The Fictional Hockey League

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Virgin’s Secret Marriage: Post 18

Chapter 14: We Made It to the End!

(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.)

Well, here we are! The end of the novel, where we must get our heroes together for their Happily Ever After. So, naturally, we open with Emma at the Wedding Inn (writing up her bill for the Subplot Wedding that Wasn’t) when who should appear…? Why, the Subplot Groom! He’s plead guilty and thus been allowed out and about, and expects to get a fine and community service rather than jail time, including being a spokesperson to the youth on how easy it is to end up doing crime, and he’s at the Inn because he plans to apologize to everyone he hurt.

The one he hurt the most, however, specifically the Subplot Bride, won’t see him. In fact, her family took out a restraining order against him. I guess I’ll handwave that as the family having a judge in their pockets or something, because I don’t think you can legally take out a restraining order on someone who has never been violent to you or threatened you or has a criminal background of violence. Two minutes of google-fu tell me, however, that there are allegations of restraining order abuse—meaning that it’s actually very easy to get a restraining order because judges err on the side of the one asking for an order because it’s very bad publicity to deny a restraining order and then have the asker end up dead. It also apparently can happen in as little as a day, so I guess the Subplot Bride’s family really could have done this, but it’s still super underhanded, would require lying to the court and judge, and is not what a restraining order is for.

The Subplot Groom has given up on his bride because “[s]he fell in love with a marketing whiz, an up-a-comer. Now that [he’s] no longer that person—well, let’s just say there’s no chance for reconciliation there, either” (192). As little as I care about this subplot, I included that quote because that is diametrically opposed to what Mama Hart said to Joe and to what this main couple will decide about sticking through it all and loving each other no matter what and not giving up. So while the Subplot Thief and Heiress aren’t the main duo in this novel, their story does take up quite a few pages and seem to totally undercut the message of the main pairing.

And yet, the Subplot Groom’s final words to Emma, that if your life is going the wrong way, “U-turns are allow” (194) are “prophetic” and enough to convince her that she needs to make a change and figure things out with Joe.

Her marriage had crumbled because she hadn’t possessed the courage to ignore the evidence to the contrary and believe in Joe. Because she had been afraid to tell Joe how she really felt, how deeply she was in love with him (194, comma splice error original).

Do real live people think this way? Like, ever? I mean, I can see waiting for the significant other to explain the situation before jumping to conclusions, but A) Embroidered monogram thongs, as ridiculous as that is, don’t just appear in people’s bedrooms magically and B) they didn’t have a marriage to crumble! Saying the words in front of a justice of the peace gives you the legal bindings of a marriage, which mostly constitute how you pay your taxes and who is now your next of kin, but it doesn’t magically make the relationship that is a marriage. (In other words, I’m defining marriage in two different ways, two separate entities. Joe and Emma had a legal marriage, unbeknownst to them, for the past seven years…. Which means I’m pretty sure they’ve been filing their taxes wrong. But that’s all it means. The relationship on which their marriage ideally should have been built wasn’t there. I don’t care how long they dated when they were nineteen, it’s seven years later now and they’re different people. Think about how much changes in seven years.

But this novel has been conflating the two relationships and insisting that if you have the one (the legal one, at least once you’re aware of its existence), then you have to strive for the relationship one. And sure, again, ideally you would. Frankly, ideally you’d go the other way ‘round, starting with the relationship and then signing the piece of paper that has you jointly filing your taxes. But the relationship can’t be forced and isn’t instantaneously created by signing that paper.

If it were, there’d be a lot fewer divorces after spontaneous Las Vegas weddings.

But now we’re down to just a few pages of novel, so let’s get to them.

Joe’s four brothers (did you know he had four? I’d forgotten about the sportscaster one, if I ever knew he existed) show up to take Emma to a surprise location.

It was one thing to be led around by Joe—he was her husband, after all. But by all the men in the Hart clan was something else indeed! (195)

I’m deeply concerned that it’s okay for a husband to grab his wife’s elbow and lead her around wherever he wants, if the two of them haven’t actually okayed that as part of their relationship. In other words, I’d be peeved if my significant other did that to me, particularly on a regular basis.

Emma asks what happens if she doesn’t want to go, and the brother say they’ll convince her. To her question about what happens if she isn’t convinced, they just grin and she sighs, understanding that like or not, she’s going.

I find this creepy.

They get to the Storm’s practice rink and head for the locker room where Joe is waiting. (Joe has also shaved off his beard.) The brothers are joined by Emma’s parents, the coach, and “sports attorney Ross Dempsey” (196). (Every time this man is mentioned in the novel, he’s “sports attorney Ross Dempsey”, as if it’s super important for readers to recall who he is… only he doesn’t do anything of use, ever.)

Apparently this locker room has a television, because Joe turns it on and tells everyone to watch it. If this were their actual arena, I’d say they ought to be in the players’ lounge, but the text does specify practice. And while I am a nosy person who had more access to the Arizona Coyotes than most people do to their local NHL teams, I do not actually know what the practice rink’s locker rooms look like (for the NHL—I know what the regular locker rooms look like, having used them) or whether they’d have a tv in them.

Joe leaves and goes to the weight room. (Another shrug from me here. I know that the Yotes don’t have a weight room at their practice rink but that they do sometimes work out in the fitness center that’s in the same rink. They have a weight/training room at their actual arena, though.) After “about ten reps” on “one of the weight machines” (could you vague that up a bit for me, text?) Tiffany Lamour shows up.

Dressed as beautifully as always, in a form-fitting red sheath and high heels, she looked like a tomcat on the prowl (197).

There’s something about the tomcat imagery that seems off, even though I know what the text is going for and I applaud the text/author for not entirely slut shaming Tiffany.

Tiffany says the weight room is a strange place to meet and from this Joe admits that Emma left him over the thong. He says Tiffany’s ploy was clever and she agrees, but that Emma’s leaving is ironic since he and Tiffany hadn’t done anything.

Tiffany ends up admitting that the entire thing was payback because Joe wouldn’t “seduce” her (197) when she gave him multiple opportunities. Joe calls it blackmail.

Tiffany tries again to seduce him, saying that he’s not the first or last, and if he takes her to bed, she’ll “be good to [him] from here on out” (198).

I’m trying to fathom the psychology that is Tiffany Lamour. I presume she finds some sort of sexual thrill not only in the sex (since she could get that in other ways) with athletes (which she could still get) but in the power she sees herself as having over them thanks to her news show? And I guess I can buy that, since people are weird, but people are rarely so knowledgeable about themselves to baldly point out that that’s what they do and that the person they’re trying to seduce in that moment isn’t the first or last.

But Joe says he will be the last, in fact, since Tiffany’s been on camera this whole time.

Tiffany threatens to sue, and “sports attorney Ross Dempsey” says then they’ll counter-sue. Mac-the-Sheriff says he’d have to arrest Tiffany for blackmail and extortion.

Tiffany defiantly asks what they want of her and does “a double take” (198) when told she has to apologize to Emma and Joe. That … seems like the least of what they’d want of her, so I’m weirded out by how surprised she is at the stipulation. She capitulates with a fake apology and a demand of the tape, but everyone says no, that it’s insurance, including Saul (team owner, Emma’s dad) who says if he hears of Tiffany ever doing anything similar again, he’ll release it to the media. So I guess that’s Saul taken care of and now in Joe’s corner.

Speaking of Joe, he kicks everyone out except Emma at this point, and she apologizes for not believing in him.  And we find out that the problem, why she couldn’t trust him, had nothing to do with their utterly absurd excuse for a relationship and all the things I’ve been pointing out. Oh no. Instead…

“Deep down, I guess I didn’t think I could hold on to you” (200).

Nope, it’s all about the woman’s insecurities. She continues on, saying “I’m still foolish sometimes” and Joe’s response is that they’ll work on that (201). Asshat.

Then they admit to each other that they love each other and want to stay married, as long as there’s “no more walking out when the going gets rough” (202).

“I promise… I’ll never doubt you—or us—again” (202).

Because that’s totally how these things work.

Then they kiss and go home. The end.

WOW. That was a lot of work to get through, although in part because of my weird travel schedule and in part because my tablet died-ish. But part of it was the utter insanity of what went on in this book. Sure, there weren’t any traditional fantasy elements (no wherehyenas!) but when I stopped to think about what passed for “normal” in this book, I just had to comment on it and poke at it and try to figure out what the heck.

I think if an average reader—myself included—just sat down to read this book without expecting to critique it like I do for the FHL, a lot of what was utterly bizarre about it would have just been accepted. (Marriage is about trust? Okay! I buy that!... waitaminute… this marriage is founded on lies and a hiatus of seven years… maybe I should reconsider what the groundwork of this marriage means for the expectations therein…) I think if I had read it that way, I still wouldn’t have liked the book (I didn’t like either character, for example, and everyone non-main-couple was a caricature) but I wouldn’t have had quite so many problems with it.

At any rate, I don’t recommend this book and I don’t have any intention whatsoever looking for other books by the same author.

Next up? We’re moving away from the Harlequins and finding out what knitting and hockey have in common…other than the fact that they’re both hobbies of mine.

(Not, like, at the same time. I have never sat on the bench between shifts working on a scarf or something. But I have frequently watched games, both on tv and rec-league in person games, while knitting various things. In fact, funny story—one of the teams I played on was called the Predators. But rather than use the Nashville logo, our logo was based on the alien from the movies. So our team had a tradition that whoever played particularly well each game, the sort of ‘start of the game’, would get a small predator figure to carry around for the week and return the following. I got him early in the season, and I crocheted him a helmet and a pair of hockey pants. Okay, so it wasn’t knitting, but when I work in 3D, I prefer crocheting. I prefer knitting for all other yarn crafts.) Anyway, Preddy (as he was affectionately called) was well dressed for the rest of the season.

Right. Join me again soon for the next text…


  1. One of my (many) problems is that I don't understand why hockey romances can't attempt to do bigger things. Sure, you have the hero, the heroine, the happy ending, and the whole journey to be a better person, but you could also explore or skewer so many issues on the way. There are hockey controversies and there are also romantic lessons to learn. But to do all these things at once takes planning.

    So for the subplot and the main plot relationships to diverge as widely as you have pointed out here makes me think that no thought has gone into the plotting. If the lesson is that you have to work hard to make a marriage succeed, then everything should underline that. It's far easier to pluck your characters from the stereotype cupboard—beautiful evil woman, secret criminal, virginal bride, action hero—and know that everyone will recognize them. After all, how many people will read and wonder about rational motivations and actions? At least two, but obviously not enough to affect book sales.

    Anyway, I know I'm tilting at windmills, but with so many new hockey romances, I remain hopeful. Could it be the next book? Sounds like no. But we'll have some laughs, which is important too. Carry on, Commish.

    1. I think with the speed and brevity with which Harlequins are generally written, the authors just don't think about the bigger picture, although it's rarely so blatantly negated by dueling plots, as in this one. The publisher just needs hunky heroes and the fantasy of wealth, incredibly hot sex, and fulfilling love in order to sell the books. The fact that there was hockey involved in this one was probably the most arbitrary thing of all.

      Frankly, the fact that people are happy with this kind of insert stock character into stock plot is a big part of why romance as an overall genres is so denigrated, even when many of the non-series writers are doing really enjoyable things with their novels.

      Oh well.

      I suspect mostly laughs and me railing at the fact that not only did the author get the hockey wrong (unknown, as I haven't gotten to hockey yet) but also she got the knitting and spinning wrong (I have already found errors in the prologue) are to be expected in the next book. Maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised, though...

      It could happen.