Okay, I know this sounds a little un-American, but I have to admit it: I hate football. I hate the body-crushing violence; the eardrum-piercing noise; the astronomical salaries; and the national adulation of the sport. So you can imagine my surprise when, during a moment of reflection, I realized that some of my favorite romances are about football.
I blame Susan Elizabeth Phillips.
Phillips could take a story about a man who spends his days making mud pies, and a woman who designs condominiums for snails, and turn it into a best-selling romance novel. In my case, she took something I truly can’t stand and created a series to which I’m hopelessly addicted.
Susan’s romance novels feature the Chicago Stars, a professional football team, and I was hooked from book number one, It Had to Be You. Phoebe Somerville maintains a façade of all glitz and no substance. Then she inherits the Chicago Stars. Once she starts going head-to-head with Coach Dan Calebow, the real Phoebe shines through, and the reason for her masquerade surfaces. As an added bonus, this book has one of the most gratifying revenge scenes you’ll ever read.
Although I adore the whole Chicago Stars series, I do have my favorites, namely Nobody’s Baby But Mine and Heaven, Texas.
Physicist Jane Darlington, the heroine of Nobody’s Baby But Mine, is a genius. Because of her super intelligence, she had an awful childhood, feeling like a stranger in a strange land. Jane decides that now is the best time to have that baby she wants, but she doesn’t want a relationship, and she definitely doesn’t want a child with an IQ as high as hers. Using fuzzy math logic and a firm belief in a bad stereotype, she determines the father of her child needs to be a “dumb jock.” That way, she figures, the infant’s IQ would average out to, well, average. Football star Cal Bonner seems to fit the bill perfectly. But after her successful seduction of the popular athlete, she discovers, much to her horror, that Cal is actually really, really smart.
In Heaven, Texas, wallflower Gracie Snow, who’s spent her entire adult life working in a nursing home, is tapped to babysit bad boy, ex-football star, Bobby Tom Denton. Her assignment is to keep him out of trouble (and in one piece) until the movie he’s supposed to star in begins production. Of course, it’s easier to herd cats than keep Bobby Tom in line, but, much to everyone’s surprise—including hers—it actually looks as though she’s going to succeed. The trouble is, while she’s trying to make him behave more maturely, he’s trying to make her see that underneath the drabness, she’s a beautiful woman, and somewhere in the middle, they realize they’re perfect for each other.
If you haven’t already read Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Chicago Stars books, I highly recommend that you do. Here’s a rundown of the entire series in order, with brief descriptions of the titles that aren’t summarized above:
It Had to Be You (1994)
Heaven, Texas (1995)
Nobody’s Baby But Mine (1997)
Dream a Little Dream (1998)
Struggling single mom Rachel Stone, the pariah widow of an infamous, thieving televangelist, is given a much-needed second chance by former football player Gabe Bonner.
This Heart of Mine
Despite his own best efforts, quarterback Kevin Tucker falls for eccentric children’s book illustrator, creator of Daphne the Bunny, Molly Somerville.
Match Me If You Can (2005)
Annabelle Granger wants powerful sports agent Heath Champion as a high-profile customer to ensure the success of her matchmaking business.
Natural Born Charmer (2007)
When Blue Bailey moves to Colorado to be with her lover, she discovers that he’s moved on, with a younger woman. Blue’s only way forward seems to be with Dean Robillard, a quarterback who’s charming to everyone but her.
Once Susan Elizabeth Phillips convinced me that “football” and “good romance” could be used in the same sentence, I’ve broadened my reading choices to other books about the game. Just a few of my discoveries include:
Here I Am, by Rochelle Alers
The Homecoming, by Robyn Carr
Hot Item, by Carly Phillips
The Matchmakers, by Debbie Macomber
Not Another Bad Date, by Rachel Gibson
The Sweet Spot, by Susan Mallery
And Gena Showalter’s Black and Blue, which gives football a paranormal twist.
So while the rest of the world yells and screams at the television set, I’ll be sitting in my comfy chair reading a football romance.
Thank you, Susan Elizabeth Phillips.