The Fictional Hockey League

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

Friday, January 16, 2015

Offside: Post 2

Chapters 2 & 3: This Town Has Nothing to Talk About

Is it a necessity that heroine’s families be damaged or damaging? In Body Check, the heroine’s mother was dead and her father was consumed by hockey. Granted, in Play the Man the heroine’s family was mostly unmentioned and I don’t think we were meant to see them as problematic, but I found the heroine’s parents disapproval that she hadn’t ‘won’ her husband yet troubling. In “Rejoice: A Burden,” the heroine’s family didn’t let her use magic. In Nickolai’s Noel, her family didn’t want her to live her dream, preferring she stay in Lexington and care for them. In Her Man Advantage, the heroine had to basically raise her little sister and take care of her when bullies attacked. Here in Offside, Billie’s family is equally messed up.

The triplets’ mother (Chantal) seems to have died a long time ago, at some point in the triplets’ young childhood, and they were raised mostly by their father and grandfather. Unfortunately, now their father is very sick, although the text doesn’t explain with what. He’s wasting away, and he’s also no long recognizing people. (At the chapter’s end, he thinks Billie is her long-dead mother.)

Chapter two basically takes place during a family dinner, during which time Bobby Jo informs Billie Jo that the whole town has been talking about her and her choice to play in a men’s league. Damn that is a town with nothing to talk about. And this is supposed to be a contemporary romance. Bah.

Bobby Jo is, according to herself, the responsible sister. While Betty Jo jet sets around the world, modeling and partying, and while Billie Jo was in Europe living her hockey dreams, Bobby Jo stayed home looking after their father and grandfather.

She was also apparently busy becoming a terrible, terrible person. Bobby Jo starts by telling Billie that a woman playing beer league hockey is “wrong and stupid” (31). Then she accuses Billie of always running away, and that she took all of their father’s time and attention (as he took her to hockey tournaments around North America.) Billie Jo has played in two Olympics, but Bobby sees that as youthful fun and glory-chasing that achieved “nothing but a wasted education [and] a half-baked career in Europe” (39).

Bobby Jo also has a terrible boyfriend named Gerald to whom she defers in all things. (I suspect he’ll be quick to go by the wayside in her book). He first asks Billie where she’d shower if playing in a men’s league, then says that she’d be better of spending her time in pursuit of a job. He even offers to find her a position at his law firm. I personally don’t see how playing hockey one night a week keeps one from getting a job (I found a job while playing beer league hockey as often as I possibly could). I also agree with Billie Jo that it’s none of this guy’s business, but her sister takes exception, saying she’s rude to say so.

After the argument goes on for a while and it’s clear that Bobby Jo won’t step down from her sanctimonious position, Billie points out to Gerald that his fly is down, then goes off to sit with her dad (and half a bottle of wine).

A bit later, and over in chapter three, Logan is at a bar. Actually, by the end of the chapter it seems like most of the town is at this bar.

I don’t understand small towns. I grew up in a place that was essentially a few houses and some churches and a couple of farms, but it wasn’t a small town (it was designated a village, actually.) This not-town abuts another small not-town which abuts a proper town (with stoplights and everything!) This third place is where I went to elementary school, junior high, and high school. I could get from my house in small not-town to the high school in exactly 8 minutes. (Yes I had it down to a science. I got to drive to school my senior year which meant I could spend as long as possible sleeping.) In none of these places was there only one place to hang out or any local news big enough for everyone to be talking about it. I now live in a small town that’s more isolated than where I grew up (it doesn’t quite abut other towns), and still there’s no local news that literally everyone will be talking about it. I’m convinced that these idyllic small towns of romance novels and tv shows (I’m thinking Supernatural, where the brothers roll into a new small town each week and sometimes it’s so small and isolated that the washing out of a single bridge can get them trapped inside) are purely fictional. And then I remember my friend who grew up in Montana and think there might be some one-traffic-light towns but they’re a helluva lot more rare than in fiction.

Other people wanna chime in, here? Do these sorts of small towns exist and I’ve just lived in many, many places that are not these small towns?

So Logan is at this bar, waiting to meet (specific) people and overhearing Seth-the-asshat continuing to complain about Billie Jo wanting to play in the beer league and asking other people how they’re going to ban her from playing.

He’d had one hell of a day, the kind when nothing goes right and damned if he wanted to listen to a bunch of grown men act like the world was going to end because a girl wanted to play in their league (49).

Preach it, Logan.

Logan ponders Billie Jo for a bit, realizing that while he’d found her sisters attractive (and even dated Betty Jo—because apparently everyone has dated Betty Jo), he’d never thought of Billie as anything but a kid until now. He’s interrupted by the arrival of Shane Gallagher, his best friend, recently released from prison. (This is the guy who is the hero of book 2, which makes sense since we find out in this conversation that he’s been carrying a torch for Bobbi Jo since high school.) Logan fills Shane in on the town gossip (ie: OMG! COOTIES IN THE BEER LEAGUE!) until the object of said gossip shows up at the bar as well.

She sure as hell didn’t look like any damn jock he’d ever seen before (57).

See, she cleans up nice. And pretty girls aren’t the same as girls who play hockey, apparently. (She’s wearing a super-clingy, super-short red dress and boots to the knee, with her waist-length hair worn down.) She’s so attractive that when she walks in with her two friends, the place actually goes silent, “like [sound] had been sucked into a black hole” (58).

Unfortunately, this just fuels the fire of the naysayers.

“That ain’t no hockey player. She looks like a damn whore,” [Seth] proclaimed, turning to the group of men at his table. “Do we really want pussy out on the ice with us?” (58).

As I’ve said before and suspect I’ll continue to say, this is just so bizarre to me.

Seth-the-asshat’s friends agree with him and egg each other on, and soon they’re saying vile things until Logan decides enough is enough and goes to confront Seth. Shane comes with him, even though a bar fight would be a violation of his parole. The threat of violence, however, is enough to shut the grumbling misogynists up for a bit, although Seth points out that none of the league’s team captains will draft Billie Jo.

Conveniently (for the novel), Logan is a captain and says he’ll take her. Inconveniently (for Logan) his current girlfriend walks in at just that moment and she’s horrified.

“Tell me you did not just offer to let her onto your team” (63 emphasis original).

What the hell does she care? On one hand, maybe she’s jealous, which speaks poorly of her. On the other hand, it reads like she’s just particularly interested in gender roles and doesn’t want Logan helping Billie Jo break them.

Regardless, Sabrina-the-girlfriend is about to be Sabrina-the-ex-girlfriend. Logan tells Sabrina they should just leave (she thinks for sex, he plans to break up with her as he thinks she’s gotten too “comfortable” in his life as evidenced by the fact that she … folded his laundry.) Shane says he’ll stay behind to look after Billie (which I doubt she’d thank him for) and this makes Logan feel jealous. The chapter ends without us getting to see the breakup.


  1. You're preaching to the choir, Commish. I have only lived in big cities, but I can't believe that small towns are trapped in a time warp and isolated from social change.
    "Goldarn it, wimmen are playin' hockey now? What's next, votin'?"
    And what about the concussion that caused her to quit hockey? Either she can still play, in which case she could be back in Europe, or she can't play. But the medical part never seems to be an issue.
    I haven't even reread the book but it's all coming back to me now.

    1. I kind of let the concussion thing go with a handwave but I see your point. She says it's okay because it's non-contact hockey, but the concussion I got was also from non-contact hockey (and you're more prone to a concussion with every one you get.) If her (presumably first) concussion was bad enough to end her career, you're right that she probably ought not playing at all, or at least nothing more than a game of shinny. (And if it were bad enough to end her career, she ought to be having symptoms.) And since this particular beer league hates her, she's a target, which is a terrible idea.

  2. As for small towns, check out Nashville, CA on a map some time. I think I literally drove through it in less than 2 minutes and there weren't any traffic lights or services. (There are also a lot of small towns/drive-through along the highway to Lake Tahoe, though I don't remember their names at this moment)