Chapter 7: I Begin to Understand Why These Two are Still Single
(Posts for the foreseeable future may be a bit brief and slapdash. Sincere apologies—it’s been a heck of a few months and the Commissioner is digging her way out of them.)
It would take a great deal for me to despise a fictional romance couple as much the one from Play the Man, but Emma and Joe are doing their best to give that previous a couple a run for their money. (As you may recall, I found that couple to be borderline abusive, so Emma and Joe aren’t that bad yet, just super irritating.)
Last chapter ended with Emma telling Joe not to kiss her, although she doesn’t tell him why (because she doesn’t want physicality with him without love from him.) This chapter opens with Joe deciding that since they’re married, they should enjoy sex, and he wants to convince Emma of this idea.
So he took her chin gently in hand and lowered his lips to hers. She murmured a soft, sexy sound of protest and clamped her lips tightly shut. He grinned. He always had liked a challenge.
When the kiss she’d been expecting didn’t come, she opened her eyes again (87).
First? “sexy sound of protest” in a non-negotiated non-bdsm situation is troubling. No means no, no matter how sexy the protest. Second, come on Emma. Go for it or don’t but stop being a douchebag being all “I don’t want to sleep with you but I want you to want me!” So irritating.
There’s a bunch more back-and-forth about whether they should kiss and whether she wants him to, but when Joe suggests that they head to the bedroom, Emma puts her foot down and finally gives a firm no. She even, shockingly, explains, sort of, saying that their marriage is legal on paper but not in her heart. I wish she’d been more straightforward because I can only imagine that Joe won’t understand what she means for another 100 pages or so. Regardless, Emma goes off to sleep alone in the guest bedroom. I suspect this yes-no/push-pull/not-quite-explaining crap will continue through the rest of the book.
The next morning, Joe is lamenting how much he physically wants Emma.
It was territorial. Male. Instinctive. He wanted her to be his woman and his alone (89).
Sigh. I am so tired of this Animalistic Male trope. I mean, I know it’s pretty common in paranormal romance—shapeshifters having mates and such—and I’m okay with it there. (If nothing else, it’s easier to avoid there if it’s not your cup of tea.) But finding it in ordinary contemporary romance (hockey or not) is disconcerting because reifies that men-are-animals and out-of-control theme that’s so pervasive and which helps excuse boys-will-be-boys behavior which is dangerous. To make it a desirable trait in romance novels is creepy.
Will Joe be the next hero to want to pee in corners in order to keep his mate isolated to him alone? Erk. Did not expect to need a tag for this. I expected better than this, hockey-romance genre!
…okay, actually, I didn’t. We’re what, half a dozen books into the FHL? I should have learned better by now.
Emma shows up while Joe is about to eat breakfast (juice and a PowerBar, in case you’re curious. I’ve seen Coyotes players having breakfast after practice at the little restaurant next to their practice rink, and they’ve eaten, like, actual food, not just PowerBars, so y’know, each athlete’s mileage may vary.)
Emma declares that she needs order in her life, so she asks Joe to unpack. He doesn’t want to and teases her by picking up a Neon beer light and threatening to hang it over the couch. His reasoning is speshul.
“I know what you’re thinking, but no way am I putting this in the master bedroom, above our bed. That’s where my picture of dogs playing poker goes” (91).
I’m not sure how needling Emma for the sake of needling her is going to help their mutual discomfort at living with each other. But it’s the “our bed” bit that freaks out Emma. When she questions him, he responds that marriage “brings with it certain… perks” (91).
Emma doesn’t respond and instead goes to his box of hockey memorabilia and insists that he put at least that box away that day. She doesn’t give a reason why that particular box is important. The narrative announces that Joe had planned on unpacking that particular box in between his two practices that day, but now that Emma told him to do it, he tells her maybe he will, maybe he won’t.
I’m so glad to see Joe got the “act like a preteen” memo that Emma got two chapters ago with the “You’re not the boss of me” line. Another little detail added to the list of why I’m disliking these characters.
Joe declares that he needs Emma and drags her into a kiss, to which Emma informs him that he doesn’t play fair.
“I play to win. Always have, always will.”
“Isn’t that the truth,” a low feminine voice said from the patio off the family home (93).
Oh delightful. The evil Tiffany Lamour has returned to plague this novel—showing up on their doorstep no less.
She informs them that there’s been another robbery in town, this time at the country club nearby, so therefore Joe should put his hockey memorabilia (which includes an autographed, heavily used Gordie Howe practice jersey) some place safe. When our reluctant-ish-couple ask her why she’s actually there, it’s apparently a multipurpose visit. First, Tiffany asks Joe to be on her show, and when he says no, she gets bitchy. Second, she’s there to spy—she openly admits that she didn’t expect to actually find Emma there and she waits outside in her car until Emma and Joe leave together. Finally, she’s also there to try to make Emma jealous—or perhaps that’s just an ancillary benefit. Tiffany insinuates that she and Joe have a past and Emma begins to believe it.
Because apparently Emma is an idiot.
Joe is downright cold to Tiffany, showing her to the door and acting as if he doesn’t even know her, but Emma is still concerned over how beautiful Tiffany is, and how powerful (because of her show), and how blond and slim, blah blah blah.
Joe drives Emma to work at the Wedding Inn, and when he asks her what time she’ll be done, she doesn’t have an exact answer.
“Well, call my cell and leave a message, and let me know your plans,” he told her authoritatively.
Emma hadn’t answered to anyone about her moment-to-moment whereabouts in years. It was a disconcerting feeling, having him do so. Kind of thrilling, too (99).
Problem the first, that second part actually doesn’t work grammatically. Having Joe do what, exactly? Problem the second, it’s “thrilling” being accountable to someone else for your schedule? Yuck.
I think Joe was asking because Emma will need a ride home (he tells her later that he’ll make sure she’ll get a ride even if he’s busy when she’s ready) but he doesn’t say that ahead of time; he just demands that she call him with her schedule, and she doesn’t think about why, just thinks it’s “thrilling.”
Finally, one last example of Emma’s wishy-washiness. As Joe drops her off, she thinks he’s going to lean across the seats and kiss her, but he doesn’t. Her last thought of the chapter?
So much for the “perks of matrimony, Emma thought (99).
No. No, no, no. You don’t get it both ways, Emma. I don’t much care for Joe but one defense I will give him is that he’s not a mind-reader, expected to know precisely when you want physical affection and how much and exactly when to stop—enough to prove to you that he’s putting you ahead of his career but not threatening to make you fall in love with him.