The Fictional Hockey League

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

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Virgin's Secret Marriage: Post 7

Apologies! Posts during March and into April may be brief and/or a bit slapdash due to one heck of a crazy spring semester.

Chapter 5: Certainly not the plan *I* would have gone with…

Sadly, this hockey romance novel has had exactly zero hockey in it so far (and since it’s June in the book, I’m not hopeful that there will be any either) but Joe has an idea now and he presents it to Emma using a hockey metaphor.

“The way I see it we can keep on playing defense or we can go on the offense” (56).

If you have a bad feeling about this, join Emma. On the bright side, at least Emma understands hockey enough and knows what Joe does to respond with “Spoken like a true right winger.”  Other heroines in these novels would have simpered and said they didn’t understand. In fact, when Joe says they have to go “mix it up” in order to score, Emma asks, “You want us to scrimmage with someone?”

No dear, sadly. That would have been a better novel.

Joe declares that they should do the opposite of what anyone is expecting them to do, which would be to… stay married. At least, stay married for a couple of years (!!) until the gossip dies down. Understandably, Emma does not like this plan. So, Joe guilts her into it.

“Let’s recap for a minute here, shall we?” he suggested emotionally. “And remember exactly whose fault it is we are in this mess in the first place. Because had you told me who your father was, or how he felt about you being involved with hockey players period, I never would have even been dating you, never mind asking you to run away and marry me. You would have been safe in your little girls-only dorm at Brown. And I would never have had my own rep trashed to other owners, or have been tossed back to the minors or had to work my way up to the NHL all over again. The bottom line is you owe me, sweetheart…. You owe me big” (58).

That… that doesn’t seem right to me. I mean, yes, okay, she absolutely should have been upfront with Joe while they were dating—maybe not the very minute they met, but very quickly, so that they could have, together, made an informed decision about their relationship in the face of Emma’s father’s disapproval. (However, she was 19 at the time, which is over the age of consent for marriage, regardless of parental approval, in every state including Rhode Island. I’m finding conflicting information on what the ages are, state by state, actually, with one site saying 18 for RI, another saying 16. EITHER WAY, though, at age 19 they were absolutely old enough to get married, legally, without parental consent.)

Next, it’s not like Emma could have seen all the repercussions. Now, the fact that she didn’t tell her father that she didn’t actually sleep with Joe actually IS her fault and almost certainly contributed to that whole “rep trashed” thing.

I still don’t think Emma has to give up two years or so of her life in order to apologize.  I’m curious, though, what do you guys think? Does she owe him?

Emma certainly thinks so, because “her inability to be honest with him had cost them both a tremendous amount of hurt” (58).

Joe suggests “a friendship and an affair” during these years, since “it’s not as if [Emma’s] still a virgin” (61) and apparently Emma still can’t be honest with him since she doesn’t correct that inaccuracy. On the other hand, she does negotiate for herself. She says that if they ever have sex (and she’s not promising that they will), it’ll be on her terms (although she does not clarify that that means.) Joe agrees, and his stipulation is that while they’re married, they’re exclusive to each other.

I would have negotiated a lot more in this bargain. Like, where are they going to live? What are they going to tell people? When can they start talking about divorce? How involved will they have to be with each other’s lives?

But no. They’re just going to go for it. They’re not even going to think about other solutions or possibilities—they’re getting (re)married six hours later in Emma’s apartment.

I guess with a novel where the first time these two see each other after seven years it’s naked, screaming, covered in cookie crumbs, and with the police called, waiting six hours is downright glacial speed.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Virgin's Secret Marriage: Post 6

Chapter 4: Lawyerin’. Really useless lawyerin’.

Joe’s lawyer, Ross Dempsey, is described as a “handsome bachelor” which makes me think he might make an appearance in a later book in this series, and “one of the most prominent sports-and-entertainment attorneys in the area” (48) and he sees Emma and Joe right away. After they explain the situation, he asks all the pertinent questions.

“Did the two of you get divorced? Was the marriage annulled? How long were you married?” (52)

The couple answers only the last question with “Thirty minutes.” Joe clarifies that the justice of the peace who’d married them tore up the papers and had “the marriage wiped completely off the books” (53). But a phone call later the lawyer confirms that the marriage was not “annulled or expunged.” Thus, Joe and Emma have been married for the past seven years.

I hadn’t expected the secret marriage to have been secret to even the participants. That’s kinda fun.

Ross asks if the two of them consummated the marriage, and of course they both said no. He clarifies that he means within the past seven years and they still say no. Geez, Ross, did you not read the title of this book?

Legally, Ross declares that they shouldn’t have a problem fixing things, as long as both Emma and Joe have the same story about what happened the previous Friday when they were caught naked in each other’s arms. However, the public relations side of things is going to be a nightmare. Now that the marriage is no longer a secret (even to the participants!), explaining away the events will be more difficult.

…Joe explained carefully, “I think what Ross is trying to say is that people are going to speculate that you and I have been carrying on with each other all along and hiding it from everyone. For kicks, I guess” (54).

See, that part seems strange to me. Sure, it’s going to cause speculation; it’s a weird situation and difficult to explain. But the fact that “for kicks” is the best reason for the two of them to have kept it quiet—and what kicks would those be??—is what makes it seem that people would actually buy the true story. (On the other hand, I’m sure people could come up with other reasons… I’m not sure that I can come up with a good reason… Other than that Saul hated Joe so much that he wouldn’t allow him and Emma to marry? So they did it secretly and kept it secret for seven years… it just doesn’t make sense. Especially since surely Joe has dated in those seven years and in doing so probably had a few publicity photos with those dates.)

The three of them briefly discuss what happened in the intervening seven years, particularly the direct aftermath of Saul catching Emma and Joe together. Joe was sent back to the minors then traded “to the lowest-standing team in the AHL” (54). That sucks, but there’s two problems with that comment. First, it sounds like he was intentionally (under Saul’s command) traded to the worst AHL team, but I can’t see teams making business choices (players are expensive) based entirely on revenge, particularly since it would require multiple teams’ managements to agree, including that low-ranking AHL team. Second, so what if the AHL team is low-ranking? I mean, sure, everyone wants to win, but the ranking of the AHL team has little to do with the ranking of the parent NHL club. Not to mention, the players’ biggest goal is to get called up to the NHL team—winning the Calder Cup is *a* goal, but not the big goal. In fact, being an excellent player on a bad AHL team might even get you noticed faster and called up to the big boys.

On the other hand, Joe complains that after his experience with Emma and the Carolina Storm, the league(s) perceived him as being trouble and he had to prove himself otherwise. I guess Saul was a jerk and trashed his reputation? Except there had never been any media linking Emma and Joe (until now) and I can’t see Saul allowing Emma’s reputation to be trashed (even just within the league(s)) in order to sabotage Joe.

Harlequin Handwave time?

Reminiscing time over, Joe asks Ross what to do. Given Ross’s answer, I sincerely hope that Joe isn’t paying him very much.

“Figure out how to fix it, I guess, within the perception of the public” (55).

To be fair, “how to fix it…within the perception of the public” is more of a PR person’s job than a lawyer’s. That said, that’s all the advice that Ross gives—he doesn’t even explain how the two of them could start to actually annul the marriage/get divorced.

But since the two of them are each other’s Ones, I suppose that’s all right.

When Emma complains that it’s impossible to change the public’s opinion on them, Joe clearly has an Aha! moment and turns to her “as inspiration hit”. The chapter ends without sharing what said inspiration is…

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Virgin's Secret Marriage: Post 5

Chapter 4: Villainy!

Chapter four picks up where three left off, with the press conference rapidly descending into chaos. Tiffany Lamour keeps explaining what she’s learned—how the couple married at “Ye Olde Wedding Chapel in Nooseneck, Rhode Island” (47).  Do I even need to go into how “Ye” isn’t a word, and that it’s actually a corruption of an Old English “The” where the “Th” sound was made by a letter called a thorn which no longer is used and looked a little like a Y? No? Okay.

At any rate, the two of them, aged 19 had been married in the middle of the night at Ye Olde Wedding Chapel and Tiffany Lamour has found out. In order to salvage the situation—which is to say in order to escape the press conference—Joe says he guesses they’ve been found out and he grabs Emma, saying he’d like some time alone with her, and they dash out the back way.

Then something interesting happens. Emma and Joe drive off to Joe’s lawyer’s office (no, that’s not the interesting part) and along the way, Emma asks Joe what he’d done to Tiffany Lamour to make her angry enough to come after him like that. (That’s also not the interesting part. In fact, as bitchy as Tiffany is written to seem, acting all smug in her findings and such, she was actually doing her job. Whether you respect a gossip reporter with a “Bad Boy of the Week” segment is another thing, but it is her job and people clearly enjoy watching news like that. The narrative tries to convince that Tiffany had taken “personal satisfaction in publically embarrassing Joe and Emma” as a “personal-feminine-vendetta sort of thing” (49) and maybe she had but I don’t know how Emma, particularly, could have decided that.)

The interesting part is Joe’s answer.

See, Tiffany works for a news network owned by her father, meaning that she can do no wrong, or rather she can do All the Wrong but not get fired. And evidently, Tiffany enjoys sex with her interviewees. When Emma learns this, she asks if Joe has been on her show. His negative answer has her asking if he’s afraid she’ll sexually harass him. He explains that if he goes on her show and doesn’t sleep with her, she’ll trash him on TV and within the NHL. Emma is surprised that no one has stopped Tiffany from this behavior and here’s where it (finally) gets (particularly) interesting

“First off, no self-respecting jock is going to go to the media claiming he can’t fend off the passes of some woman. He’d be laughed out of the country. And probably off his team” (51).

(The secondly is that Tiffany is subtle so it’s impossible to prove.) Joe’s answer seems to me dead on. Men (in general) have their masculinity policed. There’s zero question that what Tiffany is doing is wrong. (And I’m so glad that the book acknowledges that; that so far at least no one is being all “Oh poor you, someone wants to have sex with you, you pussy” at Joe.) But because there’s an expectation about how men act, the athletes who don’t want to sleep with Tiffany—who in this particularly dynamic has all the power—can’t complain without causing a stir and facing gender-based repercussions. This is exactly why men who have been raped by women don’t come forward. (I’m not quite calling Tiffany’s actions rape, but it is sexual harassment.)

This is why men need feminism, too, since true equality would mean that no one would be trapped within society’s gendered expectations.

Tiffany’s villainy is further exemplified when Joe tells Emma of a time when a producer actually tried to blow the whistle on Tiffany’s behavior. Instead, Tiffany got the producer fired and trashed her reputation.

Well this is kind of exciting. Other than Sociopathic-Seth in Offside, we haven’t really had a villain before. (Oh, unless you count “Rejoice: A Burden”, but… I try to forget that story…) Granted, there’s still no real reason given for Tiffany’s behavior. Joe says she’s never hit on him directly because he’s never let her get close enough to do so. Thus there hasn’t been an out-right rejections; ergo there’s (as of yet at least) no motivation for her villainy. But still! Villainy!