Posted On May 23, 2016 by Print This Post

Sports Romance Is More Than The Score By Elizabeth Harmon

While I’m not a fan of sports, I do love me some sports romance! Elizabeth Harmon is here to tell us a bit more on how to make your sports romance more authentic.

It had to be her.

In 2002, Susan Elizabeth Phillips released a funny contemporary romance starring a party-girl heiress who inherits a pro football team, only to butt heads, and finally win the heart of the team’s chauvinistic coach.

“It Had to Be You,” was the first book in Phillips’ long-running “Chicago Stars” football series.  Not only is it one of her biggest books, it launched a new type of romance.

Today, sports romance has exploded into one of the most popular subgenres. Not only are there contemporary sports romances, but fans of NA, YA, multi-cultural, LGBTQ and even historical romance can find books that feature athletes and the games they play.

Why do we love it?

Let’s start with the obvious reason—athlete heroes!

They’re big, strong, and in perfect physical shape. They’re larger than life superstars. Many are fabulously wealthy.  In short, they’re the perfect Alpha heroes, which make them irresistible to romance heroines—and readers.

But as the author of a sports romance series that bends the rules a little, I don’t think it’s the only reason.

Image6The inner qualities which help athletes succeed– dedication, courage, commitment, perseverance and mental toughness– aren’t just for heroes. They’re the backbone of strong heroines, too.  In my novel “Pairing Off,” an American pairs figure skater refuses to give up her dream of competing in the Olympics, even after her career is destroyed by a scandal of her ex-partner’s making.  Her last chance at gold means moving to Russia, though she doesn’t speak the language, and knows no one besides her demanding coach, and handsome new skating partner.  Carrie’s courage and determination, as well as her talent, put her dream in reach—and help her find new love with an old flame.

There’s also the sport itself, which provides a compelling backdrop for the romance, and takes readers behind the scenes, into the locker room and out on the field. With team sports, there’s a built in tribe of friends, and often foes. There are rivalries, drama, career ups and downs, and to borrow the classic phrase, “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

With so much to love about sports romance, it’s no wonder more authors are writing them. If you’re interested in writing sports romance, how do you begin? And how do you choose which sport to write about?

According to a poll by Heroes and Heartbreakers, hockey romances were the favorite among readers, followed by football, MMA and baseball.  Hoops, soccer and golf were further down the list, while motorsports and the Olympic sports didn’t make the cut at all.

So obviously, hockey and football are the best sports to write about, correct?  But what if you don’t know a puck from a ping-pong ball?

Take heart. And if you’d rather write about fencing…or figure skating… than football, go for it!

As with any setting, the sport in your sports romance must ring true.  Writing about a sport you love will help you avoid cringe-worthy mistakes that can pull genuine fans out of your story.  Know the correct terms for positions, equipment, scoring and whether games are divided into halves or quarters, periods, innings. As much as I love “The Cutting Edge,” it always bugs me that the Doug and Kate’s competitions are skated on darkened rinks, under spotlights.  That’s how it works for Disney on Ice, but not U.S. Nationals or the Winter Olympics.

Another way to find great details that bring your sports romance to life is to write about a sport you’ve played, even if it’s not at a professional level.

Image5I’m only a recreational figure skater, but I can describe the peculiar feeling of stepping onto the ice for the first time, and the unique aroma of rink stink. Unlike the skater hero in my new release, “Getting It Back,” I’ve never done a quadruple Salchow, but I have taken my share of falls, and know what it’s like to wake up sore and bruised the next day.

Another bonus of writing about a sport you play or follow, is that you may have an opportunity to talk with athletes and former athletes, which can make the sports details you do use that much more authentic.

But like chili powder and lip gloss, a little goes a long way.

Just as you wouldn’t load your story with minutia about the job of a pilot hero, or tax accountant heroine, you don’t need to do so with an athlete, either.  Exhaustive details about rules, training and even drawn out play-by-play scenes, aren’t necessary and can bog down your story.

Your sports romance is first and foremost a romance, which means the focus belongs on the relationship between the leads.  Nor does your story have to be all about the sport. Athletes have lives off the field, and its fine to center your story on other things, such as family issues, or to write about an athlete who is no longer competing because of injury or retirement.  In Turning It On, a former ice dancer turned male stripper struts his stuff on a steamy reality TV show, and finds love with a shy heroine, who sees the good man beneath the sexy swagger.

The best way to understand what sports romance is all about is by reading it.  Sport by sport, I’ve listed some suggested reads. If the book is part of a series, in most cases, I’ve listed book #1.



It Had to Be You- Susan Elizabeth Phillips                              

The Perfect Play- Jaci Burton

Rush Me- Allison Parr


Simply Irresistible- Rachel Gibson

Body Check- Deirdre Martin

Pink Pucks & Power Plays- V.L. Locey



Double Play-Jill Shalvis

Calling It- Jen Doyle

The Winning Season- Alison Packard


MMA, etc.

Causing Havoc- Lori Foster

Knock Out- Michelle Mannon


Olympic sports, motorsports, and more

Chasing Perfect- Susan Mallery (cycling)

Pairing Off- Elizabeth Harmon (figure skating)

Crossing the Ice- Jennifer Comeaux (figure skating)

Flat Out Sexy- Erin McCarthy (NASCAR)

Knowing the Score- Kat Latham (Rugby)

Running Interference- Elley Arden (women’s football)


So dive in and play ball. Here’s hoping your sports romance knocks it out of the park!


Bio: Elizabeth Harmon loves to read and write romances with a dash of different.

A graduate of the University of Illinois, she feels incredibly blessed to have a career that allows her to spend her days imagining “what if?” and a loving family that keeps her grounded in the real world.  She is the author of the Red Hot Russians figure skating romance series, published by Carina Press.  The series’ first book, “Pairing Off” is a 2016 RITA Finalist. Her latest book is Getting It Back, is an April release.

Visit her website, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.


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11 Responses to “Sports Romance Is More Than The Score By Elizabeth Harmon”

  1. Romance University, thanks for hosting me today. I’m a regular reader, so I’m happy to be here.

    FYI, Another great football series I meant to include is Tracy Solheim’s Out of Bounds series. Book #1 is “Game On.”

    Posted by Elizabeth Harmon | May 24, 2016, 7:40 am
  2. Morning Elizabeth!

    I’m a huge fan of SEP and her sports series with the Chicago Stars. I’ve also read Rachel Gibson and Deirdre Martin’s hockey series and loved those as well. Pretty amazing since I am not a sports fan at all!….=)

    Thanks for the great list of books – definitely headed off to Amazon!


    Posted by Carrie Peters | May 24, 2016, 8:41 am
  3. Great post. I’m a golf die-hard but haven’t found a book yet about golf that grabbed my interest. I’m still looking, though.

    Posted by Mercy | May 24, 2016, 9:25 am
  4. Hi Elizabeth,

    The first sports romances I read were Deirdre Martin’s hockey series and SEP’s Stars series. A good research source for sports is the Players Tribune. It’s a blog written by players from different professional sports teams and provides great insight on a more personal level.

    Thanks for blogging with us!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | May 25, 2016, 2:46 pm
  5. My first hockey romance was See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson. I’ve read all of hers, Deirdre Martin’s and SEP. As a huge hockey enthusiast/fan, I can’t tell you how many hockey romances I’ve started and couldn’t finish because the author didn’t get details right. At least find a fan and ask questions before writing something that will lose readers who do like/follow the sport.

    Good points, Elizabeth. Thanks for sharing. I like to think that sports romance is a contemporary romance in a unique setting with characters who have unique jobs.

    Posted by PJ Ryley | May 25, 2016, 8:51 pm


  1. […] romance can find books that feature athletes and the games they play.” Elizabeth Harmon, Romance University, May, […]

  2. […] Elizabeth Harmon – Sports Romance is More Than the Score […]

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