The Fictional Hockey League

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

Friday, February 20, 2015

Offside: Post 15

Chapters 20: The Sex

Yes, she was alone in Logan Forest’s bed with a cat that had only one eye (328).

Billie wakes up to the one-eyed stare of Logan’s cat named Weird. Despite my love of animals, I hadn’t mentioned Weird before because he really seems just tossed into the story for decoration (he came with Logan’s house and he’s ugly and one-eyed.) A little later in this chapter, he will watch Billie and Logan have sex. Those are all the points the novel makes thus far about the cat.

Billie gets up, embarrassed by her drinking of the night before and goes to find Logan, but not before snooping through some of his things to get to know him. (she learns he reads, he keeps things clean, and his house is masculine.)

Because I’ve read more than my share of snarky (and thoughtful) critiques of Fifty Shades of Grey (although never the novel itself; you can see some of the critiques I read linked from this blog’s right-hand side), I know that Ana/Bella wakes up in Christian/Edward’s bed, too, after being blackout drunk. Only she finds that he’d undressed her (while she was unconscious) and slept beside her comatose body all night. So three cheers for Logan. He may not be a multimillionaire owner of a shady company, but at least he’s also not a creepy, abusive stalker! Huzzah! Also, before going to find Logan, Billie stops by the bathroom and uses Logan’s toothpaste and her fingers to clean her teeth—she does not use his toothbrush, unlike Ana/Bella does of Christian/Edward. Hurrah! Billie is not using someone’s dental instruments without permission and finding it erotic!

…I don’t think it’s good that FSoG has lowered my standards quite this far, and this without even reading/seeing it.

Billie then goes looking for Logan and finds him asleep, presumably naked, in a guest room. So she strips her own clothes and climbs into bed with him.

In seconds she stood only a few feet from the man she’d yearned for all of her life it seemed. She was vulnerable and, aware…
As naked as she hoped Logan was.
She’d never felt more alive than in this moment (332; comma error original)

I wrote a whoooooooole long digression about this moment and about “average” heroines and about how one thing this particular novel does right and does well, right here, is Billie taking this moment into her own hands. She’s not waiting around for Logan to introduce her to sex (although he did, unknowingly, take her virginity years before).  But it seemed excessive and a bit out of place, so if you want to read it, it’s at the bottom of this post, after where said post seems to end. Suffice it to say that I’m glad Billie didn’t just wait around with the one-eyed cat, hoping that Logan would come to her now that she’s awake and sober.

Of course, Billie’s control, where she starts running her fingers over his sleeping body, is a bit problematic since he’s asleep and thus cannot consent to her touch. Sigh. And her control is also very short lived, since he grabs her when he wakes up, and pulls her underneath him, “her arms pinned above her head, his legs and hips holding her prisoner” (332).

Sigh. I totally understand the appeal of a dominant hero (whether it’s dominant as in “alpha male” or dominant as in BDSM). Seriously, I get it. I’m just bored with the fact that it’s shorthand for sexy. It goes right back to heteronormative gender expectations. A man can’t control himself, particularly around The Right Woman for Him. Boooooorrrrrr-ing.

“I can’t hold back if we keep going, Billie,” he said gruffly.
She knew he was giving her an out and she loved him for that. How many men in this situation would even think of holding back? (336).

Really? He’s not giving her an out, he’s preemptively excusing himself for not stopping should she wish to as they move forward. Spoiler alert: she doesn’t wish to. But that’s not the point. What happens if once they get going (he hasn’t penetrated her at this point), she wants to stop? Does he get to say “Too bad, I warned you? I have to finish now?” No. No he does not. Because that would be rape. But instead she “loves him for” offering to not sleep with her.

Anyway, there’s sex (and as I’ve said before, sex scenes are sex scenes and thus not particularly interesting.  Except for this one I read once that was terrible and involved metaphors about sausage casings. I’ll have to find that for comparison purposes at some point.) And during the sex, Billie realizes how much she loves Logan. Like her “heart swelled” and “She loved him with every fiber of her being” (337).

Could some writer who is more talented than I come up with a new phrase to take the spot of “every fiber of her being”? Because it is so clichéd and yet I do understand the impulse to use the phrase.

Anyway, there’s sex. At least they use a condom. And! Billie’s on top, so that helps with my point above about men losing control are a romance novel trope about looooooove.

The connection she felt to Logan was soul shattering— it went beyond the physical and landed pretty much right smack in the middle of a bond she didn’t understand (343).

Am I just a cynic or does the fact that this realization comes right after she had an orgasm make it a bit suspect?

Post-coitus, they notice that the cat has been watching them the whole time and remark that he seems to be a voyeur, and then the chapter concludes with the agreement to give Weird a second “X-rated show to watch” (344).

I’m kind of impressed that it took the novel this long to get these two into bed (340-ish pages out of 520). And I’m also impressed that Billie doesn’t look at Logan’s penis and comment on how large it is, since that has been a running theme in most of these novels. Small mercies?

‘Til next time, here’s the digression I wrote and cut. Feel free to skip it as it has not much directly to say about Offside

While the comments on this particular blog here are not particularly active (due in part to the cranky nature of blogger and part to the incredibly niche appeal of this blog, I suspect, and also my complete inability to understand how to use metadata and such), Cherry, who comments regularly (and thank you for that!) pointed out something about heroines in the comments recently. She pointed out that while it makes sense that readers want to put be able to put themselves into the heroine’s shoes, the very averageness of the heroine doesn’t make a great deal of sense for the hero – who is always suave and handsome and usually rich (or at least comfortable, like Logan), etc. – to fall for them.

I have to admit, I am often a sucker for the average-girl stories, to an extent. When I’m reading non-hockey romance novels (I love regency romances, I admit it), I like to look for the spinster ones, for example, because I don’t like when the heroine is the same age as my students (18-20) because that seems creepy and because I can’t relate. So relatability is a thing I understand, as is wish fulfillment.

But it seems to me that Ana of FSOG and her precursor, Bella from Twilight, go beyond that. Stephenie Meyer said that she created Bella as a blank slate that readers could just fill up with their own personality, which is why Bella had no personality and exactly one hobby (reading classic novels). At least she was writing for the age group that Bella represented, but of course as you know, the Twilight Saga also resonated with a number of other age groups. I don’t know what the original idea was for making Anastasia Steele, of FSoG, so young—she’s newly graduated from college, so about 20—other than that it was not, in fact, an original idea but Twilight AU fanfiction. But this youth was presumably necessary for the utter blankness of Ana’s character, too. She has exactly one hobby (reading classic novels) and zero sexual experience and she has to be complete initiated into sex by her novel’s hero. This is very, very common in romance novels, even in contemporary ones (although slightly less common than, say, in regencies, since in Regency England if you weren’t a virgin when you got married, you were Not a Nice Girl, etc.)

This is a very, very long winded way of saying that while I think there are some things that are very Not Good about his particular novel (back to Offside now), at least Billie has a personality, has a life (albeit that life is only hockey, but then again, I know a lot of hockey players, even ‘just’ beer league, for whom that statement is true), AND she’s not afraid to go after what she wants, sexually.


  1. Well, I was looking forward to this part of the review, as I sort of remember the sex scenes.

    We disagree—for the first time. I have read so many terrible romances and so many terrible sex scenes, that I found this was one area where Offside excelled. Although I am still too lazy to reread this book, I remember feeling that the sex between them was actually hot although the details are hazy. Of all the hockey romances I've read (over sixty), including the erotic ones, perhaps ten have had decent sex scenes. Ideally, they advance the plot. More often, as you say, they are shorthand for falling in love. Since I am admittedly hazy, I can only guess that since Billie is both aggressive about sex (as you have said) and enjoys being dominated, this reflects the masculine and feminine paradoxes of her personality. Which we all have.

    Also, I recently read a metaphor with a comparison to beating a dusty rug! I began laughing, so the erotic moment was lost.

    While I'm happy to see a cat in any book, this cat seems a little odd. Single guys that own cats are definitely attractive, unless they don't actually like the cats as is the case here.

    Also, you haven't read FSOG? That's interesting. I guess I read it because I had heard so much about it, that after a certain point I wanted to make up my own mind. But I could certainly see avoiding it on principle. I did notice that once I possessed a paperback copy, many friends wanted to borrow it.

    1. I actually agree with you more than, perhaps, my post suggests. I have read FAR worse sex scenes, for starters (I remember just being *bored* by the ones in Play the Man. And I used to proofread for an epublisher and remember feeling completely squicked out by some of those.) And your point about Billie's enjoying both being aggressive and being dominated is excellent-- that is a far more realistic view of a complex personality than most books portray, whether romantic or erotic.

      I didn't necessarily mean to bemoan Offside's sex scenes, I just don't sense a connection between these two characters, so no matter how well written, the sex just seems mechanical to me. And in this particular moment, I was so impressed by the female character taking the initiative that I was disappointed that it was so quickly taken away from her by the male character. (But then was pleased to see that she had control again later.)

      "beating a dusty rug"? I have a really hard time seeing why any author would have thought that was a positive metaphor... At least the sausage-casing one I referenced was between secondary characters who were villainous and thus doomed (apparently) to squicky sex.

      This book's cat, Weird, seems mainly a prop for finishing sex scenes. This chapter ended with the couple agreeing to give Weird another show, and a later chapter has them make a similar reference. I'm beginning to think the author had some kind of cat-voyeurism related trauma.

      As for FSOG, I quickly learned from other blogs that the writing was so bad that there was just no way I could read them. (See above re: proofreader for an e-publisher and also the fact that I teach composition.) If I'm not getting paid, I refuse to read something that badly written. Not to mention, I've read quite a lot of erotica written in the same genre, so it's not like I don't know where to find better written stuff, and I wasn't about to be bowled over by the mindboggling concept of (poorly portrayed) BDSM sex. Because FSOG has remained such a phenomenon, part of me wishes I had read it without knowing so very much about it so as to be sure that my opinions are my own, but it's too late now. And I have heard/read the positive opinions, too (although I disagree with 99% of them), so at least I wasn't entirely one-sided in my decision. Just mostly. ;)

      (I haven't read any of the Twilight books either. Once I learned that there are blank pages in one of them to symbolize how Bella is nothing without Edward, I decided on principle that I couldn't read them, and would do my best to steer YA readers to something-- anything-- where the female character is actually a character.)