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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!