Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Game Plan (Game On #3) by Kristen Callihan - ARC Review


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.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US:
Amazon UK:
Amazon AU:
Amazon CA:

Kristine's Review:
Reviewed: October 2015.

I'm going to be completely honest, the second The Game Plan hit my kindle I was desperate to dive in, I'd read an excerpt the author released a few months ago and from that moment I was waiting with bated breath... #DexTheLumbersexual has been in my head since...

Ethan Dexter is one hulking mountain of man meat... tall, broad, tatted, rocking the man bun and beard, he's a walking talking female fantasy come to life... only he doesn't really talk all that much, Dex is no doubt consistently one of the strongest men on any team he plays for, he's smart, resilient, level headed, he analyses everything around him before calling a play or making a decision, he's loyal to a fault, steadfast and the kind of man you would want to have your back, sure he's sexy as sin, and a talented athlete to boot but he's been able to fly under the radar, keep to himself, hide in the background and people watch.

Fiona Mackenzie is always the life of the party, she's loud, she's fun loving, she's independent, and she says what she thinks without bothering to filter it first. Dex has been watching her for two years, from the moment they met he was captivated, but their timing was never right, he's bided his time and waited for the perfect opportunity, struggling between the urge to stay away and to draw her close, and when he finds his moment, when she finally truly looks at him, sees him clearly, he's going to fight with everything he has to make her his and to keep her.

There's so much here in The Game Plan, it's so so much more than a New Adult tale of a couple embarking on a burgeoning relationship, it's more than the strong, silent, sexy hero moving past his fears  and past hurts and coming into his own, it's about more than just a happy go lucky heroine struggling between staying true to herself and following the path of least resistance, it's about more than a 24 year old virgin that looks more like a bad boy biker than an all star athlete (even though everything about Ethan added to make him one sexy, soulful alpha) where Callihan could of focused the entire story around the hero's virginity, she instead used it to showcase another side of her alpha male, endearing him to the reader all over again.

"And never forget this. As much as I want your respect, you never, ever live your life to make someone else happy. You got me."

This is a story about masks and the images we put out into the world, it's about embracing every facet of your personality, the things you wish were different, the things that make you proud, it's taking all of it and putting yourself out there and screaming at the top of your lungs this is me, and I'm okay with that. The Game Plan is about tearing down those walls you erect to keep yourself safe, and letting people in, it's about being okay with putting the real you out into the world, living an organic life.

"Truth is, we all project a false front to the world, peppering our social media pages with witty words and silly emoticons. Life narrowed down to 140 characters, stage selfies, and tirades over opinion posts. Life lived for the approval of the masses, all while tearing strangers down for all slightest misstep.
And when you turn away from that electric glow, when you no longer see those silent, pixelated opinions, who are you, really?"

We live in a social media age, we post selfies angled just right, photos of holidays and nice meals out, we go about our daily lives without even realising it most of the time, in some way or another we all wear masks, projecting the me we want the world to see, but the thing is, when the blinds are drawn, and the world shuts down around you for the night, what we're left with is the person we are under it all. The Game Plan quieted my mind in a way so few books have, it pulled apart all the clutter, deconstructed the things I usually think are important and left in its wake the bare necessities of life, Callihan's begged me to ask myself a question, WHO AM I? and forced me to be truly honest, answering I don't know, but the true moment of clarity is being able to admit, I don't have all the answers yet and that's okay.

There's a beautiful message here about opening yourself up, letting people in and trusting them to catch you when you fall, it's about owning who your are, and accepting so much of life's great joy comes from the journey not the destination, to say I adored The Hook Up would be an understatement, that book stole my heart, I raved about it for weeks to anyone and everyone who would listen, when The Friend Zone came along I sunk back into their world and was instantly hypnotised by Callihan's writing, her words capturing my attention, demanding me to sit back and enjoy the journey, Dex and Fi have climbed their way up my favourite couples list, and as always I'm left here waiting with bated breath for what Callihan does next.

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.

GPI Review: The Hook Up
GPI Review: The Friend Zone

About Kristen Callihan:
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.


No comments:

Post a Comment