BookTok, ice hockey and the sporting world


Sport romance novels are taking BookTok by storm proving that what’s going on off the pitch is just as important

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Image by Fabien Perissinotto

By Orla McAndrew

The sporting world is vast, full of an array of sports and a plethora of ways to get involved. However, and this is a bold statement to make in the Sports section, noth-ing has ever really held my attention. Aside from bothering my dad while he was trying to watch rugby (sorry dad) and attempting to learn on the go whilst covering Roses last year my knowledge of sport is limited to say the least and I know I am not alone in this.

As a literature student, there is one area where my knowledge is thankfully not limited. Pair that with some light university work, procrastination, a Kindle Unlimited subscription, and a mild TikTok addiction and I entered the world of sports romance. BookTok has already played a huge part in how authors market their work and how readers share their love of novels. The hashtag #BookTok has been used in over 60 billion videos. This is also impacting the sales of books with authors that have a large following on TikTok generating more than $750 million in sales (according to Circana BookScan).

Books that have a strong focus on sports are even driving new fans into the stadiums. Potentially no sport has seen the impact of BookTok quite like ice hockey. From Hannah Grace’s Ice-breaker, to Stephanie Archer’s Behind the Netand of course Becka Mack’s Playing for Keepsseries. All the popular romance tropes (enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, best friend’s brother, grumpy sunshine, and the controver-sial surprise pregnancy) just hit different when set against the backdrop of an intense sporting competition.

I am well aware that a spicy sports book may not be considered the height of literature (I personally disagree with that statement) but the impact they are having on the sport-ing world cannot be disputed. For someone who has never taken an interest in sport, I have been introduced to a variety of new teams, cultures and a whole new world of sports.

Something hits different when you’re reading a book that pairs a fiery romance story with the intensity of ice hockey. Do I understand the rules of hockey? Not really. But I can’t say that you really need to when it comes to a sports romance. All it does is give you an insight into the sports and maybe means that I definitely have unrealistic expectations about the lives of sports players.

It’s not just the girls who are benefitting from the rise of sports romance, individual teams are making the most of the extra advertising. Over the summer the Seattle Kraken’s posted a thirst trap of one of their star players centre Alex Wennberg with the caption “when you accidentally become a Book-Tok account and now that’s all you can post.” This put Book-Tok in a shambles, finally one of the teams was not only engaging with them but encouraging their antics. However, this all went a little too far when the player’s wife spoke out about the hate she had been getting from BookTokers. One of the main accounts that had engaged with the Kraken’s apologised both publicly and privately and the majority of booktokers reiterated to their audience that BookTok should be a safe space for people to share their favourites, upcoming releases and just have fun.

The summer may have been all about ice hockey but as we settle into the cold winter months there is only one sport to read about; the NFL. This may have been helped by the relationship between global superstar Taylor Swift and the Chief ’s tight end Travis Kelce. This is a romance practically lifted off the pages, two seemingly opposites come together in a whirlwind of appearances at games, tours and restaurants before solidifying their place as relationship goals. It was obvious that they were going to get the BookTokers talking (and honestly I can’t blame them). So now the ‘it’ sport for BookTok is American Football, but who’s to say what will come next? What is for certain though, is that the romance genre will keep focusing on the sporting world and hopefully help the popularity of some more teams and sports rise.