The Fictional Hockey League

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

Friday, January 2, 2015

Her Man Advantage: Post 16

Chapters 12: Double Overtime

The name of this post is taken directly from the text—it’s evidently the name of the documentary series. Since the series is supposed to be about the Phantoms on their playoff run, I’ll allow it. (If it were about the regular season, I’d make more fun of it, since there aren’t double overtimes during the season.) As it stands, it’s a better name than most of the hockey romance novels’ titles.

The whole team is over at Kyle’s house to watch the first episode in his super fancy movie theatre viewing room full of leather reclining chairs.  Jennifer and Axel are at the back of the room. Axel doesn’t want to be watching but he figured he couldn’t get out of it. (Also, Kyle’s girlfriend, the matchmaker, is playing hostess, passing popcorn bowls and refilling drinks. Given the backstory that the novel gave her, with her former pop star mom and everything, you’d think the author would name her. Also, I can’t help but wondering if there isn’t a whole other novel somewhere about Kyle and his girlfriend.)

Answer: Yes.  Yes there is.  One ManRush is about Kyle.  And I just stumbled onto two more books by Joanne Rock featuring the Cape Cod Murphys, although neither involves hockey (they both involve yachting, it looks like. Making a Splash and Riding the Storm.) Okay then.

Where the heck was I? Right. They’re watching the documentary series’ first episode, and when the Vinny shows up onscreen, everyone’s all “Where’s Chelsea?” and it turns out she’d accepted a volunteer shift at the homeless shelter. Meanwhile, Axel receives a text.

Yes. The fearsome Destroyers international motor cycle club texts. Badly.

Looks like U can still fire a shot. We’ll expect U @ target practice tonight. Leave your brother’s house alone. Someone will meet you. (118)

Man, even international bikers can’t seem to be consistent. The “U”s annoy me, but why is the last one spelled out?

Naturally this would be the time when the documentary starts talking about how the team is a family so that Axel can reminisce. He’d been looking for family when he joined the Destroyers, he’d gotten a better one when he was adopted by the Murphys. But he’d angered the Destroyers and now that’s “festered” (119).

The opening episode also shows the big kiss between Axel and Jennifer and she confides in him that she’d done her best to get it cut. Since she’s not going to make the documentary about social media bullying, her bosses no longer had leverage, except she’d already signed the waiver.

It touched him that she’d listened to his advice and consulted her sister about the project. It touched him even more that she’d gone to bat for him with her boss. That, more than anything, told him he needed to distance himself from Jennifer while he still had a prayer of pulling away (120).

I know that this is about fearing to be too close and putting Jennifer in danger and blah blah blah, but without context it makes me laugh. It’s such a romance novel thing to write, too. “Oh s/he’s perfect and wonderful and I might love him/her, so clearly I must run! Run!”

Jennifer tells him he needs to go to the police which warns Axel off even more. “The time had come to protect her even if it killed him” (120). Maybe because I’ve read ahead a bit or maybe because I just can’t take the International Biker Gang who makes finger guns gestures and text messages using “U” all that seriously, but this just seems overwrought to me.

Axel and Jennifer leave the media room to talk away from the others which leads to one of the more awkward moments in the book. Axel is trying to Jennifer what’s going on and she keeps remarking on Kyle’s house.

“Kyle has quite a spread doesn’t he?”
“You mean the trophies?”…
“I mean the house” (121).

Axel agrees it’s nice and said that it had belonged to a former football player, then continues to try and talk about the bigger situation.

“But about tonight—“
“Professional athletes have some seriously nice digs.” … “Sorry to gawk, but I’ve never hung out with hockey stars on my jobs before. I’m usually camping in some overheated trailer and feeling guilty about all my luxuries as I film the lives of –“
“Jen, this is important” (122).

Can’t she tell he has something to say? I mean, they did just sneak out of the media room and her documentary screening in order to chat. And I get that she doesn’t come from money, but there’s been no reason given for her to be so over the moon about the expense on display other than that she doesn’t want to be a trophy wife.

Anyway, Axel tells her he needs to deal with the situation and Jennifer insists he goes to the police. He refuses because he fears that they’re useless in this situation and also he might be deported. This strikes me as unlikely, between the clout that the very incredibly immensely rich Cape Code Murphys must have and also that Axel is, y’know, an NHL player who hasn’t done anything wrong on US soil. But sure.

Axel explains that the Destroyers have insisted on seeing him that night and that he knows what’s going to happen—they’ll try to intimidate him, then they’ll blackmail him by threatening to reveal his past, and if he doesn’t give them what they want, they’ll go after Jennifer next. I … don’t really understand what they have to blackmail him about. Yeah, I suppose it doesn’t look good to have had an NHL player deliver drugs (unknowingly!) as a kid in some ways, but in other ways it’s a great story. Rags to riches! Hard work over poor parenting! Hockey success! The threats against Jennifer I can see as being potentially troubling, however. And Jennifer has researched the Destroyers and found out that they’re “bad eggs” (123) so she’s suitably nervous. But this apparently also solidifies her feelings for him, and she “suddenly” doesn’t “care about their differences” (124) and just wants him to stay safe.

When Axel declares, “This isn’t going to work,” (124) she assumes he means his plan. In actuality, he’s breaking up with her. Because of course he is. He insists it’s not just because of the current gang situation but because of their lifestyle differences, their geographical distance, and how she’s a “social crusader with a mission for justice and equality” (125). Jennifer insists that these differences are just “superficial.”

“Right. And you’ll always see them as superficial, even when I buy another new car instead of donating to a charity.” He had hit her in a vulnerable spot, since the cars did strike her as over-the-top. “I saw the judgment in your eyes when you looked at the vehicles in my garage last night” (125).

Not a euphemism!

Axel says he has to leave and insists that she not follow him because that would be putting her life in peril “for a relationship that was never going to work anyhow” (126). Which might work on someone else, but not on a heroine in a Harlequin novel! Especially not on a heroine who has just! Now! Suddenly! Realized that she’s in “l-o-v-e” (125, emphasis original). But he storms out.

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