The Fictional Hockey League

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

Play the Man: Post 28

Chapter Twenty-One: A Digression by the Commissioner AND The Aftermath Part 1

At the end of this post, please see a digression by me on the nature of snarking here.

So, when we left our little dysfunctional love triangle, Ryan had just found out that Nick was the man with whom Jenna had had the affair. He left the rink angry. The other players had seen Ryan’s attack on Mike and seen Ryan and Nick storm off. They did not hear the actual conversation between Ryan and Nick, but were clearly aware that Ryan did not return to practice.

“We’re still having practice?” Shawn asked… (137).

Uh, yes? The freakin’ coach is there. The captain, such as he is, rarely shows to optional practices, as the text made clear, so what does it matter that he stormed off. (Also, it really ought to be multiple coaches. I’ve never been to a Coyotes practice and not seen multiple coaches on the ice, even during optional skates.) You guys are PROFESSIONAL NHL PLAYERS, the coaching staff doesn’t give a fig if someone’s upset for whatever reason—there’s still going to be practice.

Nick tries to call Jenna to tell her that he’d spilled the beans to Ryan. (Jenna has been staying with Nick ever since Ryan left her at the Art Institute) but he only gets her voicemail. He debates going to her in person versus staying at the rink for the skate.

He felt a little jaded; if she didn’t want to be a part of his life, then he shouldn’t feel the need to want to protect her from Ryan’s wrath (139).

That’s… not how emotions work. First, let me highlight the fact that Nick is worried that Jenna needs protection from “Ryan’s wrath” which, given that he’s just seen Ryan go after a teammate who merely said that he likes blondes like Jenna, with no other evidence that he might be the guy who had the affair with her, I can see why fear of Ryan’s violence is logical. HOWEVER, if he genuinely fears that Ryan is going to be violent with Jenna, then I think Nick has a duty to protect her, not only as someone he cares about but as a human being. Hell, he should be calling the police!

Now, if he thinks that “Ryan’s wrath” will be only verbal (which is still potentially very dangerous, of course) and that Jenna can protect herself, fine, he doesn’t have a requirement to protect her. That said, it shouldn’t be tit-for-tat. Just because she doesn’t want to leave her fiancé for him doesn’t mean that he now needs drop all concern, interest, and affection for her. I mean, if he actually cares for her, he should care for her for who she is, not for what he can get from her. 
Jenna was in the shower when Nick called, so didn’t get the message.

It would have been so much easier if she could have accepted Nick’s offer of love and affection and let him whisk her off her feet, like she was certain he was capable of doing, but easier didn’t mean it was possible (140).

I… what? So, Nick is capable of sweeping her off her feet but that’s not possible? I think I get what the narrative is trying to say here—mostly that Nick could sweep Jenna off her feet if not for her feelings for Ryan but that is so not what it says.

She’s been trying to decide if she should go home to New Hampshire, since nothing in Chicago is hers. It’s ALL been provided for by Ryan, to the extent that in order to not spend his money, she’d have to ask her parents for the funds to get her back to NH. But she’s uncomfortable asking for money from her parents because that “would be like admitting defeat” (140). I’m uncomfortable by the idea that marrying Ryan was a prize to be won (or lost.) This motif came up earlier in the text, too, and I didn’t like it then, either. I think I must have a fundamentally different view of relationships than Jenna.

That fact is made even clearer when Jenna thinks, “She didn’t know how to live, how to exist, without him” (140). She continues on.

Or maybe it was because she truly needed him. That they had been together so long that they had molded and melded together into one single entity (141).

First? Ew. Second? Ew. (The first ew is because literally that sounds gross. The second ew is because that’s figuratively gross, too, because people should be whole without their partners. Not that they can’t be better people because of their partners, or a fantastic team with their partners, but if you’re not whole without your partner, that’s called co-dependence.)

I understand that when you’re heartbroken melodramatic things get thought, but still. Yikes.

The giant pink engagement ring, which graces the book’s cover and was a point of such consternation earlier in the text, becomes an Enormous Symbol (I mean, beyond what engagement rings already symbolize) at this point. Jenna decides not to take it off, not even to shower, so long as there’s even a bit of hope that Ryan will decide to take her back. When she gets out of the shower, there’s a knock on the door and Ryan demanding to be let in to talk.

I hate to leave you on a cliffhanger—even the book doesn’t, as the chapter continues here, but this post has gotten long. Until next time… 

Now, a few thoughts.
I made the mistake of reading a little of the author’s blog after I finished reading Play the Man. As most people are, writers included, she seems quite nice and justifiably proud of her achievements of writing/publishing her novels. Play the Man was her first novel and I just wish it were better. Because frankly, it’s really, truly, and painfully bad in many ways. Sure, there aren’t any magic pants (actually, that’d be more fun…) and she seems to understand hockey (yay!), but the continuous, dragged on moping just makes the book boring. (And the oh-so-convenient concussion is awful. And grad school doesn't work that way. And I loathe these characters.)

Happily, I read excerpts from some of the author’s other works, and she seems to have improved. I’m genuinely pleased for her by that fact. Practice does matter when it comes to anything (including writing and hockey!) I’m not going to race out to buy more of her work, necessarily, but I’d go to another book by this author with an open mind.

Also, a reminder that when I nitpick and obsess and critique these books (or any writing), I do not mean to ever equate the book with the person. And if I do? I’m genuinely sorry for that. I figure someday an author is going to find this blog and be pretty horrified by it. I know how important someone’s written work is to them. And I know that my critiques will be hurtful should they be read by the authors. But I’m honestly not doing it to be mean. I’m doing it to either expose bad writing or to follow the writing to its logical end. For example, when I criticize the character of Ryan, and Jenna’s reaction to what might happen if he were to find out about her infidelity, I’m trying to point out cultural norms that maybe shouldn't be norms, gender stereotypes, and potentially abusive relationships. (No, Jenna and Ryan’s relationship is not shown to be abusive. But her fear of his potential for violence threw up red flags for me, and I wanted to point that sort of thing out because I don’t think it’s okay for that to be considered normal because silence breeds more of the same.)

Anyway, I digress. I wanted to say that, even buried here as it is, because I do have qualms about this blog at times and I wanted to clarify what it is I’m attempting—besides enjoying a good dose of snark.

Next post- Ryan confronts Jenna.

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