The Fictional Hockey League

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

Friday, March 13, 2015

Offside: Post 24

Chapter 28: Epilogue
Please note that posts may be a bit slapdash and a bit irregular through the month of March. My sincere apologies!

The epilogue takes place about a month later. Since the Thanksgiving Day Tournament-slash-Hockey Injury-slash- Confessions of Looooooooove, Billie has been able to get ice installed at the old (incredibly convenient) rink, find (many, many) students, get permits, and even the support of the entire town behind her.

So, magic? It's a Christmas Miracle!

It’s steadily snowing, but that isn’t stopping what appears to be a Christmas Eve Eve (ie: the 23rd of December) Grand Opening of Barker’s School of Hockey Instruction & Training (quite possibly one of the most cumbersome business names ever). There’s hot chocolate and children throwing snowballs and a surprisingly lack of, say, ice hockey for this hockey school’s grand opening.

Shane stops by, mainly to remind readers that his book is next and he’s currently lonely and troubled, because Bobbi has announced her engagement to Gerald. (Apparently she has also added an “e” to her name because she’s suddenly “Bobbie” in this scene.) Oh, also, a stray dog has found Shane and adopted him, so I suppose the door is open for more animals-watching-the-main-couple-have-sex in his book, too.

And that’s pretty much the end of Offside with the exception of a little more smooching and Billie one more time insisting to Logan that she’s not a kid. Given that they’ve been having Teh Sex everywhere and always for almost two months now, I hope he knows she’s not a kid, because ew.

All snark aside—except not really since, as you may have noticed, snark is what I do—there were definitely significant pros and cons to this book.

On the plus side, the hockey was good. The author seemed to know her hockey. When Billie was on the ice, what she was doing made sense. The text didn’t toss around hockey terminology like it was picked out of a pile of magnetic poetry and could be strung together in any order. Similarly, there were not tortured attempts to use hockey terminology as metaphor. I like the idea of hockey terminology as metaphor, but every time I’ve actually seen them shoehorned into texts, they pretty much just made me laugh.

Also plus, I love that Billie was a better hockey player than anyone else in the book. This is the first book at the Fictional Hockey League that we’ve seen a female player at all, let alone one who’s really good. (The only exception to the first half of that statement was the short story one-off where a Not-a-Canucks-Player helped a brand new newbie player learn to skate a bit in order to play rec league hockey.)

I like the idea of tensions based on gender issues, with a woman able to hold her own in a male-dominated place, but I feel like this book went way too far with the reaction Billie got for wanting to play hockey (what with the violence and the property damage and the townspeople up in arms.) That said, I was telling a friend about this book recently. Said friend is from the American Deep South and said that she could see that kind of reaction happening if a woman wanted to play on a football team. So I will allow that it’s a possible reaction, but one that is so far outside my understanding or experience that it seems entirely absurd to me.

I like that these two characters were fairly three dimensional. The narrative for each of them went well beyond constant angst and rehashing of “oh woe is me.” However, unfortunately, I didn’t feel that these two characters worked together, even by novel’s end. Maybe the narrative told us that he loved Billie, but to my mind, it didn’t show that. Sure, it showed that he was in lust with her (ALL THE ERECTIONS EVER) and that he was crazy super jealous if someone else looked at her, but I didn’t feel the emotions between these two characters. Unfortunately, that’s not something that I know how to explain better than I have here.

(In the books I’ve reviewed thus far for the Fictional Hockey League, I’d say I only ‘felt’ the emotional pull between Nickolai and Noel in Nickolai’s Noel, and between Chelsea and Vinnie, the secondary couple in Her Man Advantage. On the other hand, I didn’t loathe the main couple and think that they’re actually an abusive relationship, unlike Play the Man.)

Offside is not a bad book by any means, but I wouldn’t say it was a fantastic book, either. Not to mention that one of the biggest obstacles--- that Billie slept with Logan by posing as her sister Betty--- was not only not dealt with in a way that I personally think would be appropriate (which is to say acknowledging that that’s assault) but not even dealt with at all, really. Logan just seems to decide to forget about it, after his two hour magic sulk. I also did not like that there was so much slut shaming and no one was ever called out on it. Not only did the misogynistic characters do it—which would at least be in character for these guys who are threatened by a confident woman who plays hockey better than they do-- but other female characters do it, too. That isn’t to say that women don’t slut shame in real life, since, sadly, they do all the time, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see people (even fictional ones) called out on it, particularly in a novel where it happens so damn much.

What will the Fictional Hockey League take on next? Come back next time (Monday, I hope) to find out. In the meantime, here are two memes that are relevant to our Beer League-y interests. :D

Postscript: I'm adding this about a week after writing this post. I'm currently back in Phoenix and I got to play a bit of scrimmage tonight and talk to some people and just generally embrace the beer league culture again, albeit briefly. I brought up the FHL with Flurry afterwards and this book in particular. And while she agreed with me about the horrors of the duct tape in chapter one, she actually pointed out that most places aren't like Phoenix.  (Well, obviously, but she meant as far as adult development hockey goes.) She's talked to lots of transplants who have played beer league in other states and towns, and segregated teams are more the norm, especially in places that have a tradition of hockey-- presumably because women can develop up through girls' hockey (non checking) and into women's teams, and there are just more women playing.

Couple that with what I said above about another friend talking about football in the American South, and I guess this book's premise is less farfetched.

THAT SAID, since the beer league in question in Offside is specifically non-checking, I still don't see why people are THAT up in arms about Billie's decision to play. Hockey players are, in my experience, the most WELCOMING athletes and people ever. There's just this instant respect one player tends to have for another just for stepping onto the ice, beginner or not, woman or not.

I know that when it comes to certain things that seem so OBVIOUS to me, such as the inherent  desirability of gender equality, I have a blind spot. So I suppose you should take that into consideration when considering my overall commentary on Offside.

That said, I don't actually take back anything I wrote, I just thought I should add this other opinion here, too.

Overall, Offside was fairly well written, if poorly proofread. (I've read far worse, though, so as long as you're not a stickler for grammar, you'd probably be okay.) The pacing was a little off, but far better than Play the Man, which was just sloooooooow. As you know, I don't think Billie's actions as a teenager were properly addressed and I think Logan's erection got way too much notice throughout. If this author had another hockey novel, I'd buy it. (And if the other triplet books were to be suddenly appear in my life, I'd read them. But I have enough to read and pay for that I won't be seeking them out.)

Monady's's post-- beginning a new book!-- is written and posted, so please enjoy that. Nothing after that is not yet, so we shall see if I manage it in between enjoying my old stomping grounds, hanging with friends, and later frantically preparing for more March craziness.


  1. Thanks, Commish, for another fun ride. I had similar emotions about this book, I checked back and I had described it as "a shining beacon among the turds." Considering the crappy books I usually review, it was quite good.

    I hope you're having a great time on the ice with your old team, as well as discussing how awesome your young Coyotes will be next season. I look forward to the surprise of Monday's book.

    1. If I had to rank this book amongst the others I've read for the FHL, I'd probably put this near the top-- definitely above Play the Man, Rejoice: A Burden, and Body Check. Less silly than Her Man Advantage, and better hockey than Nickolai's Noel. So... I guess that makes it if not the very best, then close to it. Even if that isn't saying a lot. (I don't have super high hopes for the book starting Monday for being great, but it should be entertaining...)