CW/TW Sexual Assault
Blitzed is the third book in Alexa Martin’s Playbook series. I spent the entire time I was reading it thinking that it was the final book, but just so you don’t go into it with the same misconception: It’s not the final book! There is a fourth book, Snapped, to come.
The heroine of Blitzed is Brynn, owner of HERS, a bar created predominantly for women. HERS has reached a level of fame that Brynn could never have imagined for it, helped by its prominence on the show Love the Player, a reality show following the lives of the WAGS of Denver’s football team. We open at a celebration for the show at HERS, with Brynn behind the bar, flirting with Maxwell Lewis, the shy defensive back who she’s had a crush on for years. Brynn’s friendships with the wives of Maxwell’s teammates mean that they’ve been around each other a lot and when the book starts, Brynn is ready to make her move. But Maxwell receives an apparently distressing call and, to put it lightly, freaks out. What he actually does is throw his phone and glass into some bar shelves and has to be pulled out of HERS by a friend.
I was wholly unprepared for this, obviously, and as someone who is deeply terrified by sudden acts of physical aggression, my balance was thrown for the rest of my reading experience. Even so early on in the book, it is evident that doing something like this is WILDLY out of character for Maxwell and I think I had difficulty reconciling the seriousness of this event with Maxwell’s reserved nature and the otherwise lighthearted tone of the book. I will have this same problem at the end of the novel, but worse.
After this incident, Maxwell quietly pays for the damage, apologizes, and veryyyy slowly works his way back into Brynn’s good graces. And while it takes a while for Brynn to fully forgive Maxwell, their course together is set. Although there wasn’t anything uniquely compelling about Brynn and Maxwell’s relationship, there were things that I rather liked. I like that Maxwell and Brynn fall in love over small things, like their shared love of 7/11 taquitos and slurpees. I love the ease between them. I LOVE that Brynn is the only person to call Maxwell by his full first name and that when she calls him Max, he says “You call me Maxwell”. Maxwell is soft spoken and shy, despite being an incredibly talented and famous football player. Brynn is excitable, a bit scattered, but she’s dedicated to HERS and creating a safe and special space for women. The middle of the book is a mixture of the same type of scenes, repeated and reordered: football games, Brynn and Maxwell on dates/watching TV, Brynn and her friends. It continues like this, interrupted only briefly to introduce Maxwell’s half-brother Theo, who Maxwell tells Brynn not only to stay away from, but to never be alone with.
On the topic of lousy family members, Brynn’s mother’s departure when Brynn was fifteen might have strengthened Brynn’s relationship with her father, but it also left her with a deep yet poorly described fear of turning into her mother. At first, Brynn seems afraid that Maxwell is reminiscent of her mother, with the strange calls he seems to always be receiving.
(These turn out to be from Theo, who is threatening his brother).
How blind was I that I didn’t realize she was already cheating on my dad…cheating on us. The hours-long trips to the grocery store that would yield only a gallon of milk, I ignored them all. All of the phone conversations she’d abruptly end when I’d walk in the room. Phone calls like Maxwell had?
I wonder if what I’m feeling with Maxwell is how she felt. If she ignored all the signs that something wasn’t meant to be, or if she let the excitement cloud her judgement until she had none left.
This thought process didn’t really track for me and as the book went on, it seemed that Brynn instead was concerned that her excitement about Maxwell was just a precursor to Brynn becoming her mother and leaving him. Towards the end of the book, when Brynn’s mom makes her inglorious (and completely bonkers) return, things get more bizarre as Brynn’s mom suggests that she left Brynn because Brynn loved her father more than her mother. The entire Brynn and her mother conflict, both internally and externally, is a bit muddled and was difficult to follow.
When I think about Blitzed in conversation with the previous two books, I can see where Blitzed struggles: it lacks a central linchpin like Intercepted and Fumbled. In Intercepted, Marlee leaves her cheating boyfriend and builds an independent life for the first time in adulthood while falling in love again. In Fumbled, Poppy must tell TK about the son he never knew existed. In Blitzed, Brynn… talks about Parks and Recreation a lot? Worries about becoming her mother, but only sometimes and rarely in a way that made sense to me? Doesn’t know how to read a serious moment and act accordingly? (Okay, that last one only happens once but it is a MAJOR pet peeve of mine).
Blitzed is also bookended with two incredibly startling and upsetting events and filled with a lot of nice but aimless scenes of female friendship and a lot of meandering thoughts courtesy of Brynn. And, after my delight in the first two books of the series, Blitzed was also a let down.
The final conflict is squeezed into the book’s final ten percent and much like its opening scene, was really distressing to me. Given its nature, I will discuss it almost entirely under the spoiler and content warning tag.
One night, while Brynn is working at the bar, Theo appears and asks to speak to Brynn in private, claiming that Maxwell hasn’t been honest with her. Theo then goes on to claim that while Maxwell was in college, he sexually assaulted a girl at a party. In an attempt to protect his younger brother who would be entering the NFL draft later that year, Theo supposedly “took the fall” for it. To me as a reader, it is very clear throughout the novel that Theo is untrustworthy and dangerous, so it is easy to recognize this as a lie. There is an excruciating confrontation between Brynn and Maxwell, and the couple is briefly (because at this point we are mere moments from the end of the book) parted. Brynn’s father and friends are able to convince her that Theo’s word is not to be trusted and a lawyer friend is able to get to the truth of the incident.
Her friends says:
“By telling me and you about the attack and the settlement, Theo broke the NDA, and I was able to get in touch with the lawyer from the case. And while she did confirm that Max paid her client, she insisted that it wasn’t to keep the woman quiet and that Max paid her attorney’s fees. She said that her client hadn’t wanted to acknowledge it at all, but once Max got drafted and received his first paycheck, he sought out her client and told her she deserved justice and he’d pay for all of her legal fees if she chose to do so. Then, when she realized what a trial would entail and decided to settle out of court, Max paid the settlement because he knew Theo never would.”
After which Brynn goes to beg Maxwell’s forgiveness. Apologies abound and they are reunited in time for the epilogue.
Oof. I’m going to be honest and say that the last ten percent of this book was really hard for me to read. This incident felt much, MUCH too big to be shoved into the last moments of the book to create a last minute conflict between the protagonists, especially in a book in which so little else of consequence takes place. I didn’t like that the conversation where Brynn’s friends prove that Theo is actually the perpetrator tries to capture the same lighthearted goofiness that all of their other conversations have had.
“I was making sure I wasn’t dreaming this situation up.” I say. “So…does anyone want to fill me in on what you guys have been up to?”
“Oooh! Me!” Poppy jumps up and down, holding one hand under her cute little–but not that little–belly. “My whiteboard, my presentation!”
“That’s not a real rule.” Jacqueline pouts.
“Is so.” Poppy stick her tongue out at Jac before turning to the rest of the group.
“Brynn”–she looks at me, and I have a sinking feeling that she has practiced this– “while you’ve been moping and eating ice cream and still not gaining a pound, which we all find to be insanely unfair, we’ve been busy proving that Maxwell is innocent in this.”
I’m sorry, but I don’t find a single part of this situation cutesy. I don’t find it an especially great time to be jealous of Brynn’s metabolism and I don’t think it’s something to make a fun presentation out of. Don’t get me wrong, Brynn is certainly distraught over what Theo has told her and her inability to reconcile that information with the Maxwell she knows. But at times like in the excerpt above, and in how rushed this storyline was, I felt like I took this series of events more seriously than the book did.
It took me a while to write this review because I felt I needed a lot of space from the end of the book before I could really write about it. The more space I have, the worse it all feels to me. Maxwell’s vague warnings as opposed to actual communication about why Brynn should stay away from Theo is irresponsible at best and complicit in protecting Theo at worst, despite Maxwell’s previous actions to help the survivor achieve the justice that felt best to her. (It is worth mentioning that Maxwell offered to testify against Theo should she wish to go to trial).
I finished Blitzed with a bad taste in my mouth and a weird tension in my chest, an overall feeling of not right. I’d like to imagine that the next book in the series might be able to right the ship after this, but I’m not sure if I’ll stick my neck out to find out.