There are a few things that are distinctly American: baseball, apple pie, and football. Every Sunday during winter, Americans glue their eyes to the TV to watch the players—ahem—the game. For some, football means strategy and sportsmanship. For others, it means keeping an eye out for the sexy players as they flex their muscles and show off unparalleled athleticism.
For those who fantasize over romances with these players and those who simply like the idea of a romance involving an athlete (with a tight end), these football romance books are absolute hits. From love triangles to love-hate relationships to the best-friend-turned-something-more trope, these books are truly a catch.
The Matchmaker's Playbook
In The Matchmaker’s Playbook, a dating service goes awry when the mastermind behind it falls in love with a client. Ian Hunter’s chances of going to the NFL are ruined after an injury, so he puts his time and attention into his successful dating service, Wingmen Inc. One customer needs a bit more TLC than the others, forcing Ian to spend extra time with her than the average client. Inevitably, they forge a strong connection and Ian wonders if it’s worth breaking the service’s only rule: don’t fall in love with the clients.
Van Dyken’s wildly successful first novel in the Wingmen Inc. series was adapted as a streamable movie by PassionFlix this past March. It stars Caitlin Carver as Blake and Nick Bateman as Ian, and it’s available to watch on Amazon.
The Crash trilogy is a New York Times bestseller, so you know that the romance still sizzles long after the first book ends. Jude Ryder quite literally runs into Lucy Larson on the beach one summer afternoon after a football pass goes awry. Even though they fight at first, they soon realize just how much they have in common. Both are passionate, named after Beatles songs, and are overly committed to their crafts: for Jude, it’s football. For Lucy, it’s dance. Though Jude grows to care for Lucy in ways he never could have imagined, his quick temper and long rap sheet might be enough to keep them apart.
The New Adult series begins with Jude and Lucy in their final year of high school, but ends with Jude in the NFL and Lucy in the workforce post-college. It’s a great fit for anyone who is looking for a read that represents college and graduate life, since so many books tend to skip over that period. The couple struggles with jealousy and distance, but the conclusion of the series demonstrates their maturity and newfound commitment to family.
The Wall of Winnipeg and Me
In this slow-burn Amazon bestseller, Zapata explores the complicated nature of a football player both on and off the field. Vanessa Mazur was the assistant to the NFL’s top defensive end, but she quits after he proves to be a terror to work for. His tough nature earned him the nickname, “The Wall of Winnipeg.” That’s why she couldn’t be more surprised when he shows up at her door begging her to come back.
But Vanessa isn’t just going to resume working for her tough boss just because he flashed some vulnerability. This novel will have you wondering who the real professional strategizer is.
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Kenneally’s eight-novel Hundred Oaks series features a star athlete protagonist from a different sport in each. In the first of the series, Jordan Woods is the first female quarterback in her high school’s history. She’s on track to play at a Division 1 college— as long as she doesn’t get distracted. Enter Ty Green, the new kid who’s vying for Jordan’s heart and her starting spot.
Catching Jordan is an empowering football read, as Jordan is beating all the guys at a sport that generally excludes women. And the twist is that the true romance of the novel isn’t between Jordan and Ty, but is instead with someone that Jordan has known all her life.
The Bombshell Effect
Sorensen’s novel puts the fantasy in fantasy football. When Allie Sutton’s dad dies, he leaves her in control of the football team he owned. But one player isn’t happy about it. Luke Pierson is afraid that Allie doesn’t know what she’s doing, which could put the team in jeopardy of losing the Super Bowl.
Luke will soon find that he was wrong to underestimate Allie, especially when she’s in charge of his future. Their arguments and subsequent romance prove the age-old adage that there truly is a thin line between love and hate.
I Dare You
Truth or dare takes gets an adult makeover in I Dare You. When the most sought-after football player in the country, Maverick Monroe, dares Delaney Shaw to spend a night with him, the opportunity seems too good to pass up. But when the news of their secret tryst gets out, Delaney wonders if her vow to stay away from athletes is about to be broken.
Nerdy Delaney and suave Maverick are a true case of opposites attract, and like their romance, this steamy read is irresistible. Delaney’s refusal to get caught up in the idea of dating an athlete is refreshing for a football romance, proving that the pair is really an excellent match.
The witty titles in this series should be reasons enough to read the books. In the first novel in the OHellNo Series, high school enemies meet again in college and take their friendship to the next level. Tass’s book smarts don’t translate to romance, which is why football recruit Hunter Johnson found her to be an easy target for his mean jokes in high school. As they navigate through college life, Tass wants to get even.
Smart Tass is filled with laugh-out-loud comedic moments, but the romance is still on point. The love-hate relationship between Tass and Hunter is a romance novel staple, but it’s still fresh as the characters have to depend on one another as they adapt to the college difficulties.
Game for Marriage
Starving artist Sheridan Harper’s finances are at an all-time low when a pro football player’s publicist makes her a proposition: marry quarterback Jared Quinn so the tabloids can leave him alone. His reputation as a ladies’ man has landed him in hot water—and in the presses—making his coach wonder if he is too unfocused to remain on the team. Sheridan’s public displays of goodwill, like working charity functions and volunteering,are just what Jared needs to get back on his team’s good side.
Even though their relationship is supposed to be a sham, Jared and Sheridan cannot deny their mutual connection, but the contracts they signed can. For readers looking for a book with less angst than the typical romance novel, Game for Marriage will be a perfect fit.
Playing for Keeps
A journalist whose last assignment took her to combat zones in Iraq, Samantha Jameson is looking forward to a change of scenery for her newest task: reporting on a pro football team. Her college crush, Ryan Terell, is on the team, which makes it a lot harder for her to stay focused.
But when Samantha discovers that some of Ryan’s teammates have been taking steroids, she’s forced to report on the incident, breaking their trust. With a seemingly irrevocable broken relationship, a scary injury might be the only thing that can bring them back together. In Playing for Keeps, escalating tensions and conflicts are juxtaposed with the lighthearted banter between Ryan and Samantha.
Football romance and second-chance romance are effortlessly united in Fraternize, the first in the Players Game series. Plus-size cheerleader Emerson makes the squad for her favorite pro football team, but there’s only one problem: the guy she loved back in high school plays football there. The pair left on bad terms, and sharing a field reignites forgotten feelings. A love triangle also stands in the way of bringing the possibly meant-to-be couple back together.
The twist ending makes Fraternize different from other football romances and will make you want to jump right into the sequel—Infraction. Everything is not as it seems for Emerson and her football player crush, showing that sometimes high school romances should really just remain in high school.
Featured photo: Riley McCullough / Unsplash