Chapter 1: Philly Phantoms
After the drudgery that was Play the Man, I thought I’d flip back to my friend the Harlequins for book #3, so here we have Her Man Advantage by Joanne Rock. It’s another from the Blaze series, so we should expect relatively explicit sex.
The cover shows an awkwardly posing couple in a hockey locker room. The man is sitting on a bench, sort of sprawled, while the woman is behind him, one hip cocked so far out that I think she may have hurt herself. Possibly that’s her butt, in which case her spine might now be out of alignment. (For more on women on book covers, check out these hilarious and insightful posts by author Jim C. Hines.)
The man is half dressed, and the most amusing thing about this for me is that he’s got on black and grey hockey socks that totally match the ones I wore on my last team. (Shout out to the Oceanside DLeague Predators!) He has a very European-action-star, close-cropped hair, kind of WW2 Aryan look to him, which is a bit creepy.
The title, Her Man Advantage, is not as clever as it wants to be. (A “man advantage” is certainly hockey term, for when your team is on the power play and therefore has one more player on the ice than the other team. But the phrasing here is awkward and also, what does it mean here? The heroine has one more man than the opposing team? That’s a lot of men. I’m no prude, but where would she find the time?) The cover also declares “Some guys don’t hold back….” which is a little more threatening sounding than I like my romance novels, personally. It also has a little target on the left of the cover that declares “Double overtime” which is a bit odd. Will this team be going to the playoffs and will the penultimate scene be of our hero scoring the winning goal in double overtime? (NHL games don’t go to double overtime except in playoffs/finals nowadays). Is this supposed to be a double entendre? Why is it on the cover of this book?
Bonus snark! While tooling around the web, procrastinating, I discovered a posted called "5 Awesomely Terrible Hockey Romance Novel Titles" and it includes Her Man Advantage! It's from the 2012 off season when sites like The Score had little-to-no hockey to talk about and thus hit on hockey romance novels. The other four on the list are not ones the FHL has covered before (one is called Body Check but it's a different one than the first book of this blog) but one never knows when the FHL might.
Anyway, like most short romance novels (149 pages for this one), Her Man Advantage starts in medias res. But before this post jumps in, let’s talk about the team for a moment, because I find this choice odd, too. It’s the Philadelphia Phantoms, albeit not the ones that actually existed.
The Philadelphia Phantoms of our reality were an actual team that played in the American Hockey League and were a farm team for the Philadelphia Flyers. (This is unusual—an NHL team having its AHL team in the same city.) The played from 1996 until 2009. (The team still exists. It moved to Glen Falls, NY and became the Adirondack Phantoms. Starting this fall, it will begin playing in my home-town area of Allentown, PA as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. I’m actually quite excited by this.)
This novel was published in 2012, after the real team’s move. Perhaps the author just liked the name and didn’t realize that the team didn’t fold but just moved? Further, the team in this novel is an NHL team. Unlike Body Check, the NHL gets referenced specifically, as does the Stanley Cup. (The hero’s best friend played for the “Boston NHL team” – apparently Harlequin was willing to pay for the rights to use “NHL” in this novel, but not “Bruins” or “Flyers” or anything else.
From what I’ve read so far, this novel is well-written and has pacing that is exponentially better than Play the Man’s. So these are good things. However it quickly veers from “unlikely” into “wildly improbable” to my mind. So this could be fun.