I love sports of all kinds. They’re such a great test of character. I love to see how superb athletes react when they’re pushed to their limit and beyond. We learned in class at McDaniel that character is choice under pressure, and sport offers those fascinating, insightful moments on a regular basis.
I like to write with the cricket commentary as background noise. I always know what’s happening on the tennis tour. And if I’m not at Wembley for the NFL UK games, I’m usually to be found on the sofa on Sunday nights, glued to the transatlantic action until way past my bedtime. So it’s surprising that I’ve never thought about writing a sports romance. Until now.
A sports star hero comes with certain built-in advantages for the romance writer and reader. He’s likely to be young, he’ll undoubtedly be in great physical shape, and he’ll almost certainly be rich. Chances are he’ll be high-profile.
His character offers a wealth of possibilities. He should be mentally strong – driven, competitive, goal-oriented, focused and decisive. The flip side of that is unshakeable self-belief and/or breath-taking arrogance. He will most likely have a support team who could keep him grounded but might infantilize him by taking responsibility for all non-sporting aspects of his life, feeding his ego and indulging his every whim.
His biggest asset is that he’ll be part of a community of equally young, fit, wealthy, mentally strong, alpha males. Hello, series 😉 .
What would I write? My first thought is that even with a Gatorade-sized bucket of poetic licence, the lifestyle of a professional sports star is not fairytale romance fodder. Anyone who’s fool enough to think it’s all limos and fancy hotels might like to take a look at Tour Wife Tales, a blog written by Kelsey Anderson, wife of top-ranked tennis player Kevin. And here’s Tour de France cyclist Tyler Hamilton in his book The Secret Race:
“When I was in weight-loss mode, I wasn’t much fun to be with. Haven, for one, was sick of it. There we were, a young married couple in our lovely apartment in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and we hardly did anything as a couple that wasn’t related to my training. Vacation? Sorry. Fancy restaurant dinner? Wish I could. Weekend in Paris? Maybe after the season. And no matter how you dress it up, there’s not much romance in seltzer water and celery.”
The tried-and-tested way around this problem is to set the book during the hero’s off-season, or have him recuperating from an injury, or about to retire, or newly retired and looking for something to fill the void.
Take Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ excellent series about her fictional (American) football team, the Chicago Stars:
- It Had To Be You: hero, Dan, superstar quarterback turned coach.
- Heaven, Texas: hero, Bobby Tom, reluctantly starting a new life after a career-ending injury.
- Nobody’s Baby But Mine: hero, Cal, reluctantly at the end of his stellar career thanks to a mixture of age and physical attrition.
- Natural Born Charmer: hero, Dean, superstar quarterback in the prime of his career, but recuperating from a serious injury.
Or Rachel Gibson’s series about the Seattle Chinooks, her fictional hockey team:
- Simply Irresistible: hero, John, is a hockey player, but the story mostly takes place during the off-season.
- The Trouble With Valentine’s Day: hero, Rob, ex-hockey star turned sporting store owner.
I think if I tried my hand at this, I’d like to aim for a fun take on the world described by Kelsey Anderson – the ups and downs of life as a sports professional. Off the top of my head, the only romance I can think of that tackles this is Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score: heroine, Jane, who’s a reporter assigned to the aforementioned Seattle Chinooks and who makes sparks fly with Luc, the team’s goalie. This book is a particular favorite of mine, and I think it’s because I can see Jane as part of Luc’s community. Jane’s smart and funny, and when the team tries to find ways to make her feel out of place, she finds ways to prove them wrong. Jane (mostly) handles Luc’s life without flinching, which makes their eventual HEA so much more credible.
The only sport I know enough about to consider attempting this is tennis, and I’m not sure whether a tennis player would ring the sports hottie bell. Most successful sports romances seem to feature team sports rather than individual ones, but the tennis tour as a whole is a community and I’d say that could support a series.
What do you think? Do you read sports romances? If so, what do you think makes a good one? Do you have any favorites or recommendations?
Would you consider reading a series about the tennis tour? As Elizabeth would say, enquiring minds want to know 😉 .