The Fictional Hockey League

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

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Virgin’s Secret Marriage: Post 17

Chapter 13: Seriously, who monograms their thongs?

(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.)

We’re in the home stretch—this is the second-to-last chapter in The Virgin’s Secret Marriage—which means, of course, that while obviously Emma and Joe will have their Happily Ever After, something terrible has to happen first. As you might guess, it’s all, frankly, less exciting than a climax—of any sort—should be.

Chapter thirteen opens on the Subplot Marriage, and the Subplot Bride is deeply concerned that something bad is going to happen, and while Emma doesn’t agree out loud, she is worried too. Readers, of course, know that with only two chapters left and novels’ penchant for bad things happening at the worst possible time, that it’s likely that the Subplot Groom will be arrested for STEALING ALL THE THINGS. 

… which is exactly what happens when Mac-the-Sheriff shows up. The Subplot Groom saves everyone a great deal of time and confesses almost immediately (Miranda rights be damned).

So… naturally… the Subplot (Ex)Bride’s incredibly irritating mother blames Emma for allowing the sheriff to enter the Wedding Inn and arrest the Subplot Groom, then threatens to sue the Inn and Emma and refuses to pay for anything, until the Subplot (Ex)Bride’s father points out that actually it’s a good thing that their daughter isn’t marrying a criminal.

The cancellation of the marriage ceremony means that Emma goes home early, albeit after feeding many of the wedding guests in what must have been one of the most awkward non-weddings ever. When she arrives home, she finds Joe looking guilty, “as if he’d just been caught in the act of she didn’t know what” (180). Again, readers know that he was setting up his Grand Seduction (the one he planned with his sister in the previous chapter), but because this couple’s marriage is based on LIES and propaganda, Emma finds the fact that he’s stripping the bed to be suspicious. Joe confesses to (now underprepared) Grand Seduction and Emma fills him on Aborted Wedding/Arrest, then they decide to be romantic. Joe goes off to prepare her a bath, and Emma decides to change into sexy lingerie.

Except! What’s this?! Gasp! Horror!

And that was when she looked down and saw the hint of leopard-print satin and black frothy lace peeking out from beneath Joe’s pile of clothes (182).

Oh, but it gets worse. Not only is this not Emma’s thong, but it’s quickly obvious whose it is.

Front and center of the lingerie was an embroidered black heart with the initials T.F.  The only T.F. Joe knew was Tiffany Lamour (182).

So, Lamour is her stage name? I don’t remember that ever being specified in the book, but I’m willing to admit that this could be my fault as opposed to the writing.

My first reaction is “Who monograms their underwear?!” However, now that I’ve moved to the south, I have learned that monogramming is very popular. I cannot speak to the popularity of monogramming thongs, however.  A VERY quick Google search suggests that once you get past the kind of iron-on CafePress personalized thongs, the next step is getting your thong personalized for wearing under your wedding dress. Other than bridal lingerie, the search turned up options via Etsy (the art/craft sales site) and of course many sites for personalizing what Americans call flipflops but Australians call thongs.

This 30 second Google search did not turn up anything like what’s described in the book, but I will not say that it’s impossible or even necessarily unlikely because I just don’t know and don’t want to spend more time googling it.

My second reaction was, “Gee, Tiffany, don’t you think going with the embroidered pair is overdoing it?” I mean, it’s so on-the-nose as to seem suspicious. But then I remembered what I was reading.

So Emma accuses Joe of sleeping with Tiffany in order for her to go easy on him in the interview. Joe tells her that he didn’t. He does NOT however explain about Tiffany asking to use the bathroom and disappearing into their house the previous day. In fact, I don’t think he’d ever told Emma about Tiffany’s visit. Despite not providing a logical explanation, such as the truth that the readers are privy to, Joe just gives up.

I have a whole bunch of things highlighted in this section because I just don’t understand the direction this goes. Joe feels hurt because of Emma’s “lack of faith” (183). Then he realizes that the ruse “had pointed out a glaring lack in his relationship with his bride” (184), meaning that she doesn’t trust him.

He glared at Emma, frustrated that he hadn’t let himself see this coming, when he had known as along, that she was more of a good time gal and fair-weather friend than a devoted wife who would endure anything to be with him (184, comma error original).

What. The. Hell.

First, I do not think “good-time gal” means what you think it means. I was under the impression it meant someone who is particularly interested in, well, having a good time, but specifically sex. I looked it up online and it apparently does mean that, connotatively, and denotatively means what it sounds like— a woman more interested in pleasure than work. However, neither of those meanings makes any sense for Emma. She’s not the former, since she’s the novel’s titular virgin, and she’s not the latter since she has worked very hard for her career (when she could have just been pampered by her parents’ fortune.) I think the text is using it more as a synonym for “fair-weather friend,” someone who is only a companion during the good times and not the hard.

Second, vocabulary, outdated slang, and comma errors aside, why the hell should either of them trust each other? Their marriage is built on lies—granted lies to the rest of the world, but still. And they NEVER talked about making this a “real” marriage—as far as they’ve conveyed to each other, the expectation was that they’d get divorced in two years. So why would Emma be a “devoted wife”?

Third, “devoted wife who would endure anything to be with him”??? That smacks of such antiquated sexism. I assume the writer didn’t mean it that way and that Joe thinks he’d be there through thick and thin because of his love for Emma, but that’s not how it comes across. Not to mention, since he doesn’t even try to explain what he knows happened, it doesn’t really suggest he’s being there for her, either.

Emma’s reasoning for believing that Joe would have slept with Tiffany is that Joe put his career ahead of Emma in the past. Now, if we take that at face value, fine, okay, that makes (some) sense. But if you recall, back in chapter 9, Emma calls Joe’s choice to annul (albeit unsuccessfully) their marriage “noble”, and that he could have actually leveraged their marriage into a spot on the Storm, thus improving his career prospects. If we’re to believe this reading of their history, then he has, in fact, not put his career ahead of Emma.

Since what happened seven years before and how these two characters view it is fundamental to the entire rest of this book, I just really wish that the text was clear as to those events and the characters’ motivations and interpretations.

This scene drags on. Next Joe feels sorry for himself because Emma doubts him, just like everyone else in his life has always doubted him, from his mother to his coaches to sports columnists. Poor baby, playing successfully in the NHL.

Emma declares that Joe has destroyed what trust they’d had, and Joe’s response is to just fold in on himself and say that he’ll have his lawyer call hers. (I wonder if his sports lawyer takes care of divorces? He’s not very good at lawyering in general, though.)

The next day, Joe’s mother asks him to do yardwork at the Wedding Inn as a thinly-veiled excuse to question him as to what’s going on. (She’d seen Joe’s car at his sister’s house overnight and discovered that Emma had slept in her office.) Joe spills all, declaring that this sort of thing happens to athletes and if Emma can’t handle it, then that’s her problem.

(I’m not sure if the text means that athletes get propositioned a lot or that athletes get accused of sex they didn’t have a lot. The former I believe, but also believe Emma could get over, in time. The latter seems less likely to be a consistent and recurring problem.)

Joe’s mother accuses him of quitting, even if Emma let him down. Joe points out that if Emma loved him, he’d be willing to work things out but that this experience proves she doesn’t. Joe’s mama uses his hockey career and work ethic against him, pointing out that he worked his ass off and put his mind to it to get a successful professional career against the odds, because he knew it was the right thing to do.

“Like you knew when you were only nineteen that Emma was the only woman for you,” Helen said (190).

Uh, what? First off, Helen wasn’t around for any of Joe’s relationship with Emma seven years before. It took place in Rhode Island and the text explicitly said that the Hart family was unaware of it. That means that Helen would have found out that Joe “just knew” some time in the last week or so, while the two have been (re)married. But when would have that have happened? Joe’s only conversation with his mother about Emma was when she gave him the (now stolen and recovered) hockey memorabilia as an excuse to tell him that he has to treat Emma right.

Soooooo, Joe’s mother is a psychic. Or is just making stuff up—because the text has never even had JOE HIMSELF say that at nineteen he knew that Emma was the one. Yeah, he’s been unable to forget her and yeah, seeing her again has rekindled his love, but again the text has not indicated that he’s been unable to find someone new because Emma was the one. (The text has indicated this obliquely about Emma, saying that she unfavorably compared anyone who approached her to Joe.)

This magic speech, which makes zero sense once you think about it further, does the trick for Joe. He learns that he must devote himself to his marriage, just like he devoted himself to his career, and stick with her.


Well, stick with the Fictional Hockey League, since there’s just one more chapter of The Virgin’s Secret Marriage to go.


  1. I actually thought the book was improving, but I can see that the same everything-but-the-kitchen-sink ending that we saw in a previous book is back. Perhaps I've read too many mysteries, but I like an ending that shows the author had control of the book and is gathering up all the threads as we move to the big finale. However, in this case the finale was predictable so the only mystery was the route there.

    On the other hand, one chapter left!

    Also, "good time girl" taken literally makes me laugh. For some reason, it reminds me of Westerns and saloons.

    1. I think it's a tendency of the Harlequin genre to have to just throw everything into the pot at the end because the books are so short. On the other hand, as you say, there was no actual mystery, so why some of the space couldn't be taken up with actual character development and communication, I do not know.

      Emma the Western Saloon Gal.... would totally have been a more entertaining novel. ;)

      I've started the book that debuts on Friday. I may have made a questionable choice.

  2. A questionable choice... as in, a terrible mistake?

    Also, I forgot to mention how ridiculous it is to monogram the world's tiniest piece of underwear. Why bother? If you forget them somewhere that's probably not increasing your chances of getting them back. Also, why would Tiff's undies be under Joe's clothes? If they had actually done anything, they would be more likely under the bed or caught on the lampshade like a sixties movie. Also, is the thong "game-worn" or a fresh pair that she just happened to have in her purse? Gross, I know, but these sensible questions arise when I reread.

    Sadly, the delicious food photos are gone now. I will still comment though.

    1. I have read no further, so I'm not quite willing to call it a terrible mistake... but possibly, yes.

      The book does specify that her (bizarrely embroidered, personalized) underwear is in the pile of dirty clothes precisely with the items he wore the day before. Which, in retrospect, makes even less damn sense because ... how?!

      Fortunately, I am both procrastinating from end-of-semester stuff AND have my tablet with me, so let me check... Joe asks where Emma got the thong and she responds:

      "Near the top of your stack of dirty clothes. Right under what you were wearing yesterday, or maybe it was the day before" (183).

      So, "yesterday" (the day before the wedding and the day of the interview), Tiffany showed up and stashed the thong under the top pile of clothes, I guess. (And with all of the workouts that Joe does, he's often changing clothes, as per the book.) So, yes, her ploy is even more laughable than it initially appears.

      The book does not, however, specify the cleanliness of said garment. (But you're right-- partly under the bed would make so much more sense. But maybe Tiffany assumed that Emma does the laundry*, and thus it was more likely she'd find them there whereas Joe might have spotted them under the bed?)

      Despite the lack of food photos, I am glad you will still comment! I liiiiiiive for comments. (I also get text messages about the FHL from Forget Gutenberg, so you don't have to feel as though you're the ONLY one keeping me in comments. No pressure**)

      *no laundry is done in this book

      **there's totally pressure