The Fictional Hockey League

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

Friday, January 9, 2015

Her Man Advantage: Post 19

Chapters 14: Surprisingly Anticlimactic

Given that this is a novel about a former gang member visited by his past, having his new potential love of his life threatened, all while he’s an NHL defenseman heading into the playoffs, the book’s conclusion is kind of anticlimactic. (Yeah, yeah, the climax was in the previous chapter, what with the shootout and all, but the climax of romance novels is generally the couple admitting their feelings, which has yet to happen in this novel.) But we have 12 pages to tie up all the loose ends, so things have to happen quickly.

Fortunately, that’s not too difficult in a book that is mainly made up of unlikely and/or convenient events. First there’s the police to deal with. Even though Axel is quite irritated at having spent the entire night in the police station, things have gone pretty easy on him and Jennifer because much of the station is made up of Phantoms fans (phans?) who want to give Axel advice on how the team should play against the Boston Bears.

Well, that piece of information (Boston Bears instead of Bruins) tells us that this alternate NHL is not just borrowing the NHL teams’ AHL affiliates. (There is an AHL Bears team, but they’re in Hershey, PA and they’re the Washington Capitals’ affiliate, not the Bruins’.)

Second there’s the motorcycle club, the Destroyers, who are being charged with weapons possession. And those bikers were easily induced to implicate Jaako Latt, the Finnish biker, since he hadn’t planned on sharing any of the blackmail money. So that takes care of them.

For reasons that aren’t clarified, the police are finished with Axel sooner than they are with Jennifer. (They’d been separated so that the police could compare their stories.) Given that Axel was the potential blackmail victim with all the connections back to the motorcycle club, I’m really unclear as to why they’re spending more time with Jennifer other than because it was necessary so that Axel and his foster brother Kyle could have a conversation alone.

Kyle starts their conversation but trying to convince Axel to tell their dad (Axel’s foster dad) what’s going on so that the family is warned and to get help. When that doesn’t work, Kyle says he’s actually already called their dad who has hired a publicist for Kyle. Must be nice to have such connections and money. At first Axel doesn’t want to “spin” the situation but Kyle convinces him to call the publicist, which Axel does in time for the evening sports news (apparently the NBA playoff games went very late.) So that takes care of the third loose end, or at least starts to.

Axel thanks his brother for having his back, then he declares that he won’t consider the whole ordeal over with until he gets his girl back.

Which is the cue for the novel to switch back to the subplot. Since Axel’s brand new publicist did manage to get Axel’s news into the papers, Vinny brings the paper and some coffee to Chelsea’s house at 7:15am.

Personally? I don’t really care how much I’m in love with someone, I don’t want that someone showing up on my doorstep at 7:15am. But Chelsea is a morning person, so when Vinny buzzes the intercom and plans to start apologizing (for inviting her to meet his parents), she immediately lets him in. She’s even waiting outside the door of her apartment when he gets to her floor.

In short sleeves, she revealed the little tattoos of his teammates’ numbers on her arms and he wondered if he’d see his somewhere. Her knit pajamas were covered in blue Phantoms logos. Even better, she wore a white T-shirt with his number on it… (139).

That’s adorable. Although I am now wondering what her tattoos look like. I hadn’t pictured them as “little tattoos” somehow (not large either, but still) so now I’m wondering if they are literally just little numbers in ordinary font. Given how expensive tattooing is and how Chelsea works in a gift shop and must spend absolutely all of her money on hockey tickets and gas for getting to away games, perhaps that makes sense. (I wonder, though. What happens when guys get traded or retire or whatever and someone else takes their number? What if she doesn’t like the new player and wouldn’t want their number on her? Or what if she really likes the new player? She wouldn’t be able to celebrate the new player. I may be thinking about this more than either Chelsea or the author did.)

More importantly, I suppose, Vinny starts telling Chelsea all the news but she interrupts him by apologizing for flipping out. Vinny asks if she’d like to go for a walk (after, y’know, dressing) since he doesn’t want to invade her space but she interrupts this, too, by flinging herself into his arms and kissing him.

“Chelsea.” He levered back, breaking the kiss. “I’m dying to hold you, sweetheart. But I need to set down the coffee” (140).

I like this couple. They’re adorable. Chelsea worries then that she’d done something wrong, since she’s inexperienced. He reassures her, she reassures him, and all is well and “Chelsea was going to be his forever mate” (141). Okay, that line is a bit awkward. (I’m used to hearing that pets need “forever homes” or “forever families” but not people, especially with “mate”, which, again, seems a bit inhuman.)

The scene reaches its apex when Chelsea tells Vinny that she thinks it’s fate that they’re ending up together because his number was his first tattoo and she got it over her heart.

In response, he licks said tattoo. It, uh, reads better in the original, I suppose.

Finally, the text goes back to our main couple for their final scene (no epilogue wedding or epilogue pregnancy this time around; no epilogue). Axel demands to take Jennifer home. She’d been talking on the phone with her boss, and before that Jennifer had been contacted by the Murphy family’s lawyer to make sure she was taken care of. Dude, everyone needs a Murphy family; they’ve got things covered.

Because this is a romance novel, we have to end with one more standard trope, in this case that Jennifer is worried that Axel still thinks they shouldn’t be together and fears that he’s now acting distant and worries that when they were crouched behind the makeshift bar would be the last time he ever touches her.

The text follows this up with another trope in which Axel tells Jennifer that she’s too impulsive and she tells him he’s too stubborn, and there’s bickering to cover the fact that they were both worried about each other. They solve this problem, however, when Axel has a suggestion.

“How about you stay with me and then neither of us will get into trouble without the other?” (145).

He points out that Jennifer will be able to find social causes to try to solve via film making in Philadelphia, obviously, and that this way he’ll be able to keep her safe. Jennifer responds with “My own personal defenseman” (145) which makes the title of the book make sense. (I approve. The book doesn’t actually use the title (Her Man Advantage) but alludes to it. It’s far less generic than Body Check, and it makes a heck of a lot more sense than Play the Man.)

Jennifer agrees (obviously) and suggests that maybe she could learn to enjoy a big house and Axel might eventually appreciate a hybrid car. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that latter one, but he does suggest that Jennifer’s sister might want to move to Philadelphia too, which is sweet (and Jennifer doesn’t immediately say that that’ll happen, she’s just happy that her sister could stay for summers if she doesn’t want to move to Philly full time.)

Then there’s the kissing and the camera man who interrupted them at the beginning of the book interrupts them again, this time to tell them that a reporter is at the rink, wanting to do a story on Axel’s life. Jennifer tells him to tell her she has to just watch the next installment of the documentary, and Axel quips that Jennifer’s answer could just have been that he gets “one hell of a happy ending” before kissing her some more (147).

So, that’s the end of Her Man Advantage. What I liked about it was the fast pace and the amusing situations. Granted, what amused me most was how incredibly unlikely the various events and backgrounds of the novel were, but none of them were downright impossible. The author clearly has a pretty good understanding of hockey (and the stench of hockey gear!!) and I’d be pleased to read another of her books at some point, particularly the other hockey novel about Kyle. (I won’t run out and get it for this blog, though, because I suspect a critique of it here would be too similar to this critique, at least without letting some time pass. On the other hand, I’m sure you’re all wondering what happens between Kyle and his new girlfriend, the matchmaker whose mother was a popstar.) 

I'd also like to point you back to the cover of this novel, as I talked about in post #1 for Her Man Advantage.  As you may recall, at no point in this book do the hero and heroine end up in the locker room together, let alone in such an awkward pose. Apparently the "Double Overtime" target was a reference to the documentary, which seems quite odd-- although I assume it's actually the title of this 'series' since the book about Kyle Murphy also has the same logo on it. I'm still thrown by the position of Jennifer-- butt or hip, that does not look comfortable. Not that Axel looks all that relaxed, either.  

Oh well. Tune in next time for …. A book. I dunno yet, since I haven’t picked the next one yet….


  1. I am still so confused. Wasn't Chelsea a puck bunny? And now she's a virgin? And don't even get me started on the main story, I gave up on that long ago. It is the first time I've heard of two unrelated romances in one book. More for your money, right? My favourite part was the non-judgmental cows.

    So, you've changed your mind on the next book? I can hardly wait to see what it will be. I'm not sure if I want it to be something terrible or something good. Hurry up, Monday. Or how about some hints, so I can guess again.

    1. Chelsea describes herself as a hockey groupie, not a player groupie, so she never slept with any of the players, or in fact anyone. Because of her mommy issues.

      I write and post these pretty far in advance usually (I'm currently behind, eeek), so when I wrote this I did not know what the next book would be. But it is, in fact, the one you guessed. :D (And it includes rants about how no one in town has anything better to do, the wildly different experience I had while playing co-ed beer league hockey, and a pissy commentary on gender norms.)

      But it won't start 'til Wednesday. I have a one-off guest post of a totally different book going up on Monday.