REVIEW: “Pucked Off” by Helena Hunting

Darn Helena Hunting for creating the most irresistibly vulnerable Alpha Heroes that you cannot get out of your mind.  I thought her previous Hero, Randy, was the one no other could match, I was wrong.  Lance Romance Romano is now in his league, this dirty dawg, man-whore, is more than he appears … S-W-O-O-N-Y.  In “Pucked Off” we get to see the man behind the curtain.  We see the reasons why he has portrayed himself the way he has.  Poppy’s actually a minor character, we meet in “Pucked UP”, who helped Miller in his time of need.  I’ve always hoped she was going to get her book – YAY!  This is the type of novel that after you read it, you want to immediately re-read it, or live it.  The plot is incredibly engrossing.  The story is sweet, vulnerable, fated and romantic.  Violet says so.  This you need to read.

Lance is being tormented by Tash.  We get a full view of the Hell she has been putting Lance through for all of this time.  This is the first shocking reveal of Lance’s true persona versus his public persona.  The public rumors of Lance’s “conquests” have been mostly created by Tash herself.  Lance is disgusted by himself and he feels as though he deserves every torment she puts him through.  Lance finds himself in a bar fight, beaten so badly that his teammate Randy has to pick him up.  The teams trainer looks at him and insists Lance get a massage, if he doesn’t he’ll be riding the bench.  Lance doesn’t want a massage and has an aversion to them but his trainer makes one for him – immediately.

Lance arrives at his appointment dreading the experience.  His massage therapist recognizes him; she asks someone else to take him.  No one else can, so she reluctantly takes him.  She’s been hurt by him before; not because he slept with her but because he didn’t remember him.  Poppy met Lance at a bar post-game; he was with Miller and Randy she was with her friend.  Lance approached Poppy at the bar first and she thought he recognized her from before.  But her friend poached him and she was the odd man out.  This was the infamous party in “Pucked Up”.  Not only is she hurt that Lance doesn’t remember her, from before that night, but he screwed her friend.  Poppy is disappointed that Lance doesn’t remember her yet again from either of their encounters.  When Poppy starts Lance’s massage she notices that he tenses when she’s about to touch him.

Lance’s shocked and he’s trying to memorize this moment in time.  He has never felt comfortable being touched by a woman.  Until this masseuse.  Poppy.  She is his type, strawberry blonde, curvy, yet small.  There’s something about her, he feels an instant connection to her, he doesn’t want her to stop touching him.  Lance’s crazy attracted to her and wants to make as many appointments with her as he can.  He can’t stand the thought of her not touching him again.  She’s the only person who can touch him without it feeling like bugs are crawling under his skin.  When Miller and Randy come to pick him up they immediately recognize her from the party.  She had the most contact with Miller since she helped him clean the marker from his face.  She told him about her connection to Lance, and she doesn’t want Miller to say anything to Lance.

Lance asks the guys how they know Poppy and they are stunned that he can’t remember her from the party.  At first he’s angry to think one of them screwed her.  But Miller is especially mad.  He can’t tell Lance why his inability to remember Poppy bothers him so much.  Because Poppy doesn’t want Miller to tell him what she had confessed to him.  Lance eventually remembers bits and pieces from that night he feels terrible.  While Poppy is cleaning up the room after his appointment she finds that Lance left his phone behind.  There is a caller who keeps calling, leaving messages and texts.  To her surprise Lance is waiting for her at closing to collect his mobile.

Lance walks her to her car and apologizes for not remembering her from the party.  Quite sadly he tells her, “I should know you”.  He get her phone number so he can get an “emergency” massage with a home visit.  He confesses why he is insistent she’s the only one to touch him.  When he’s at practice his back and neck start bothering him badly so his performance is terrible.  His trainer tells him that he needs to get another massage or he won’t be playing.  Poppy is completely booked at the clinic and he can’t get an appointment with her before the team flies out.  So he calls her and asks for a home visit massage because it is an emergency.  They talk about their pasts and Poppy reminisces, internally, about their shared past.  She’s attracted to Lance but doesn’t want to cross an unprofessional line with him.

The team is traveling and Tash is continuing to call and text Lance.  He thought she would’ve given up but she continues her angry communications.  Lance realizes if he wants to keep seeing Poppy he needs to plan massages.  He calls the clinic to set up as many appointments as possible.  On the trip Lance hangs out with Alex, Darren, Miller, and Randy all of his friends who have girlfriends.  He doesn’t like the bar scene anymore especially after meeting Poppy.  When he gets back to Chicago he needs another appointment with Poppy because of a fight on the ice.  He asks her out, but she tells him if they date she can never massage him again.  He rather endure other people touching him and rather take her out on a date.  Lance walks Poppy to her car and asks if he can kiss her and the kisses are breath-stealing.

Randy remembers Poppy from school; he used to tug her ponytail as they passed between classes.  Ginger solidarity.  Lance realizes there’s more she’s not telling him.  Poppy tells him about the events that led them to the memory she’s cherished.  He was her first kiss.

Lance doesn’t want to screw this up and goes to Violet for first date advice.  Violet thinks that it’s really romantic that fate keeps bringing them together.  Lance takes Poppy to dinner and they end up back at her place where she invites him inside.  Their date continues on throughout the night.  The next day there are pictures from their date on the internet and puck bunnydom is in a tizzy.  Lance knows he has to warn Poppy about this; it’s not an aspect of dating him she was expecting.  Poppy handles it well and the pictures of her are flattering.  Lance starts forming a perfect bubble around them, to shield her from the media and the puck bunnies.  Mainly sticking to Poppy’s house and not really going out at all.  Even though Tash keeps texting and calling he hasn’t told her the story about her yet.

Poppy is feeling insecure since Lance is keeping her separate from his hockey life.  He hasn’t introduced her to his friends or asked her to go to any of their home games.  The traveling isn’t bad but there is a series of away games one of which is in LA.  Where Tash lives.  Lance is making the best choices he can so he won’t run into her but she finds a way.  Tash also manages to take a compromising photo of them and posts it to social media and directly to Poppy.  Lance panics because he needs Poppy in his life.  He doesn’t want to think about her never wanting to see him again.  Lance is able to make Poppy promise not to look at the pictures until he can explain them in person.  Poppy sees the photo and Lance explains the sick relationship Tash put him through she’s understanding.

What bothers Poppy is that he didn’t tell her about Tash before the trip.  He could have told her there was a possibility of him running into Tash so she wouldn’t have been blindsided.  Poppy explains that she doesn’t like that Lance kept a secret from her.  She explains that it makes it seem as though Tash was still a big part of his life.  Despite the fact that he doesn’t have romantic feelings for her.  Poppy tells Lance she needs time to think about everything.  She explains that he needs to stay away from her until she sorts it out.  It will take more than a day or two maybe even more than a week.  Lance is devastated and begs her not to leave him.

 

WARNING:  “Pucked Off” my give you a compulsion to partake in copious amounts of Gummi Bears and massages.  Become obsessed with sweet and broody Red Headed men, Scottish brogues, and closets.  Finally you may have an unholy curiosity about why Scottish men don’t like wearing undergarments under their waist clothing.

We see a completely different side of Lance.  He’s sweet, vulnerable completely laid bare.  Randy and Miller focal secondary characters with an assist from the naïve newbie Rook (or Rookie).  Lance is as “swoony” as Randy and he’s as wonderfully sweet as Alex was with his first time with Violet.  Lance’s backstory, I dare say, is more intense than Randy’s, which is saying something.  Helena Hunting can take these notorious womanizer hockey players completely the opposite of what they appear, in a stunning way.  We have a terrific scene with Lily, Violet, Poppy, and her friend April.  I dare say we will probably see more of Rookie and hopefully April.  All of the characters are on point in all of their facets; vulnerable, protective, intrusive, funny, and disheartened.  Lance will break your heart.  Poppy is strong, caring, honorable, yet self-protective.  She’s the light to Lance’s darkness.

I’m giving “Pucked Off” 6 Lightning Bolts and a Storm Warning.

 

This novel was provided, voluntarily read, and honestly reviewed

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