The Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce effect? Why sports romance stories are hot right now

Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift

 

There was a moment early in Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s relationship that seemed like it was plucked straight out of a romance book.

 

Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift

Swift was attending her first Kansas City Chiefs game, cheering for her new lover in a box seat at Arrowhead Stadium. A camera landed on Kelce just as he looked up, noticed her, and broke out into a grin while slowly shaking his head as if to say, “I can’t believe she’s here.”

The Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce effect? Why sports romance stories are hot right now
Hannah Yasharoff
USA TODAY

There was a moment early in Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s relationship that seemed like it was plucked straight out of a romance book.

Swift was attending her first Kansas City Chiefs game, cheering for her new lover in a box seat at Arrowhead Stadium. A camera landed on Kelce just as he looked up, noticed her, and broke out into a grin while slowly shaking his head as if to say, “I can’t believe she’s here.”

It was straight out of a romance novel, according to Tessa Bailey, who knows a thing or two about what makes a successful romance. She’s the author of dozens of best-selling romance novels, including a new series of love stories starring athletes.

“As a romance author, it’s almost too good to be true. It’s been so interesting to watch the way he’s behaving like a romance hero,” Bailey says, referencing little moments between Kelce and Swift that have played out in viral video clips.

In the literary world, sports romances are having a Cinderella moment of their own. Is the word’s fascination with a certain pop star and football player’s relationship to blame?

The Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce effect? Why sports romance stories are hot right now
Hannah Yasharoff
USA TODAY

There was a moment early in Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s relationship that seemed like it was plucked straight out of a romance book.

Swift was attending her first Kansas City Chiefs game, cheering for her new lover in a box seat at Arrowhead Stadium. A camera landed on Kelce just as he looked up, noticed her, and broke out into a grin while slowly shaking his head as if to say, “I can’t believe she’s here.”

It was straight out of a romance novel, according to Tessa Bailey, who knows a thing or two about what makes a successful romance. She’s the author of dozens of best-selling romance novels, including a new series of love stories starring athletes.

“As a romance author, it’s almost too good to be true. It’s been so interesting to watch the way he’s behaving like a romance hero,” Bailey says, referencing little moments between Kelce and Swift that have played out in viral video clips.

In the literary world, sports romances are having a Cinderella moment of their own. Is the word’s fascination with a certain pop star and football player’s relationship to blame?

Check out: USA TODAY’s weekly Best-selling Booklist

Find your next bookSee the USA TODAY Best-selling books list

Where did sports romance novels come from?
Athlete-centered romance novels historically have been more popular in self-publishing than traditional publishing, according to KT Hoffman, author of “The Prospects,” which debuted this spring through top publishing company Penguin Random House.

Hoffman began writing his enemies-to-lovers romance about two minor league baseball players in 2018, and sold the book in spring of 2022, all before the sports romance craze really took off.

To Leah Koch, co-owner of romance bookstore The Ripped Bodice, sports romances have seen steady popularity among her hardcore romance readers over the last eight years or so. But to the general public, hockey romances really took off last year, thanks at least in part to “Icebreaker” by Hannah Grace, a romance starring an ice skater and a hockey player. Since then, other similar stories have gone viral on a corner of TikTok referred to as #BookTok.

“That’s part of what’s so great about romance: People are like, ‘oh, ice hockey romance is a thing?’ And you turn around and discover that not only is it a thing, but you have, like, 50 books that you can read,” Koch says.

Off the ice, more authors are gaining traction with books for other sports: baseball, soccer, basketball and, yes, football. What is it about athletes that writers — and readers — keep being drawn to as love interests?

“The most compelling thing about athletes is that confidence and drive that you have to have in order to be a successful athlete,” Hoffman says. “You have to have worked at it your whole life. … Characters who really want something are inherently going to make an interesting narrative.”

The Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce effect? Why sports romance stories are hot right now
Hannah Yasharoff
USA TODAY

There was a moment early in Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s relationship that seemed like it was plucked straight out of a romance book.

Swift was attending her first Kansas City Chiefs game, cheering for her new lover in a box seat at Arrowhead Stadium. A camera landed on Kelce just as he looked up, noticed her, and broke out into a grin while slowly shaking his head as if to say, “I can’t believe she’s here.”

It was straight out of a romance novel, according to Tessa Bailey, who knows a thing or two about what makes a successful romance. She’s the author of dozens of best-selling romance novels, including a new series of love stories starring athletes.

“As a romance author, it’s almost too good to be true. It’s been so interesting to watch the way he’s behaving like a romance hero,” Bailey says, referencing little moments between Kelce and Swift that have played out in viral video clips.

In the literary world, sports romances are having a Cinderella moment of their own. Is the word’s fascination with a certain pop star and football player’s relationship to blame?

Check out: USA TODAY’s weekly Best-selling Booklist

Find your next bookSee the USA TODAY Best-selling books list

Where did sports romance novels come from?
Athlete-centered romance novels historically have been more popular in self-publishing than traditional publishing, according to KT Hoffman, author of “The Prospects,” which debuted this spring through top publishing company Penguin Random House.

Hoffman began writing his enemies-to-lovers romance about two minor league baseball players in 2018, and sold the book in spring of 2022, all before the sports romance craze really took off.

To Leah Koch, co-owner of romance bookstore The Ripped Bodice, sports romances have seen steady popularity among her hardcore romance readers over the last eight years or so. But to the general public, hockey romances really took off last year, thanks at least in part to “Icebreaker” by Hannah Grace, a romance starring an ice skater and a hockey player. Since then, other similar stories have gone viral on a corner of TikTok referred to as #BookTok.

“That’s part of what’s so great about romance: People are like, ‘oh, ice hockey romance is a thing?’ And you turn around and discover that not only is it a thing, but you have, like, 50 books that you can read,” Koch says.

“The Au Pair Affair” by Tessa Bailey
Off the ice, more authors are gaining traction with books for other sports: baseball, soccer, basketball and, yes, football. What is it about athletes that writers — and readers — keep being drawn to as love interests?

“The most compelling thing about athletes is that confidence and drive that you have to have in order to be a successful athlete,” Hoffman says. “You have to have worked at it your whole life. … Characters who really want something are inherently going to make an interesting narrative.”

How authors are aiming to change the game
In the past, most sports romances centered around a male athlete and a woman usually unattached to the sports world. There’s a growing number of authors looking to shake up that trope now.

There’s “How You Get The Girl” by Anita Kelly, a sapphic romance between a high school girl’s basketball coach and a former WNBA star. Rachel Reid’s “Time to Shine,” about a hockey team’s superstar and backup goalie. Meryl Wilsner’s “Cleat Cute,” starring two members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, which athlete power couple Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe’s production company recently acquired to turn into a TV show.