I’ve heard great things about Ms. Keeley’s books, so when an advance copy of Slammed was dangled in front of me I snapped it up immediately. Based on how much I enjoyed this book, her two previous books are moving up to the top of my ever-expanding TBR list.
I will admit when I saw the cover and read the blurb I was a bit daunted. I know next to nothing about tennis and the last sports romance I read didn’t wow me. I was concerned that I may not enjoy the book as much because of the setting.
Even without having a strong understanding of competitive tennis, I was quickly caught up in the story and with the character of Elin Larsson. Keeley wove enough information and context seamlessly into the story and never resorted to info dumps to fill in the reader who may not have any knowledge of the sport or the behind the scenes politicking. Even the matches were perfectly balanced – enough action and suspense in the ones that Keeley included to push the narrative forward but she didn’t overwork it or include a blow by blow of every match. Things were so well balanced and got me so invested that the last few matches had me holding my breath as to who would win.
There is romance, but I’m not sure if I would classify the book as a pure romance – it was really more of glimpse into a year of Elin’s career, friends, family and relationships. There are a number of subplots (personal and professional) but rather than driving the story, they are driving Elin as she is at a bit of crossroads of coming close to accomplishing her personal goal of beating the record of winning 22 Slams but also trying to come to terms with whether she wants to continue playing and who she will be once she does retire.
Told in first person POV, this is truly Elin’s story and I really adored her. She’s a wonderful mix of confidence and uncertainty. She has a level of ego when it comes to the game, but she’s an introvert by nature and isn’t comfortable with the press and attention. Her idea of being a bad girl is sneaking out for a single drink in a bar, trying avoid attention by fans or the press. She’s completely driven and focused when it comes to tennis – when she’s on the court, everything is reduced to her, her opponent and the game and her confidence in her skill and abilities is well justified. Her personal relationships with friends and family are more of a challenge due to her natural reticence and she is faced with making decisions and choices. Despite her innate Swedish reserve, there’s a strong sense of connection, warmth and good-natured humour in her relationships.
The romance is definitely a slow burn. Elin has game – on the court but not necessarily when it comes to relationships. A good portion of the book has her forging a tentative friendship with Tori – a player who has recently returned from a serious injury and is slowly re-building her ranking. For someone who can size up and demolish an opponent in a match, Elin’s wonderfully shy, unsure and much too polite to make the first move. This isn’t a burning or all-consuming romance – it’s tentative at first as Elin is attracted to Tori, but is not particularly adept at reading signals. The relationship grows organically and the build up is realistic and believable as both Elin and Tori spend more time apart than together. Through it all they are both still focused on their careers and the game and a remarkable respect for one another – neither wanting the other to compromise when it comes to rankings or play.
Slammed is a longer than normal lesfic novel so this one took me a bit longer to read; but, the pacing and the writing never made me lose interest or want to skip forward. I was completely invested in Elin and the story and I was happy every time I glanced at the corner of my e-reader and would see that there was lots more to come.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it for sports fans and non-sports fans.
Thank you to the author for an advance copy for review.