The Fictional Hockey League

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

Play the Man: Post 30

Epilogue: Your Happily Ever After Ain’t Mine

Epilogue pregnancies, such as with Body Check, are a common trope. Play the Man goes with the other common epilogue trope: the epilogue wedding day. It turns out to be the very most perfect day. There’s a whole bunch of internal monologuing from Jenna about how she and Ryan have gotten through the very worst thing that could ever happen to them and now they can celebrate.

We learn that the Ryan and Nick’s friendship never recovered.

It didn’t hurt that Ryan had put a target on his back and had taken him out at practice every chance he got (152).

This strikes me as unlikely. Again, hearkening back to the many, many times I’ve gone to watch the Coyotes practice, there is rarely much contact in practice. Why would you risk injury skating against your own teammates? Besides which, most practices are drills of various kinds—there isn’t room for taking out your teammates. (Especially recently concussed ones.)

They certainly weren’t the best of friends, but then again they weren’t before, either (152).

Really, novel? You’re going to re-rewrite history? What happened to the poor Ryan has been cheated on by the TWO PEOPLE HE TRUSTED MOST? WAAAANNNHHH. Ugh.

Before the ceremony, Alex shows up to give Jenna the bride gift. (Is this a traditional thing? The best man gives a gift from the groom to the bride? Did not know that.)

She opened the velvet box and found a strand of flawless, white, seven-millimeter pearls (153).

Alex, being Alex, makes a pearl necklace sex joke, which, I know is totally in character but kind of doesn’t fit the mood of the overall epilogue. Then the narrative specifies that the necklace is a symbol, since Ryan bought something for Jenna that better fits her style than his (unlike the engagement ring) but that the engagement ring “complemented her finger” just as Ryan complements Jenna. Overwrought, but it’s the conclusion to a romance novel so I’ll allow it.

But where does this all leave our odd man out? Nick attends the wedding, mainly because it would have been suspicious of him not to. He and Jenna have not spent any time together since the affair. He expects to leave as soon as he can congratulate the bride and groom, but then he meets Katie and they flirt and dance. (“They stood close together, although not too close” (157). Apparently Nick is leaving room for the Holy Ghost?) And the novel ends with the image of Nick and Katie smiling at each other.

BUT! That’s not the image I want to leave you with. Oh no, no, no. Instead, imagine the toasts. Apparently the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup two weeks before the wedding, so they have it at the wedding reception for Ryan and Jenna to drink from.

Her mother had given her a plastic poncho to wear, so Ryan wouldn’t spill any champagne on her wedding dress as he lifted the giant silver Cup for her to sip from (155).

Because nothing says elegant wedding photos as a plastic poncho! I like to picture it as one of the old-school Walt Disney World ones, where it’s BRIGHT YELLOW and has a Mickey Mouse on the back. Happy wedding!

Some final thoughts on Play the Man… It’s… not great. I mean, I was genuinely surprised that Jenna stayed with Ryan, and being surprised by the outcome in a romance novel is pretty rare, I’ll give it that. I don’t like that Nick, though, is less of a character then and more of a tool for fixing the initial relationship. (And I use "fixing" here only in the sense that the couple stayed together, not that I think it is a healthy, stable, or enviable relationship that has had any of its major flaws attended to.)

I found the book incredibly repetitive, full of unnecessary and monotonous recitation of characters’ thoughts. I despised the perspective jumping. It was irritating, unnecessary, and frankly I thought it was a symptom of an inexperienced writer as opposed to a carefully thought through choice. I can only hope that that’s something the author chose not to employ in future novels, because it was whiplashingly awful. I didn’t like any of the characters, frankly, so it’s hard to say much of anything else about the book because for me, personally, characters are pretty much the most important thing.

Come back Monday for FHL's third book, another Harlequin Blaze. The pace is far superior and it's a book full wild improbabilities! Fun!

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