When Dixie Wynn Braddock, a publicist for the San Francisco Thunder hockey team, meets Eli Casco, younger brother to the Thunder’s team captain Levi, in an elevator, sparks fly and they share a steamy kiss. Unfortunately, Dixie then learns that Eli may be drafted to be the Thunder’s new goalie, and the HR manual strictly forbids relationships between players and staff. While players are likely to get a slap on the wrist, staff will face immediate dismissal, and Dixie has worked too hard for her career to let that happen.
Slammed started off somewhat slow for me, and the cheesy flirtation between Dixie and Eli was far more eye-roll-inducing than adorable or hot. Eli charms Dixie with the utter lameness of his pickup lines, and she in turn counters with cheesy retorts of her own, and while both characters are well aware of the cheesiness and it’s all part of their flirtation style, I just wanted them to stop.
Dixie and Eli’s career challenges were much more compelling, and once they settle into some form of relationship that reduced the flirting, the story began to take off. I sympathized with Dixie’s desire to separate herself and her career from her older brother Jude, one of the Thunder’s star players, and with her skirmishes against a scheming co-worker. I also respected her hero worship of the rich and powerful woman who owned the team, though I thought that storyline’s resolution felt somewhat abrupt. Eli’s subplot was a lot more compelling — a serious neck injury in a college game has long-reaching psychological effects, and he freezes every time a scuffle between players gets too close to the net, which is a serious Achilles heel in a goalie. I like how Denault depicts his struggle to come to terms with this weakness, and work at overcoming it.
But the real star of this romance for me was the family dynamics. I love the banter between Jude and Dixie, and the fierce loyalty and emotional bonding between Levi and Eli. Jude and Levi were really compelling characters, and I love how perceptive they are when dealing with their younger siblings. There’s a great scene where, after a bad game, Levi tries to talk to Eli about his performance. Eli orders him to back off and Levi responds that he’ll back off as a brother, but there are things he needs to say as the team captain. Even as team captain however, his brotherly concern is still very evident, and I love how that relationship plays out.
I haven’t read the first book in this series, Score, about Jude and his girlfriend Zoey, who in Slammed is pregnant with their child. But I love Jude’s character so much I think I’ll give it a try, and hold out hope that Levi also gets his own romance someday.
Thank you to Hachette Book Group for an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.