As the Winter Olympics comes to a close, here is a salute to women athletes.
Jackie Horne of Romance Novels for Feminists (a great blog by the way) asks Where are all the female athletes? in romance.
Here are my thoughts on this question.
Many romance readers tend to be more interested in heroes than heroines. Thus, the complexity of a women character who has dedicated herself to a sport is not as engaging as a foil for the hero as other heroine might be. This circumstance is ironic as the same readers complain about the weakness of female characters.
Also, male athletes have long been sex symbols and objects of fantasy from the jocks of middle school and high school to the professional in the high paying sports. Therefore, we have a glut of male football and baseball players in the genre in particular.
Part of the fantasy fulfillment in the genre is pairing this prime male with the less likely female so female athlete to male athlete is rare. Part of what I liked about Blitzing Emily by Julie Brannagh was that a high powered football male player was matched with a high powered female opera singer (a kind of athlete really) and part of the love story was balancing their demanding routines.
The female athlete in our culture holds an ever changing place. For a long time, she was seen as masculine or lesbian or tomboy or some swirl of all that. This is not typical the stuff of a MF romance pairing. Too bad. FF romances are increasing but not at the same rate of MM. I love a great tomboy heroine and just messing with gender in general. See my adoration of Fried Green Tomatoes and Some Kind of Wonderful in film and Painted Faces and The Promise of Jenny Jones in romance.
Also, in some cases, the female athlete in high school and college is the popular girl. Popular girl with popular guy is very uncommon trope in romance. The popular girl needs to have suffered a great deal in most cases.
The possibilities of being a professional female athlete are blooming and we see that romance novelists are following this possibility slowly as well.
As the viewpoint on females in sport widens, we now have sexpot women sport stars and female race car drivers and hockey players with a spectrum of gender presentations and sexualities, so does the the kind of heroines we get.
Just some thoughts.
For me, reading in this genre is about the relationship. I adore the hero and the heroine equally and really value the space created in between them. Female athlete heroines offer a wonderful foundation for character development in a love story.
If you would like to read some great books with these kind of heroines, here is some recommendations.
1. Pride, Prejudice, And Curling Rocks by Andrea Brokaw (Curling)
2. MacRieve by Kresley Cole (Soccer)
3. The Derby Girl by Tamara Morgan (Roller Derby)
4. Lean on Me by HelenKay Dimon (Mountain Climbing)
5. Bear Meets Girl by Shelly Laurenston (Boxer/Hockey)
6. Game. Set. Match. by Jennifer Iacopelli (Tennis)
7. Cover of Night: A Novel by Linda Howard (Rock Climbing)
8. Broken Trails by Jordan Redhawk (Dog Sledding)
9. One Night in the Spa by Kathy Lyons (Cycling)
10. Issy's Infatuation by Shelley Munro (Rugby)
11. Her Secret Fling by Sarah Mayberry (Swimmer)
12. Offside by Juliana Stone (Hockey) Free!
13. Battered Not Broken by Ranae Rose (MMA)
14. After Wimbledon by Jennifer Gilby Roberts (Tennis) Free!
15. On Thin Ice by Susan Andersen (Ice Skating)
16. Summer's End: A Novel by Kathleen Gilles Seidel (Ice Skating)
17. Below the Belt by Sarah Mayberry (Boxer)
18. Right Touch by Eileen Nauman (Fencing)
19. Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally (Football)
20. Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally (Softball)
21. Remember Summer by Elizabeth Lowell (Endurance)
22. Bite Me by Shelly Laurenston (Roller Derby)
23. Got Game? by Stephanie Doyle (Golfer)
24.The Mane Squeeze by Shelly Laurenston (Roller Derby)
25. Beast Behaving Badly by Shelly Laurenston (Roller Derby)
26. Ride with Me by Ruthie Knox (Long Distance Biking)
27. The Games by Patricia McLinn (Biathlete, Ice Skater)
Do you have a favorite female athlete in Romance? Please share!
If you would like to vote for the best of the best of the sports heroines, go to this Goodreads list: Working Up a Sweat: Female Athletes in Romance.
Please enjoy some amazing images of women in sports on my Pinterest Board: Working Up a Sweat: Female Athletes in Romance.