering with Geffri.
A Winning Season by Rochelle Alers
This sweet sports romance story will bring two people together who in other circumstances wouldn’t be able to meet.
Baseball ace Sutton has returned home after many years in the majors. He then moves next door to a troubled young man and decides to help him. But helping him involves getting close with the boy’s older sister, Zoey, who has sacrificed everything to keep her family together.
Other Sport Romances
40-Love by Olivia Dade
This perfect summer romance starts off when Tess loses her bikini top after a rogue wave hits and the only one who can help her is a former top-level tennis player.
We don’t get a lot of tennis romance, so when Olivia Dade announced she was going to publish this novel, I was ready to eat it up. And I did. It was a wonderful romance set on a secluded island where the heroine is spending her holidays before meeting this really tall, sexy tennis player with whom she cannot stop bantering.
Love Hard by Nalini Singh
Nalini Singh brings us a contemporary romance where two people, who are very much opposites, take a chance on their love.
Rugby player and single father Jacob only wants stability for his 6-year-old daughter. Meeting his childhood classmate and bad girl Juliet again is not in his plans, but opposites attract as they say. These two face many detours before arriving at their happily ever after.
Snowflake by Nia Forrester
Collegiate track star and Olympic prospect Kal is bound for greatness. Everyone keeps telling him that his future is looking good, but he doesn’t really believe them. He’s also the resident playboy —never letting anyone close to his real feelings. Not until he meets his next-door neighbor, Asha.
A Thanksgiving long weekend, forced proximity, and these two together are going to make Snowflake one of your favorite books of all time.
If you’re looking for more sports romances, look no further!