The Fictional Hockey League

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

Friday, May 15, 2015

Knock Me for a Loop: Post 4

Row 3: Unheroic Heroine

(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.)

Grace, our heroine, is having a “Girls’ Night Out” with Ronnie, the star of the first book in this series, only since they’re staying in at Grace’s house, I’m not sure how it’s a night out. They’re watching a movie and eating takeout, which necessitates also giving tastes of said takeout to Muffin, the Saint Bernard that Grace stole from Zack.

Considering the noxious breath and mutant salivary glands that came as part and parcel of the furry monster, it was a minor miracle she hadn’t dropped him at the nearest animal shelter within minutes of leading him out of Zack’s apartment.

She’d hated the mangy beast for years while she and Zack dated. Deemed him nothing more than a stinky, overgrown nuisance, and had often hinted that Zack should get rid of him so they could get a smaller pet… (39).

If I didn’t already dislike Grace, this passage would do it. What. The. Hell. Seriously. I know I’m an animal lover, but even so, really!? There is SO MUCH wrong with this passage. First, stealing someone’s dog? Always wrong. Second, stealing a pet to drop it off at a shelter purely to piss someone off? That’s sociopathic. I mean, unless the dog is actively aggressive, I have a hard time understanding how anyone can hate any dog, but I get that not everyone likes animals. (I don’t actually trust people who don’t like animals, but that’s my own hangup.) That’s not what’s going on here—Grace apparently wanted them to get a Pomeranian instead. She wanted to get rid of the dog they had—which essentially means KILLING said dog because most shelters are overflowing, but at BEST means uprooting a dog from its family—because she wanted something cuter and which drooled less often.

I officially hate Grace.

Last week I was reading a regency romance novel (for fun, not for nitpicking) and I started out disliking the heroine because she was shallow and petty. But it turned out that she was, in fact, neither of those things (she was acting in order to fit in with a popular crowd) and furthermore she grew throughout the novel to the point where I liked the heroine and could see why the hero fell for her (and vice versa). I so hope that Grace redeems herself similarly. But threatening to drop a dog off at the shelter after you stole it? Yeah, that’s a big uphill climb.

Granted, she kept the dog, as evidenced by my first point about having to feed said beastie tidbits of her takeout, but so what? He apparently helped “Save her sanity and mend her broken heart” post breakup (39). Yes, because pets are awesome. Except for the part where I’m not sure Grace had any sanity to keep. She did, after all, steal Zack’s dog. And throw many of his belongings out of his own apartment. And smash up his Hummer. Also, “she’d stolen his favorite hockey stick” (39) which makes me laugh. She realizes that they go through tons of those, right? And get them for free from companies that want endorsements? I mean, unless this was like a Speshul Stick that he doesn’t actually play with because it was autographed by his hero, I don’t think he’s going to mourn the loss of a hockey stick (even a goalie stick, which is what it ought to be, given that Zack is a goalie and the positions are not interchangeable.)

There’s some chatter about how Muffin (which was not the dog’s name when he belonged to Zack, by the way) ought not eat people food but when Grace tried to stop giving it to him, it was like “trying to tame a rabid wolverine” and the consequence was spending “three days scraping food off the ceiling” (40), a point I mention only because what the heck? How does not giving human food to a canine result in food (unspecified as to whether it was human or dog) splattered on the ceiling, and so caked on, apparently, that it took three days to remove it?

I think the author is trying to be humorous but it’s not working because it doesn’t make sense. I’ve seen this a few other places in this book so far and I’ll try to point more out as I come across them.

Then conversation moves on to Grace’s reaction to having seen Zack the previous day at the wedding. Ronnie is the voice of reason and asks what if Zack was telling the truth and Grace gets angry that she seems to be taking the ex’s side. Watch out, Ronnie! Don’t get Grace angry! She’ll steal your stuff and smash your car!!!

Ronnie, however, is smart enough (or possibly has Stockholm Syndrome) and says that “If you said the sky was green, I’d agree with you” (42) but ventures on to say that Grace and Zack were good together and it’d be a shame to destroy the relationship over a misunderstanding.

True, Ronnie, but honestly, it seems like Zack escaped from a pretty terrible fate, being married to Grace. And also, it’s been six months, which means that the relationship is pretty dead (and will have to be restarted in many ways), so if you feel strongly about this, shouldn’t you have mentioned it a long time ago? Say, before Grace destroyed a Hummer and stole a dog? (Ronnie actually explains that she’d assumed him guilty, too, and it’s only that Zack has maintained his innocence for 6 months, even with “his very closest friends”, that she’s wondering (42).)

The conversation stretches on for a while and I won’t bore you with further details. But at the end, Ronnie asks Grace “what…[her] heart is telling [here]?” and after pondering, Grace says she’d made the right decision (44). So apparently no softening on her part, although she does think about the terrible childhoods they both had. (Grace’s mother was “a B-movie Hollywood starlet… but an A-list wannabe” (45). Does anyone who is “B-list” not want to be “A-list”? And she died due to pills when Grace was 12. Zack’s terrible childhood is not detailed at this point.)

But then the movie ends and Grace switches over to television, specifically to the sports channel which is showing the Rockets’ game against … some team “suited in white and black” (47), so… the Kings?

…what she saw made her heart tumble down to her toes, hitting every rib and internal organ along the way (47).

I’ve heard of a wandering womb, but I think Grace might need medical attention for her heart condition.

“Oh my God.” The words slid past her lips on a hiss of air as the oxygen left her lungs (47).

Actually, Grace, most of what you’re exhaling is nitrogen, and only about 15% of the breath that is hissing out of you, along with the words, is oxygen. (To be fair, the nitrogen that goes in and comes out remains the same, about 78%. Even so, we breathe in about 21% oxygen and breathe out 15%, so her statement is nonsensical on multiple levels! And also, weirdly redundant with all that hissing and speaking and lungs.)

The bottle she’d just picked up slipped from her numb fingers, cracking into the edge of the table on its way to the carpeted floor, and she slowly followed it down, her knees turning to jelly (47).

The knee thing should also be seen by a medical practitioner, although it’s probably not as immediately life threatening as the “heart bouncing off of other internal organs” thing.

Also, if you’re wondering what the heck she’s reacting to, well, the text won’t divulge that for another page. Clearly, the play-by-play of Grace’s reaction (and then Ronnie’s reaction, which is to take off her hate and gloves and scarf) is far more important.

So what did happen? Well, Zack was in net, defending against the “small disk of vulcanized rubber” (47), also known as the puck, although you wouldn’t know it from this book, since the vulcanized rubber phrase has been used multiple times already and we’re fewer than 50 pages in. Zack blocked the shot, and the player who’d shot it rammed into Zack.

His back hit the metal frame of the net with what looked to be brute force before both men lurched sideways and began to fall… and were quickly covered by half a dozen other players from both teams (48).

First, the writer knows that the nets move right? That hitting it sucks, but it’ll come off the pegs so that the goalie is less likely to be injured by hitting “the metal frame”. Second, “looked to be brute force”? The phrase means force that has no finesse (such as in programming, when you try to decode something not by finding the underlying key but by throwing stuff at it to see what works.) So that’s not something that can be seen—or rather, it is but what the heck else would it be?

The text does not specify why six other players next landed atop the goalie and player. It’s not uncommon for players to go after the other team’s players who knocked into their goalie, so I’ll assume that’s what’s going on there.

But as they went down, Zack’s helmet flew off and his left leg caught on the edge of the net.

The leg held, but his body didn’t, twisting him like a Twizzler beneath the weight of a dozen players (48).

A dozen players? So now it’s a bench clearing brawl? Or the author doesn’t know how many players are supposed to be on the ice at a time? I have to say that I think the latter more likely.

I can’t explain why this whole scenario seems so unlikely. Maybe someone else can tease it apart better. (I’ve included above everything describing the incident other than the fact that Grace took the time to consider how “unaccountably grateful” Grace had always been that Zack has all of his teeth—or at least did before this event (48).)

Once everyone is pulled apart, Zack is clearly left unconscious.

…Zack…remained unnaturally still, his blue and red Rockets jersey a stark contrast to the crystalline ice beneath him (48).

First, the Rockets’ jerseys are blue and red? That’s gotta be hella confusing when playing the Rangers. Second, I’m having a really hard time accepting “crystalline” as an adjective for a sheet of hockey ice.

Ronnie calls Dylan (her significant other, the team reporter) who gets the inside scoop—although I’m really unclear as to how he gets said scoop so quickly. On the television, Grace sees the team physician checking Zack, still on the ice, after Ronnie hangs up her phone with Dylan. But Ronnie then tells her that Dylan said the following:

 “Dylan says it’s bad. Zack is unconscious, and the doctor can’t get him to respond. His head cracked the ice pretty hard. His leg is messed up, too. They’re taking him to the hospital, and Dylan is going to follow. We can meet him there, if you want” (48-49).

In other words, Dylan is a freakin’ psychic! Neat!

The rest of the chapter—two pages of it—is Grace being uncertain as to whether she wanted to go to the hospital to see Zack because there will be media. (She doesn’t decide by the end of the chapter.)


  1. Seriously, I don't think goalies care about their sticks, given the way they smash them ...

    However. That man clearly isn't a proper goalie because obviously he is not wearing a helmet that fits properly. Those things don't *fly off* without a whole hell of a lot of encouragement. If they fit. (I mean, I'm sure it's technically possible, and I know goalies are sometimes a little ... special about their own health and safety, but still ...)

    Crystalline hockey ice does make me laugh. So much. ESPECIALLY around a goalie. They don't like that. It implies ... shiny. Clean. New. Fresh ice is terrible. TERRIBLE.

    Let's see. Can I comment on anything else? I agree with you on thinking Grace is a horrible, horrible character for having stolen the dog. Especially if she didn't even *like* the dog. At least the author gives her the potential for redemption, since she's obviously still sort of taking care of the poor thing.

    But no, I can't make sense of even half a dozen players following the initial incident into the net, let alone a whole dozen. Even if it was a bench-clearing brawl (which it doesn't seem to have been), I doubt they'd all go for the net. Nobody wants to have a fight in quarters that close if they have the whole ice to work with, right? Especially if the goalie is already down and that's why you're killing the other team.

    I hope Grace's organs start being a little more ... positionally correct. (I know it's supposed to be, like, evocative or something, but it doesn't work. It's ok to be subtle, author, it really is. You don't have to get all wacky metaphorical all the time. We appreciate the effort, but you've got to refine your technique. That seems reasonable.

    Anyway, I'm still entertained by your interpretations and boy am I still glad *you're* reading these and I'm not because I'd be breaking like a tablet a week throwing them across the room in irritation and I can't afford that at all.

    1. I'd like to assume that Grace will be redeemed, but as much as I dislike her, I don't see any evidence that the text is actually aware of how horrible she comes across. I wholeheartedly admit that at first blush, it seems like Zack is guilty, so I don't blame Grace for thinking such. But the lengths she went to in her anger is absolutely ridiculous. I've read a few chapters ahead and I don't feel any better towards her yet...

      I think some NHL goalies have a trick to getting their helmets off if they get knocked into, since a goalie losing his helmet is automatic stoppage of play, but they're not *supposed* to come off like that! As for sticks... man, the way Mike Smith went through goalie sticks two seasons ago (up to and including beating his stick against the net after missing a save), you'd think he was getting paid per stick broken.

      And yeah, crystalline ice... bwah. First things goalies do is mess up the ice around the net, right? (I like to watch goalies make their little snow piles.)

      Wackily metaphorical is the byword for this book... Well, one of them. Along wiht "unresearched" ...

  2. I will AGAIN attempt to leave my comment, stupid Blogger.

    I'm finding this book a lot funnier than the last one, which was only stupid. Visualizing Grace's heart bouncing through her body like a pinball is hilarious. But does she even have a heart? Stealing a dog she hates only for revenge? That seems like a strategy that backfires on you, like three days worth of dog food on the ceiling. People that hate animals always turn out to be evil. Did the author think that the fact Grace didn't take him to the shelter redeemed her? She still suggested they trade the dog in for something smaller and cuter. This only works for cars.

    And I have to second FG's remarks on the hockey. Twelve players in the dog pile? Only if Zack has metaphysically reincarnated from under the pile to onto the pile. Or if someone got off the bench just to pile on, which has never happened in the history of the NHL. If we apply Occam's razor, the simplest explanation is that the author knows nothing about hockey. Or knitting. Or organs. Or sympathetic characters. Why was she even chosen to write this book?

    I will disagree with FG on one point. Jonathan Quick's helmet seems to come off if you fart in his general direction.

    1. I really don't think that the author has any idea how awful Grace comes across, I really don't. I suspect that as the couple rekindles their romance, Grace will soften somewhat, perhaps enough for other readers, but I sincerely doubt it'll be enough for me to end up liking her. I *can* like awful characters who get redeemed, I really really can.... but if the text doesn't even acknowledge the character's atrociousness, I have a hard time seeing how she can be redeemed...

      Smitty's helmet has been known to fall off in a stiff breeze, so I'll handwave Zack's bucket loss. But that's it-- everything else, particularly the 12 people on top of Zack next to net-- is utterly absurd. Grrrrr. I think it's less "why was she chosen to write this" and more "why did she decide this was a good set of topics?"