The Fictional Hockey League

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

Monday, May 11, 2015

Knock Me for a Loop: Post 2

Row 1: Meet the “Hero”

(Posts for the foreseeable future may be a bit brief and slapdash. Proofreading? Revision? What are those!? Sincere apologies—it’s been a heck of a few months and the Commissioner is digging her way out of them.)

As you can see, instead of calling each chapter a, well, chapter, this book is cutesy and calls each a “row”. In knitting, a row is exactly what it sounds like: to knit a row, you knit each of the loops (stitches) on the needles from one side to the other (assuming you aren’t knitting in the round, in which case you –you know what? Nevermind. If you’re a knitter, you already know this, and if you’re not, you probably don’t care. Suffice it to say, we’re reading “rows” instead of chapters.)

This “row”—okay, no. I can’t do it. This chapter opens up with Zackary “Hot Legs” Hoolihan taking a shower in a hotel suite and internally complaining that he shouldn’t be as sore as he is, since they were only just playing a charity game.

It wasn’t like he’d been out there giving it all in a grudge match (17).

This line makes more sense for someone who’s, say, not a goalie. Charity games often have little-to-no contact, which is my assumption about it not being a “grudge match”, but you’re not supposed to touch the goalie even in regular game, so what’s he complaining about?

Also, it’s an away charity game during the off season. I’m unfamiliar with teams traveling, along with their personal reporter, for charity games in the off season. I’m still not sure if the Cleveland Rockets are supposed to be an NHL team, but the team reporter and the number of puck bunnies coming up suggests it is.

Next Zack internally complains about being on the road, because he misses Grace, his fiancée, and prefers to be home with her. If you’re wondering “WTH? Didn’t they break up?”, well, I was surprised, too. It’s a flashback! Except, no! It’s a nightmare! (This isn't clarified for a dozen or so more pages, but I thought I'd go ahead and let you know now.) A nightmare wherein Zack gets introspective and even looks at himself in the mirror.

This is not how nightmares work.

Also, having your character look into the mirror to describe himself is lazy writing. Having your character look in the mirror to only describe himself as “a good-lookin’ guy” is downright slothful.

Next, he complains about puck bunnies, and how they swarm him.

…which meant he could have had three eyes and an ass where his mouth was supposed to be, and they still would have thrown themselves at him (17).

Well, that's ... disturbing.

I’m not a fan of puck bunnies, in part because they give other female fans a bad name, but the level of vitriol leveled at the very idea of puck bunnies in these books (not just this one, but, I’m fairly certain, every single one I’ve read for the  FHL so far) is disconcerting. Is it the authors putting their own personal opinions in, a bit? It’s definitely a kind of very specific slut shaming, and I find that gross. To be fair, this particular book specifies that Zack used to love “getting more tail than any man had a right to” (18) before he’d met Grace, and now he has eyes (and heart and, one assumes, penis) only for her. This is another fairly frequent romance trope, and it doesn’t even require puck bunnies to work—the idea that a guy who loves to sleep around suddenly stops and has zero interest in doing so once he meets his Twoo Wuv. Since we already know that Zack and Grace have broken up, the use of this trope indicates that they’ll have to get back together because It’s Meant to Be. (To clarify, I don’t think that a character losing interest in all others upon finding The One is an entirely fictional event; I only think it’s overdone.)

Zack spends some time mooning over Grace, describing her as a “Marilyn Monroe of the twenty-first century. Then, complaining, and showering, finished, Zack decides he’ll call his best friend Dylan, who is also the team reporter, to see if he wants to get dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. He is interrupted, while wearing only a towel, by a knock on the door.

Seriously? Only a towel? Didn’t we do this last book, in The Virgin’s Secret Marriage?

Stubbing his toe on the way, Zack gets to the door and is delighted but surprised to discover that Grace is there in order to, as she explains, “…rock [his] world, big boy” (20). Obviously pleased, Zack ushers her inside where she begins to do a strip tease. (Good thing he hadn’t gotten around to making those plans with Dylan).

She gets as far as unbuttoning her blouse when her mood shifts after looking at the suite’s bed.

Zack was used to his fiancée’s rapid-fire changes in mood. Women in general were mercurial, he’d found, able to go from laughing to yelling to crying in two seconds flat (21).

I know just as many “emotional” men as I do women. Die, gender stereotypes, diiiiiiie.

And anyway, I’d have to say that Grace has every right to be rather angry in this particular moment. Rather than a strange thong in a laundry pile, ala The Virgin’s Secret Marriage, Grace has discovered a strange woman in her fiancé’s bed.

The blonde in his bed climbed to her knees and let the sheet drop, revealing a skimpy pink bra-and-panty set.

“Hi,” she chirped with a too-sweet smile. “I didn’t want to interrupt” (21).

Here’s where I (happily) admit ignorance about professional athletes and the people who chase them. But … does this sort of thing actually happen? Not the bad timing part, and not even the part where the intruder calmly tries to continue her plan when a fiancée shows up, but just the intruding itself. Seriously?

Grace storms out of the hotel suite and Zack is upset about this.

And how the hell could Grace believe he’d invited her?  (21 emphasis original)

Now, I know he’s innocent. But no matter how much Grace trusts her fiancé and how much she should maybe listen to his explanation, why wouldn’t she believe that? What other explanation makes sense? Yeah the truth, but it’s stranger than fiction. Occam’s Razor: when you hear hoof beats, thinks horses, not zebras.

Would you have done differently in Grace’s shoes?

Zack follows Grace into the hallway but she get to the stairs before him. As she does so, the elevator arrives and Zack almost gives an elderly couple a heart attack because, of course, he’s lost his towel. Rather than keep chasing Grace, and likely being arrested for indecency and wouldn’t his team’s management have loved that, he goes back to the suite to kick out the puck bunny.

The puck bunny tries to continue her seduction but Zack threatens to call the police, so she gets dressed and leaves.

The next thing Zack does is call Dylan. It turns out that Dylan’s significant other is Grace’s best friend and they’d come to … whatever city this is… together. (She’s also a recipient of the damned magic spinning wheel yarn in a previous book, which is why she's with Dylan.)

Next Zack spends the whole night calling Grace’s cell phone and house phone but she won’t answer.

Finally he wakes up because it’s actually six months later. I really hate dream sequences like that. No one dreams like that.

Zack tallies up the ways his life still reminds him of Grace—he drives a blue Hummer now because she’d destroyed his red one; his apartment is empty because Grace stole his dog; even the ice reminds him of how he met Grace (although the text does not explain this .) Unable to sleep, he sits down to watch ESPN and knit. He picked up knitting to feel closer to Grace after she’d dumped him, and also because his best friends, Dylan and Gage, both picked up knitting (for reasons that I suspect are unimportant beyond the fact that they were the heroes in the previous Magic Spinning Wheel Books.)

If you’re wondering, he’s knitting slipper socks on size-eight needles using chocolate-brown wool yarn while watching the Penguins/Oilers recap.

I have several things to say about this. First, you’d think that since he’s watching highlights of an NHL game, the narrative would give me a hint as to whether the Rockets are supposed to be an NHL team. Grr.This isn't a fault of the book, necessarily (although actually knowing what level of play the hero is supposed to be involved in actually would be nice even for casual reading.)

Second, most (although not all!) socks (slipper or otherwise) are knit on double pointed needles, and that seems pretty advanced to me for someone who’s been knitting for only a few months.  (Double pointed needles are shorter and you use 4 or 5 of them at a time.) But this might just be me, since I find DPNs irritating at best. The text does specify he finishes a row and not a round, and thus I think he’s using single points, which means he’ll have to seam up those slipper socks   later. There aren’t many patterns like that.

Third, most of the time when you’re knitting socks, you use MUCH smaller needles. Size eight would leave pretty big holes in the fabric being made, unless you’re using very thick yarn or you’re going to felt the socks before wearing them. (Felting is what it sounds like—you knit something but loosely, then run it through the washer a bunch until the wool—and it only works with sheep’s wool—shrinks and becomes a much more solid fabric.)

Anyway, this is far more information and speculation on knitting than most readers will want. Suffice it to say that I went onto Ravelry (a knit/crochet/spin website that has MANY people on it and links to MANY patterns) and looked for a slipper sock pattern that uses size eight needles, worked flat (meaning not DPNs), but does not require felting. There are only about a dozen possibilities via Ravelry, which is very few.

I choose to believe he’s knitting himself kitten slippers. 

I might need a pair of these.

Okay, moving on. The reason Zack can’t sleep is because he’ll be seeing Grace for the first time in six months the next day and he’ll have to share the same “air space” for a wedding(29).  I think that just means they’ll be in the same room? Possibly on tv together, since she has her show? But when one says “air space” I think of the place where, y’know, planes are that belongs to whatever country is below it.

So…. Zack is mopey. That’s what I took from this chapter. 

(I'll try to be less wordy about knitting in future posts. Hopefully, in future posts there'll be more hockey to talk about.) 


  1. Well, I know very little about knitting. I can make square flat things, but that's it. So, scarves and now I'm going to attempt a cotton dishcloth I saw at the Expensive Natural Things Store yesterday. But I would say that if one thing is wrong (knitting) then you begin to suspect that other things (hockey) will be wrong as well.

    Currently I am reading a book that combines chemistry with hockey, and while the hockey is okay, it's not perfect, and now I'm wondering about the science. In fact, as I'm reading, I find myself wishing that you were reviewing this book! It's not terrible, but there are a few chapters where WTF is the only possible reaction and they need unpacking.

    Back to the book. The treatment of women in this book so far is completely negative: slutty, emotional, unreasonable. Also wrecking his car and stealing his dog seem like things Grace could get arrested for. But he can't live without her madcap ways! Personally, I would be congratulating myself on avoiding marriage with a psycho.

    Not to brag, but I have read about 75 hockey romances (pause for applause or gasps of horror) and only one of them was set in the AHL. Hate to spoil the suspense for you, but a lot of writers have no idea that there is anything other than the NHL.

    1. It seems to me that if you're going to write a series of books based on a knitting store and characters who love knitting, and in fact define their personalities, in part, based upon this hobby, then you should have a very good, in fact a *working*, knowledge of said hobby. Particularly since books like this-- and I know there are other series centered around knitting-- are marketed *to knitters*.

      In a text from Forget Gutenberg/Duck Village Bindery (she's actually a good friend of mine who also plays hockey, thanks to me, and who is the one who egged me on to create this blog), she pointed out that there are lots of places, such as, say, the internet, in which to do research on things like this. But my theory is that the author *did* do research on the internet and maybe asked questions of a few knitting friends, but did NOT have a knitter read the book(s) before publication.

      One of my students recently wrote a paper about airport security and I know the student did the research. But I also know that said student has never, ever flown and never been through airport security. And that's exactly how the paper read-- the little things were just *off*.

      I'm not saying that writers, especially fiction writers, need to be experts in every field they touch on, but I think it behooves them to have someone read their work who is an expert, or at least in the target (here, knitters) audience.

      As for the heroine... erg. You're very right. Tomorrow's post will continue that, and the post that should go up Friday will illustrate that further. Who steals someone's dog? A dog who, the book makes very clear, was not "theirs" but was *his* before they even met.

      Lastly, yeah. Turns out, NHL.

  2. I heartily endorse everything you have said here about research. When Googling is so easy, there are no excuses. However, it is challenging to find someone who is both an expert on playing hockey and willing to read romances. Finding someone who knits and reads romance should be a snap.

    But why write about something you have no passion for? Could it be for profit? Horrors! As hockey heroes become more popular, I fear that we will see more and more bad books.

    1. You make a good point about someone who is an expert on hockey also willing to read romances, you and me aside. But as you say, knitting and romance? Should be EASY. And if you can't find someone willing to do it for free, hire someone (likewise on the hockey front.) I mean, if you're only doing it for profit, well then, put some money into it to create a decent product.

      You fear we'll see more and more bad hockey hero books?!?! NO THERE ARE TOO MANY ALREADY AAARAGGGHHH!!!!