Review: Calling the Shots by Kathy Alerding (1985)

Heat Factor: The whiskers get a bit frisky, but it fades to purple

Character Chemistry: Eh

Plot: Elaine is living her routine hockey life until Roland gets sent down from Edmonton and shakes things up

Overall: This was significantly less infuriating than I expected.

First of all, I’d like to say that I found a K-mart receipt from 1984 in my book. Very exciting. Possibly more exciting than the book itself.

I made a few predictions for this book during our initial mustache conversation, and most of them weren’t on target at all. Roland does make Elaine have pants feels that she doesn’t want at first, so I did get that right, but that’s kind of a genre staple even now, so I can’t feel too victorious about it. As for the rest… This book was generally uplifting and positive. I mean, it’s still a book from the 80s, don’t get me wrong, but in many of its essentials, it doesn’t differ significantly from a book I might pick up now. 

I thought that Roland was going to step on Elaine’s toes, sweeping onto the team and causing trouble. He didn’t. He supported Elaine in front of the mostly rookie team and encouraged her to think bigger picture about her career when he learned she was being courted by a prestigious sports medicine facility in another city. So did the coach, for that matter. There was never really any doubt that Elaine was exceptional at her job, which was great when I expected her to have to fight for every inch of professional courtesy. This is not to say there’s not sexist workplace stuff happening. Please see this quote I sent to Holly and Ingrid from page 12:

“And now that you’ve met the coaching staff, I want to introduce you to our senior trainer, Elaine D’Arte,” she heard the coach finally say. 

As usual, she took his cue and skated to the front of the group. And as usual, her introduction was greeted with whistles and players’ nudging each other in silent comment. Elaine had come to take their unorthodox compliments in stride. She neither smiled nor acknowledged the ruckus but ignored it until Coach Holloway had finished his part of their thoroughly rehearsed performance.

“Well,” the coach continued, after the clamor died down, “I guess we won’t have to go through eye exams this season. It’s obvious you guys have twenty/twenty.”

His comments drew appropriate laughter, yet Elaine stood still without giving a clue to her reaction to it all.

“And I’m glad to see you’re all healthy, red-blooded specimens who can appreciate a nice-looking woman,” continued Holloway. “But let’s get it straight from the beginning. It’s Miss D’Arte or Doc, if you like, and no exceptions. We’re proud to have one of the finest trainers in hockey working with this team, and you’re to give her every respect. Got that?”

So, like, this is totally WTFery, which, like 1985, right? But also we’ve got the coach fully committed to appreciating Elaine’s skill. It’s kinda weird. 

In terms of the romance, initially it seems that Roland is going to come on strong and be a complete dawg, and Elaine will have to preserve her virtue, but that doesn’t last. Here’s an interaction from their first meeting: 

“Still, your name is so descriptive, Miss D’Arte. Elaine, an object of art.”

Elaine had grown very annoyed with Pantier’s smooth jock performance. “So you speak Italian, Mr. Pantier?” she said, referring to the fact that he had recognized the meaning of her last name. 

“No, not really. But there’s not so much difference between French and Italian—at least not much between certain words. Your name is easy—”

“Only the name,” she interrupted, to ensure that her point would not be missed. 

Your point is definitely not missed, Elaine. You’re not easy.

It takes maybe one chapter before Elaine, who we learn is a widow, decides that, instead of being a dawg, Roland is a fun man she likes to spend time with. She decides to flirt and embark on an affair with him because he is bringing color back into her life after the death of her husband. It’s pretty uplifting when all’s said and done. Again, because we’re looking at the eighties, Elaine is concerned with appearances and ensuring that people don’t find out about her affair with Roland because it could put her career in jeopardy. When the dark moment comes, Elaine’s joy at rediscovering herself as a whole person with Roland becomes a deep well of shame. It’s also a kind of emotional, irrational reaction to a bunch of fears she has all at once, so she doesn’t hang onto it, but it did feel more in keeping with the eighties than with a modern romance. 

The most difficult thing for me with this book was the actual writing. It was so focused on Elaine’s internal processing (and yes, it was single POV, though it was written in 3rd person) that there was very little action happening. All the moments that would probably be fleshed out in a modern romance to give action-based evidence to the burgeoning relationship were glossed over here and then mentally processed. And on top of that, we don’t have any of Roland’s POV, so we don’t even have opposing viewpoints or much idea of his personal struggle to keep our attention.  It is so unbelievably boring to read. 

Finally, to wrap it up, let’s talk mustaches! At first I didn’t think Roland would even have a mustache. His dark hair and eyebrows were described straight away, but no facial hair! But fortunately, I had my first mustache sighting on page 53: 

“Pantier’s mouth firmed, and as it did, the black fringe of his mustache formed a thoughtful curve about his full, wide lips.”

Whew! Sadly, we don’t get much more. He plays with it one evening when they’re having dinner together, and the whiskers brush her breasts when they go to bed for the first time, but there’s not much more mustache action than that. I can’t say I was expecting as much as I was hoping for mustache descriptions, but it was still disappointing that the facial hair didn’t have more of a role. 

Buy Now: Amazon

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10 thoughts on “Review: Calling the Shots by Kathy Alerding (1985)”

    1. Haha time for a vacation! We were a bit bummed that the receipt didn’t specify what was purchased, because that would have been awesome.


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