Of all the plotlines in Lia Riley’s Hellions Angels series, Virgin Territory was the one I was looking forward to the most. And yes, it’s absolutely because — as the title suggests — this book features a virgin hero.
Patrick ‘Patch’ Donnelly is the goalie for the Denver Hellions hockey team. He’s notorious for his quick, hot temper, and at the end of book two (Head Coach), readers saw the fallout of an altercation between Patch and another man, although we have yet to discover the reasons behind it. With his career on the line, not to mention the fact he might have to pay a hefty settlement (even though, as we discover, he was not in the wrong), Patch is directed to yoga as a means of letting go of his aggression in order to reconnect with the man beneath the anger.
That referral brings Patch to yoga instructor Margot, who is recommended for the job by her best friend, Breezy (heroine of book one, Mister Hockey) and endorsed by Tor, the team coach.. Margot agrees to help Patch, and subsequently the organization, in the hopes that her success with the goalie will earn her some celebrity word of mouth she can bank on when she is finally able to fulfill her dream and open her own yoga studio.
A complicated past comprised of a junkie mother and aborted plans to be a priest, Patrick definitely has issues. Further complicating that baggage is his total lack of experience with women, which leaves him floundering when he is struck by the immediate connection he feels to Margot, and has him wondering how to pursue something he doesn’t think he deserves, with someone who deserves it all.
Meanwhile, Margot’s own baggage is tied up in feeling like she has too much experience. A slut-shaming incident during her teens, compounded by an ex-boyfriend being incredibly judgmental about her past relationships, has Margot questioning whether she’s the right one to ‘make a man’ out of Patch. But together they discover their experiences, and lack thereof, line up in just the right way.
For the first fifty percent or so of this read, I was all aboard the Virgin Territory train. Yes, fine, I’ll admit, I’m a complete sucker for the inexperienced hero trope but I really did feel the connection between the two leads. And while they do transition way too quickly into the sexytimes for my liking – as in, literally after their first meeting and spending… oh, twenty minutes together? — I appreciated that the follow-up encounters were nicely spaced throughout the story and a little slower going, though not lacking in intensity.
After reading three books by this author – all from this series – I can’t say I’m a stranger to Riley’s style and yet I still found the rush to the finish line less than satisfactory. I know these are intended to be short, sexy bursts of hockey romance but with all the action happening in the background – including the build-up to the negotiations between Patch and the personal injury lawyer – as well as Margot’s continued encounters with her slime-ball ex, there was just too much packed in right before the conclusion. There are, of course convenient resolutions to both of these dramatic elements to the plot, as well as a sweet happily ever after (and for more than just Margot and Patch), but unfortunately the last half of the novel just doesn’t feel as strong as the first.
I think I said it in my review of Head Coach, but I’ll say it again. If these romances were full-length, half my complaints wouldn’t apply. Riley’s books feature all the elements necessary for a light, though satisfactory, read. The connection between her characters are strong; it’s only when everything needs to be wrapped up that the transitions, never one-hundred-percent smooth to begin with, start to really fray. Nonetheless, I still enjoy losing myself in this author’s world and if she continues to write more about the Hellions I know they’ll find their way onto my TBR.