The Fictional Hockey League

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Play the Man: Post 25

Chapter Seventeen & Eighteen: How Many More Pages?

Right, so, magic day of practice and no practice, Ryan leaves without waking Jenna and heads to the rink. There’s a great deal of moping. Then a player called “Caveman” (later revealed to be Brian, Nick’s roommate, but not until the end of the scene) asks Ryan if he wants to help prank Alex, since the latter had “creamed” him previously.

“He creamed you?” Ryan laughed at thought of all the disgusting ways that sentence could be taken (112 emphasis original).

I genuinely can’t think of all that many ways, actually, but sure, whatever. Regardless, I’m delighted to see that the idiot man-child’s homophobic sense of humor is still intact. Ryan’s refusal to join in makes Brian compare him to Nick who is acting all “moody and sullen”, specifically more so than usual, to the point where he doesn’t care about the game. (He’s still not allowed to play, but now he’s not even caring about going to the games.) Clearly, Jenna’s not-decision is affecting everyone. If by everyone you mean Ryan and Nick.

As for Jenna, she is also moping. But she makes breakfast, makes Ryan’s pregame meal, then heads to class. Katie asks how Jenna’s “little friend” is doing, meaning Nick, although that seems like a particularly odd choice of words. When the conversation continues and it’s revealed that Jenna is relieved that Nick has gone home, Katie says he was hot and if he needs a nurse, she’s available.

Jenna honestly laughed that time, thinking that she would be happy if Nick suddenly found himself distracted with someone else. Then maybe she wouldn’t have found herself in this position. “Please do!” (113).

I did not see that coming. First, I’d like to point out that Ryan would be a douchebag regardless of whether or not Nick was around and single. But more importantly, I’m surprised at the way the text here ignores a common trope. Often in romance novels one of the reluctant lovers will suddenly realize just how much s/he loves the other person upon imagining him/her with someone else. Traditionally, Katie’s admitting her attraction to Nick should make Jenna picture them together and then realize that she can’t stand the idea of him with anyone but her. Instead, she’s more than willing for Katie and Nick to be a hypothetical couple. This suggests, however, that she’s putting the blame for her troubles with Ryan onto Nick, which is not actually the issue.

Eventually, Jenna spills a tiny bit of what’s been going on to Katie and she suggests that Ryan deserves to know (although Katie does not know that Jenna has actually physically cheated on Ryan.)

Jenna nodded. Katie didn’t even understand the entire situation: that Jenna had not only felt those things but also acted on them, and yet she was able to see to the heart of the matter (114 emphasis original).

Well, yeah. It’s usually much easier to see things from outside of a situation because none of those messy emotions are there. Not to mention, it’s easier to say “talk to Ryan!” when you don’t actually know that Jenna has slept with Nick (twice).

Jenna heads home and Ryan, who can’t sleep during his pre-game nap due to moping, tries to talk with her. She decides not to tell him what’s going on and leaves the room. He mopes some more, then calls Nick to ask for advice. Specifically, he asks Nick what he can do that would be nice for Jenna. It’s not a particularly interesting conversation, frankly. Nick points out that as her fiancé, he should know what she likes. Ryan rants that he knows a lot of things about Jenna but he doesn’t know if she’d prefer a bracelet or if he’d cook her dinner and then hangs up on Nick. The only point in this conversation, plot-wise, is that Ryan realizes that Brian was right, that something is up with Nick.

(Now I have “Something’s Up With Jack” from The Nightmare Before Christmas stuck in my head. But that’s okay because that’s a good movie and a fun song and it’s way more interesting than this novel.) 

Chapter eighteen starts with Ryan and Jenna arriving at the United Center for that evening’s game. (The same evening as previous chapter—it’s still Wednesday. Except, as it turns out later in this chapter, it really is Thursday, since the team will leave town immediately after this game, play in Montreal Friday night and then return, and Ryan says that tomorrow is Friday. Thus this is Thursday. Or, actually, it must be Weursday or Thednesday, because this writer lost track, clearly, and didn’t have an editor or proofreader, unfortunately.)

Ryan and Jenna are acting a bit stand-offish, but just the fact that they arrived together upsets Nick.

They always showed up together before games, but Nick thought that maybe today, it would have been different (117, comma error original).

It seems to me that Nick is pretty clueless about all this. Yes, he risked everything to have this affair with Jenna, but so did Jenna. It’s one thing to end things with a fiancé, but it’s another when you’re financially dependent upon him.

At any rate, Ryan tries to kiss Jenna and she pulls away and it’s a whole big emotional thing for them both, and Jenna almost confesses to Ryan only to be cut off by the arrival of Brian telling Ryan that the coach is looking for him. Nick catches up with Jenna next and asks if she’s made a decision. She points out that he’d told her she could have as long as she needed and she walks off.

He watched as she never looked back, and watched until it finally dawned on him that Jenna was never going to choose him (119).

Well. All that will-they-or-won’t-they and it’s figured out anticlimactically by the way Jenna walks away from Nick. I admit I did not see that coming. The book has set up Ryan as a pretty awful, selfish, self-indulgent man-child. On the other hand, after the initial introduction of Nick as serious and understanding, he hasn’t exactly been Mr Wonderful, either. I’d say Jenna could do better than either of them, but she’s a pretty big idiot, too.

So Jenna wanders around the United Center before the game, thinking about her past and future and how she always wanted to have widdle babies with Ryan and she’d dress them in Blackhawks jerseys. (What if Ryan gets traded? It does happen.)

She comes to the conclusion that if she wants to stay with Ryan, she has to tell him the truth or the secret will fester and end things anyway. But on the other hand, if she tells him, he’ll leave her.

Yes, Ryan had suddenly turned sweet and loving—but was that a permanent change? Was that indicative of the way things were going to be from now on? After all, it wasn’t like Ryan was normally a jerk (120).

I dunno. I think he’s normally a jerk. Jenna, are you reading the same book I am?

He was just a clueless, blissfully unaware, typical guy who lived his life on a whim (120).

Oh, my mistake. So all guys are jerks, then, if Ryan is “a typical guy”. Y’know, this is why we still need feminism. Because stereotypes of men and women hurt all genders. And overgeneralizations hurt me as a reader.

So despite Nick knowing that Jenna is going to choose Ryan, she continues to hem and haw.

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