The Fictional Hockey League

Critiquing hockey romance novels, of which there are many. Overthinking it is the point.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Play the Man: Post 7

Chapter Three: Breaking News! Ryan is Still a Jerk!

I may not have made clear when talking about chapter one, but Jenna really, really doesn’t like Alex. His flirtations and crass humor make her uncomfortable. However, he has injured himself during training and had to have surgery on his MCL, so while he won’t be going on the first roadtrip, Jenna has to drive him at times and “had also been pressured into check in on him” (26). On one hand, I totally get checking in on a friend of a friend (or in this case, friend of a fiancé) even if you don’t much care for said friend. On the other hand, to be “pressured” into it suggests that this has gone further.

Alex is even more irritating than usual when injured, evidently, to the point where as the team is preparing to get on their bus for the airport, Ryan criticizes him. “You’re all moody and bitchy. You’re worse than Jenna when she’s PMSing” (26). Note, of course, that Jenna is standing right next to them during this exchange. Asshat.

Alex continues the banter, telling Ryan that he and Jenna are going to “f*ck like spider monkeys on E” while Ryan is gone (26). She responds that she wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole, to which he responds that he has a ten-foot pole he’d like to touch her with, complete with a crotch grab.

Jenna hated when Alex talked like this, and she hated even more that Ryan never did or said anything to stop it. Everyone knew Alex was joking, but it wasn’t funny. It was inappropriate, and he always took it too far or did it too much for her liking… (26).

It doesn’t matter if “Everyone” is okay with Alex’s joking; Jenna is uncomfortable and has told him as much, therefore Alex ought to stop acting this way towards her. And if he does not, then Ryan ought to have stopped him. Now, if Jenna wants Ryan to say something, she needs to tell him how uncomfortable she is from Alex’s behavior. I have to admit that it’s not Ryan’s job to magically know how Jenna feels about Alex, although it would be nice of him to pay more attention to her. However, at the very least, Ryan shouldn’t be pressuring Jenna to spend time with someone who makes her uncomfortable. The whole dynamic here is messed up in multiple ways. Jenna wants Ryan to defend her honor, but she is also not defending herself or telling said fiance that she wants defense. Yes, her fiancé should support her, but surely she can speak for herself?

To finish up the chapter: Nick comes over to where these three are talking, and Jenna makes him promise to remind Ryan to call her when they land in Edmonton. (Their opening game is against the Oilers.) Once the luggage has been loaded, Nick points this out to Ryan so that the latter can be the captain and tell everyone to get on said bus. (Basically, Ryan is a lousy captain as well as a lousy fiancé.) Then they’re on their way and the chapter ends, leaving Jenna with Alex. And his ten foot pole.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Play the Man: Post 6

Chapter Three: I’m Beginning to Hate This Couple

I get that the author is trying to show us that there are problems in this relationship. I also accept that I know I couldn’t possibly be happy spending most of my life taking care of my significant other, whereas other people take great joy and satisfaction in doing that sort of thing. So I know that I am not critiquing this in a completely balanced way. But I’m already annoyed because this couple makes pretty much zero sense to me. Jenna is supposed to be smart and an all-around good person, but she seems to only like Ryan for his looks. And he’s …. got pretty much nothing I find redeemable.

In this chapter we finally learn that Jenna is a graduate student (flashback to Body Check again. The similarities are starting to weird me out). She’s at the Art Institute of Chicago studying art history (again with the similarities! Do art history people have a thing for hockey players?) The two of them wake up, and Jenna tries to start her very busy day, but Ryan wants sex. He asks if she can’t miss just one day’s class and Jenna points out that in graduate school classes seldom meet and each one is important. Having multiple degrees, I can confirm her point.

But Ryan pushes, both physically seducing her and guilting her since he’s about to leave for a five day roadtrip. Jenna points out that if he’s going to miss her, he could meet her for lunch to spend time together. Ryan initially declines.

“No offense, babe, but I can talk to you over the phone from the road. I can’t, however, do this” (23).

Where the “this” in question is sucking on her nipples. She acquiesces and is late for class.

Afterward, Ryan changes his mind and meets Jenna for lunch. This scene starts from his perspective (none of the scenes since the third in chapter one have remained from one perspective. Yes, this is driving me nuts).

Now he watched as she went on and on about something having to do with her class or whatever. … it made her happy. That’s all Ryan cared about. When she was happy, she glowed, and he’d do anything to keep that fire in her lit. He continued to watch as she talked animatedly, even though he wasn’t truly listening (24).

I’m glad that Ryan genuinely wants Jenna to be happy and that he’ll do whatever it takes for that to happen (except, I guess, set a wedding date). But to literally not care about her passion, even to the point where he consistently doesn’t bother to listen, that’s just patronizing and obnoxious. I mean, I’m not saying he should start taking art history classes, but if he loves her, he should at least learn a little about her interests. They don’t have to share every interest ever, but I have to believe that she knows more about hockey than he does about art history.

(And fair’s fair. Remember back in Body Check that I found Hayden’s refusal to learn anything about hockey, and condescendingly (in my opinion) agreeing to attend hockey games but bringing class notes with her, was equally problematic. But by contrast, in that book Brody not only liked how Hayden lit up when talking about art history, he actually joined in the conversation.)

Eventually, he cuts into her gushing about Chagall to give her her engagement ring which she’d forgotten to wear. She’s mortified to have left it behind and calls herself a horrible girlfriend, but she does tease that if  Ryan hadn’t made her late, she’d not be rushing and thus forgotten it.

“I know, I know,” he replied, finding humor in the way she threw the blame around. “It’s all my fault” (25).

The give and take in most relationships would include this dialogue but not claiming that the other “threw the blame around.” I mean, she apologized, took blame, then joked, then after this comment, she apologizes again.

Then, after he puts the ring back on her hand, she just basks in “the way his thumb rubbed over her fingers” because ordinarily he doesn’t hold her hand in public. This continues to support my point that Ryan just lays claim on Jenna when he deems it necessary (grabbing her in chapter one and pulling her into his lap despite her discomfort) but not to make her happy (holding her hand in public.)

I really don’t like this couple. I liked Jenna at first, but the longer she stays with this guy and the more I learn about their relationship, the less I like even her. Worse yet, this scene ends with the following:

Jenna placed her hand back in her lap, glancing down at the giant pink diamond. As gaudy and showy as it may have been, it was hers; she’d put in the time, the dedication, and the work. She deserved it (25 emphasis original).

Really? She’s deserved it?

Initially I was rooting for this couple to break up so that Jenna could be with Nick. Now I’m rooting for Nick to go find some nice girl elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Play the Man: Post 5

Chapter Two: At Home with the Engaged Couple

The more I learn about Jenna and Ryan’s relationship, the more I dislike them. I really hope that this is the author’s intent. Occasionally the narrative will reveal a detail about why Jenna loves Ryan but they are too few and far between for me to believe she’d stay with him for eight years. Her reasons for loving him, frankly, seem shallow.

Ryan was tall and muscular, strong and powerful. And hot. Jenna thought he was the hottest man she’d ever laid eyes on (21).

Ryan’s relationship with his mother is on the list of reasons I don’t like him. This scene starts with her haranguing Jenna about when they’ll set a wedding date and nagging her that she has to get Ryan to commit to a date. Why can’t his mother nag him directly if it’s that important to her?

After the phone call and when Jenna returns from grocery shopping, Ryan returns home from training camp and immediately asks what’s for lunch. Since she’s just walked in the door, she doesn’t have an answer. They bring in the groceries—and more on that in a moment—and then have a bit of back and forth about the snack foods Jenna bought for herself—and then he asks again, “But seriously, I’m so hungry. When are we eating?” Dude, make yourself a f*cking sandwich.

Back to the groceries for a moment. She’s carrying armloads of bags into the house and she has to ask him to help her.

Jenna knew that she had to ask because Ryan didn’t always think to help out on his own. It didn’t bug her though; he wasn’t being inconsiderate. He honestly never thought about chipping in to accomplish the little things around the house (19).

I kind of think that not thinking about pitching in around the house is the definition of inconsiderate in this situation. Asking Google informs me that the dictionary definition is “thoughtlessly causing hurt or inconvenience to others.” He may not be hurting her but he’s causing inconvenience.

Once she asked though, he did it—and she usually only had to ask once (19).

Meaning that sometimes she has to ask multiple times. This time around, though, Ryan agrees and he grabs all of the remaining bags in one armful.

“Did you see that? I brought everything in! All in one go.”
“Great, Ryan, thanks,” she said with a big, genuine smile. The way that Ryan approached the most menial tasks with childlike enthusiasm was only one of the reasons she fell in love with him (19).

I know that everyone’s tastes are different, but I personally would just find this annoying. And what happens when they have kids? Jenna is going to have to mother all of them, Ryan included. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Jenna finds Ryan attractive. He’s a professional athlete, after all, so his body is going to be pretty fabulous. But “tall and muscular, strong and powerful. And hot” just doesn’t make sense to stay with him for eight years let alone wishing for eternity. An eternity of making him dinner and genuinely telling him he’s great for bringing in a carload’s worth of groceries in one go, and putting up with his sense of humor and penchant for public declarations that embarrass her.