Release Reviews: The Game Plan: Kristen Callihan

The Game Plan (Game On #3)
Kristen Callihan
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Release Date November 1, 2015

A beard-related dare and one hot-as-hell kiss changes everything.

NFL center Ethan Dexter’s focus has always been on playing football and little else. Except when it comes to one particular woman. The lovely Fiona Mackenzie might not care about his fame, but she’s also never looked at him as anything more than one of her brother-in-law’s best friend. That ends now.

Fi doesn’t know what to make of Dex. The bearded, tattooed, mountain of man-muscle looks more like a biker than a football player. Rumor has it he’s a virgin, but she finds that hard to believe. Because from the moment he decides to turn his quiet intensity on her she’s left weak at the knees and aching to see his famous control fully unleashed.

Dex is looking for a forever girl, but they live vastly different lives in separate cities. Fi ought to guard her heart and walk away. But Dex has upped his game and is using all his considerable charm to convince Fi he's her forever man.

Move over Drew and Gray because Ethan Dexter has upped the ante on the playing field. He came to dominate. And dominate he did. 

Brace yourself, ladies (and gents), our guy will have you leaving your hearts and panties at the door.

Three words—tatted, bearded, and pierced. What more could a girl ask for? Dex is pure deliciousness wrapped up into one magnificent package. 

Are you a man-bun hater? A beard hater? These things just don’t do it for you? Dexter will have you quickly singing a different tune. I’m not a big fan of either of these, well except on Brock O’Hurn. That man I could stare at all day long. Anyway, I digress. When it came to our protagonist, I seriously fell flat on my face. Head. Over. Heels. Flat. I wasn’t sure of the whole virgin thing at first, but I quickly came to realize, it didn’t feel weird to me at all. Dex’s virginity and the reason behind it actually endeared him to me even more. In the end, I craved all that was Dex, beard (especially the beard) and man-bun included. 

Not only was Ethan downright sexy as all get out, he was an absolute heartthrob to boot. An all-around sweetheart, full of love and integrity that ran soul deep. Everything about him made for a total swoon worthy hero. And trust me, swooning is exactly what you will be doing. Well and maybe a little squirming—no that’s not right—a lot of squirming. Dex may be a virgin, but he exuded the epitome of hot alpha male. That man figured out his way around the sheets and then some. 

I really can’t wait for you to meet the intoxicating magnetism that is Ethan Dexter. *smirk*

I may’ve even had a slight girl crush on Fiona. Fi pretty much rocked her position as heroine. She was totally a girl after my own heart with her quirky, fun, and sassy personality. Plus, I kind of loved that she was just as devoted to Ethan as he was to her. There was no one way street. 

Fiona and Dex were absolutely perfect for each other. If ever two characters needed to win the best chemistry award, it was them. Their connection was so damn hot it poured off the pages. More often than not, the two of them left me with butterflies. And while it could sometimes seem fast, it truly wasn’t. Ethan had wanted Fi since he met her two years ago. She was his “one.” 

Dex and Cherry built each other up, instead of tearing the other down. I fricken ADORED this! You don’t see this very often in books. It was a breath of fresh air. 

Another thing I adored about this couple was how hard they worked to overcome their odds. Distance and their lack of experience with relationships be damned. Ethan and Fi knew exactly what they wanted and they weren’t going down without one hell of a fight. 

If you are looking for something fun to read with low drama and angst than I suggest one clicking. The Game Plan was an awesome, fast paced story about love, friendship and everything in between.

Thank you, Kristen Callihan/Publisher, for the complimentary copy of The Game Plan. 

It all started with a beard...a little dare, exploration, and simmering attraction.

Ethan Dexter and Fiona Mackenzie are both visiting Gray and Ivy (The Friend Zone) in San Francisco at the same time. And after watching Fiona for years, Ethan is finally ready to come out of the background and make his move. But there are obstacles...she has vowed not to date athletes, they live in different states, and she is the little sister of his best friend's wife. 

Ethan Dexter is college friend of Drew and Gray's and is now a pro-football center in New Orleans and an artist on the side. He is big, burly, tatted, pierced, quiet, broody, intense, and logical. He may or may not be a virgin. And he is definitely looking for a relationship and is vulnerable. He's usually been just hanging back in the background and not really asserting himself.

Fiona is Ivy's little sister and is a designer living in New York, but also has other dreams. She is direct, unfiltered, bubbly, sassy, snarky, and untrusting of men. She has a history of being a bit flighty or unfocused. She longs for a real relationship but at the same time is wary of having to work too hard at it. And Ethan is not her usual type at all. 

His reasonable requests send her head spinning, but he is hard to resist. He's been waiting for her to open up her eyes and see him. And she never even saw him coming this time. 

They have a built in expiration date of a week to see where this is going. They push each other out of their comfort zones. He's usually unassuming, but finally is demanding what he really wants with her. He comes out of his shell when he is with her and does not hide as he used to. And he tends to calm and ground her. She was usually restless, searching, and a runner. They make each other feel alive and find themselves wanting to give more of themselves to the other one. They find a true connection and chemistry, but so many obstacles...distance, timing, life challenges, trust issues, perceived betrayals, and public scrutiny. 

To have a chance at all they will have to fight and sacrifice for each other, share, and try to handle feelings and situations that might feel like too much. Can they find a game plan that works for both of their lives or will they have to let go?

This was fun, flirty, sexy, sweet, and romantic. It had some challenges and frustrations, but was not super angsty or full of painful emotional situations. I loved getting both of their points of view and I really liked both of the main characters. They were well developed, easy to relate to, and were empathetic. Ethan was just a big, muscle bound teddy bear and I loved seeing him finally open up and let go. And Fi was sweet and fun, and shocked by the fact someone so opposite of what she thought she wanted felt so right. I just loved them together especially since he was a big hulking guy and she was like a little pixie.

I enjoyed more with friends from previous books including Gray and Ivy and  Drew and Anna and seeing what has happened in their lives. They all have such strong bonds and a fun rapport together. There were a few more football guys featured Finn, Jake, and Rolondo who maybe we will see again in future installments. 

ARC provided by publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. 

Ethan “Dex” Dexter has always been the wise one among his friends. Full of good advice, eternally calm, the quiet one who observes without interference, he is something of a mystery to all but a few of his long time friends.

Fiona McIntyre is the flighty member of her family. She is determined to make her parents proud and live up to her sister’s steady presence, but feels like she is never happy with her choices.

One beard dare and Ethan and Fiona find themselves facing an attraction neither is quite ready to face. Ethan has seen only Fiona for four long years, though he isn’t sure the time is right to pursue a relationship with the fiery, bouncy beauty. Fiona only sees the distance between their cities and his obvious desire for a relationship as an obstacle, where she is all for something easy, light, and temporary.

Rumors and media hounds stir up interest in Ethan’s sexual experience and the quiet man is suddenly thrust into the spotlight in a way he never wanted. Distance, with her in the Big Apple and him in the Big Easy, plays a huge role in their challenges as well.

I loved these two together. From the very beginning they were accepting of what each was able to give and take from the relationship and they each tried to protect the other from pain. Life crops up to put a wedge in their relationship in the form of a media frenzy times two. It hurt to watch them try to recover time and again as rumors and attention spread.

Those who have read other Game On books will love Ivy and Gray and Drew and Anna as they pop in and out of this book, especially Gray and Ivy with the relationship between Fiona and her sister. 

Somehow I missed reading Gray and Ivy’s book before I started The Game Plan, but I wasn’t missing anything for this particular story (and have bumped The Friend Zone to the top of my personal reading list). This was a fun book both because I love Dex and it was the perfect story for the wise man. The cover could not have personified Dex any better had I picked a visual myself.

ARC provided by publisher and author in exchange for an honest review.

I grin up at him. “You know, before this, I’d have taken you for a hard rock, or maybe even a bluegrass fan.”

“It’s the beard, isn’t it,” he asks.

“And the man-bun.”

He laughs, a short rumble of sound. “Want me to let it down?”

Yes. Maybe.

“Not necessary. Man-buns are hot. I blame Jason Momoa. There was only so much watching him bang Khaleesi the female population could take before they wanted their own Khal Drogo.”

Shit. I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Because it sounds a lot like flirting to me. Instinct tells me flirting with Ethan Dexter isn’t something to do lightly. And there’s the fact that I don’t go for athletes. At all. I don’t care how fit they are. Or how confident. I don’t like sports. Football bores me. Oh, I know tons about the sport—kind of impossible not to in my family—but I don’t want to pretend that I care when I’d rather talk about other things.

Dex’s eyes crinkle again, and he turns toward me, leaning an elbow on the table. “Doesn’t Momoa have a beard?”

I wave my hand. “Who has time to look at his beard when his muscles are on display?”

I most certainly do not look at Dex’s phenomenal arms.

“So your stance on beards is?” His gaze so strong I feel it in my toes.

My breathing picks up. “Don’t particularly like them.”

It’s the truth. And yet I can’t help but look at his. It’s dark, framing his mouth, which should be a turnoff for me. Only it draws all my attention there. To the shape of his mouth—the upper lip a gentle curve, the lower lip fuller, almost a pout. There’s something slightly illicit about the whole effect.

I clear my throat, glance up, and find him watching me through lowered lids. He doesn’t seem particularly put out by my frankness.

“What don’t you like about them?”

Is he serious?

He stares at me.

I guess he is.

Taking a quick sip of my drink, I search for an answer. “They’re just so…fuzzy. Prickly.”

He moves in, not crowding me, but putting himself at arms’ reach. He smells faintly of cloves and oranges. It must be his aftershave or cologne, but it works for me.

I’m distracted by it and almost jump when he speaks again. “Do you know this based on experience, or are you making an assumption?”

My gaze narrows. “Aren’t you the philosopher.”

“You didn’t answer the question.”

“Fine. Assumption.”

His lips quirk. “You should find out if your assumption is true before you condemn the beard.”

“Is this some sort of creepy way to get me to touch your beard?”

A challenge flashes in his eyes. “There are a few guys at the bar sporting beards. You could go ask them. But I figure since we know each other…”

“Not that well.”

“You’d rather ask a stranger?”

“You’re assuming I care enough to ask, Slick.”

His teeth shine white in the shadows of the club. “I know you’re curious. You’re fairly twitching with wanting to know.”

I flatten my hands against the table and glare. Is it just me, or is he closer? Close enough that I can see his eyes are hazel, lighter around his cornea with a starburst pattern. I wish I could see the colors, but he’s painted in shades of blue and gray right now.

And he’s watching me. Patient. Calculating. Tempting.

“It’s always the quiet ones,” I mutter before taking a breath. “Okay, I’ll pet your fuzzy face.”

“Hold up.” Without hesitation, he reaches for my drink and takes a sip. “Liquid courage.”

A strangled laugh leaves me. “Because I’m sooo scary.”

“You have no idea, Cherry.”

I think I growl at him. I definitely want to give his precious beard a good, hard tug. But he simply lifts his brows at me. “Get on with it, then.”

This cheeky bastard is totally playing me. And here I am falling into his trap. Because I cannot look away from his beard now. More specifically, his lips, which are parted just slightly. An invitation. A dare.

Shit. I’ve never been very good at ignoring a dare.

I hate that my hand trembles as I reach up to touch him. He stays perfectly still, his arm casually slung on the edge of the booth behind me, his body turned toward mine. But I don’t miss the way his breathing has kicked up just slightly.

I hesitate, shy almost. Hells bells, I’m only going to touch a bit of facial hair. Why does it feel like we’re two kids tucked in a dark corner, playing a game of “I’ll show you mine”?

Annoyed with myself, I close the distance between us.
The Hook Up 
(Drew and Anna)
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The Friend Zone
(Gray and Ivy)
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Kristen Callihan 
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Kristen Callihan is an author because there is nothing else she'd rather be. She is a three-time RITA nominee and winner of two RT Reviewer's Choice awards. Her novels have garnered starred reviews from Publisher's Weekly and the Library Journal, as well as being awarded top picks by many reviewers. Her debut book FIRELIGHT received RT Magazine's Seal of Excellence, was named a best book of the year by Library Journal, best book of Spring 2012 by Publisher's Weekly, and was named the best romance book of 2012 by ALA RUSA. When she is not writing, she is reading.


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