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Pucking Around by Emily Rath

My name is Rachel Price, and two months ago, I walked away from the perfect man. Sweet and funny, and so hot it should be illegal—we shared one magical night. No names. No strings. I never thought I’d see him again.

I was wrong. It turns out Mr. Perfect is the playboy grinder for the Jacksonville Rays, the NHL’s hottest new hockey team…and I’m his new physical therapist. Oh, and the jerk doesn’t even recognize me!

This fellowship is going to be the longest ten months of my life. Mr. Perfect Mistake will do anything to get back on my good side. Meanwhile, his best friend is the surly new equipment manager always riding my case. Worst of all, I’ve got an uncooperative goalie who thinks I can’t tell he’s hiding an injury!

This is my chance to prove myself, and I’m not risking it for anything. But with one unexpected night, one secret revealed, these men are ready to test all my limits. I can’t fall for a player…let alone three. But if love is a game, these guys are playing to win.

PUCKING AROUND is a spicy ‘why choose’ hockey romance. For the best reader experience, start with the prequel novella That One Night. For a full list of tropes, tags, and CWs, see the author’s website.

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"Sizzlingly Optimistic"

Self-Care Tags:

Pleasurable

Inclusive

Trope-tastic 

Lascivious

Special Considerations Before Reading:

(Content Warning)

Why I love it:

When I finished this book, my first thought was literally, "No notes." As a spicy romance (we are talking ghost pepper level of heat folks!) it has something delicious for everyone (though not everything will be for everyone) and was incredibly low on the angst scale, which I deeply appreciate. All of the characters, especially the main four in "Team Price," stole my heart. I found myself mentally cheering for them throughout the whole book, just as loud as I imagined the Rays' fans were screaming from the stands during their hockey games. I highly recommend reading the prequel ("That One Night") before starting "Pucking Around" (which is what I did) because it gives you a great flavor sampling in just over 100 pages while also containing the backstory for one of the key relationships in the book. I really love how the Jacksonville Rays universe is being continued using a mix of both full length novels (centering additional players and their relationships, though with a strong presence of our beloved characters from earlier books)  as well as with novellas that contain additional slice-of-life content as time passes for our happy families. The two volumes of "Pucking Ever After" are NOT TO BE MISSED and contain some of the most tender moments of these characters' personal evolutions.

How I see the book and/or the stories in it to support self-care:

  • This is a rare romance book that doesn't have any extended miscommunication, which is one of my pet peeves for the genre and is incredibly common. In fact, all of the characters work really hard to address things with one another openly and honestly, even when what they are saying is something they anticipate not being well received. While good communication is something I normally love seeing between characters, the fact that they are in a polyamorous relationship and each person has different levels of security and fear associated with that makes the intentionality that is depicted even more valuable. 

  • There is a lot of really valuable representation in a book that also contains a tremendous amount of on page sex (which makes the therapist in me celebrate because it's a perfect example of a "both/and" situation rather than an "or/but" simplification). There is a character with an acquired disability who has struggled to adapt and reinvent themselves after a life changing injury. Another character is from another country and has to navigate English as a second language as well as the cultural differences between his homeland and America. Additionally, there are both primary and secondary characters who have significant histories of mental health challenges, difficulties which were exacerbated by the judgement that comes from social stigma and sensationalism. In the book, queerness is normalized while still being a personal journey someone embarks on to understand their sexual identity, what it means to them, and how they want to share it with those they love. There are plot points that address family estrangement, navigating boundaries with those who have hurt you, and the healing that can come from building relationships you can rely on. Even though serious topics are given meaningful time on page, the overall feel of the book remains upbeat and hopeful, which is a really nice balance.

  • As mentioned previously, there is a lot of sex in this book- so much so that maybe it would be more appropriate to call it an erotic romance. Regardless of the adjective specifier or not, it's the way sex is depicted in this book and the dynamics that occur within those scenes that offer great illustrations of sexual self-care. The way pleasure is prioritized, curiosity is celebrated, kinks are embraced, exploration is encouraged, consent is essential, and stigma is nonexistent is joyfully liberating to see on page. There was so much positivity and inclusivity infused within these characters' intimate relationships that it makes sense as a reader that they would grow together in ways they never  expected to before committing to create such a safe space for vulnerability and connection to be expressed. However, as with ANY romance, I feel it's important to offer the caveat that while books can expose you to new interests and/or kinks, their primary intention is to entertain, not educate. If a book tickles your fancy and has you wanting to try something new, please do your own research to have realistic expectations, maintain safety, and access the support and information you need in your explorations.  

  • This book, especially the ending, offers us a glimpse of how much power can be harnessed by love, honesty, and support. Our book club had the distinct privilege to talk to Emily Rath via zoom when we discussed "Pucking Around" which resulted in all of us falling even more in love with her as an author as she shared her writing process and the inspiration behind her creative decisions. When I got a turn to express my gratitude that she didn't have a 3rd act break-up (a plot point that will never cease to infuriate me), she shared that the book ending itself was actually an act of her own self-care. She told our group that she knew she could either give Team Price an ending that reflected our current world, one where they had to fight for their love and continue to overcome hardships imposed on them from a restrictive and judgmental society... or, being the author, she could write an ending that could happen in the world she hopes for. Her decision to create a world where Rachel, Jake, Caleb, and Ilmari were able to express their love publicly and be met with tremendous support, acceptance, and celebration was her opportunity to give a queer, polycule the ultimate happy ever after, not one limited by our real life reality. Understanding her intention makes colors the ending even brighter in my opinion and serves as an amazing example of how we can make the changes we want to see in the world in an abundance of ways. We need our artists, musicians, and writers, as much as we need our activists, organizers, and legislators when it comes to working for a more just world ; they are the ones who inspire us and help foster the vision we hold of the future we feel passionate about building and protecting.

“You can’t stop the bad things from happening—to yourself, to your brother, to any of us. I know because I’ve lived the same as you, trying to keep my life small. Really all I did was build myself a cage. And then I trapped myself inside that cage and told myself the bars weren’t real.”

*

"I'm not being an asshole," I counter. "I'm knowing my own self-worth. I don't beg the people I love to love me back... If she wants to go, let her go. If she wants to stay. let her stay. We don't try to convince her either way... if she leaves us, she didn't love us enough to stay, respect us enough to let us make our own decisions, or want us enough to fight through this storm," I reply. "My Hurricane is the fucking storm. When she remembers that fact, she'll come down those stairs and stir us all up. Until then, give me the fucking remote. We're watching Great British Bake Off."

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Where you can find it (besides your local independent bookstore)

Audiobook app that credits the local indie bookstore of your choice with purchases

Local library app that you can connect your card information to for audio and e-books (availability varieties based on branch and network)

Book Club app that lets you purchase e-books for interactive read-a-longs

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E-book download available through amazon

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Amazon subscription where select titles are available to borrow for free

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Audiobook app through Amazon

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