The Fictional Hockey League

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

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Virgin's Secret Marriage: Post 1

Those are some *seriously* baggy pants

Initially I thought this might be a book I read and did maaaaaaybe three posts on, rather than a full on chapter-by-chapter kind of critique. But then I read the first chapter and so much happens in just these pages, between references  to a history between the main characters and the first time these characters meet up again after seven years, that now I just don't know what will happen. Adventure!

So, meet our next text...  The Virgin's Secret Marriage. I have a (not so secret?) fondness for titles like this one (The Billionaire Sheik's Mysterious Lover, The Texas Oil Tycoon's Unknown Baby Mama… maybe not) so I was delighted to find this one, which has as its hero a professional hockey player. Huzzah!

And just who is our hero? Why, Joe Hart, who, the text tells us in the very first sentence, made one incredibly critical misstep in his hockey career, in that seven years before he was caught with the team owner's daughter. This led to his being traded (I think?), but now he is back in his home town and about to once again play for the Carolina Storm. (Hello, Thinly Veiled NHL team Carolina Hurricanes!)

The text is unclear if this is a trade or an off-season signing. I’m guessing the latter because the opening scene is Joe with the owner (Saul Donovan) to go over team rules before Joe is permitted to sign. I would think that if it were a trade, there'd be less of this and more "you're on this team now, don't be an asshat."

"I'm willing to overlook what happened years ago on one very important condition," Saul continued sternly. "You stay away from my daughter" (12 emphasis original).

Joe eagerly agrees to this condition, as he has no desire (so he says) to see Emma Donovan again, and in fact, although it tells us on the first page that what Joe wants more than anything is a wife and kids (10), here the narrative reveals that whatever had happened between Joe and Emma seven years before had broken Joe's heart.

To the point Joe had more or less sworn off love ever since the night he had been caught trying to sneak a sobbing, angry Emma and her suitcase back into her college dorm (12).

I suppose those aren’t mutually exclusive if you don’t care about loving your partner and children.

But ooooooo, mystery. Only Joe and Emma know the entirety of what happened-- or didn't happen-- that night. Dunh dunh dunnnhhh.

BUT there are difficulties with the plan of staying away from Emma, because of course there is, as the narrative reveals. In a stunning display of, well, literary (in)convenience, Emma is now a wedding planner, "the most sought-after wedding planner in the state" and she works with Joe's mom, who "runs the premier wedding location in all of North Carolina" (13). HOW COULD THIS POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!

Well, it starts to go wrong right here in the very first chapter, in point of fact. The team owner is about to go out of town and asks Joe if, since he doesn't have all of his stuff yet from wherever he's moved from, he'd like to stay at his place, partly because he likes his team to feel like a family and mostly because there's been a rash of burglaries in the area, where no matter the state of the art security systems, the criminals have gotten in. (Welcome to the team! Wanna be a security guard for the weekend?) After being assured that there was NO POSSIBLE WAY that Emma would stop by, Joe agrees.

Because of course he does.

Surely you see where this is going? I mean, you do, right? Because if you don’t, you might not be reading the right blog.

Joe signs the contract, is told to report to the rink on Monday, and gets a tour of the house by the owner's wife.

That should be enough for one chapter! BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE.

Elsewhere in town, Joe's momma and Emma have just finished with a wedding, apparently a truly exhausting one. And Emma is thinking all about the man who dumped her so easily for the sake of his career, one Joe Hart. Now, I know she's standing next to Joe's mother, but if they've been working together for a while now (and they have) it seems weird that Emma just happens to be pining for Joe and regretting their past on the very day that Joe has moved back into town (there hasn't been any announcement of this.) I guess we can do the Harlequin Handwave about this, though.

But, as I wrote, the wedding was incredibly exhausting so Emma has decided that instead of driving home to Raleigh, she'll do something she never ever does-- she's going to crash at her parents' house for the night.

It's like a train wreck -- you see both engines heading for each other on the same track but there's nothing you can do to stop them.

Before she can get to her parents' house, however, the text provides us with some backstory about how Emma's family started out middle class and her parents sent her to boarding school so that they could focus on the family business-- Saul's Sandwich Shops. Apparently they did astronomically well and went national and Saul was then able to afford to buy an NHL team.

From what I understand about the NHL Board of Governors, Saul must have done *amazing* and greased a lot of palms to be let into that group. But okay, sure.

Emma likes hockey and was so excited to be involved but she was DENIED.

...her father-- ever protective-- had strictly forbidden it. Hockey players were bad news for women, he had said. If only she had listened to him all those years ago... But she hadn't. And instead had directly disobeyed him, and had regularly gone to see a minor-league AHL team (19)

Specifically a minor league team where she went to college (Brown University) and which just happened to have on it a "sexy southern boy and North Carolina native" so that's apparently how the two met. Sucks to be Saul Donovan-- he should have let Emma meet the NHL players. That way, he'd've been there to supervise and also if she did fall for one and marry, it'd be one with income. But nooooo, he had to forbid her and she fell for an AHL player. Tsk tsk.

Emma pulls herself together and heads for her parents' home, dreaming of a hot soak in the tub.

Surely there's no way this could all go poorly!

The chapter keeps going, but I shan't 'til the next post.


  1. Hmmm, sounds like the NHL is doing as a good a job as ever in screening owners. Saul forbids his daughter to date hockey players, he signs the one person he doesn't want near her, and then he lets said player stay in the mansion. Sounds like a genius to me.

    I'm not quite sure about the title or the cover. The words "virgin" "secret" & "marriage" are not things I want in a romance, but whatever. The hero looks too short to play hockey, but it may be those clown pants. I have to praise you for even finding out there was hockey in this, I have never even seen this book before. What year was it written?

    1. Yeahhhh, Saul is more plot device than actual logical character... but then again, it's a Harlequin so it's necessary to throw our hero together using any means, I suppose.

      I'm assuming that the cover artist has never seen a hockey player. Or possibly a pair of pants. At least not for a suit in this decade. The book was published in 2003, which does not excuse the horribleness of that suit.

      Sometimes just doing searches on BN, Amazon, and Google for "hockey romance" "hockey harlequin", etc. will net you amazing (read: terrifying) finds!

      I'm traveling again this week, this time with students, but posts are scheduled for tomorrow and Friday. And I'm hoping to just hunker down somewhere in the hotel for a few hours to write more. (I was *told* to take some personal time and that my students are adults, so why not, eh?) I've only read slightly further than I've blogged, so I have yet to get to the secret marriage part. (Also, the text does not specify- at least yet- that Joe *isn't* a virgin, so he may be the titular virgin, although it has specified that Emma is a virgin. So we may have a virgin-on-virgin sex scene in store for us, which will either be supremely awkward or supremely unbelievable. Although this isn't a Harlequin Blaze so it also might just fade to black. We shall just have to see! Wheeeeee!!!)