first published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail 3 February 2007
On paper, it just doesn’t look like professional athletes would make very good romance heroes. After all, for most women, professional sports are the one true contender for their partner’s affection. If that partner actually plays professional sport, then every problem is suddenly compounded.
The appeal of the athlete hero doesn’t require much expansion on my part. The lifestyle of the athlete hero, though, might present a few problems. However, even with the obvious drawbacks of lost weekends, inane commentators, sports groupies, and the difficult long distance aspects, authors are finding plenty of fodder to spin their tales.
Through no real planning on my part, I played armchair quarterback to a few sports-related romances over the holidays. Fans of this subgenre will be happy to know that February sees new instalments in two long running series.
The first is Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Natural Born Charmer. Dean, the hero, appeared in chapter two of Match Me If You Can, Phillips’ crowd-pleaser of last year. Both books are spin offs of her fan-favourite the Chicago Stars/Bonner brothers series, detailing the lives and loves of a fictional American Football team based in Chicago. The Windy City is a perfect setting for Phillips’ easy, breezy style that never fails to bring big laughs.
The second featured sport, and a particular favourite of mine, is ice hockey. Though, unsurprisingly, hockey is not a very popular sport here in Australia, Brisbane does in fact have a team—the Bluetongues. After reading Chasing Stanley, the fifth instalment in Deidre Martin’s New York based hockey series, you might want to check out a game in Boondall. Don’t worry if you know nothing about the sport. Neither does Delilah, the dog-walking heroine who inadvertently ends up trying to train Stanley, an enormous Newfoundland dog and his owner, Jason, the newest team member of the New York Blades. Martin’s loosely related series doesn’t have to be read in sequence, but there are lots of Easter eggs for those familiar with her earlier stories. Gently humorous, my favourite sequence revolves around Jason’s teeth.
If one hockey story isn’t enough, try Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score. This was the first Gibson I’ve tried, after multiple recommendations, and I’ll definitely be seeking her out in the future. Funny and fast-paced, Jane has hot action on and off the ice.
Unwilling to commit to just one sport? Berkley Sensation put out a great anthology last year titled Hot Ticket with four short stories covering a variety of different games. The authors manage to avoid the short story pitfall of moving too far too fast and are genuinely entertaining, giving a great overview of sport romance.
You’ll notice that there are no cricket-related romances, which is a shame really. Can you think of any other sport so desperately in need of a little “action”?