Friday, May 7, 2010

Guest Blogger Susan Mallery: Why Athletes Make Such Yummy Heroes

(And It's Not Why You Think)

by Kate Carlisle

I'm thrilled to welcome my friend, bestselling author Susan Mallery to the lair today! Susan's latest series, Fool's Gold romances, launched recently with the release of Chasing Perfect. As always she managed to make me laugh throughout the book while delivering a story with a real emotional punch.

Welcome, Susan!

Admit it. You saw the title of this post – Why Athletes Make Such Yummy Heroes – and your mind immediately went to the muscles. Then, of course, you lingered. Because seriously, who wouldn’t want to linger a while on an athlete’s muscles? The long, lean muscles of an Olympic swimmer, the shadowed hills and valleys of a football player’s arms...Sigh.

But I honestly don’t believe that muscles are the most important reason why we love our athlete heroes so much. It goes deeper than that. The contemporary athlete hero archetype has a lot in common with knights and warriors of days gone by. These are leaders of men, conquerors.

Here are just a few of the traits I find so appealing.


When a man excels at something, his confidence soars in all areas of his life, and a confident man is a good man to have around. There’s something very appealing about a little swagger. He’s not afraid to try new things. No, our athlete relishes the opportunity to conquer new challenges, to learn new skills. Confidence puts a sparkle in a man’s eye. When he flirts, no woman can resist his charms.

Work ethic

A professional athlete rises to the top of his profession after a lifetime of practice and hard work. Lucky is the woman who is on the receiving end that focus and dedication! An athlete hero is a terrific lover – he won’t quit, by God, until he gets the job done!

Sportsmanlike behavior

The athlete hero we admire is a true gentleman, in sport and in life. He won’t do anything to win – he draws the line at breaking the rules. He wants to win, but honorably.

This sense of honor extends to other areas of his life. Or at least, it does in my books. In real life, we sometimes hear about not-so-honorable athletes. I read an article in which Tiger Woods says that he is doing the very best that he can. I don’t want to beat Tiger up any more than he has been, but that statement just strikes me as odd. How can you try not to sleep with women who are not your wife, then fail? Major disconnect there!

When an athlete hero makes a commitment, he keeps it. He doesn’t cheat. He doesn’t lie. And if a woman happens to best him in verbal battle, he accepts defeat with a sense of humor… and renewed determination to take her down next time they spar.


Our hero has been part of a team since he was a small child starting out in organized sports. So when he falls in love, he immediately accepts that he and his woman are a team. He has her back. They work together, and he will gladly carry his share of the load. He looks out for her. When she looks overworked or tired, he’ll make sure she takes a time-out. He will do anything to protect his love (and their children, when the time comes.) The sense of security that comes with knowing a man will do anything to protect you is lovely.

And okay, yes, the muscles

I will confess, the muscles are a very nice bonus! The hero of Chasing Perfect, the first Fool’s Gold romance, is a champion cyclist in the vein of Lance Armstrong. Josh Golden won two yellow shirts in the Tour de France. He made a good living as a cyclist, but he became rich through endorsement contracts. Advertisers know the selling power of a cyclist’s muscular, uh… legs.

Poor Charity Jones can’t escape Josh no matter where she goes – the women of Fool’s Gold have posters of him all over town. Charity’s assistant even has a Josh Golden screensaver. I’ll let you read the book to discover exactly what the screensaver shows… and why it makes Charity blush.

Visit the Fool’s Gold website,, to learn more about Josh, Charity, and the rest of the gang in The Land of Happy Endings. While you’re there, send a free epostcard to a friend!

Who are some of your favorite athlete heroes? Why do you like them so much? Which athletes in real life do you think would make good romance novel heroes? Why?


Jane said...


Jane said...

Hi Susan,
Congrats on the new release. I'm looking forward to your Fool's Gold series. I love athlete heroes like the hockey hero from Deirdre Martin's "Power Play" and Jill Shalvis' baseball heroes in "Double Play" and "Slow Heat." I think Derek Jeter from the NY Yankees would make a great romance novel hero. He's good looking, a great player and team leader. He's polite and has great manners and has a reputation as a playboy.

Donna MacMeans said...

My favorite athlete hero is my husband (grin).. He was an All-State football player when I met him.

I don't follow sports enough to know who would make a good athlete hero, but if you have some that need tested - give me a call (grin). Sounds like a fun series, Susan.

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Kim in Hawaii said...

My favorite athletes are military men - lean, mean, fighting machines! Last month, I was driving through Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) in Kaneohe Bay. The drill team was practicing in the gorgeous sun. These handsome young men were wearing the "uniform" tank tops, shorts, and gloves (to keep them proficient when in full military dress). It was quite the sight to see their muscles as they practiced twirling the guns! They would give the Cabana Boys a run for their money at a romance convention.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Jane, one chook for you!

Susan, he won't quit till he gets the job done? Excuse me while I fan myself down here in Oz!

Welcome! I've been so looking forward to your visit! Here, have a cabana boy. We make sure they get their workouts so they might help you with your research. Oh, who am I kidding?

I love your athlete heroes and I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips's athlete heroes! Yay to both of you.

In real life, Christine Wells had a little rave about the wonderful John Eales in a post on the Romance Dish this week. John Eales led the Australian Rugby side to a world cup victory and he was a credit to his nation. Someone else I always admired very much was Pat Rafter, the tennis player. Modest, funny, cute - and inclined to call a spade a spade without resorting to those awful catch phrases you hear so often when athletes are interviewed. I remember someone interviewing him after he lost a major tournament once about why he'd lost. He looked at the guy like he was an idiot and said, "Because my opponent played better than I did." Oh, don't you just love it? Well, I did. We had a string of singlet ads on bus stops featuring the lovely Pat. I've never been so happy catching public transport in my life, snort!

Kim in Hawaii said...

I thought of an athlete hero who I admire - Terry Fox.

From an essay by Andy on

"Terry Fox lost his leg to cancer when he was a teenager. While in the hospital going through chemo, he was affected by the amount of suffering in the cancer ward and decided that, in his words, "Somewhere the hurting must stop." He decided to run across Canada to raise funds for cancer research here in Canada. During this run, the "Marathon of Hope," Fox ran 28-30 miles per day on one real leg and one artificial leg.

Halfway across, outside Thunder Bay Ontario, the cancer spread to his lungs. A few months later he died. He lifted a nation through his courage and tenacity. To this day, every first weekend in September there is a Terry Fox Run."

I learned about Terry Fox during my NATO assignment in Germany - the Canadians sponsored the Terry Fox run on the NATO base. 10 years later, my husband worked for NATO in the Netherlands and my son attended the International School. He learned about Terry Fox from his Canadian teachers.

Terry's mother was one of the notable Canadians who carried the Olympic Torch during the Opening Ceremonies in Vancouver. Terry's story remains heartbreaking and heartwarming as his legacy continues to inspire us all.

Laurie said...

Favorite athletes:
Ex-speedskaters Eric Heiden, Beth Heiden, Dan Jansen, Bonnie Blair

Ex -hockey player now coach Mark Johnson
and Hockey player Chris Chelios

I'll always love Brett Favre who ever he plays for.

I also admire Lance Armstrong, Dara Torres, and Apolo Anton Ohno.

PJ said...

Welcome to the lair, Susan! I'm a long-time fan of your books and can't wait to start reading Chasing Perfect.

One of my favorite football players, Warrick Dunn was just 18 years old in 1993 when his single mother, a policewoman, was killed in the line of duty. He took on the task of raising his younger siblings, keeping them in school and on the straight and narrow while he was also in school, and playing football, at Florida State University. At FSU, he was an exemplary student and stand-out running back who graduated with a bachelors degree and still holds many school football records. Drafted into the NFL in the first round by Tampa Bay, he was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and went on to be named to the Pro Bowl three times. But, while he flew like the wind on the football field, what I most admire about him is what he's done off the field.

He wasn't seduced by the lavish professional athlete lifestyle and didn't forget the struggles of his single mom when he became a multi-millionaire pro football player. One of the first things he did was to found the Warrick Dunn Foundation and Home for the Holidays Program to help struggling single parents buy homes. To date, he has helped 93 single parents in Florida, Georgia and his home state of Louisiana. He provides the down payment and works with local businesses to completely furnish their new homes. A couple years ago, he joined 12 other athletes to found Athletes for Hope, an organization that helps pro athletes and fans get involved in charitable causes.

Warrick Dunn is my athlete hero.

Helen said...

Well done Jane what are your plans for him today?

Great post I love those pictures and yes the muscles got me in LOL.

I love sport and I have to say I agree with Anna on Pat Rafter one of the nicest Aussie Tennis players and nice on the eyes as well. I follow rugby league and some of these guys are so nice and do so much for the community and of course there is Glenn McGrath the great Australian cricketer that does so much for women suffering with breast cancer here after losing his wife to it in my eyes he is a hero.

Unfortunatley I haven't read many romances with sports stars in them I think I need to change that.

Congrats on the release Susan and thank you very much Kate for inviting Susan along to meet us today.

Have Fun

SusanMallery said...

Good morning! Kate, thank you so much for inviting me to play with the Banditas today. Fun!

Jane, congratulations on being the first to comment! There's a rooster involved, if I remember right.

Derek Jeter does seem lovely. I love the idea of a hero like him in a book. In the book, of course, he would give up his playboy ways in a heartbeat when he met the right woman.

SusanMallery said...

Donna, LOL! You're a lucky woman! So in books, do you find yourself gravitating toward athlete heroes because you're in love with an athlete in real life?

Kim, oooooh, you paint a nice picture! You're right, military men are certainly athletic. Must've been quite a sight to watch them working out in the sunlight.

SusanMallery said...

Anna, Thank you for the warm welcome. I didn't realize my visit came with gifts... My cabana boy is perfect. Just the right size! Thank you!

I'd never heard of either of the athletes you mentioned, so I had to look them up.

John Eales - It's hard to believe shoulders like that occur in nature. Wow!

Pat Rafter - Yes. Yes. Yes.

SusanMallery said...

Kim, WOW, what a story! Thank you so much for sharing that. There are incredible people in the world. Imagine, he was running about 30 miles per day... every day... while battling cancer!

SusanMallery said...

Hi, Laurie! Thanks for posting. I love Apolo Ohno! First of all, his name is fabulous... and then he turns out to be such a talented, charismatic guy. A perfect match for the name.

PJ, thank you for the warm welcome! It's so good to be here. The Romance Bandits is one of my favorite stops when I go on blog tour because you're so fun and active and ready to get into the conversation. I love it here!

Warrick Dunn is amazing. He exemplifies everything I love about honorable men. He is strong and masculine, protective, caring... and of course, rich and handsome. :) The choices he has made in his life are testament to the mother he lost far too early.

SusanMallery said...

Hi, Helen! Isn't that terrific, that Glenn McGrath took up the cause of breast cancer after losing his wife to it? So sad, but he's using that sadness to help others. He is a true hero.

Scorpio M. said...

Rachel Gibson's hockey series has great athletic heroes. Love her latest, NOTHING BUT TROUBLE. Pamela Clare's, NAKED EDGE hero, Gabe Rossiter (I LOVE him!) is a world-class rock climber and there are several scenes featuring his athletic prowess. Sexy.

In real life, I am a big baseball fan. I think Joe Mauer (Catcher/MN Twins) is the classic All-American, good guy, handsome, classy. Nick Swisher (RF/NY Yankees) is so cute, sweet & funny with a great bod! And even though he's married to a supermodel & I don't like the Patriots, Tom Brady is a pretty darn good-looking QB.

PJ said...

Anna, I always enjoyed watching Pat Rafter play tennis. Heck, I just enjoyed watching Pat Rafter. He's definitely easy on the eyes! :)

Beth said...

Welcome back to the lair, Susan! Your Fool's Gold series sounds fabulous *g*

And for those of you who haven't checked out Susan's Fool's Gold website, I highly recommend you click on the link in the post! It's a fantastic site and so much fun :-)

I love hearing about everyone's favorite athletes! I can't say as I have a favorite but there are plenty I admire for their athletic abilities as well as their dedication to helping others *g*

Karyn Gerrard AKA~Drew said...

Hi Susan!

I am reading "Hot on her Heels" as we speak, loving it!

As a Canadian, I would agree with Kim about Terry Fox, he was an inspiration to the whole nation.

For my own personal self, I am going with the entire line-up of the Boston Red Sox, Mike Lowell in particular.
Mike had grit, guts, plus, he is as cute as the dickens.

All the best for your release!

Keira of LoveRomancePassion said...

One reason I like athlete heroes is because an athlete hero is a good loser, he accepts defeat with grace instead of sour grapes and with determination to do better next time instead of whining about how unfair it was.

SusanMallery said...

Scorpio, Don't you love books that feature an athlete in a sport that is somewhat unusual? Love the idea of a world-class rock climber. Independent, brave, and ohhhh, those muscles!

I approve heartily of Joe Mauer. (That pic is from How perfect is that for our discussion?! LOL!)

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Susan! Love the new hairstyle! So glad to welcome one of my favourite authors to the Lair again. Can't wait for your Fools Gold series to arrive over here.

And talking about one of my favourite things - sports star heros!

Obviously, I'm biased to hockey players *g*. They are very much unsung heroes - great athletes, strong determination, tough on the ice and such sexy, nice, generous, often humble guys off it. Not to mention their ability to withstand pain! My faves are Scott Stevens (who inspired my ms Bad Boy, Good Man), Joe Sakic and Zach Parise.

Deirdre Martin, Rachel Gibson, Carly Phillips, SEP and Kate Angell all do fab athlete heroes too.

SusanMallery said...

Beth, Thank you, both for the welcome and for the praise for! We had so much fun putting together the website, and we have lots of plans as the series continues.

Did you see the article about the longtime veterinarian retiring? That's to make way for a yummy character that my Facebook fans created! We started out with a blank slate, and they created a hunky veterinarian who is a single father with a sheltie named Noah. (The vet's name was going to be Noah, but a reader told me about another author who had a vet named Noah. So we named the character their second choice and gave him a dog named Noah. LOL)

SusanMallery said...

Hi, Drew! Thanks for the welcome. I'm so glad you're enjoying HOT ON HER HEELS! I was nervous about how readers would react to Garth, since he was the villain of the first three books. But readers really love a bad boy! Right from the first book, they were asking me to write Garth's story. Pretty amazing.

Mike Lowell is cute, cute, cute! But he's not quite as cute as the other sweetheart in this photo: Mike Lowell LOL!!!

SusanMallery said...

Keira, YES! Defeat certainly doesn't make our athlete hero happy - he's too competitive for that - but he accepts it with humor. And then he works his tail off to make sure he doesn't lose again!

Anna Sugden said...

Forgot to say - I'm a legs gal, so love the idea of yummy Josh and his legs!

SusanMallery said...

Anna, thank you! I love my new straight hair. I feel so sleek. My dog was not as thrilled. Click here to see her reaction (it's silly, and it'll make you laugh, I promise):

Nikki's reaction to my hair straightening

I love the title Bad Boy, Good Man!!! Fantastic!

SusanMallery said...

I love a man with strong legs, too, Anna!

Kate Carlisle said...

HI, SUSAN!!! Thank you so much for joining us in the Lair today!

Jane, congrats on taking home the GR. Any big plans to entertain him?

Susan, Josh is a delicious athlete hero! I read Chasing Perfect while I was traveling last week, and people on the plane must've thought I was nuts. Random bursts of laughter will do that.

A real-life athlete I think is cute is Barry Zito from the San Francisco Giants. He's tall, too. About 6'4". Love tall men!

Virginia said...

You got the bird Jane, congrats!

Hi Susan congrats on your new release, sounds really good! I don't follow sports of any kind to pick out a favorite athlete! I have read some books with athleths and really enjoyed them, but can't think of the names right now!

SusanMallery said...

Hi, Kate! Thanks! I'm so glad you enjoyed CHASING PERFECT. I've had those moments, too, where people look at me like I'm crazy because I'm laughing hysterically at something I read. The sign of a true reader. The blushes during passionate scenes are subtler, but it's impossible to ignore those bursts of laughter.

Hi, Virginia! Thanks for your comment. I'll let you in on a little secret... I don't follow sports either. LOL Research is involved whenever I write an athlete hero. Fortunately, the research is pretty fun!

Michele B said...

I love this topic. Athlete hero's are my FAVORITE!!! I will buy any book with an Athlete hero. I love the confidence they have, just everything about them.
Some of my favorites are books by
Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Carly Phillips, Joanne Rock, Deirdre Martin, Kate Angell, Pamela Britton, Rachel Gibbson, Susan Mallery, Heidi Betts just to name a few.
Who do I think would make a good hero, Dereke Jeter, Tom Brady would of been up there in the begining of his career, and just recently I watched a news piece on twin tennis stars I immeditley started plotting.

I'm reading Chasing Perfect loving it so far.

heidi ruby miller said...


Great to see you here on Romance Bandits!

You are such an inspiration to so many of us from Seton Hill.


SusanMallery said...

Hi, Michele! Thanks for stopping by. (Everyone, Michele just shared her recipe for Tacoritos with me, and I posted it in the latest Dear Reader letter on my website. They sound incredible, and Michele said they're a guaranteed hit wherever she takes them!)

Tom Brady.... nom nom nom.

Hi, Heidi! Thank you for the warm welcome. I learned a lot while I was at Seton Hill.

Kate Carlisle said...

Sure, blushes are subtle... but what about when I begin fanning myself and sort of humming real low? Thank goodness I didn't go into a "When Harry Met Sally" moment at the airport!

runner10 said...

So glad to see you here today. It seems like all the real-life athletes are falling fast. I think some of the Olympic athletes have what it takes to make a great hero.

SusanMallery said...

Thank you, runner! It's good to be here today. I'm having a great time.

Having fun on my Facebook page today, too. I'm holding a contest looking for my biggest cheerleader, and the entries are proving what I have known for a long time:


Hannah Dennison said...

My husband. He plays ice hockey and unlike many hockey athletes, still has all his front teeth. It's the testosterone in contact sports that I like. In another century, I'd go for a jousting knight.
Thanks for the delicious photographs. They've certainly lifted my spirits. Oh - and I can vouch for Kate's enthusiasm for your book - I was sitting next to her on the plane and she loved it! I can't wait to read it too.

Nancy said...

Jane, congrats on the rooster!

Athlete heroes, eh? I loved Susan Elizabeth Phillips' football heroes.

Like PJ, I follow tennis. I think Marat Safin, especially before he cut his hair, looked like a Regency hero. He has a bit of a temper on-court, so that might be room for a growth arc.

Andy Roddick seems to have a nice, self-deprecating sense of humor and works hard, so maybe he'd be a good one.

Christine Wells said...

Loved the post, Susan! Thanks so much for bringing Susan to us today, VA!

Yes, it is more than the muscles--otherwise an athlete would be no more appealing than a male model or a body builder(and seriously, who would want to settle down with one of them?) I love the sound of this new series (esp the screensaver!) SEP wrote awesome athlete heroes. I can't pick a favourite, but the scene where Bobby Tom does his football quiz springs to mind!

Congrats on the bird, Jane!

Laurie said...

Hi Susan! Chasing Perfect sounds perfectly delicious! I love an athlete hero. My husband cycles, plays tennis, and basketball. Wiffleball too if we have a picnic. :)

I have to say that my favorite athletes besides my dh are two that have long since retired - Bjorn Borg who I was madly in love with in the 80's and our hometown hero Cal Ripkin. Both great hero material in their prime.

Fun blog!

SusanMallery said...


You're right! Testosterone does have a lot to do with it. That competitive drive is just so sexy. I hope you enjoy CHASING PERFECT as much as Kate seems to have. :)

SusanMallery said...

Hi, Nancy!

I found this pic of Marat Safin, and I love it! He looks like a fun-loving guy. So there's hope for him that he'll outgrow his anger issues, maybe.

Thank you, Christine! That is such a good point, comparing athletes to male models. You're right! Both cute, both muscular, but a male model is much less appealing to me. We want more than just good looks. We want strength of character and a drive to succeed.

SusanMallery said...

Thank you, Laurie! I hope you love CHASING PERFECT.

The Fool's Gold series will continue next year, and probably even after that. Who knows, maybe we'll have a professional whiffleball player turn up! LOL!!!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hannah, Thanks for backing up my story... and I'm sorry for embarrassing you in public!

Susan, thank you so much for visiting the Lair today. We really enjoyed having you... and all those manly muscles!

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