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Unleash Your Inner Jock With These 10 Sporty Gay Romance and YA Books

Sports! They make us gay, and we can’t get enough of reading about them! I think there’s something about the clichés of sport that meld perfectly with the many tropes of genre fiction. If you’re already bought into the drama inherent to competitive sport, you’re set up for high-stakes thrills replete with victorious highs, painful lows, and a whole load of sexual tension with your bitterest rival. The gay sports books on this list are mostly contemporary lesbian romances, with a few YA novels thrown in too. In general, the romances have a greater proportion of sporting action. This is because all YA protagonists have incredibly busy schedules, and therefore it’s a challenge to shoehorn in practice alongside their many extracurriculars and time-consuming bouts of teen angst.


Edge of Glory by Rachel Spangler

book cover of "Edge of Glory" a lesbian romance between an uptight skier and a laid back snowboarder

Rachel Spangler is the undisputed heavyweight champion of sports romance writing, notching up five sports-themed titles so far. I have limited myself to just two on this list, and first up is Edge of Glory, an opposites-attract romance between charming snowboarder Corey LaCroix and uptight downhill skier Elise Brandeis.

Elise is your typical ice queen, highly driven to overcome a devastating injury to bag the Olympic medal she’s always dreamed of. Corey is already a successful Olympic champion, facing down the twilight years of her career and wondering if her body has enough left in it for one more shot at gold before the next generation usurps her. The pair begin training together, allegedly with the hope that Corey’s upbeat attitude rubs off on Elise, and the reader’s fullest expectation that Elise will rub off on Corey in some other kind of mutually beneficial way.

This is really one of the best sports romances out there, thanks to a believable build-up to Corey and Elise’s relationship plus a decent cast of supporting characters. The sports content is top notch, especially the snowboard cross sequences with Corey competing against her young rival/mentee.


Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan

Book cover of Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan depicting two girls laid next to each other on a car hood

Some Girls Do tells the story of high school classmates Morgan and Ruby. Morgan is a teen with a busy schedule that includes: running faster than everyone at school, counseling at a nearby LGBTQ centre and suing her previous fancy private school who kicked her out and ruined her athletics ambitions because she was super duper gay. Ruby is a teen with a busy schedule that includes: half-heartedly practicing for beauty pageants, working a part-time job as a pageant make-up instructor, working another part-time job fixing up old cars and sneaking around casually shagging boys and being really moody because she’s actually super duper gay.

The sport content in this book is mostly limited to Morgan’s track practice sessions and occasional meet, with some references to why running holds such meaning for her. Really, this is about whether two teens from opposite sides of the tracks can overcome their circumstances and personal prejudices to be together.


On The Fly by PJ Trebelhorn

Book cover of On The Fly by PJ Trebelhorn depicting a woman in a winter scarf, a pair of hockey boots and a hockey stick

I gain immense delight from highly improbable romance pairings, so I immediately jumped on this novel about an Olympic ice hockey captain and a concert violinist. Courtney Abbott is a veteran of the semi-pro American women’s hockey league and wondering how she’ll play out the final few seasons of her career when she encounters Lana Caruso, second violin in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who has temporarily returned to her small Pennsylvania hometown after her father’s heart attack. Court and Lana’s attraction is obvious to each other, as well as everyone’s families, the town’s pizzeria customers and the entire American hockey league. However, the pair are hung up on the fact that Lana won’t be sticking around for very long and therefore they should not give into their patent desire for Olympic-level shagging.

There’s quite a bit of ice hockey action as well as romantic angst, especially as Lana’s son (another relationship sticking point) is a talented young player looking to get drafted. Court also has to contend with a homophobic teammate, and everyone seems very casual about getting stuck into brawls on the ice, which my Canadian wife assures me is the point of ice hockey.


Fire & Ice by Rachel Spangler

book cover of lesbian romance novel "Fire and Ice" about a curler and a disgraced sports writer

I had to include this book because it is, to my knowledge, the only lesbian romance about curling that currently exists, and curling is the best Olympic sport hands down. Another entry from Rachel Spangler, Fire & Ice sees disgraced sports journalist Max exiled to upstate New York to cover the noble sport of curling, which she is unfathomably pissed off about. While in Buffalo, her appetites are whetted not only by the famous wings, but by local curling skip and all-round good egg, Callie Mulligan.

I got off to a slightly rough start with this one because frankly Max is a complete dipshit who makes the worst assumptions about the fine art of curling, and arrogantly assumes that she could be just as good as a semi-pro player. This attitude promptly sees her on her arse on the ice. For some reason, Callie doesn’t immediately tell her to piss off, and over the course of the curling season the player and journalist grow closer together. Spangler does an excellent job at capturing the joys of curling, which will appeal to everyone who becomes an obsessive curling enthusiast every four years (i.e. me).


Girl Crushed by Katie Heaney

book cover of Girl Crushed by Katie Heaney, depicting two girls walking by each other and looking at each other askance

Quinn Ryan is a high school soccer player with a moderately busy schedule, who has been dumped by her first girlfriend (and BFF) Jamie. This is incredibly bad timing; with all Quinn’s hopes for the future pinned on her soccer prowess, she’s hardly firing on all cylinders for the college scouts.

Fortunately, she’s got a new distraction lined up in the form of school rock star Ruby, who is maybe not as straight as Quinn always imagined. Quinn’s pursuit of her new crush takes her an a journey that is part personal discovery, and part working out how much of everything she does is just to get back at her ex.

While Quinn’s soccer exploits don’t make up a huge portion of the story, I really like Girl Crushed as an example of a book where our sporty protagonist isn’t a nailed-on champion, and is filled with doubt about whether they really have the talent to make it in sport. And if they don’t, then what?


Sparks Like Ours by Melissa Brayden

Book cover of Sparks Like Ours by Melissa Braydon depicting a long haired surfer in a bikini looking out to a sunset over a sea, holding a surfboard

Prolific romance author Melissa Braydon finally takes a punt at the world of sports in this tale of two rival surfers. Gia Malone is a moody surfer looking to make the final breakthrough in the rankings that will elevate her to the pro status she’s worked long and hard for. For no good reason, she bears a deep grudge for Elle Britton, the reigning world number one who has the sponsorships and success that Gia dreams of. Elle has no idea why Gia is so cold to her, but fortunately they both quickly realise they are super gay and into each other, leaving them to puzzle out the age old problem of how they can compete against each other whilst also shagging.

Do expect: injury drama and performing badly in competition because you’re hot for your rival. Don’t expect: shark attacks.


She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen

Book cover of She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen depicting a red-haired basketball player and a cheerleader stood back to back, seemingly rivals but with their hands clasped

Basketball star Scottie and cheer captain Irene are bitter enemies at their high school. After a humiliating sporting loss to her ex (and former teammate), Scottie somehow turns a minor car crash with nemesis Irene into an opportunity for revenge against her ex in the form of a convoluted fake dating plot. Irene has her own issues with overbearing parents and convincing people that cheerleading is just as legitimate a sport as any other.

This book packs in as many queer romcom tropes as possible in a very lighthearted way, while leaning into Quindlen’s strengths at writing compelling teen narratives, especially when it comes to friendship groups. The sporting element provides more of a backdrop for the action rather than the action itself, because damn it if these teens don’t have busy schedules.


The Long Shot by AL Brooks

Book cover of The Long Shot by Al Brooks that depicts a female golfer in shorts swinging a golf club

Morgan Spencer is an elite pro golfer with hot arms, troubled by her habit of fluffing her chances at major tournaments on the last hole. Adrienne Wyatt is a TV producer making a documentary about women’s golf, troubled by her attraction to Morgan’s hot arms. As Morgan and Adrienne need to get up close and personal during documentary filming, they also need to navigate the various obstacles in the way of translating their insta-lust into a full-blown relationship, including an 18-year age gap, baggage from cheating exes, career concerns and daddy issues.

I found this one a tad frustrating, as after a while I was not convinced our heroines were holding themselves back for any good reason and also most of the time people talked like robots. However, if you are a golf addict, this is one of the few romances out there for you! From my experiences of being forced to watch golf at my parents’ house, I can confirm the sport content is accurate enough for the casual fan.

Warning: This novel requires even more suspension of disbelief than most lesbian romances, as there’s an implication that it’s possible to look attractive in golfing attire.


Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin

Book cover of Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin depicting a masculine looking young female football player in a pink jersey sat on bleachers

Mara Deeble is a teen, briefly with a light schedule, because she’s been kicked off her basketball team for punching a teammate. There’s not an awful lot to do in Elkhorn, Oregon, and in a bid to find an outlet for her aggression, Mara joins the boys’ football team, leading to surprising success. When a bunch of other girls (including her crush and her old basketball rival) decide to follow her onto the team, things get even more interesting, if unintentionally political.

It’s not just the misogyny of the boys on the team that Mara has to contend with though; she needs to work out her own ideas of what it means to be a girl as she navigates her existence as a young queer, masc woman in a conservative, rural town.


Slammed by Lola Keeley

Book cover of Slammed by Lola Keeley showing partial images of two female tennis players engaged in a match

Elin Larsson is the best tennis player in the world, but despite her global fame is intensely introverted, leading to an inevitable reputation as an ice queen. Despite her prolonged success, Elin is driven by her desire to bag a couple more Grand Slams to become the greatest of all time. Or is she quite as driven as she thinks? Niggling injuries and the gruelling slog of the pro tennis circuit may be beginning to take their toll. Thankfully, Elin gets something other than tennis to focus on when she encounters Antonia Cortes Ruiz, a stunningly hot Mexican player attempting to work her way back up the rankings after injury. Will Elin and Toni’s burgeoning attraction survive their newfound rivalry, or will they both be off their game because they are just too hot for each other??

Of all the books on this list, this is the most sports heavy, with the descriptions of the tennis circuit as well as the matches themselves all coming off as authentic.


These ten books are of course merely a sample of all the great and gay sports books that are out there, so please do chime in with your faves in the comments!


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Sally

Sally lives in the UK. Her work has been featured in a Korean magazine about queer people and their pets, and a book about haunted prisons. She never intended for any of this to happen.

Sally has written 63 articles for us.

67 Comments

    • When I was reading it, I felt the biphobia came off more as a facet of the main character being young and flawed and not having her shit together, but I can see how it would just make it too gross to want to finish the story.

      It’s a real contrast with Like Other Girls where I think the setup and handling of Mara’s misogyny is really well signalled so although you get frustrated with her, you are still rooting for her.

  1. the only thing i love more than a list of books is a list of gay books and the only thing i love more than a list of gay books is a list of gay romance books – thanks as always, sally!

    (ps – cosign like other girls for some adorable baby butch coming of age vibes!)

  2. Great list! I fell into a wormhole of gay sports books a couple months ago but somehow missed a bunch of these.

    I LOVED She Drives Me Crazy.

    Also want to recommend Endgame by Zoe Reed which is full of competitive sexual tension and soccer!

  3. Co-sign the book interest but thank you for drawing attention to the insane schedules of YA protagonists!! Also, it seems they have Job jobs and not babysitting, the stealth “paid to do your homework” job. Is babysitting out now? Is my past a relic at 27?

    • Maybe babysitting doesn’t factor into college applications, which seems to be a major driver for the Busy Schedules of YA?

      It’s all a mystery to me, all I did outside of high school was read and play Nintendo!

  4. i picked up new sports books today, yay! also:

    D Jackson Leigh Hold Me Forever / horse racing
    K. G. MacGregor Worth Every Step / climbing
    E. J. Noyes Gold / skiing | Pas de deux / dressage
    Laura Sibson Edie in Between / running
    Rachel Spangler heart of the game / baseball | love all / tennis
    Nell Stark The Princess Affair / soccer | The Princess and the Prix / grand prix | The Princess Deception / soccer

  5. There is a very cute middle grade illustrated novel series called The Derby Daredevils about tween girls playing roller derby and it includes a girl crushing on one of her teammates! Also, there’s Bruise by Tanya Boteju, a YA I haven’t read (fyi there is some self harm in it apparently).

  6. Love this list Sally! And your enthusiasm about curling.

    I haven’t read it yet, but Catch and Cradle by Katia Rose about two girls on the US national lacrosse team is a new adult romance that looks promising!

  7. Ooh, I want to echo Gold by E.J. Noyes (skiing). One of my favorite Sapphic romances ever!

    If anyone’s in the mood for women’s hockey romance, I write a series set in the pro women’s hockey world. Out on the Ice (a grumpy/sunshine pairing) and Unexpected Goals (US/Canadian enemies to lovers) are available now. Calling the Shots (rival head coaches) is coming in November. Score! ;)

    https://www.kellyfarmerauthor.com/books

      • And there’s a second book in that same series, DRIVING LESSONS by Annameekee Hesik.

        For traditional contemporary sapphic romances with a basketball focus, BOUNCING by Jaime Maddox and TAKING A SHOT AT LOVE by KC Richardson. And the most recent title in Radclyffe’s Rivers Community Romance series, PATHWAY TO LOVE, features a romance between two doctors, one of whom coaches the local HS’s women’s bball team and the other of whom was a star college basketball player who played in the WNBA before med school. Plus there’s a subplot about trans kids and sports.

  8. Great list ! I’d recommend Interference by Zoe Reed which is about roller hockey and that I remember really liking when I read it a while ago (even if I know nothing about hockey) ; and if anyone’s into graphic novels I recommend Cheer Up! which is a lovely high school romance between a trans girl and a lesbian who are both cheerleaders.

  9. Shamelessly fangirling over Lola Keeley’s inclusion – because she’s my wife 🥰

    I feel like when it comes to adult sapphic romance, there’s such a good section of books about women who are as into their careers as they are their love interests and I am so here for that.

  10. Roller Girl by Vanessa North is about a former champion wakeboarder who gets recruited into roller derby–and slowly falls in love with the team captain. And! It’s one of the rare sapphic romances that features a trans/cis pairing.

  11. Every once in a while, a book list comes along that is *exactly* what you were wishing for, and *just* when you started to wish for it. Thank you for this serendipity, Sally! And thank you everybody who’s putting more recs here in the comments!

    After super enjoying the audiobook of _She Drives Me Crazy_ and sharing cleo’s above-mentioned desire for more sapphic basketball YA rom-coms, I encountered _The Avant-Guards_ at a queer comics pop-up near me. LOVE! AS’s esteemed Heather Hogan reviewed this title in 2019 (https://www.autostraddle.com/carly-usdins-avant-guards-is-the-womens-basketball-comic-book-youve-been-waiting-for-since-before-you-knew-you-were-gay-446742/), and the closing quip from that review became the cover blurb for vol. 2: “Avant-Guards is going to scratch an itch you didn’t even know you had.” Highly recommend!

  12. Thanks for this great list of books. To this we would most definitely add the just-released #YA #LGBTQ novel NO STOPPING US NOW by Lucy Jane Bledsoe. It’s rave reviews include: “This autobiographical novel, with richly developed bold, courageous characters, and raw emotion, deftly captures the period of transition, not just for Louisa but for women’s rights in the 1970s….An inspiring look at the early days of Title IX and a solid addition to historical fiction collections.” —School Library Journal; and “A timeless and triumphant story of courage in the face of opposition, as well as a glimpse into the early days of Title IX’s implementation. Knowledgeable about, and appreciative of, the trailblazers who fought for fairness and equal opportunities for women in sports, No Stopping Us Now is an excellent historical novel.” —Foreword Reviews (starred review); and “The cause is just, the action absorbing, the sexist flack still all too familiar.” —Kirkus Reviews

  13. This is a fantastic list and I loved a lot of these books, but wanted to give folks a bit of a heads up on two of the titles; Sparks Like Ours has a gender reveal party in one scene with a lot of cissexist language – the romance between the two MCs was good, but that scene really turned me off the book. Secondly, Slammed by Lola Keeley is absolutely wonderful but I highly recommend avoiding the audiobook version and reading it in paperbook or on ebook instead – one of the MCs is Mexican and the white narrator used an incredibly racist “Mexican” accent for that character’s lines.

  14. Everything by Rachel Spangler is amazing, I loved Thrust (all about fencing), and EJ Noyes has an amazing dressage romance called Pas de deux which is the most accurate equestrian lesbian romance I’ve ever read. Catch and Cradle is brilliant, and the author has a free ebook of a novella length romance featuring Iz who was one of my favorite characters. And Kate Christie has a series of football (soccer) series which reminds me of the USWNT!

    • Radclyffe Against Doctor’s Orders, Prescription for Love, Love on Call, Love After Hours (series: Rivers Community Romance), not professional, but softball league does factor in each, some more than others so you get the feel.

  15. Ahhhh… One of my favorite genres.

    Some books not mentioned in the post or comments that I recommend:

    – The Clinch (Nicole Disney) – MMA fighting
    – Unadulterated Something (MJ Duncan) – ice hockey
    – Running Deep (Bette Hawkins) – swimming
    – Match to Love (Johana Gavez) – tennis
    – Never Mine (Bryce Oakley) – soccer
    – Prize Money (Celeste Castro) – bull fighting/barrel riding. Are those sports? I’m counting them.

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