The Fictional Hockey League

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

Play the Man: Post 3

Chapter One: Public Embarrassment

This first chapter has set up Jenna as quiet, demure, and private, and the last bit of the scene uses all of that against her. First, Alex asks if Jenna ought to be drinking alcohol (she’s been drinking a Fuzzy Navel, but he asks when she takes some of Ryan’s beer) and when she asks why not, Alex answers that he figured they were only getting married because she was pregnant, and he asks this loudly enough for the entire room to hear.

Jenna was truly offended…. And—on top of that—in her family, a child conceived out of wedlock would be a scandal. Her grandparents didn’t even know that she was living with her boyfriend, and even her parents didn’t condone it (13).

On one hand, I can see why Jenna would be mortified that after eight years of dating she only got the marriage proposal because she’d gotten accidentally pregnant. And it is quite rude of Alex to assume that and far, far worse to voice it as a joke to a roomful of people. At the time, Jenna’s sitting in Ryan’s lap, although she doesn’t want to be, and Ryan doesn’t tell Alex to stop, he simply yells to the entire room that she’s not pregnant. When she goes off to get beer for Ryan, he says that she can take care of herself, and Nick frowns, thinking that Ryan should be protecting his fiancée. So the narrative has begun to set up how Nick might be feeling about Jenna.

When she returns to the table, Ryan grabs her again and tells her, “God, I need to be inside of you” (15). This upsets Jenna.

Jenna bit her lip… She needed to hold back from telling him that he shouldn’t have said that so loud. As much as she liked when Ryan talked like this, he shouldn’t do so when in earshot of the bartender and the entire team. It was just improper and inappropriate (15 emphasis original).

Again, you could argue that Jenna is overreacting, that she’s too uptight. But the fact that the narrative assures the reader that Jenna likes this kind of talk, just in the right circumstances, suggests otherwise, that she’s not a prude, she simply doesn’t want her private life made public. Since their leaving early creates “knowing looks” given by Ryan’s teammates, it’s not like they’re behaving any better. Can you blame her for being discomfited?

One last point that doesn’t necessarily have to do with embarrassment. After Jenna says goodbye to Nick, whom she calls Nicky, she “dutifully followed her fiancé out the door” (15). Dutifully is quite a word choice here. A few paragraphs ago, the first reason she bit her lip was to “suppress the moan” in response to Ryan’s words. She clearly still enjoys her relationship with Ryan in many ways. So it’s not just “duty” that takes her to Ryan’s bed when they leave the bar. But it’s still a telling word, foreshadowing a change or realization about this situation.


  1. And by that last "realization" I mean "situation", an error I'll correct when I can.

    1. Phew. It is fixed. I feel so much better now.

      Also, if anyone wants a sense of time-line, this book will be our topic through 11/21. (After that, we're moving into another Harlequin).