Book Review: The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan

Title: The Game Plan (Game On #3)
Author: Kristen Callihan @Kris10Callihan
Genre: Sports Romance
Length: 323 pages
Rating: 5 stars



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



Ms. Callihan keeps me coming back for more: Well, I came for the man-bun, bearded hot guy, but I stay for the tender love story and fantastic characters.

Each book in this series has earned a 5 star rating for me and it feels as if it just gets better and better with each entry. Actually I think I need to make a special section just for the Game On heroes because Christmas on a cracker, I love them.

With this setup, how could I not fall in love?: When this book opens, the guys from the Red Dogs have all graduated from college and now playing in the NFL. Ethan “Dex” Dexter is now the starting center for New Orleans and he’s just played against Gray Grayson, when he decides to visit Gray and Ivy (the hero/heroine from book 2) at their home in San Francisco. Coincidentally, Fiona Mackenzie, Ivy’s sister, will also be there. Ethan has always noticed Fi, but the timing was never right – thankfully he’s a patient man. Over a Manhattan and a beard bet, things take a turn for the seriously sexy and these two embark on a romance, with all the inherent trials and tribulations.

Take the usual and write the shyte out of it: Ms. Callihan has impressed me with her deft characterizations and talent for taking a fairly standard scenario and working it so that the end result is fresh and highly entertaining. Ms. Callihan refuses to go the usual new adult route of DRAMA! followed by ANGST!, lather, rinse, repeat. Her characters have depth and even if the story isn’t action-laden, it’s her ability to make me care for her characters that elevates this to gold standard among new adult reads.

It’s not perfect, but…: Now, I’ll admit, there was a brief moment where I thought things were going to settle into HEA-land way too early, and there’s alot of sex (hallelujah) and not alot of football (boo). However, the romance is so good that the flaws didn’t bother me. Also, when the seeds planted early in the story started to flower, I was impressed that the big obstacle came to play in a very “ripped from the headlines” way, but still felt organic to the story. Ms. Callihan shows it in a personal light, gives it the weight it really deserves and makes you think about the damage that kind of celebrity can cause. I loved that it was a mistake that alot of real people make who should know better. But, that said…

They’re young, but they’re not stupid:  They may not make the best choices every time but I never spent the book saying “they’re idiots”. Because I’ve done that ALOT with new adult reads. Now it’d be easy to say that “Ivy, you just want perfect characters who do nothing wrong.” You would be wrong. What I want are three dimensional characters who learn and grow. It’s not the mistake but how you conduct yourself afterwards that counts for me. Fi and Ethan, despite their young age (he’s 24 she’s 21), grew from those experiences. Perfect characters are boring and these are anything but.

Fi’s another relatable heroine: Fiona has had to deal with being labeled as Flighty Fi by her successful, overachieving family. But again, Ms. Callihan doesn’t go down the predictable route.  Fi’s personal journey, especially once the shyte hits the (internet) fan, becomes painful, Fi fights through it all, steps it up and shows herself to be anything but flighty. It’s hard to pick a fave heroine in this series, but she may be mine.

Ethan is mine: So, pretty much while reading this book, Grace, Michelle and I were all battling for Ethan. Grace tried to call dibs, but um, hells no.

Yes, we may be battling it out between the Shorties, but he’s a BBF worth fighting for. Part of his allure for me is the beauty in his flaws (ok, the other part is that he’s a 6’4” tattooed brick house, I ain’t gonna lie). There’s a temptation to make him perfect, to excel in everything and over everyone but he makes his own mistakes. In the earlier books, he was the quiet, understanding one who knew how to dole out the advice at just the right time for his friends, but as he says

Life lesson that sucks? Giving advice is way easier than living your own life.

From the moment Ethan chooses to visit Gray because he knows he needs his help, the depth of his character and love for his friends just drew me in. That, and his monster bod and soulful eyes. Ok, I’m a wee bit shallow.  

I’ve read other books with virgin heroes, and I am happy to say that while Ethan is inexperienced, his reasons are believable in the context of his character and he isn’t instantly the most suave and phenomenal lover. I mean, no slouch, but with enough insecurity to make him adorable and his eagerness? Sigh. When Ethan began to bust out the dirty talking, whatever bit of dignity I had promptly left the building. I fell hard and fast for him.  Anyway…

The ‘verse is growing and I’m thrilled: Once I could see past my lovegasm for Fi and Ethan, I have to say that the the secondary characters are fantastic as well. Besides seeing the heroes and heroines from the earlier books – a nice touch that enhances, not detracts from Fi and Ethan – the ‘verse is expanding with the introduction of new players, as well as getting to know more of their friends and family. This is a fully-realized world, with fully functioning characters inhabiting it. I have a guess as to who could be featured in the next book, and I also have hopes for other characters getting their own play time, so there’s no shortage of fun to be had, as long as Ms. Callihan continues to write it. *crossing fingers*


I LOVED it. Ethan and Fi’s romance kept me saying “Just one. more. page.” Those are my favorite types of reads. If you’re interested in new adult romance, I encourage you to try this series, as Ms. Callihan’s writing is among the very best in new adult romance today. I’m eager for more.

– Ivy

*An ARC was received for an honest review.



Click on the images below to purchase the previous books in the series:


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