Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Review - The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan

Title: The Game Plan
Series: Game On #3
Author: Kristen Callihan
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.

Game On.

Okay, first of all: SQUEEEEEEE!!!!

Sorry, sorry. It's just—I'd forgotten how much I love this series. And then, at about the 3% mark, I was like "I am SO FREAKING IN LOVE WITH DEX". And then I remembered the last time I fell in love this quickly—it was while reading The Friend Zone (Gray *swoon*). Let’s just say that the witchcraft Kristen Callihan works on my heart is still mighty powerful.

Fiona (Fi) Mackenzie and Ethan (Dex) Dexter have met before. Several times, actually. Fi's older sister (Ivy) is married to Dex's old college teammate (Gray *swoon*), but Fi never really saw Dex as anything more than her brother-in-law’s best friend. Dex, on the other hand, has had his eye on Fi for ages. He can’t get her out of his mind. When they meet up while visiting Gray and Ivy, Dex decides it's time to make his move. 

I don't even know where to start because everything about this book was fantastic! Dex—the brawny, rugged, “lumbersexual” (more biker than NFL ballplayer)—is quiet and intense. The effect of all this is damn near hypnotizing; a fact with which Fi would concur, as he reels her in quickly and marks her heart, permanently and indelibly. Up to this point, Fi had been known as the flighty one, and nobody really took her seriously. Dex is like a breath of fresh air. He gets her. He makes her feel safe, and provides her a safe haven to just be who she is. In turn, with Ivy, Dex can let all facets of himself rise to the surface. She’s the only one who gets all of him. She’s his soft landing, the safe harbor against all his storms. Together they're just sexy, sweet, and exquisitely tender. 

Naturally, it can't be all smooth sailing. Their relationship is tested and it's heartbreaking and emotional. I felt like this book went a little deeper than the ones before. The issues were bigger, the emotions ran higher, and everything felt ramped up and more intense. I was completely glued to my Kindle, reading frantically to figure out how it was all going to work out. My heart took a beating but—my God, you guys—it's so good. 

As always, a big chunk of the charm of this book is due to the camaraderie among the players. The boys we first met in college are all NFL players now. They mostly play for different teams, but there's still plenty of hysterical and bro-mantic chatter. There truly is a secondary romance in these books—between the guys—and it's just as wonderful and rewarding to witness as the primary romance. 

Gah! I didn't want this book to end! I want to live in Dex and Fi’s world, be a part of their little circle of solid friendships, scorching hot relationships, and ridiculously adorable bromances. The Game Plan was another A+ addition to this series for me. Sexy, smart, emotional, gripping, and punctuated with laugh out loud humor and breathtakingly tender moments, this book was utterly addictive and wholly satisfying. 
~ Review by Shelly

I've binge read the Game On series this week. And oh, what a week it's been. Drew and Anna… I loved them. Gray and Ivy? Yes, those are tears of laughter AND hurt. And now, Ethan and Fiona—what else is there to say except, PERFECT. 

All it takes is one moment—a challenge, a beard, a drink or two and a knee-weakening kiss—and Fiona Mackenzie is caught by Ethan Dexter. Ethan Dexter, the tattooed, bearded, rumored-virgin NFL center, and man that's totally NOT her type. 

Not that Dex is going to let that stop him. He's always in control, and has always given his absolute focus to his passion, football. Except now he has something else he wants to direct his focus on—winning over Fi. It's not going to be easy, living in different cities, leading different lives. But Dex is looking for his one, and now, he's got a plan to make his Cherry see that she's it… 

I bow to Kristen Callihan. I love the way she writes, creating these perfect characters, telling these fantastically fun, scorching hot and quietly emotional stories. And doing it in unexpected ways. With each of her books, I've sat back and experienced awe as she creates a moment and twists it in a way that takes it from 'Oh, I bet I know what's going to happen next' to 'Holy moly, this is so right…I LOVE this!' Ms. Callihan doesn't create drama out of nothing, forcing tension and angst upon her readers with poor communication and over-worked tropes. Nope, she lets her characters suck you in, makes you experience their heartbreak, their frustrations, their longing and, most importantly, their love. 

And The Game Plan is the perfect example of this. Ethan and Fiona are so good. SO GOOD, y'all. I'm about to break out my fangirl flails and swoons over them. Because they work together—they react in real, raw and fist-clenchingly good ways. You know what I mean, right? When the moment comes and decisions must be made, and it is so exactly the right one that your hand curls up and you squeeze because that's the only tangible way to express all the things you're feeling. Anger at the situation, concern over what's to come, happiness that your trust in the author and the characters has paid off and been rewarded with a book that flows and moves and works perfectly

I don't want to overuse the word perfect, and yet, I can't seem to stop. When I think about Dex, I think about how perfect he is. Quiet, kind, intense, strong, loyal—basically all the things that make up the ideal book boyfriend. When I think about Fi, I think about how perfect she is. Funny, bright, searching, passionate, loving—exactly what Ethan needed, his right balance. 

I can't hold it in anymore… *Flails* *Swoons* I so adored this book (also, this series)—every page, every moment, every heartbreak and every sweet word. Plus, BEARDS AND TATTOOS. *Sighs* It was exactly my kind of perfect. 
~ Review by Beth

Never underestimate the power of the beard. 

For two years, Ethan “Dex” Dexter has been silently sitting in the shadows waiting for Fiona Mackenzie to finally “see” him. He’s a man known for his self-control—necessitated by his role as an NFL Center. But Dex just wants to loosen up a bit of this control—and he wants to loosen up with Fiona.

Fiona Mackenzie just wants a taste of Dex. Okay, maybe some serious touching from Dex’s beard too. Dared into acting by her best friend, Fiona finally makes a move—one that starts a burn inside both Dex and her. 

But Fiona lives in New York, Dex in New Orleans. Is this smoldering relationship strong enough to survive a long distance or is it going to burn fast and flame out?

Oh. My. God. Dex. *Sigh* Tattoos, a beard and unbelievably talented with dealing with small children. Ovary explosion. He is the quiet, strong, gorgeous guy that you can’t help but be drawn to—you want to know what’s making him tick because he certainly isn’t one to tell you. And Fiona is the exact opposite. She’s sparkly, giggly, bubbly, friendly. They say opposites attract, and damn, do they ever with Dex and Fiona.

I loved their vulnerability, loyalty, and unselfishness with each other, knowing just what the other needs. Add in Ivy and Gray, Drew and Anna, and the rest of the cast of characters from the football team, and you have a lovely, funny, sweet, sexy, amazing read. 
~ Review by Missy

Kristen Callihan is an author because there is nothing else she'd rather be. She is a RITA winner and three-time 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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