Chapter Two: Musing on Age and Education. Also, sex.
It’s a Harlequin Blaze, so there has to be sex scenes, and this chapter is the first of those. After all, Brody and Hayden did leave the bar in order to go to Hayden’s hotel for a “night cap” so it’s not exactly a surprise. And while there’s some oral sex while Hayden stands against the wall and Brody… bends over? Behind her? which leaves me questioning anatomy to some extent, there’s really not a lot, overall, to say about this chapter. (Which, given how much I wrote about the first chapter, is probably a good thing.)
First, let’s talk about getting to the hotel. They take Brody’s BMW SUV to the Ritz-Carlton and Brody asks what Hayden does.
“I’m a junior professor at Berkeley. I teach art history, and I’m also working towards a Ph.D.” (22).
No. No, no, no, no, no, no. There is absolutely ZERO chance that Berkley would hire Hayden as a junior professor (presumably an assistant professor, the lowest rank but tenure track) without her having her Ph.D. There is a very small chance they would have hired her without her Ph.D. in hand, meaning that she’d finished her coursework and passed her exams into candidacy but hadn’t quite finished her dissertation. That’s pretty rare these days because there are way more qualified Ph.D. students graduating each year (dissertation finished) than there are job openings, but it’s still possible, if Hayden had published multiple kickass articles as a student in very prestigious academic journals, had a 4.0 (almost all grad students do), and a lot of successful teaching experience. (This last is just as unlikely as the first—most English and Math graduate students get a lot of teaching experience because universities have hundreds of classes required for first-year students in those fields. Art history? Not so much. She’d be lucky to have had a break-out section and been allowed to guest lecture once a semester.) And IF she was incredibly lucky enough to get a job as an assistant professor (at Berkeley! Ha!) while still working on her dissertation, she’d have been expected to finish it within one year. Chapter one specifies that Hayden went to Berkley three years ago (10), so her dissertation ought to have been finished. In fact, since it’s not at the end of three years, Berkeley would then not renew her contract. (She can’t get tenure without having her Ph.D., even if the job is “tenure track.”)
Without a Ph.D., Hayden could still lecture at Berkeley (if they wanted her), as an adjunct, although that seems unlikely in an art history department (as opposed to, say, composition.) However, the narrative tells us that she accepted the “full-time position” and adjuncts are not full-time (even if they’re teaching multiple courses. Universities don’t want to pay benefits to adjuncts.) Furthermore, most of the time (albeit not all the time), adjuncts aren’t referred to as professors. And even if they are, it’s “adjunct professor”, not “junior professor” because adjunct professors can’t get tenure (without switching to a different job line) so there’s no “senior professor” to get to.
Lastly (and then I’ll shut up about this, at least for now), the narrative does not tell us where Hayden is getting her Ph.D. The assumption, then, is that the author wants us to think she’s getting it from Berkeley as she’s also a full-time junior professor. However, there’s multiple problems with this scenario. First, that means she was hired without any doctoral level graduate work. We can assume she has a masters degree in Art History (although to be fair, some students get their masters in passing while working on a doctorate, but that makes it even less likely for her to be hired at Berkeley—or anywhere else except a community college) from …somewhere. Presumably one of the schools in Chicago, since it seems when she left for California it was the first time she’d left her father. If Hayden was accepted as a graduate student, she could be teaching some classes, too, but certainly not the full-time that the narrative insists. (And she wouldn’t be a junior professor, she’d be a Teaching Assistant, or with a masters, a Teaching Associate). Second, even if she got her Ph.D. from Berkeley, the school would then not hire her. Academic institutions, particularly those involved in research work, hire from outside their own students in order to get new ideas and research, not just have students parroting what their professors at the same school taught them. (Also, because it’s very difficult to go entirely from being someone’s student to being their colleague.)
This actually brings me to another question—how old is Hayden? The narrative hasn’t explicitly said. Her mother died when she was a baby and then her father didn’t remarry for 20 years of his coaching career. He did remarry 3 years before the novel opens (to a woman 29 years his junior, so that’s awkward for them). So Hayden is at least 23. Since Brody is 29, and these novels are pretty traditional, she has to be less than 29. Assuming she graduated from college at 22, went straight into a masters program, she’d have graduated that at 24, then moved to Berkeley immediately and now be 27 (as long as we ignore everything I pointed out about Berkeley in no way hiring her as a professor unless there’s a Berkeley Community College). That would make her quite young for a professor, even a junior one, but that’s because it doesn’t require a Ph.D. apparently. If her father had her when he was, say, 30, that would make him 57 now, and the step-mother/soon-to-be-ex would be 28. The narrative hasn’t said that the soon-to-be-ex is about the same age as Hayden, something that would be useful in vilifying her (as the narrative has already explicitly done).
All right, all right, you came here for the sex, not the diatribe on the state of academia. But first, a quick note that when Brody is surprised at the fact that not only are they at the Ritz-Carlton but they have the penthouse, Hayden declines to explain that it’s her father’s and that he owns a hockey team. Ostensibly she does this because when people have found out in the past, all they wanted to talk about was hockey and then badgered her for tickets. “…just once it would be nice if she were the source of a man’s infatuation” (23 emphasis original). I have a hard time buying this. Yeah, it could be annoying if the significant other knew ahead of time and was only dating you for the tickets or whatever, but I have a hard time believing it was a constant thing. And it can’t possibly matter in a one-night stand situation where Hayden doesn’t care if Brody wants her romantically, because, after all, one night stand. In other words, she doesn’t tell him because the narrative device—that these two are connected because she’s the daughter of his employer but they can’t know that yet—demands it. But requiring that means that the character has to make the choice not to tell Brody, and just lets him believe “You must make good money at Berkeley” (23) and the reader believe that all men who date Hayden are hockey-mad leeches.
Anyway, they get to the penthouse and have sex in a hallway. (They’re heading for the bed but Brody sees Hayden’s tattoo and somehow this makes him unable to wait. See post #2 about loss of control. Speaking of tattoos, apparently Brody has a “badass tribal tattoo” on his bicep (28). This book was published in 2009. Were tribals honestly still considered “badass” that recently? He also has scars (presumably from hockey, but we’re not told) that make Hayden find him even more appealing because he’s “dangerous.”
I don’t have much to say about the sex, as I mentioned, except for one point that I think the author did well. First the narrative plays into the dominating, alpha male hero trope when Brody tells Hayden to undress for him, and even directs which article of clothing she should take off at any given time. Hayden even thinks to herself that he’s commanding. The whole alpha male stereotype is pretty standard for romance novels and not exactly surprising when the hero is a professional athlete, either. (Most readers of romances, after all, are doing it for escapism and there’s a desire for the controlling, dominant male. The main character of Fifty Shades of Grey is a stalking, abusive, jerk, but the series has outsold everything ever. One of the series we’ll read later, the Dartmouth Cobras, seems to be entirely about kinky, hockey-playing, dominant males, so it’s not like this book is alone.) However! Hayden insists that Brody kiss her, and he complies, likewise when she insists on a bed (although they don’t actually get there.) When the chapter/scene switches to Brody’s point of view, he describes her as “deliciously demanding.” I’m not sure that the author and the narrative 100% convinces me that they’re equally demanding or in control, but I’m impressed that it attempts to.
On the other hand, after Brody gives her an orgasm (in the hallway), he gets up to retrieve his condoms. Hayden doesn’t bother to get up from the floor, and she’s described as follows.
[S]he looked ridiculously sexy lying there on the floor beneath him. Sexy and trashy and so damn appealing his cock twitched with impatience (29).
Wow, the narrative lost me at trashy. Really? Now’s the time for the hero to make a judgment call on the woman he’s sleeping with? What makes her trashy? The fact that she’s about to have sex with the hero? Well, then, the hero’s trashy too, no? Yes, apparently “trashy” is a compliment here? I guess? But… no.
Trashy or not, she gives him a blow job and then they have earth-shattering sex on the carpet, and the chapter ends with the promise of more sex, this time in bed.