Desert Isle Keeper
Snapped is the fourth novel in the Playbook series, a saga which focuses on the love lives of the Denver Mustangs football team. Written by a former NFL wife, these fun, flirty, stories sing with authenticity and humor. You don’t have to read the first few books to enjoy this one but you definitely should. Not only does it give you a deeper introduction to some of the secondary characters, they’re such wonderful reads you simply won’t want to miss them.
Elliot Reed has never had a job with perks before but her new position as the Strategic Communications Manager for the Mustangs comes with a doozy – discounted and regularly available game tickets. The daughter of a football fanatic who was raised to love the sport too, she owes it to her dad’s memory to use this benefit as much as possible – which is why she is cheerfully munching nachos, drinking beer and otherwise enjoying her great seats as the Mustangs take the field. But her smile quickly fades when quarterback Quin (Quinton) Howard Jr. enters the arena, blacks out the League’s emblem with tape and then takes a knee during the national anthem. She knows she is going to spend the whole day tomorrow trying to clean up this public relations fiasco, especially if the media gets a hold of it.
Which of course they do. It’s the lead story on every ESPN broadcast for weeks. The fire is fueled when a politician decides to soapbox about the issue and use Quin’s supposed disrespect for the troops, the league and the country to stoke his career. The Mustangs are doing their best to put a positive spin on Quin’s actions – and their best means dropping the whole steaming mess into Elliot’s lap and telling her to deal with him.
As the son of a former player, Quin knows all there is to know about the NFL. He’s spent his entire life working hard to become the Championship winning player he is now but he also knows a lot of other men worked equally hard to be on that field, men who retired without the pension and healthcare benefits he has. Men whom the league treats with contempt, unconcerned about how the game impacted their health, leaving them with mangled, crippled bodies and equally crippling medical debts. Quin finds the racial disparity in management equally disturbing: seventy percent of the players are black but only nine percent of managers and zero percent of owners are. He finally has a position that gives him a platform for addressing the problems he sees in the league and race relations in America in general and he intends to use it.
Quin and Eliot’s working relationship doesn’t get off to a great start. Elliot agrees to meet Quin at HERS, the sports bar owned by Mustang wife Brynn Sterling, but when she approaches his table to introduce herself he delivers a withering set-down. Convinced she’s a groupie, he tells her in no uncertain terms she’s not his type and isn’t good looking enough for him to sleep with her.
Elliot, a total professional, handles the situation with grace, and the two do move beyond this horrifically rude moment to form a fragile working partnership. But will their combined efforts be enough to save their careers as Quin continues to push the Mustangs – and the rest of the NFL and the country- for change?
I hate enemies-to-lovers stories and heroes that spend the first quarter of the book putting their foot in their mouth, aka insulting the heroine either unintentionally or intentionally, and yet somehow I loved Snapped in spite of it having both those elements. This is undoubtedly in part because of how much I loved, loved, loved Elliot. She claims she’s a hot mess, endlessly in therapy to deal with her issues – including her beloved father’s recent death – but that just isn’t true. Elliot is smart, skilled, gracious, kind, loving, tenacious, a good listener, the best kind of friend – my list could go on and on. She does have a tendency to give ill-behaved folks the benefit of the doubt, even when they don’t deserve it. This can be a great trait; it enables her to welcome new people into her life wholeheartedly, especially when it comes to Quin, who ladles out a few heavy insults at the start of their relationship. It works against her, though, when it keeps her from seeing the evil in some of the folks around her.
Quin is a passionate, heroic character. He is willing to put all he has worked for on the line for others, and through his foundation, he gives not just of his time but big chunks of his money to help bring about real change. While he gets off to a rather poor start with Elliot, I appreciated that it had the benefit of most likely being realistic; it’s easy to believe that m en in his position are used to being approached by people who want to take advantage of their fame or exploit them. Lifelike as his rudeness was however, I wouldn’t have forgiven it if he hadn’t changed into a warm, caring, thoughtful lover by the end of the book. The HEA is lovely and believable because by the halfway mark he is doing a lot of wonderful, attentive acts to let Elliot know just how much he cares.
The author does something pretty amazing with their romance. Even though they don’t exchange more than a single, extremely awkward kiss for the first seventy percent of the story, she still manages to create a sense of anticipation, desire and unity without resorting to insta-lust. You can tell from the start these two are going to be terrific together and that’s because, quietly and slowly, as they spend time with each other, the author moves them towards an emotionally deep, rich relationship.
This is a romance which discusses some heavy subjects but the author’s tremendous skill is put to good use, since in spite of the weighty issues of racism and income disparity which are laced throughout the text, Snapped is light hearted, fun and romantic. I absolutely loved it, found it to be a quick, delightful read and never once felt like the story was lost to the causes being promoted. Ms. Martin does just an absolutely fantastic job of showing how these problems impact her characters in their everyday reality, and are therefore a natural part of Elliot and Quin’s romance.
Most books contain flaws and this one has a few minor issues. It seemed a tad unrealistic that Brynn and the other Mustang wives would embrace Elliot and her friends so quickly. The ending contains a snag that involves Elliot making a sacrifice that Quin is not also called to make. It just felt a bit unbalanced to me, especially since he would likely be in a better position to make said sacrifice.
Those are quibbles, though, in an otherwise stellar novel. Snapped broke through my La Vida Covid romance reading fugue and helped me remember what I love about this genre. I strongly recommend it to contemporary romance fans, especially those who like their romances sweet but meaningful.