Published by Plain Jane Books on November 1st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Barnes & Noble
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 friends. 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.
Fi ought to guard her heart and walk away; they live vastly different lives in separate cities. And Dex is looking for a forever girl. But Dex has upped his game and is using all his considerable charm to convince Fi he's her forever man.
When we first met Dex back in Game On #1 (The Hook Up), I knew I wanted this book. Dex is exactly my romance hero. Bearded, tattooed, quiet, smart, intense, gorgeous, built like, well, like a linebacker. And since I loved The Hook Up and The Friend Zone as much as I did, I knew that Dex’s book would reduce me to an emotional blubbery mess.
And I was right. This is the kind of book that I absolutely loved and didn’t want to put down while I was reading it, but I don’t know if I can emotionally ever read it again. Fiona and Dex have so much to deal with in this book. The fact that they’re able to deal with all of it and still come out of it together and strong, especially since their trials and tribulations start almost at once when they decide to give their relationship a go, is a testament to just how much these two love each other and how determined they are to make it work. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll read this book again. Probably a lot.
Dex and Fiona are old enough and mature enough to know themselves pretty well. Fiona knows that she’s not cut out for a long-distance relationship, and she tries to break it off with Dex before they even really get started, but quickly realizes that Dex is important enough to her that she wants to try it. When Dex and Fi are embroiled in a pretty awful scandal, he tries to break it off in order to protect her and keep her from getting hurt, and she’s having none of it. They both know themselves and they know each other. Dex let Fi try to break it off because he knew that cutting and running was her MO and she was going to have to figure out on her own that they were worth it. Fi didn’t let Dex break it off with her because she knew that neither of them wanted it and it was only his overworked “protect Fi at all costs” instinct that was making him think he should. When Dex throws what he refers to as a “mantrum” at one point, Fi doesn’t coddle him or cower in fear or beg him to stop. She knows that no matter how angry he might be, he would never hurt her. She gets out of the room and lets him throw things around and work it out of his system.
That’s one characteristic of Kristen Callihan’s writing that will keep her on my auto-buy. She’s one of only a handful of authors who write characters who act like actual people. Their fears are so real, the conversations they have with each other and the other people in their lives are so real. Even though I certainly don’t always agree with they’re doing, their actions and conversations are authentic. I may not have that conversation or do that thing, but I know someone who will. So many times I read a romance and am thrown out of the story because one of our characters does or says something that no person would actually do or say in their situation. Not one who has any sort of grasp on themselves or their partner, anyway.
To that point, Dex is a virgin. He’s a pretty virginy virgin, too; he hasn’t done much. He’s done some stuff, but not a lot. I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the virgin trope, but to be clear, it’s not the fact of being a virgin that bothers me. It’s virgins (usually women) who have never even held hands or kissed anyone turning into a sex goddess the minute her clothes come off without so much as a single instruction or tip or whatever from her partner. Game Plan was virginity done right. Dex is 24. Like I said, he’s done some stuff, but not much. He has no moral or religious objections to sex, but he was chubby as a kid and didn’t have a chance with any girls, and by the time he shed the chubbiness he was in college and making a name for himself on the football field. Most, if not all, of the women who wouldn’t give him the time of day were suddenly all over him, and he didn’t want anyone who was only there because of the spotlight he was in. Once he got to the NFL, that was exacerbated, and he just didn’t want any of them. Plus there was an event in college that freaked him out pretty badly and made him shy away from the whole thing for a while. When he and Fi are eventually together, he asks her what to do to make her feel good, he takes instruction and is willing to try different things to see what works for both of them. THAT is how virginity loss goes. It’s 2015; I’m sure your average virgin of any age knows what goes where, but no one is just instinctively great at it. It takes practice. Lots and lots of fun, wonderful practice.
And Dex’s virginity becomes a pretty significant point in ways I didn’t expect. That’s another thing Kristen Callihan is so good at. She takes these little plot points that you’ve seen before and twists them into something completely new and fresh. There’s a pretty big scandal toward the end that, frankly, I don’t know that I could have gotten through. I’m not saying I would have left Dex or anything (seriously, have you seen that cover), but it was so awful and so horrible for Fi in particular that I didn’t know how they were going to get through it and recover. I read most of the last third of the book through my fingers because I couldn’t look directly at my Kindle.
This book functions perfectly fine as a standalone, but I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to read the first two in the series. That’s just depriving yourself of wonderful books for no good reason.