Chapter 5: CAUGHT ON TAPE! (42).
Heh. That’s seriously how chapter 5 opens. This amuses me. Fortunately, the next line, “It sounded like a tabloid headline” tells me that the narrative acknowledges the amusement factor, too. Jennifer treats the situation like an adult (so nice to see!) and calls her boss.
Axel, however, is not so grown up. First he rips the camera out of the cameraman’s hands, which doesn’t help since it’s digital and the footage has already been uploaded. Since that act of… well, I don’t know what to call it. The text doesn’t say he breaks the camera or anything, so it’s not really violence. Anyway, since that act, Axel has been all stony and stoic and chilly.
Jennifer’s boss calls and he is completely delighted by the turn of events, to the point where he threatens Jennifer with being fired if she doesn’t allow them to use the footage. Since she still wants to make her social media project, she reluctantly agrees to sign the waiver. Axel, on the other hand, informs Jennifer that he has to do damage control because of this moment and that he refuses to be on camera again unless he’s on ice. He does not, however, equate that to mean no kissing, just only kissing behind locked doors.
The chapter then takes a turn that genuinely surprised me. Most Harlequins are told from the hero and heroine’s points of view, with the occasional secondary character getting a scene or two but really only to drive the plot that’s driving the hero and heroine together. This means limited backstory and limited interest in said secondary characters. This isn’t a criticism, necessarily. Harlequin novels are only ever about 150 pages, tops, which means very few words to be spent even on the main story, let alone to develop subplots. So imagine my surprise when this chapter suddenly switches to Chelsea-the-groupie’s perspective.
Furthermore, you might expect Chelse-the-groupie to be used only as a foil for Jennifer-the-heroine, especially given Jennifer’s reaction to finding out that Axel has groupies. But no, she has her own whole backstory. It’s, admittedly, a somewhat unlikely backstory, but a developed one.
Turns out that Chelsea lived on the streets for 3 years, beginning at age 17, after living in a makeshift tent with her mother. Evidently her mother had “owed” men a lot, and had paid them back physically. This situation from her childhood has made her super gun-shy about men, to the point where while she might have some fantasies, she’d never consider being involved with one. Similarly, she doesn’t take gifts, since that would mean owing someone. Since becoming a Phantoms groupie, she’d been hit on by a few players, but she “made it clear she was a sports groupie, not a sex groupie” (48).
She’s also super careful. So when a tall man approaches Chelsea in the parking lot of the practice “arena”, where she’s preparing to head to Montreal with the camera guy and the other groupies—one of whom she’d met in a women’s shelter—she basically runs from him until realizing it’s one of the players, “Vincent Girard,” a rookie who has been nice to her. He’s super sweet in this scene—when she says she “practice[s] parking-lot safety and… couldn’t see who was under the hat” (47) he turns the hat around and they chat briefly. He then gives her a GPS so that she won’t get lost on the way to the game, claiming that it had been for his sister but she already had one. He even hooks it up for her—finishing the installation before she can articulate that she doesn’t take gifts, in fact. But then he walks off casually.
I admit this all seems unlikely. As friendly as the Coyotes, for example, are with their fans (what with the open practices and such) I’ve heard a lot more stories about the players having to avoid specific fans than approaching them. That said, this seems super sweet and I’m far more intrigued by this storyline than the main one.
Misty, one of the other groupies, shows up (her backstory is that her father had kicked her out when he remarried and the stepmother didn’t want her around) and convinces Chelsea that Vincent is actually interested in her in a romantic or sexual sense—which immediately gives Chelsea a panic attack.
I want this book to be Chelsea and Vincent’s story. Vincent seems sweet and Chelsea is interesting. Jennifer is fine, I suppose, for a heroine, but she’s a typically feisty one, and as for Axel, well, even having been in a Helsinki motorcycle gang (which still makes me giggle irrationally), he’s not very interesting to me (yet?).
Well, we shall see what happens. My guess? This hockey documentary becomes a battered women’s documentary, fulfilling Jennifer’s need to make films about social justice and keeping her romantic subplot with Axel from being center stage, as well as Axel from being hounded by his former motorcycle gang.
Guess you’ll have to come back to find out if I’m right.