Hello and welcome to Rainbow Trends, a column dedicated to the hottest tropes and trends in LGBTQ+ books! Each month, I focus on a specific trend or trope and recommend the top three to four books I’ve loved that fit it. There are never big spoilers, only a whole lot of excited book talk, some new-to-you reads, and loads of HEAs.
This month, let’s talk…six sexy sports reads!
Scrolling through Twitter recently a #1LineWeds snippet caught my eye. Now, as an avid follower of authors and books on social media, it’s not unusual for me to see several of these snippets every Wednesday. But what is unusual is for them to capture my attention as completely as this one did mine:
Hot, right? Some may even say incendiary (and by some, I mean me). It was brief enough to intrigue and yet well-written enough for me to know I just had to read this book. Like, yesterday. I tracked down the publicist and obtained a copy within fifteen minutes, then devoured it in just under a day. The book was a sexy revelation: it focused on the on-again, off-again relationship between two rival hockey players. The ups and downs of their interactions, their rivalry on the ice, all of it was written with such nuance and care. In a word, this book was captivating. And it only helped to further solidify in my mind what all Romance readers already know: sports books are just plain awesome.
Whether it’s Sports Romance focused on hockey or swimming, basketball or soccer, ballet or even football, there is something so compelling about a book where at least one of the main characters cares enough about something to practice it hours upon hours a day, honing their skills (and their bodies!) to perfection. Their determination, their drive, their bold as brass attitudes all meld together to give readers some truly engrossing characters. Plus all those tense action scenes where the characters need to bring their skills to bear and really prove their worth to fans, teammates, and coaches provide a sense of satisfaction rarely found elsewhere. So today I’m chatting my favorite Sports Romances that are every bit as good as the games they are centered on.
Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid
What it’s about: Nothing interferes with Shane Hollander’s game—definitely not the sexy rival he loves to hate.
Pro hockey star Shane Hollander isn’t just crazy talented, he’s got a spotless reputation. Hockey is his life. Now that he’s captain of the Montreal Voyageurs, he won’t let anything jeopardize that, especially the sexy Russian whose hard body keeps him awake at night.
Boston Bears captain Ilya Rozanov is everything Shane’s not. The self-proclaimed king of the ice, he’s as cocky as he is talented. No one can beat him—except Shane. They’ve made a career on their legendary rivalry, but when the skates come off, the heat between them is undeniable. When Ilya realizes he wants more than a few secret hookups, he knows he must walk away. The risk is too great.
As their attraction intensifies, they struggle to keep their relationship out of the public eye. If the truth comes out, it could ruin them both. But when their need for each other rivals their ambition on the ice, secrecy is no longer an option…
Why you should read it: Rachel Reid’s upcoming release is the book which includes that uber sexy #1lineweds mentioned above. It releases on March 25th and all I can say is: preorder it now. This book is amazing. Focusing on the relationship between the two stars of rival hockey teams, it follows them from their teen years well into their twenties. The will they, won’t they aspect of their relationship, and the slow burn of their love, is perfectly written. Readers will be hard pressed to figure out how these two can make something so tenuous as sexy random hookups last but boy, do they ever. And when they finally get a chance at a HEA? You’ll be cheering right along with me.
Personal Foul by Lucy J. Madison
What it’s about: Kat Schaefer’s career is on autopilot. She’s an elite WNBA basketball official. She survived an extremely rocky childhood but still finds herself adrift in her personal life almost two years after her longtime girlfriend dumped her. Kat’s well-ordered world turns upside down when she meets a hotshot rookie named Julie Stevens who knocks her world off balance with her stellar play and captivating eyes.
Despite Kat’s best defense, she falls hard for the young player, but she’s unable to open herself up to love again. Her solution is to retreat alone to the magnificent Provincetown beaches to heal old wounds and to figure out what the future holds for both of them.
Why you should read it: This book tackles some difficult questions – what happens when an official and a player have an undeniable attraction and how does that play out for them in the long run. Is a relationship even a possibility? And how do they navigate the power dynamics on the court and in real life? Lucy J. Madison offers some wonderful action-packed scenes featuring basketball in all its WNBA glory as well as a healthy dose of angst as Kat tries to come to terms with attraction after being left behind by someone she thought loved her. I loved the sexy chemistry she and Julie feel. They are so completely opposite in every way that when they finally given in to that attraction, it is oh so worth it!
His Convenient Husband by Robin Covington
What it’s about: NFL football player Isaiah Blackwell lost his husband three years ago and is raising their teen son alone. He lives his life as quietly as his job allows, playing ball to support his family but trying not to draw unwanted attention. His quiet life is shaken up when a mutual friend introduces him to Victor, a visiting principal ballet dancer who is everything Isaiah is not.
Brash and loud, Victor Aleksandrov has applied for political asylum to avoid returning to Russia, where gay men are targeted and persecuted. He’s been outspoken about gay rights in his home country, and if he doesn’t get asylum, going back to Russia is a death sentence.
Their one-night stand turns into a tentative friendship, a relationship they both agree is temporary…until Victor’s denied asylum. Isaiah can’t offer Victor a happily ever after, but he can propose something that’ll keep Victor in the US and safe…marriage. He just doesn’t expect his new husband to dance away with his heart.
Why you should read it: This is without a doubt one of the best sports reads you’ll ever get your hands on. It is charmingly written with a very basic premise: a ballet dancer needs a visa and a widowed pro football player offers to give him a marriage of convenience in order to get his papers. It doesn’t help matters that they had a scorchingly hot one-night stand months prior and their attraction is still burning bright, but both men are determined for their relationship to remain platonic…and of course that leads to some sexy shenanigans and wholly unexpected feelings on both sides. However these two men are willing to fight for what they want – both in their respective sports and at home – and readers will agree that their eventual HEA is worth the bit of angsty miscommunication it took to get them there.
Bright Lights of Summer by Lynn Ames
What it’s about: It’s March, 1941. Captain America appears in a comic book for the very first time. New York City receives 18.1 inches of snow, its 3rd largest snowfall in history. In Holland, the Nazi occupiers forbid Jews to own businesses. In Poland, Heinrich Himmler inspects Auschwitz. World War II is raging in Europe, but America has yet to enter the fray.
And in Phoenix, Arizona, a 16-year-old scrap of a girl named Theodora “Dizzy” Hosler, takes the field to try out for the World Champion P.B.S.W. Ramblers softball team.
Set against the backdrop of perhaps the most dramatic time in US history, comes the story of Diz and Frannie, two women fueled by an unquenchable passion for the game of softball and feelings for each other that go far beyond the bounds of friendship. Will their love for the game bring them closer together or tear them apart?
Why you should read this book: A must read for softball and baseball fans, Lynn Ames’ Bright Lights of Summer digs deep into the past as a present-day journalist interviews an old-timer, one of the original players of the 1940s all women’s softball league. Her story of women in sports at a time when they weren’t expected to be there is dazzling and the love she shares with a fellow player will have readers yearning for their own HEA. Their story is absolutely captivating and so clearly well researched. Get it for the sports history, and stay for the glorious love between two women who unexpectedly fall in love.
Romancing the Kicker by Catherine Lane
What it’s about: Parker Sherbourne has a talent for sports and seduction—and the body to prove it. When the High Rollers, the professional football team from Las Vegas, chase after her to be their point-after specialist, she jumps at the chance. Sure, the position is only a publicity stunt, but she has always been able to turn any situation to her advantage.
Carly Bartlett joins the Rollers as the newest athletic trainer and the only other female on the payroll. This dream job could bring the financial security her family desperately needs. The head trainer has only one warning: don’t get involved with a player. Not a problem. She doesn’t go for guys. When Parker reaches out to Carly for treatment, sparks fly. Will Carly fall for Parker’s charms and put her own desires ahead of her family’s? Has Parker finally found the woman who’ll make her slow down and stop playing the angles? With the macho world of football against them, can they beat the odds in this lesbian sports romance?
Why you should read it: Catherine Lane gives readers both a Sports Romance and a compelling social commentary in her latest book, Romancing the Kicker. When a professional football team recruits a superstar soccer player who just happens to be a woman, tensions fly high. And not of the sexual variety. Parker must work hard to earn her place amongst a group of men who really would prefer she not be there. Athletic trainer Carly is in the same position – working with a new team that really doesn’t want her. When these two women meet and begin training together, their chemistry is off the charts but it’s the spotlight the book shines on hostile work environments and women in male-dominated sports that really takes center stage. This is such an inspiring book and one that is timely and relevant to all readers.
Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer
What it’s about: Jeremy Reeve is one of the best divers in the world, and he’s worked hard to get where he is. He intends to keep pushing himself with one very clear goal in mind: winning gold at the summer Olympics in two years. That medal might be the only way to earn his father’s respect as an athlete.
Brandon Evans is everything Jeremy isn’t: carefree, outgoing, and openly gay. With his bright-blue eyes and dramatic tattoos, he’s a temptation that Jeremy refuses to acknowledge. But Jeremy can’t ignore how talented Brandon is—or that Brandon has no interest in using his diving skills to compete.
They’re opposites who are forced to work together as teammates, but Jeremy’s fear of his own sexuality and Brandon’s disinterest in anything “not fun” may end their partnership before it begins. Until a single moment changes everything, and they help each other discover that “team” can also mean family and love.
Why you should read it: It’s not often that we get to read Romances centered around the world of competitive diving and whether you know anything about the sport or not, do not miss out on this one. Heels Over Head focuses on the relationship between two divers – one a tatted up misfit prodigy and the other a straight-laced diver who has done nothing but train for Olympic Gold for the majority of his life. When they are unexpectedly paired as diving partners, these two opposites must learn to work together to achieve the respective goals they hold dear. It is extremely gratifying to watch their relationship grow and evolve over the course of the book as they start out as enemies and end as partners in so many different senses. The diving elements feel very real and nuanced and the emotionally charged interactions between the main characters will have readers hoping that they finally realize how good they can be together both on the diving platform…and off it.
Enjoy Sports Romance of all kinds? Hockey, basketball, soccer, you name it! Tell me all about your favorites! I love to chat all things book related on Twitter: @writerjudithutz