Ok, everybody! Grab your notebooks, pull up Goodreads and get a nice stiff drink because have we got an epic Fangirl Friday for you! I’ve got Mary from Mary Had a Little Book Blog guest posting and she is sharing the mother all of all book recommendations post! seriously, she’s got so many amazing recommendations that will keep you reading for a VERY long time. Bottom line? If you’re a fan of the swoony sports romance, then today’s post is just for you!
Hi, guys! Mary here. Thank you, Sarah, for letting me be part of the proud, noble, and fangirly tradition of Fangirl Friday! Today I want to flail about one of my favorite plots/sub-genres: the good old fashioned sports romance.
The sporty romance, while a relatively small part of YA, is a huge player in NA/adult romance, and I’m forever grateful to all the authors who keep using this story because it really resonates with me. I know sportsball is sometimes a 4 letter word for readers, but for a lot of us, sports are/were a huge part of our childhoods, teendom, college years, etc. I also think it’s weird and unsettling when readers get all high and mighty about reading vs sports because, as High School Musical taught us, you CAN appreciate both athletics and the arts. It’s not an either/or situation! Plus, in my very official and super scholarly opinion, sports romance books have some of the best tension, the funniest humor, the deepest emotional stories I’ve ever read.
So today, I’d like to share with you some of my all-time favorite sports romances. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new favorite!
First of all, we can’t have a conversation about YA sports romance without acknowledging queen Miranda Kenneally. Miranda’s Hundred Oaks series spans 8 companion novels featuring female AND male athletes in football, baseball, horse-riding, running, soccer, and swimming. While these ARE companions, I do recommend you start with Catching Jordan because each book falls, more or less, chronologically and may slightly spoil previous books. I love these books because they are set in a Tennessee town near where I went to college so they feel like home to me, but also because they’re hilarious and swoony and spirited. You’ll fall in love with the entire town and its wacky and wild heroines and heroes.
I also adore Lauren Morrill’s Being Sloane Jacobs, which is perfect for fans of Kasie West and Stephanie Perkins and also The Parent Trap. Sloane Emily Jacobs & Sloane Devon Jacobs don’t know each other, but when a series of mishaps force them to meet, they take the opportunity to swap places at hockey and figure skating camp. Being Sloane Jacobs is a delightful series of shenanigans with all the fun of the swapping places trope, and it introduced me to the godliest of foods: poutine. Sounds horrible (look it up), but tastes like a party in your mouth.
Paula Stokes’s The Art of Lainey is all about the boss girls. Popular soccer girl Lainey gets dumped by her boyfriend, and she and her bestie Bianca set about to win him back… with the help of Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu. While this book seems like it’s all about the lurve, it’s also all about super awesome lady friendships and growing up. Lainey starts out as a pretty shallow pretty girl, but she matures into a deeper, more complex Lainey throughout the book, giving Paula an A+ for fantastic character development. Bonuses: fake boyfriend trope, swoony tattooed baker boy Micah, and an emphasis on music, for the less sporty inclined. Definitely a good one to start with if you’d prefer to dip your toe into the sports romance pool instead of diving in headfirst. Be sure to also check out Paula’s Girl Against the Universe for a great tennis book!
Jennifer Echols has several sporty heroines, but today I’ll focus on a less traditional one: wakeboarder Lori from the Endless Summer bindup (it’s two books in one: The Boys Next Door and the sequel Endless Summer). Lori is a tomboy majorly crushing on her next door neighbor and coworker Sean, but she keeps getting closer to…. her next door neighbor and coworker Adam (yes, they’re brothers). Lori is super funny, and I love seeing her try to be a little girlier (she’s a big ole tomboy). Who hasn’t walked out of the house with spidery eyelashes a time or two? Lori’s also a boss wakeboarder, and I think it’s awesome Jenn thought outside the box, sports-wise. If you like it, you can check out Jenn’s The Ex-Games, Going Too Far, and Forget You!
A new must-read author for me is relative newcomer Emma Mills, whose First & Then is an adorable mix of Pride and Prejudice and Friday Night Lights. Devon is a girl with snark for days, but she feels lost when thinking about college. Meanwhile her awkward cousin Foster comes to live with her family, and quiet football prodigy Ezra takes an interest in the two supposed misfits. Ezra is a physically macho but super soft ya hero man boy™, and readers are going to love him. Foster is a precious little cinnamon roll who is like a little puppy. Readers might have a hard time getting into Devon’s head, but I promise it’s worth the payoff. Bonus: football pun title + gorgeous cover + OH SO VERY MUCH SLOW BURN I COULD JUST DIE.
More sports romance for the eager beaver reader: Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler. Play On by Michelle Smith. Dare You To and Take Me On by Katie McGarry. Whatever Life Throws At You and Off the Ice by Julie Cross. Shut Out by Kody Keplinger. Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Wild Cards/Better Than Perfect by Simone Elkeles. On the Fence by Kasie West.
New adult & Adult
The fun thing about NA and adult sports romances is that they tend to be series instead of standalones and stick with one team or group of friends who play the same sport so there is LOTS of yummy sportsball-ness. While Miranda’s Hundred Oaks follows this format, most YA sports books tend toward standalones.
Elle Kennedy’s Off Campus series has long gone down in my history as a favorite book to obsess over. In the two years since I first read The Deal, I’ve probably read it at least 8 times. Four in the first six months! Snark snark snark for days, and lots to swoon over, from the smart and crazy talented heroines to the sexy and sassy heroes. Elle writes hockey like no one’s business, and even though it’s not one of my favorite sports in real life (it’s cool, just not a top fave), I’m always drawn to hockey romance. Thankfully Elle has *counts* 4 hockey series + one hockey standalone for me to binge any time I need to. That includes Off Campus and its newly announced sequel(!!!!!) Briar Hockey. And fans of Off Campus can purchase the ORIGINAL ABS COVERS on Elle’s website during the month of May only so JUMP ON THAT NOW while you can! Also check out Elle’s amazing m/m hockey series Him and its spinoff series WAGs, both with cowriter Sarina Bowen.
Speaking of Sarina, she’s no slouch in the hockey arena herself with her Ivy Years series and its spinoff Brooklyn Bruisers. I do tend toward traditionally published novels, but I’ll go outside of that if pushed and then I latch onto authors. In The Year We Fell Down, book 1 of the Ivy Years, Sarina gave me something I’ve never seen before & I desperately want to see it again: a disabled female athlete mc. H*CK YES. Sarina’s books are fun and shippy, but there’s so much heart, so many great stories told in Ivy Years: disability, family, friends, death, confronting slut shaming, and more. Lots of cute hockey boys but also hockey girls, a DJ, a virgin hero, an actress, sex-positive ladies, and the world’s more precious adorkable cinnamon roll basketball player in the Blond Date novella. Highly recommend. Continues on to the spinoff Brooklyn Bruisers, and you can also check out Him and WAGs as well!
Cora Carmack is a New Adult romance goddess, and while I really liked her Losing It series, Rusk University give me book hangovers for DAYS. All Lined Up was precisely what I needed to read when I read it, and All Broke Down is the book that made readers the whole world over fall in love with a rakish jerk. Then (possibly my fave) All Played Out gave us a goofy hero with a sick body and hidden depths. What’s not to love? Good news for the series current fans: we only have a couple more months until Cora finally releases Stella’s long awaited book. I’m so excited!
Mariana Zapata’s Kulti is a fun standalone about a female pro soccer player who first befriends her cranky image-rehabbing uber-famous soccer coach and then, after the world’s longest slow burn of all time, falls for him. This book is funny and full of sass and love/hate. It’s also about friendship, growing up, and family. I love seeing Sal and Kulti become closer, and the way that they unequivocally support one another is absolutely adorable. If football (the American/not-soccer kind) is more your speed, you can also check out Mariana’s The Wall of Winnipeg and Me–which is loosely based on my current favorite NFL player.
I told you, I have a thing for hockey books. Sawyer Bennett’s Cold Fury Hockey series is another companion series about different teammates on the Carolina Cold Fury hockey team. My personal favorites are Garrett and Ryker (which I just listened to 3 1/2 times in less than 3 weeks because I couldn’t stop), but they’re all pretty good.
More adult sports romances include: Kristen Callihan’s Game On series. Jen Frederick’s Gridiron series. Helena Hunting’s Pucked series. Jillian Quinn’s Face-Off series. Sara Rider’s The Perfect Play series. Jaci Burton’s Play-by-Play series. Aven Ellis’s Dallas Demons series. L.H. Cosway & Penny Reid’s Rugby series. Alison Hendricks’s Eastshore Tigers series.
Jay Crownover’s Saints of Denver series. Vi Keeland’s standalone The Baller and MMA Fighter series. Cindi Madsen’s Taking Shots series. Monica Murphy’s One Week Girlfriend series. Toni Aleo’s Assassins series. Katy Evans’s Real series.
I hope you find a new book or series to love, and if you do, come fangirl with me on Twitter or my blog! And for all you sports fans out there: only 118 days to football season and 277 until the next Olympics!
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