*Paging all romance fans* Helena Hunting’s latest novel in the PUCKED series totally pwned us! Read our review of PUCKED Off and download your copy today!
[Some Spoilers; For Mature Audiences]
Katie’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
It’s no secret that I adore the Pucked series by Helena Hunting, and I had a favorite couple (Randy and Lily), but then Lance Romero came along and turned everything upside down!
“I have the real him here with me now, too. I have a broken boy who’s become a broken man, and as stupid and naïve as it may be, I want to be part of what heals him.”
Pucked Off focuses on Lance, who we’ve seen throughout all the books. He’s mostly been a bad influence and super into the puck bunny scene, and after his disastrous affair with the team trainer, Tash, he sorta spiraled.
In this novel, we get more of his backstory, how he came to love hockey, and all the low self-esteem issues that Lance has been hiding. The catalyst for these revelations doesn’t come in the form of Tash (who seriously needs to fall off the face of this fictional universe), but in a lovely red-haired woman named Poppy. Well, Tash helps but not in a good way.
Now, that’s a little spoilerish because I know a lot of readers were assuming that it would be Tash who’s our heroine. I was one of these readers very early on, but after reading the Get Inked crossover novella that featured the opening scene of this novel, I hoped so hard that Tash would get her comeuppance in the end because she doesn’t deserve Lance.
Poppy, well, we’ve seen her before in the series, too…
I think my favorite part of this book was the ease of their relationship. Granted, there are problems, but Lance and Poppy just work. Poppy talks things out and wants them to be open with each other. I admire her sticking to her convictions and separating her work from her relationship early on in the novel.
A lot of authors would focus the relationship around that situation, but Helena Hunting takes a long, hard look at her characters and instead chooses to focus on personal growth.
I hated that Lance doubted himself so much because he’s such a sweetheart, but this novel really captures his growth so well. We understand why he doesn’t really share his relationship with Poppy, and while it made me sad to see Poppy doubting the importance of their relationship due to that, it makes sense if you think about it from Lance’s point of view.
“I wanna deserve you. Why can’t I find a way to deserve you?”
Like all Pucked novels, this one is seriously hot, too.
“You know what I want?” I lay her down, fanning her hair out.
She shakes her head.
I straddle her, because if I get between her legs now, there’s no way I’ll be able to follow through on what I said. Or what she said she wants.
I kiss her before I answer. “I want to know what you sound like when you come.” Then I swallow her moan as I take her mouth.
I know! I faded you to black. It gets even better after that…
We also get a look into the lives of the other members of the Pucked family. I’m so happy that Lance finally his person now, too!
Now I have to decide who my favorite couple is because Randy and Lily have some competition…
Funmbi’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I’ve been a PUCKED fan for several years now. I will forever be in awe of Helena Hunting’s ability to combine rollicking humor with the sweetest romance and compelling drama. She has a gift! I must admit that in the PUCKED series, besides the first book, I’ve only read PUCKED Over (book #3) and Forever PUCKED (book #4). And if you would have asked me at that time, I would have said without compunction that Alex and Violet are my favorite PUCKED couple. You just can’t get any better than their crazy-cookiness, mostly on Vi’s part!
But with Forever PUCKED you could tell that the tone of the stories are potentially be taking another turn. Alex’s accident and the subsequent angst around his recovery are definitely more intense than we’re used to. Even still, our faves get their HEA and it’s the beautiful, hot mess we expect!
Of course HH announced that Lance “Romance” Romero would get his own book. From everything I knew about Lance’s relationships, he was either in an illicit, forbidden relationship with the Team physical therapist, Tash (which eventually cost Tash her job) or he was a super-womanizer. What exactly should we expect from his story?
Well, last month at the Fifty Shades Darker premiere (yah, that did happen… full story HERE!) I chatted with someone who read an advanced copy of PUCKED Off and she confirmed that the story was way darker than previous books in the series and I should prepare myself for some heartache.
So when I got my hands on a PUCKED Off review copy (thanks to our friends at Social Butterfly PR) I went in with my eyes wide open… and I was totally blown away. This story is so good. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. Lance’s story is heartbreaking, but watching him struggle for even a little light in his life is so lovely. Helena Hunting really outdid herself with PUCKED Off!
We begin with Lance on a really bad night. He’s in the midst of a reluctant on-again/off-again abusive relationship with Tash and, for the life of him, he can’t walk away. Lance takes out his frustration during a bar fight that leaves him injured. As part of an ultimatum, the Team trainer forces Lance to get an emergency massage therapy session before he’ll be able to play hockey. Lance is very nervous, mostly because he can’t stand to be touched (part of that dark backstory). But then he meets Poppy O’Connor. Lance is instantly drawn to Poppy, who is a fellow red-head, but he can’t help but feel like he’s met her before.
For her part, Poppy definitely knows Lance Romero, and truth be told, she has been enamored with him for years. However, she also knows his “hit it and quit it” reputation. But there’s that chemistry between them…
Soon, things do take a romantic turn, and it’s swoony and HOT. Truth be told, for the first time, Lance feels like he can be comfortable in his skin and in a relationship. He ends up revealing the very difficult circumstances of his childhood and is edified by Poppy’s care and support. Still, she can’t help but think that Lance is keeping important from him (and that thing is Tash!).
You guys, Lance just breaks my heart. I don’t want to mention any spoilery details, but he grows up in very terrible, abusive circumstances. Unfortunately, this experience of abuse molds Lance’s expectations for his relationships as an adult. But thank goodness for Poppy! She is the exact brand of sweet generosity and grit that Lance needs. Poppy isn’t afraid to jar Lance out of his destructive patterns and, over time, Lance realizes that he’s just as entitled to happiness, stability, and love as the next person:
Poppy is nothing like the women I usually end up in bed with. She’s not brazen. She’s not looking to break conventions. She’s the opposite, and I want to be exactly wha tshe needs, except I’m not sure how. I keep my hands where they are, holding her face so I don’t take things too fast. Beyond wanting to be what she needs, I also want this to last in cast she regrets it and it’s the only time I get this close to her…
…Poppy parts her thighs, and I get comfortable, stretching out so my legs are hanging off the end of the bed. I spread her open and drop a wet kiss on that pretty little clit. Poppy drags in a breath. I move my lips to the inside of her thigh and nip there before going back to her clit, again and again. I lick her until she comes, and my name is a hoarse cry on her lips. And then I do it again, because she tastes like she’s made for me, and I’m already addicted to the sound off her when I give her exactly what she needs. Which I want to be me…
…When I make her come, it’s exactly how I thought it would be–like my world will end if I can’t have her like this again. For the first time in my entire life, I understand what it means to be with someone who will give and not just take.
Lance and Poppy do face some Tash-shaped bump in the roads, but with a little help from the rest of the PUCKED gang, these two get their HEA as well. (P.S. Violet will NEVER stopping being a hilarious, hot mess!)
I fully recommend PUCKED Off to fans of contemporary romance and sports romance, especially if you’re looking for some angst. Yes, this story will make your heart clench, but Lance and Poppy are completely worth it. Yep, I agree with Katie… Alex and Vi definitely have some competition for my fave PUCKED couple!
***Many thanks to Helena Hunting and Social Butterfly PR for advanced review copies.