I’m NHL defenseman Lance Romero, AKA Lance “Romance”.
I’m notorious for parties and excess. I have the most penalty minutes in the league. I get into the most fights. I take the most hits. I’m a player on and off the ice. I’m the one women with no inhibitions want.
Not because I like the notoriety, but because I don’t know how to be any other way.
I have secrets. Ones I shared with the wrong person, and she used them against me. Sometimes she still does. I should cut ties. But she makes it difficult, because she’s the kind of bad I deserve.
At least that’s what I believed until someone from my past gets caught up in my present. She’s all the good things in this world. She lights up my dark.
I shouldn’t want her.
But I do.
I should leave her alone.
But I won’t.
I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into with Lance’s story because he’s already been established as the hard-partying ladies’ man who doesn’t know when to quit in the earlier books. Having met Poppy in book 2 when she helped Miller, I was pretty sure she’d be the reason he cleaned up and got his act together, which isn’t wrong but his story is so much more than that. Lance wasn’t one of my favorites because he seemed so abrasive and shallow compared to how sweet and genuine I found Alex, Miller and Randy. I’m happy to report that I was completely wrong about Lance and his story is probably my favorite after Violet and Alex now. I wasn’t at all prepared for Lance’s story but it’s fantastic.
Last we saw Lance, he had a very toxic and far too public relationship with Natasha, the Hawks trainer. They had another explosive break-up after they got caught getting it on in the locker room and Tash was fired. A guy who drinks way too much and regularly trashes his own house in a toxic relationship is hardly a sympathetic character but once Lance’s background is revealed, you’ll see him in a completely different light because it’s a very moving story. It’s amazing that he’s even relatively normal after everything he’s been through.
Lance has carried an unimaginable weight since childhood: he’s lived his entire life blaming himself for the murder of his eight-year-old brother. His father abandoned the family soon after, leaving Lance with his unstable and extremely abusive mother. The poor kid lived with her abuse for years, believing he deserved it for having caused his brother’s death. In fact, he still thinks he deserves to suffer, which is why he keeps going back to Tash. Her real story was another surprise. We didn’t see much of her in the previous books but she seemed fun and well-liked. The team was disappointed to lose her and annoyed at Lance for putting Tash in the position he did that ended with her dismissal. Violet and the rest of the girls seemed close with her, supporting her after she got fired and in the wake of her final break-up with Lance.
I liked Tash from what I knew of her and wondered if her story was going to parallel the others in some way, perhaps putting her with one of the other Hawks in the All In series or giving her a minor story line in the final book but nope. I knew nothing of Tash before this and once I learned who she really is, I loathed her to the point that I would’ve been disgusted if she’d come back into Lance’s life.
Lance is so much sweeter than I ever gave him credit for and I was just floored by his story. He’s been portrayed as such a cad until now that even his closest friends questioned his friendship with Violet, suspicious of his intentions with Alex’s wife but Lance took it all in stride. In fact, he seemed to think their concerns were reasonable enough that he calmly dispelled them and didn’t even get mad at the suggestion. It’s obvious from the beginning that Poppy is so good for him. Lance has been through more heartbreak at his age than most people face in an entire lifetime so I was happy this wasn’t a will they/won’t they story. There were no interfering puck bunnies, out of context media photos or toxic exes sabotaging his life.
This was just a story about a guy trying to figure out how to be real and vulnerable without scaring away the woman he loves. It’s one of the sweetest love stories ever and I’d kill for more Lance and Poppy. She’s adorable and perfect for him in every way so they’re a couple you can root for from page one.
All of the books in the Pucked series can stand alone or be read as a series but of course I have to encourage any interested readers to start with Violet and Alex’s story because it’s just so good. It’s important to note that Forever Pucked is book 4 of the series but it’s the sequel to the first book, so a continuation of Alex and Violet’s story. Squeeeee! That makes me seriously happy. Likewise, book 5 is the sequel to book 3 and there’s a crossover novella with Helena Hunting’s Clipped Wings series called Get Ink, which is available separately but has also been included in Pucks & Penalties.