I focus on new releases in romance the rest of the week, so Throwback Thursdays revisit book recommendations from years past.
This week’s topic is sports romance! I read a ton of sports romance, so I post a fresh list of recommendations right around this time every year. The new list is on the way soon, but I thought I’d share last year’s list of 15 Superb Sports Romances while we wait. It includes sports-related romances from some of my favorite authors!
Take a peek at the original list below – they were all great reads for me back in the day.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got sports on my mind! Tight football pants make me think of some of my favorite romance novels, with book boyfriends who are focused on their budding sports careers and the leading ladies who tame them. From college athletes to professional players, sports romances come in variety of vibes and styles.
The books on this list each feature heroes who have dedicated much of their lives to the sports they love, and they’ve all received a 5-star rating from me. Happy reading!
Jeeves’ Top 20 of 2020 Pick – steamy, intense, and emotional
Hard to Hold by K. Bromberg
New York Times bestselling author, K. Bromberg, is back with a heartfelt, standalone romance and a new hero to steal your heart . . .
The contract with Major League Soccer was supposed to help repair my damaged reputation.
Then I discovered that I’d made a deal with the devil: the player I’m supposed to recruit is none other than the bad boy, star Premier League footballer, Rush McKenzie.
British. Tattooed. Sexy. A man currently at the center of a huge scandal.
The goal? To convince him to stay in the States.
But what’s wrong with a little fun in the meantime? No strings. No sweet nothings. Just a way to pass the time while we’re both struggling to prove our true selves to the world.
If someone found out our relationship was anything more than professional, it would only serve to prove all our critics right.
I never should have agreed to take the fall.
But I did and I’m a man of my word.
Even if it means risking everything I’ve worked for.
The only bright side is Lennox Kincade.
Gorgeous. Defiant. Rumor-tainted. Totally off-limits.
Sharing a house with the gorgeous sports agent should have been a fun distraction from the turmoil. Someone to help pass the time while the tensions back home die down.
But what started as nothing, ends up as something I never saw coming.
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9781942832300
Friends to lovers, steamy, forbidden romance
The Friend Zone by Kristen Callihan
Gray doesn’t make friends with women. He has sex with them. Until Ivy.
The last thing star tight-end Gray Grayson wants to do is drive his agent’s daughter’s bubblegum pink car. But he needs the wheels and she’s studying abroad. Something he explains when she sends him an irate text to let him know exactly how much pain she’ll put him in if he crashes her beloved ride. Before he knows it, Ivy Mackenzie has become his best texting bud. But then Ivy comes home and everything goes haywire. Because the only thing Gray can think of is being with Ivy.
Ivy doesn’t have sex with friends. Especially not with a certain football player. No matter how hot he makes her…
Gray drives Ivy crazy. He’s irreverent, sex on a stick, and completely off limits. Because, Ivy has one golden rule: never get involved with one of her father’s clients. A rule that’s proving harder to keep now that Gray is doing his best to seduce her. Her best friend is fast becoming the most irresistible guy she’s ever met.
Which means Gray is going to have to use all his skills to win Ivy’s heart. Game on.
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9781517687854
Intense, sexy, and forbidden college romance
The Revenge Pact by Ilsa Madden-Mills
River Tate is a god on campus.
The king of football.
A tattooed bad boy with gunmetal eyes that see right through you.
The only chink in his armor is HER, the girl he pretends doesn’t exist, the forbidden one with the shy smile and lavender hair.
Anastasia Bailey is a nobody.
The queen of nothing.
An outsider with the face of an angel and a body made for sin.
The only chink in her armor is HIM, her boyfriend’s frat brother, the football player who hates her.
But when Anastasia’s life comes crashing down, River’s the one who sweeps in and saves her.
Torn between loyalty, lies, and secrets, he battles the temptation to take everything from her when they make their revenge pact.
He can’t tell her no.
Because revenge (or love) is sweet, and once you get a taste, the craving never ends.
The Revenge Pact is an angsty college sports romance with a beautiful HEA. No cliffhanger.
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9798572854664
Opposites attract, light yet emotional college romance
Nothing But Trouble by P. Dangelico
Water polo god.
Owner of a face that belongs under Wikipedia’s definition of drop dead gorgeous.
Too charming for his own good.
But most importantly––the worst driver on the planet.
No, really, I’m pretty sure his blind nana taught him how to drive.
I had no idea who he was until he almost ran me over. And frankly, I kind of wish I still didn’t because then I wouldn’t have a sprained ankle to show for it. And my leg wouldn’t resemble a boa constrictor that’s swallowed a feral pig.
Yeah, it’s that bad.
I’ve spent years saving every penny I’ve ever earned to be able to transfer to Malibu University. And now my entire future––including my scholarship––is in jeopardy.
So I either accept the help he insists on giving me, or lose everything I’ve sacrificed for.
In the meantime, I’m going to ignore the fact that we’re becoming friends.
And I’m definitely going to pretend he’s not turning into the object of my…umm, dirty fantasies.
That’s not happening.
Not even a little.
Because the minute I clapped eyes on him I knew he was nothing but trouble.
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9781090723482
Jeeves’ Top 20 of 2020 Pick – light yet emotional, slow burn
Always Only You by Chloe Liese
Get ready for an emotional ride filled with laughter, longing, and a sweet slow-burn in this sports romance about love’s power not in spite of difference, but because of it.
The moment I met her, I knew Frankie Zeferino was someone worth waiting for. Deadpan delivery, secret heart of gold, and a rare one-dimpled smile that makes my knees weak, Frankie has been forbidden since the day she and I became coworkers, meaning waiting has been the name of my game—besides, hockey, that is.
I’m a player on the team, she’s on staff, and as long as we work together, dating is off-limits. But patience has always been my virtue. Frankie won’t be here forever—she’s headed for bigger, better things. I just hope that when she leaves the team and I tell her how I feel, she won’t want to leave me behind, too.
I’ve had a problem at work since the day Ren Bergman joined the team: a six foot three hunk of happy with a sunshine smile. I’m a grumbly grump and his ridiculously good nature drives me nuts, but even I can’t entirely ignore that hot tamale of a ginger with icy eyes, the perfect playoff beard, and a body built for sin that he’s annoyingly modest about.
Before I got wise, I would have tripped over myself to get a guy like Ren, but with my diagnosis, I’ve learned what I am to most people in my life—a problem, not a person. Now, opening my heart to anyone, no matter how sweet, is the last thing I’m prepared to do.
Always Only You is an opposites-attract, forbidden love sports romance about a nerdy, late-blooming hockey star, and his tough cookie coworker who keeps both her soft side and her autism diagnosis* to herself. Complete with a meddling secretary, tantric yoga torture, and a scorching slow burn, this standalone is the second in a series of novels about a Swedish-American family of five brothers, two sisters, and their wild adventures as they each find happily ever after.
*This is an #OwnVoices story for its portrayal of autism by an autistic author.
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9798657410969
Younger man/older woman, Vegas wedding, light and steamy
Down and Dirty by Kendall Ryan
From New York Times bestseller Kendall Ryan comes a delicious new standalone romance featuring an accidental Vegas wedding and a totally perfect alpha hero.
Remember that time you accidentally woke up in Vegas married to your hot younger guy friend?
That’s basically my life right now.
Mistakes were made, okay?
He’s too young for me. Twenty-three to my thirty. And he’s saving himself for the right girl.
Yup. Apparently I’ve married the last alpha-male virgin on the planet. And my stubborn, oddly traditional, new husband doesn’t want a divorce.
He wants me.
Complicated doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Down and Dirty is a sexy romp with a hero you’ll melt for and a relatable, sassy heroine you’ll love. If you’re a fan of steamy romances with laugh out loud moments, grab yourself a copy– you won’t regret it!
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9781733672962
Funny, easy, and banter-filled rom com
Hard Love by Sara Ney
“HARD TO LOVE.”
Hard head. Bad attitude. Terrible boyfriend. That’s what my exes have said about me—but I wasn’t serious about any of them, so what do I care what rumors they spread? What I need is to be left alone; by the press, by the paparazzi, and by women.
Too bad I’m about to be surrounded by them for the weekend. My obnoxious, matchmaking brother is getting married, and he’s doing his damndest to find me a wedding date…
“HARD TO FIND.”
That’s what they say about good men—they’re hard to find. Not that when I find one, I’ll be the type he’s looking for; too nice, too ordinary, too boring.
My cousin is getting married, and her fiancé insists on throwing me at his brother. Cold, uncaring professional football player Tripp Wallace would never look twice at a woman like me. Too bad for both of us, I was wrong…
Opposites attract, light yet emotional, forbidden romance
A Secret for a Secret by Helena Hunting
From New York Times bestselling author Helena Hunting comes a new romance about trading secrets, breaking the rules, and playing for keeps.
My name is Ryan Kingston, and I’m a rule follower. I’ve never been in a fistfight. I always obey the speed limit. I don’t get drunk, and I definitely don’t pick up random women at bars.
Except the night I found out that my whole existence has been a lie.
I got drunk. And picked up a stranger.
Her name was Queenie, and she was everything I’m not: reckless, impulsive, and chaotic. We did shots and traded secrets. And ended up naked at my place.
She left me a thank-you note in the morning and her panties as a parting gift. But no way to contact her.
Six weeks later I’m sitting in the first official team meeting of the season, and there she is. I neglected to mention that I’m the goalie for Seattle’s NHL team.
And Queenie? Turns out she’s the general manager’s daughter.
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9781542023382
Jeeves’ Top 20 of 2020 Pick – very funny, slow burn romance
Real Fake Love by Pippa Grant
He smiles. Mr. Grumpypants actually smiles at me, a full, real, heart-stopping smile with mirth dancing in his eyes, teeth flashing, and his cheeks dimpling up behind that layer of dark scruff.
Be still my panties. I think I’m in trouble.
If people have polar opposites, Luca Rossi is mine.
His butt is in the baseball hall of fame. Mine’s comfortably seated in the hall of lame.
When he’s not snagging fly balls out in center field, he’s modeling in shampoo commercials. I once jammed my own finger while stirring cookie dough, and sometimes I forget shampoo is a thing.
He’s a total cynic when it comes to love.
I make a living writing love stories.
But after my latest broken engagement (no, I don’t want to talk about how many times that’s happened), it’s clear he’s exactly the man I need.
If anyone can teach me to be the opposite of me, it’s him.
The first thing I want him to teach me?
How to not fall in love.
And as luck would have it, he’s in desperate need of a fake girlfriend to get a meddling grandmother off his back.
We couldn’t be more perfect together, because the last thing Luca Rossi will ever be is the next man to leave me at the altar.
Or will he?
Real Fake Love is a line drive straight to the heart featuring a grumpy athlete, a jilted bride, a fake relationship, and the world’s laziest cat. It stands alone and comes complete with sibling rivalry, the world’s most awkward shower scene, and a sweetly satisfying happily ever after.
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9781940517865
Light and steamy playboy-tamed romance
Wylde by Sawyer Bennett
There’s a reason they call me Wylde and it’s not just because it’s my last name.
I might be one of the newest players on the Arizona Vengeance team, but I’m no stranger to the celebrity that goes along with being a professional hockey player. Whether it’s a fan seeking an autograph or a puck bunny looking for more, I’ve grown used to the attention. I not only thrive on it; I use it to my advantage. Let’s just say my bed is rarely empty.
When a quirky redhead at the local bookstore stops me dead in my tracks, I decide to pop in and turn on the trusty Wylde magic. As smart and strong-willed as she is beautiful, Clarke Webber isn’t swayed by my witty banter or charming good looks. And when she realizes who I am and the fame that comes along with it, she likes me even less. Thankfully, I’m always up for a challenge. The more I get to know about her, the more I know my playboy days are behind me.
If I’m going to capture Clarke’s heart, it’s time to be a lot less Wylde, and a lot more Aaron.
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9781947212701
Enemies to lovers, opposites attract college romance
Hate the Game by Winter Renshaw
Talon Gold is a lot of things: good at football, bad at love. Obsessed with scoring, refuses to play by the rules. Cruel. Relentless. Brilliant. Intoxicatingly attractive.
Despite his demanding reputation and propensity for being the most arrogant a-hole ever to strut Pacific Valley University’s picturesque campus, everyone wants a piece of him: coaches, scouts, and pretty little fangirls with pouty lips and perfect top knots.
But Talon … he only wants a piece of me.
And four straight years of infuriating rejection means I’m almost positive he’d take a night with me over a national championship trophy.
But I’m no fool—he only wants me because he can’t have me. And with graduation approaching, time is running out. He’s more desperate than ever, pulling out all the stops and doing everything in his power to get in my good graces.
They say, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”
But to that I say, “Why not both?”
I have my reasons …
Sorry, BMOC. This victory? Not going to happen.
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9781696009423
Emotional yet funny frenemies to lovers road trip romance
The Romantic Pact by Meghan Quinn
I haven’t seen her in three years.
I haven’t talked to her since the kiss.
So why am I on a plane, flying across the world to spend a week with her in Germany?
One word: Pops.
My life’s a mess.
My possible football career is hanging on by a thread.
I’m driving the roads of Germany in honor of Pops with the one girl I can never have.
And I’m sharing a bed with her, the girl I’ve measured everyone else up to, while desperately trying to not to touch her.
We made a pact growing up, never to get romantic with each other – never fall in love.
And I’m about to break that pact. For good.
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9798578068263
Light, clean, and fun college romance
The Friend Zone by Sariah Wilson
From the bestselling author of the #Lovestruck novels comes a rousing romance about following your dreams, second chances, and playing the game of love.
Disgraced college quarterback Logan Hunt was on his way to NFL stardom when he messed up big-time. Now the Texas star player with a bad temper has a new option: Seattle’s EOL College—as in End of the Line, to his fellow misfit recruits. It’s Logan’s last chance. If he can follow the rules. No parties, no fighting, no swearing, and oh, no dating the coach’s daughter, Jess. Simple. Yeah, right. For Logan, there has never been a rule he’s more tempted to break.
The deal is “just friends.” The pretty, confident, and fiercely smart math whiz is fine with pizza, tutoring, and keeping Logan in line. But the closer Jess gets, the more receptive she is to his warm heart and spirit—not to mention his irresistible off-field passes. With defenses down, they’re both heading into the danger zone.
It’s more than thrilling. It’s love. It’s also a game changer that could sideline Logan’s NFL goals—and more important, a future with Jess. But dreams are worth fighting for, right?
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9781542094290
Very funny and light, with great sexual tension
Swing and a Mishap by Tara Sivec
“Hawks fans still in shock after centerfielder, Shepherd Oliver, sustained season-ending injury last night in the 5th inning of the playoffs against Chicago.”
Two years ago, I was a pretty big deal. I thought I had it all, until a blast from my past popped up on my social media feed, keeping my ego in check and reminding me how basic I am. Except sassy Wren Bennett isn’t just a blast from my past. She’s the only woman I ever saw a future with.
Even though my soul leaves my body every time she says she hates baseball and has never watched me play, a year’s-worth of messages filled with laughter and sarcasm only remind me how amazing my “pen pal” is. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how fine I look in a pair of baseball pants; I’m still 3,000 miles away, and she’s taken… or so I thought. Maybe I should have thought a little harder before I dropped her like a seeing-eye single into the outfield.
When an injury has me questioning everything about my life, I can only think of one place I need to go and one person I need to see. Home, to Summersweet Island, to get back my “pen pal.”
Now I just need to make sure single mom Wren knows I didn’t come back for a change, and I didn’t come back for a job. I’m swinging for the fences, and I’m finally coming home to make her mine. If only she’d stop insulting me and stay in one place long enough for me to tell her. She wouldn’t try to drown me with a tub of ice cream, right?
I’m sure it’ll be fine.
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9798689246826
Light, sexy, and a little serious
Game Changer by Kelly Jamieson
I don’t want anything to do with my crazy family’s drama, which I’ve been watching unfold from a distance over the last year, but now my grandfather has Alzheimer’s and I feel I need to at least make a quick visit to see him. My hockey season’s over, all I have to do is get through my teammate Steve’s wedding, and then I’m on a plane to Los Angeles to do my family duty. After that, I’ll head home to Manitoba for some summer R&R at the family lake cottage.
Nobody’s expecting what happens at my wedding, which becomes pandemonium. I need to get out of there. Fast. Who do I turn to? Jackson Wynn, one my fiancé’s teammates. He’s been a friend to me since I met Steve. For one night, we hide out in his condo, but he’s leaving in the morning for California. I want to go with him.
I can’t take Steve’s fiancée with me to California. He’s going to flip shit over this. But the lying cheating bastard kind of deserves it, and I’ve always had a soft spot for Molly. Or maybe not so soft…because she’s not only sweet and kind, she’s hot as hell. This is a bad idea for so many reasons, and I sure as hell don’t need more drama in my life, but I can’t say no to her.
On this nutso trip, neither of us expect Molly to bond with my bonkers family…especially my poor, confused grandpa. And neither of us expect to bond with each other…
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9781988600536
Want more sports romance recommendations?
Check out 2020’s list here!
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