Let’s Play, Historical-Style: 10 of the Best Historical Romances with Sports by Joanna Shupe


[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to have author Joanna Shupe guest posting on the site today. She has some recs for anyone in the mood for both sports and historical romance. Take it away, Joanna!]

Athletes are a natural fit in romance books. I mean, they’re in peak physical form, are competitive, and don’t mind working up a sweat. 😉 

But when most readers think of sports in romance, they probably assume the book is a contemporary. Sports have been around for a long time, though, and were enjoyed by men and women alike.

In my latest release, The Heiress Hunt, the heroine Maddie is a tennis player chasing her dream of winning the US Nationals Championship, later to be known as the US Open. Maddie is loosely based on the first women’s tennis superstar, Suzanne Lenglen, a Frenchwoman who dominated in the early 20th-century with her aggressive style of play. The unconventional Lenglen pioneered “sportswear” attire for women, drank cognac during her matches, and was unapologetic about her superior skills on the court. (Seriously, where is this woman’s biopic??!)

So if you like hot and sweaty action, here are some great historical romances with sports references to check out:

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean

MacLean is the undisputed queen of historical boxing, and all her books feature at least one person getting (deservedly) punched in the face. In No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, the deliciously gruff hero, Temple, the Duke of Lamont, is part owner of a gaming hell and is undefeated in the ring. He thinks he killed a woman years ago . . .until she shows up at his club. This book is a wild and gritty ride.

A Champion’s Heart by Piper Huguley

Taking place during the Great Migration, Huguley’s story is a second-chance romance that packs in all the feels. Champion Bates, the hero, is a successful boxer who is on the verge of retirement. He returns home to train and runs into his former love, Delia, who is a school teacher ready to leave the South, but she’s not sure if she can ever rely on Champ again. It’s a glorious story about trust and forgiveness.

A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian

If you are looking for Regencies that feature non-aristocratic main characters, then Sebastian’s second book in her fantastic Sedgwicks series is for you. In Gentleman, a former prizefighter, Sam, has opened a public house. When he meets Hartley, the two form a friendship that soon blossoms into more. These soft and tender men are perfect for each other, and the well-crafted story revolves around self-worth and respect. 

A Gentleman’s Game by Theresa Romain

The first book in Romain’s terrific Romance of the Turf series, A Gentleman’s Game is filled with fascinating details of the Regency horse racing world. When horses from the legendary Chandler family stables grow sick before the Epsom Derby, the hero, Nathaniel, suspects his father’s new secretary is to blame. But while Rosalind has many secrets, this isn’t one, and she and Nathaniel have to find a way to work together in this slow-burn mystery.  

Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa James

Horses figure prominently in many historical romances, but James’s fourth Essex Sister book features Josie, a horse-obsessed heroine with enough knowledge to rival any stable master. When she is humiliated in society for her unconventional looks, the older Earl of Mayne comes to her rescue. He’s a reformed rake looking for redemption, but he can’t resist Josie even for a second, especially when she knows more about horses than he does. An absolute delight from start to finish.

Vivid by Beverly Jenkins

Jenkins is inarguably one of the best in the game, and Vivid is a richly layered story about a Black female doctor arriving in a small Michigan town during the Reconstruction Era. The stubborn but sexy hero, Nate, is also the mayor, and he is none too happy to discover his new doctor is a woman. The banter in this book is A+, and there are fascinating historical tidbits of Black suffrage, Native American traditions, and—yes, lacrosse. Don’t miss this gem from Jenkins’s backlist!

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn

In the second Bridgerton series book, Quinn has written the funniest and most-beloved Pall Mall (croquet) scene ever put on page. The competitive spirit of the Bridgerton clan (the Mallet of Death!) is perfect in this enemies-to-lovers story featuring Anthony, Viscount Bridgerton, and Kate. It’s easy to see, with its witty dialogue and delightful cast of characters, why this rake-falling-in-love story is one of the most popular in this blockbuster series. 

Her Night With the Duke by Diana Quincy 

You don’t see golf in many historical romances, but Quincy’s hero regularly hits the links and even gives the heroine some sexy hands-on instruction on how to play. In this masterful tale of forbidden romance, Quincy’s Anglo-Arab heroine is a fearless widow who has a one night stand with a stranger . . .only to discover he’s about to become engaged to her stepdaughter. Antics and angst ensue—on and off the green. A fun and steamy story!

Summer is for Lovers by Jennifer McQuiston

I love an athletic heroine, and McQuiston’s Caroline is outstanding in every way. When she’s twelve, she saves a man (the hero!) from drowning and the love of swimming stays with her into adulthood. It’s a pursuit she has to hide because it’s unacceptable for women at the time. Except the hero admires her talents and, as the two become friends, she agrees to give him swimming lessons. The Brighton setting is sublime and this is the perfect summertime beach read.

Sugar Moon by Jennifer Hallock

Set in the Philippines in the early 1900s, this richly layered romance is filled with vivid details of a location not often found in historical romance—including a historical baseball game! The hero, Ben, is suffering from what we now know as PTSD from the war, and he struggles with his self-worth. When he meets the fiercely independent schoolteacher Allegra, their chemistry turns this into a heart-tugging and wonderful journey of redemption. 

About the Author:

Joanna Shupe has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. In 2013, she won Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical. Since then, her books have appeared on numerous yearly “best of” lists, including Publishers Weekly, The Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews, Kobo and BookPage. She lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters and dashing husband.

The Heiress Hunt by Joanna Shupe, out now!

High society reprobate.
An unconventional heiress.
Childhood friends.

Is it too late…
Knickerbocker scoundrel Harrison Archer returns to New York to discover that his deceased father has bankrupted his estranged family. To save them from ruin, he’s forced to quickly find and marry an heiress. For a matchmaker, Harrison turns to the one woman he wishes he could marry: his childhood friend and true love, Maddie, who once broke his heart and is now engaged to a duke.

For true love? 
When her best friend Harrison left for Paris without a word, Maddie Webster took refuge in her infatuation with tennis. Now Harrison is back and needs her help in finding a bride. Begrudgingly, Maddie arranges a house party in Newport with a guest list of eligible heiresses. But watching Harrison flirt with potential brides is more than she can bear.

When Harrison and Maddie reunite, the passion between them ignites. But with their marriages to others looming, time is running out. Is their fate inescapable . . .or can love set them free?

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