Monday, November 2, 2015

Excerpt and Review: The Game Plan (Game On #3) by Kristen Callihan

Rating: ★★★★★ stars
Date published: November 1st, 2015
Publisher: Kristen Callihan
Synopsis: 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.


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. 

What I Thought:

I love it when my biggest problem is trying to decide what I love more, the hero, heroine, their story, or the amazing person who wrote them into existence.  I've been eagerly anticipating this release from the moment I finished reading The Friend Zone and while that wasn't so long ago, it still feels like ages have passed. There's just something about this series and the characters in it that I can't get enough of. 

I don't even know where to start. Do I start by talking about Fiona/Fi as she's called by her friends and family or Ethan/Dex? I have a serious case of the hots for Dex so I guess I'll talk about him first. I was already half in love with him before I even started reading the book. His quiet, wise, and strong personality really intrigued me. Finding out he's a man with integrity and just an all around great guy made me fall heads over heels for him. I mean he played no games when it came to Fi and he was always upfront and honest with her. She was his primary concern.Plus the way he went out of his way to be there for her was totally swoon worthy. I can't even really describe him. Dex is the silent strong type, but he's also intelligent and sharp. He's also sensitive in a way most guys aren't. Dex is known for giving great advice, but when it comes to relationships he's a little lost, but not by a lot. 

Fiona was the perfect match for him. Forget that she's the polar opposite of Dex when it comes to personality and size, or that she doesn't date athletes, or do long distance relationships, but I totally understood how a week with Dex in San Francisco ruined her list of hard don'ts. Those two had this chemistry that was almost tangible. Their first scene in the book together almost had me panting it was so hot and their clothes didn't even come off. Going back to Fiona, I hated how miserable she was at work. I really wanted her to confront those who were making her work life impossible and I was glad when she did. Her fear of doing and saying something even though she was incredibly talented and gifted came from being considered flaky by her parents and friends. She may have come across that way to them or a man-eater, but she really wasn't. It's difficult to try and find your place in the world, and I get that, so I got Fiona. That's all she she was trying to do. Plus Fiona was never a man eater, and especially not when it came to Dex. When her natural instinct was to run away from what he made her feel, Fiona ran to him when she needed to be comforted and she also ran to him when he needed to comforted showing how committed to Dex she was. She was also so strong for someone so petite. Fiona took all sorts of knocks in this book and she kept coming back fighting. I loved her attitude and spirit.

I loved the different topics/issues that were tackled in this book. People of all genders assume women are the only ones who attach emotions to having sex. Intimacy is something that can be equally important to both sexes. It's important to not lose sight of that. I loved that Dex was this walking, talking mass of contradictions. He's got this rough and tumble exterior, but his soul was a thing of pure beauty. He was the romantic in the relationship. I also loved how another major issue was tackled, and that was revenge porn. Reading about it hurt; I could feel the victim's pain and agony and the helplessness of the people they cared around them to do anything to help. It really showed the futility of being in that situation as there isn't much that can be done once the images are out there for the world to see. I really wish the perpetrators in this book received harsh punishment, but that's the only detail I wasn't happy with in this book.  I'm hoping the missing details will be discussed in the next Game On series book.

Once again, it was fantastic seeing Gray, Ivy, Drew, and Anna again. I loved catching up with them years down the line. While Ivy and Gray are still up to their shenanigans, it was good to see Anna and Drew mellowed out and everyone happy. Finding out that the entire team is still really good friends with each other, even if the guys play for different teams in different cities, was like finding out Santa Claus is real.  I loved that their camaraderie continued even past college. I loved seeing Rolando again. I wouldn't mind reading a story featuring him. I also loved meeting some new characters who I hope to see more of in the future, say for instance a certain rookie QB and a feisty photographer. I wouldn't even mind reading about other team mates and at this point there are three teams to read about. My point is if Kristen Callihan writes it, I'll read it. Her stories are rich with emotion, intensity, and passion. It's not easy adding laughter to that mix, but she does it so well. You'll find yourself hooked and won't even know when it happened. Plus if you didn't love beards before this book, she and Dex will totally have converted you. 

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About the Author
Kristen CallihanKristen Callihan is an author because there is nothing else she’d rather do. 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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*Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for them in any manner.*

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