Chapters 6 & 7: Sex & Violence (well, Violence & Sex)
In the aftermath of the bizarre, in my opinion, threat from the Destroyers biker, the narrative switches to Jennifer’s perspective and she demands to know what’s going on. Axel’s reaction is intriguing. He does, in fact, agree to tell her the truth, albeit as long as she doesn’t share the information with the team, but his tone is “cool, distant” (61). I know I’ve said this before, but I’m so impressed that this book’s tension doesn’t depend upon missing information and a refusal to communicate. Even though Axel is willing to share, things like his tone of voice here still give him an interesting characterization. I haven’t finished the book yet, so it all could fall apart, but this is how you write a short romance properly, without the stupid refusal to talk to people.
Axel explains that he was in the gang when he was a “teenage moron” (61) and that they won’t like seeing his “lifestyle broadcast to twenty different countries while they’re still scrapping over drug territories in Helsinki” (62). Which, okay, but he never explains how the gang already knows about this just-began-filming/hasn’t aired documentary. Nor why they’d wait for something like the film to come back and want something from him when he’s already been successful for a while and they clearly already know where he is (right down to being in a rental car instead of the team bus on a way to the airport. Apparently they injected him with a GPS chip or something?)
Jennifer is shocked to learn that Axel had been in a gang, having envisioned hockey players to have grown up in moneyed families who could drive them to games and lessons and such. She’s not wrong in general. Hockey is expensive, especially for a kid where you have to buy new gear every time the player grows a bit, on top of league fees and lessons and ice time and gas for the car. Which is frankly why I still don’t understand how Axel became a good enough player, while also being in a motorcycle gang, to end up in the NHL.
Axel doesn’t explain that mystery, but he does explain that he was 8 years old when he began going to the clubhouse with his stepfather and running messages and mystery packages possibly full of drugs, although the text makes clear that by the time he was 11 he knew never to deliver packages, so this character is still basically morally clean. And of course readers are meant to like him even more when Jennifer exclaims that this documentary could be dangerous for him but he’s more concerned that it could mean danger for her. Aww.
The chapter ends here and the next one starts a Vincent scene, so I’m going to skip ahead to the next Jennifer/Axel scene and come back to Vincent next post. The Montreal game has ended and Jennifer is in her hotel room, thinking that she and Axel need to talk. She’s also pondering what will happen to her reputation and potentially her career when the scene of her kiss with Axel airs in three days.
…she did not want to be some decorative accessory on the arm of a successful athlete. Big-time sports stars were notorious for womanizing and living large. She didn’t want any part of the jet-set lifestyle with houses on both coasts and a garage full of cars that were never driven more than two miles (68, emphasis original).
Sure, well paid professional athletes do that have that kind of reputation but I’d guess hockey players less than most other professionals. And if she falls for Axel, she’d be falling for an actual person, not the idea of an athlete, and I would think that if he has that lifestyle it’d be symptomatic of other things that Jennifer wouldn’t like about him. Besides, if she had his income, she could make all the critically acclaimed, commercially terrible social justice films she wanted. Just a thought.
Axel comes to her room and despite having had a good game (including an assist on the game-winning goal), he’s in a bad mood.
“I’m having the best season of my career,” he admitted, though he seemed a little annoyed about it (69).
Yes, how terrible. But no, the annoyance is because he’s certain he’s going to mess up the good thing by getting involved with Jennifer. Not, let me point out, because of the resurgence of his old motorcycle gang. And the power of attraction is so strong that he can’t do anything except kiss her.
After this, it’s just a sex scene that takes a very long time to get the couple naked. Since we’re at book three already, you may have noticed that I tend to skip over the sex scenes. That’s because, much like car chase scenes, unless the author does something particularly unusual, they’re just not that different from each other, especiallyin mainstream, heterosexual romance. The only thing particularly of note in this one is that Jennifer is concerned that she doesn’t have a centerfold body (compared with Axel’s professional athlete body) and he reassures her, completely enraptured by her beauty. There’s just a few odd moments.
Who could be coherent with a naked goddess skimming the front of his pants? (74)
Who indeed, Axel? Who indeed?
When Jennifer insists that he get naked, he tells her to be patient, then caves, telling her she wins.
She released his pants to clutch the condom, waving it over her head like a trophy.
“We both win!” she exclaimed, unwrapping it while he shed his pants and his boxers. When her eyes dipped south, she dropped the prophylactic. “But I really, really win” (74).
Ah yes, the hero’s enormous penis trope.