The Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce Effect: Why Sports Romance Stories Are Hot Right Now

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

Swift attended her first Kansas City Chiefs game, cheering for her new beau from a box seat at Arrowhead Stadium. As a camera panned to Kelce, he looked up, noticed her, and broke into a grin, shaking his head in disbelief, as if to say, “I can’t believe she’s here.”

Tessa Bailey, a best-selling romance author with a series of athlete-themed love stories, remarked on how this real-life scene mirrored a romantic tale. “As a romance author, it’s almost too good to be true. It’s been fascinating to watch him behave like a romance hero,” Bailey says, referencing the viral moments between Kelce and Swift.

In the literary world, sports romances are having their own Cinderella moment. Could the public’s fascination with the pop star and the football player’s relationship be influencing this trend?

Where Did Sports Romance Novels Come From?

Athlete-centered romance novels have historically found more success in self-publishing than traditional publishing, according to KT Hoffman, author of “The Prospects,” which debuted this spring through Penguin Random House.

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

Leah Koch, co-owner of the romance bookstore The Ripped Bodice, notes that sports romances have been steadily popular among hardcore romance readers for about eight years. However, the genre gained broader public attention last year, partly due to “Icebreaker” by Hannah Grace, a romance between an ice skater and a hockey player. The book went viral on TikTok, specifically in the #BookTok community.

“That’s part of what’s so great about romance,” Koch says. “People are like, ‘Oh, ice hockey romance is a thing?’ And then you discover there are 50 books you can read.”

Off the Ice and Onto the Field

Beyond ice hockey, other sports are gaining traction in romance novels, including baseball, soccer, basketball, and football. What makes athletes such compelling romantic leads?

“The most compelling thing about athletes is the confidence and drive necessary to succeed,” Hoffman says. “Characters who really want something inherently make for interesting narratives.”

Changing the Game

Traditionally, sports romances centered around a male athlete and a woman outside the sports world. Now, more authors are shaking up this trope.

Anita Kelly’s “How You Get The Girl” features a sapphic romance between a high school basketball coach and a former WNBA star. Rachel Reid’s “Time to Shine” explores the relationship between a hockey team’s superstar and its backup goalie. Meryl Wilsner’s “Cleat Cute” stars two members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and is being adapted into a TV show by Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe’s production company.

Hoffman’s goal with “The Prospects” was to write queer characters doing “incredible, huge things” while still being relatable. As a younger person unaware of his own trans identity, Hoffman notes that reading a book centered on trans joy and love would have been life-changing.

“I wasn’t fully aware that trans men existed until college,” Hoffman says. “There still aren’t many trans people in adult romance, and that’s significant because romance is about joy and being worthy of love. It would have changed my perspective on life.”

The Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce Effect

Is the Swift and Kelce romance fueling the sports romance trend? Not entirely, experts say. Traditional publishing moves too slowly for their relationship, less than a year old, to be the sole cause.

When Hoffman began writing “The Prospects,” he was warned it might not sell well. After selling it in 2022, there was a hint it might be on-trend.

With shows like “Ted Lasso” and books like “Icebreaker” gaining popularity, sports-themed romances became more prevalent.

“I’m lucky to be hitting the niche at the right time, but you can’t predict trends when you start writing,” Hoffman says. “Everything takes so long.”

Still, amid the Swift and Kelce frenzy, Koch notes that nothing happens in a vacuum. Fans could easily watch a cute moment between Swift and Kelce and then seek out similar love stories in books.

Bailey and Hoffman anticipate that the interest in Swift and Kelce’s real-life romance will lead to a surge in sports romances. Bailey, who initially planned just two sports romances, now has seven athlete-centric stories in the works.

“The fascination with them highlights why we find sports romances interesting,” Hoffman says. Readers enjoy rooting for an athlete’s success both on the field and in love, and they can do so in real time with this real-life rom-com. Even with the NFL offseason, fans can find more love stories to root for on bookshelves.

“There’s an awareness in publishing that hopeful books are popular because the world is bleak right now,” Hoffman adds. “Even if publishing couldn’t predict the specifics, it’s no surprise that people are writing about hope through the lens of sports, which are celebratory and communal experiences.”

Related Articles