Kulti by Mariana Zapata is a slow-burn, steamy romance novel that centers around a female soccer player (Sal) and her relationship with a retired international soccer star turned coach. She is on a women’s soccer team in Texas, and her older brother is a professional soccer player. She was close to her parents; the new coach was a German soccer player. His name is Kulti, and he’s coming to coach their team. He has been her idol since she was little.
She had posters of him all around her room. He inspired her to go out and try to be a soccer player. Her family loves him, except for something he did to her brother when they played against each other. But this is their romance, and this book takes a while to do anything about their relationship.
Books like Kulti feature powerful female leads, showcasing their growth, both in their personal and professional lives. The blend of sports and romance offers a unique setting where passion, competition, and relationships intermingle, providing both action and emotional depth. If you’re a fan of relationships that take time to develop, where characters truly get to know each other, this sub-genre builds anticipation and depth in romantic connections.
7 Books Like Kulti (Play Romance)
In the book Kulti, Sal Casillas is an athlete. She trains hard, and she’s scared that maybe an injury can ruin her career. We do learn a lot about her past and what happened to why she’s not on the national team and territorial over her career.
Even though Kulti seems like he doesn’t care, there are so many amazing moments about the characters in their friendship and romance. I am going to talk about seven romance books similar to Kulti. Beyond just the romance, these books focus deep into the characters’ backgrounds, providing layers of complexity, which makes their eventual coming together even more rewarding.
|Well Met by Jen DeLuca||A spirited romance blossoms amidst the backdrop of a small-town Renaissance Faire.||Enemies-to-lovers, forced proximity, small-town setting, hidden identities, slow-burn romance, personal growth, community bonding, opposites attract, event-driven storyline.|
|Well Played by Jen DeLuca||A woman navigates unexpected feelings through online correspondence, unaware of the true identity of her suitor.||Online romance, mistaken identity, slow-burn, Renaissance Faire setting, second chances, love letters, yearning, friends-to-lovers, community dynamics, emotional growth|
|The Dare by Elle Kennedy||A college romance ignited by a dare that unveils deeper feelings and challenges societal beauty standards.||Fake relationship, college setting, opposites attract, self-acceptance, friends-to-lovers, rich boy/poor girl dynamic, hidden depths, social pressures, unexpected connections, player redemption.|
|You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle||A couple on the brink of marriage engages in escalating pranks only to rediscover their love for each other.||Enemies-to-lovers, second-chance romance, relationship pranks, comedic misunderstandings, emotional rediscovery, love rekindled, pre-marital doubts, power dynamics, battle of wits, couple’s therapy.|
|The Score by Elle Kennedy||A notorious college playboy finds unexpected love with a guarded woman, challenging his carefree lifestyle.||College love setting, playboy redemption, one-night stand turns complicated, emotional baggage, friends-with-benefits, opposites attract, unexpected pregnancy, personal growth, group dynamics, sports backdrop.|
|The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata||A personal assistant and a top football player face a marriage of convenience, leading to unexpected genuine feelings.||Fake relationships, college setting, opposites attract, sports romance, bad boy/good girl dynamic, hidden talents, traumatic past, unexpected alliances, mutual benefits turn genuine, group dynamics.|
|The Deal by Elle Kennedy||A college hockey star strikes a tutoring deal with a studious woman, leading to an unexpected romance.||Fake relationships, college settings, opposites attract, sports romance, bad boy/good girl dynamic, hidden talents, traumatic past, unexpected alliances, mutual benefits turn genuine, group dynamics.|
1. Well Met
Well Met was published in 2019 by Berkley Books, an imprint of Penguin. The paperback comes in at 336 pages. The books occur in the fictional town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for ten years. At least at the start of this first novel, it has hosted its own small-scale but successful Renaissance Festival. Willow Creek is a tiny town, but it feels downright tiny to the main character of this first book.
Emily moves to Willow Creek from Boston after a bad breakup back in Boston. She had shelved her life and the pursuit of her bachelor’s degree to help her boyfriend at the time get through law school. But when he eventually graduated and found that high-powered job, he kicked her to the curb. Hence, Emily leaves the big city behind to move to small-town Maryland, not because she doesn’t know where else to go but because of her big sister, April.
She’s having trouble getting around in the aftermath of these events. So she needs Emily to move in and help her with how to stuff and with her 14-year-old daughter, Caitlin. It’s a good thing that Emily moved in because there is a lot to help out with, including driving her niece Caitlin to the sign-ups for the Renaissance Festival. Here, she wants to volunteer that summer.
However, they are informed that no teenager can sign up if they don’t have an adult to volunteer when they arrive. Thus, Emily suckered into being a volunteer at this Renaissance Festival herself.
She has the fair’s organizer, Simon, breathing down her neck. He doesn’t want to change anything. He seems to dislike Emily. These two keep making bad impressions on one another. Emily keeps annoying Simon, and Simon keeps bucking every suggestion she tries to make. They don’t seem to like each other. However, when Simon’s in costume and character at the fair as the devious pirate he plays, he shows Emily a lot of attention, almost as if he likes her.
We slowly start to discover why Simon is so possessive over this fare, and we find out that these two characters might have much more in common than they originally thought. We also start to learn more about this town’s other Stars Hollow Esque inhabitants. It’s ideal for anyone who enjoys hate turns to love romance like Kulti.
Author: Jen DeLuca
Average Rating: 4.3/5
Category: Contemporary Romance & Comedy
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle
2. Well Played
Well Played was released in 2020. This one also comes in at 336 pages. This book occurs in the same world as the first book, centering around the Willow Creek Renaissance Festival. The events of this book take place one year after the main events in the first book and this second book in the series.
Our main character is Emily’s friend and fellow tavern wench. Stacey is a touch on the basic white girl side. She loves her vessels and her Instagram, but she also has a lingering sadness and boredom. She loves working at the fair every year. But she can’t help but feel trapped, a little bit caught in a rut because, unlike Emily, she grew up in Willow Creek.
Stacey has a regular no-strings-attached hook-up at Renaissance Festival with a seriously hot musician who stops at the fair every year. Dex MacLean, who Stacey says looks like a Hemsworth only in a kilt, makes up a band with his two brothers, and they stop at the Willow Creek Renaissance Festival every year. Even though Stacey knows this is a no-strings-attached, she thinks about him after the band has left town.
So, after having too many drinks one night, she sends him a very long, rambling, cringy message, telling him that she’s thinking of him. She is mortified by her actions the next morning, but the two start a nice back and forth that lasts a whole calendar year, up to the point where the fare is getting ready to start again. The nature of the romance is entirely different, and the pacing is different, like Kulti.
Author: Jen DeLuca
Average Rating: 4.1/5
Category: Women’s Fiction & Romance
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Kindle
3. The Dare: Briar U
The Dare is the last book in the Briar U series. Each book follows a different character, so Dare follows Taylor and Conor. We have met Conor in the Risk, so before reading it, I recommend you read the Risk first, where you get into Conor’s mood a bit. Taylor is insecure about her body and weight.
Conor is a hockey player on the Abreu team via hockey team. Brian is a fictional college-following day if you’re wondering what it is, and he is a playboy. So he sticks around, and he’s a jolly good feller. The book deals with hard-hitting topics, but it’s also fun. It’s a French lover thing. I highly recommend it if you haven’t read the Bravo series and love Kulti.
Author: Elle Kennedy
Average Rating: 4.5/5
Category: Contemporary Sports Romance
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Kindle | Audio CD
4. You Deserve Each Other
The main plot is this lover-to-enemies storyline where Naomi and Nicholas are engaged. They’ve been together for a while now, and they’re getting married. But the book is from Natalie’s perspective, and we quickly learn she is unhappy with her setup.
Naomi feels like she has to put on this persona she’s sick of to fit into Nick’s world because his family is wealthy. So, she has to be a perfect fiance, and her hair has to be a specific style. They have a vast blow-up towards the start of the book. Naomi realizes that Nick isn’t as happy as he has been portraying himself, which is interesting because it shows you first-person perspectives.
They start to act more and more like their true selves. They’re no longer trying to live up to this persona of who they think they should be and who their family expects them to be. The more they do that, the more they realize they are starting to fall in love with each other. If you like Kulti, then you must try it.
Author: Sarah Hogle
Average Rating: 4.3/5
Category: Romance & Comedy
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Kindle
5. The Score
The Score is the third book of the Off-Campus series. Allie Hayes appears in little spurts in the first book, especially in The Deal, because she is Hannah’s best friend. Hannah is the female protagonist of the first book, and they are roommates. They lived together, and we saw little scenes where she was with her boyfriend, Sean. Well, this is following up on that relationship. It’s no longer working.
Allie has broken up with Sean. He is what guys like Dean call the nesting type. She doesn’t make one-night stands and doesn’t do anything like that. She’s a relationship person. Also, she admits that she doesn’t quite know how to be alone. Shawn texts her constantly, and he won’t let her be. We’ll let her clear her mind, and she’s worried that he might show up at her dorm room.
We’ve also seen little bits of Dean throughout The Deal and The Mistake, and he is worse than Logan and Graham Garrett combined. He is known as the hookup king of Briar, and he doesn’t care who sees him. So, Allie and Dean are alone in the apartment together.
Their other roommate, Tucker, is off doing his own thing, and they get high, get drunk, and sleep together. Despite Allie’s reservations, she ends up hooking up with him twice and is horrified about everything immediately. While the book was amusing, it was also tragic, similar to Kulti.
Author: Elle Kennedy
Average Rating: 4.6/5
Category: Contemporary Romance
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Kindle | MP3 CD
6. The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
Similar to “Kulti,” this novel is another slow-burn romance by Zapata. It revolves around Vanessa, an assistant to a top defensive player, Aiden Graves. When Aiden asks Vanessa to come back to work for him and help him with a marriage of convenience, things change between them. With Zapata’s signature style, the tension and chemistry build slowly, leading to an impactful conclusion.
7. The Deal by Elle Kennedy (Off-Campus Series)
Set in college hockey, this story follows Hannah Wells and Garrett Graham. Hannah, having a crush on someone else, and Garrett, needing help with his grades, strike a deal to help each other. What starts as a straightforward agreement soon evolves into something more intimate. Like “Kulti,” the novel wonderfully combines the world of sports with a budding romantic relationship.
These novels touch on perseverance, teamwork, ambition, and overcoming personal challenges – valuable lessons wrapped in engaging narratives. They tackle real-world issues like sexism in sports, the pressures of fame, and the challenges of maintaining personal relationships in the public eye.
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