Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “The sum of my existence equals you.”
Gray Grayson has it all. A top NFL draft pick; he has the looks, the moves, and the reputation of being a playa but when he is forced to borrow his soon to be agent’s daughter’s pink Fiat for the summer, he discovers the one thing he has been missing.
Ivy Mackenzie is spending a year abroad with her mother. When she finds out her father has loaned out her car to one of his clients, a ranty text turns into something more as a strong friendship develops between them.
Everything is going great until Ivy comes home. Gray doesn’t do relationships and Ivy doesn’t do her father’s clients but the attraction between them can not be denied. Now Gray is going to do everything possible to prove to Ivy that the only zone he wants to be in is the end zone…with her by his side.
The Friend Zone, book two in Callahan’s Game On new adult series, is a sweet, sexy, funny, and emotionally refreshing friends to lovers contemporary that highlights a couple whose journey from friendship to love is facilitated by witty banter, adept communication, and delicious sexual tension. Though not as angst driven as book one, Callihan produces another winning romance with Gray and Ivy.
I adore Kristen Callihan. I’ve been a long time fan of her paranormal Darkest London series and am pleased to see that crossing genre lines and age groups hasn’t lessened her voice or appeal. Callihan is a prolific writer whose true gift is her ability to make her characters realistic and relatable. Her characters aren’t perfect and while we do see some emotional turmoil it’s not eye rolling melodrama used to create unnecessary angst within conflict. She chooses to avoid the stereotypical over the top NA behavior usually presented in this genre and instead gives us smart characters whose actions are genuine in reaction to the circumstances. The essential meet cute through texting is a unique introduction and setup for the romance and I found it really gives readers an intimate and hilarious view into the personalities of Ivy and Gray.
GrayG: So as friends, can I still say inappropriate, sex-related things?
IvyMac: Sure. Think of me as just another guy. With a vagina.
GrayG: A. Shudder. B. Yeah, no. C. I had this dream that you were sucking my 8==> But when I looked down, I discovered it was actually a goat…you know. Then I really woke up because I yelled so hard, I fell out of bed. And now I live in mortal terror of goats.
Gray is a delight with his outward sunny personality and buried complex nature. Having met him in book one-The Hook Up– you can’t help but grow to love him the more you get to know him. Gorgeous, highly intelligent, popular, and very talented on the field, his fear of commitment and loss casts a long shadow. He’s issues stem from his childhood. The youngest son of a famous football coach and three older brothers who play, Gray was forced to grow up early due to his severely dysfunctional family. Befriending Ivy is a revelation for him and it both exhilarates and confuses him. Their texting is the highlight of his year and he is stymied how this one person managed to get under his skin so deep. Something very few have ever managed to accomplish.
I’m about to meet her, and I’m totally unprepared. My heart is racing like it does before a game, that same adrenaline rushing through my veins. I’m no longer thinking about the future, but of Ivy.
Ivy was a breath of fresh air. Smart, pretty, funny, intelligent, and snarky, Ivy isn’t in need of saving from anything. She isn’t mired in a dark abyss waiting for her prince charming. She has a pretty good life with a loving family. Like Gray though, she has commitment issues stemming from her childhood. Her father, a former football star turned sports agent, was a walking cliché and his antics off the field soured her on relationships. Having already graduated, she has spent a year in London in preparation to take over her mother’s baking business. Now home for a three month visit, she is unprepared for the feelings invoked by Gray upon meeting him. He became her best friend through those texts and the fear of losing that connection is a conundrum she really doesn’t want to face.
From early on, I’d put him firmly in the friend zone, not wanting to develop deeper feelings for a guy I know is a player and treats me like his best pal. And that was okay, because I want Gray’s friendship. I cherish it.
Callihan does a wonderful job of slowly but steadily taking Ivy and Gray’s relationship from friends to lovers. Gray and Ivy have some pretty intense chemistry that explodes between them from the first time they meet. The sexual tension is at defcon twelve as they feint and parry, not wanting to destroy the platonic relationship they have already built. I appreciated the time and effort Callihan gives their journey she expertly fleshes out their fears along with their desires. Sexually, Callihan puts a nice bite in the romance, giving the story some faint erotic overtones.
I don’t know what to do with this feeling. It’s equal parts longing—yes, fucking longing—and rage. I want to hear those words again. It’s a kick in the pants to realize that I want to be loved, like I’m worth something to someone. Not for what I can do for them, but just for me. […] My anger is plain ridiculous and irrational. But there you go. I’m now Irrational Gray. Confused and Grumpy Gray. Horny as All Fuck Gray. Nice to meet you.
Through trial and error she shows them and us that they are the perfect couple and should they choose to drop their shields, they have a phenomenal chance at happiness together. Gray’s inherent protective nature and Ivy’s ability to see beyond what Gray chooses to show the world only further proves they are meant for one another.
What I feel? It isn’t comfortable. It’s so intense and so enormous, sometimes I fear my soul can’t contain it.
We see old and new faces; each one an important part of the storyline. Drew and Anna are recurring characters in the book as is the rest of the offensive team. We see exciting possible set ups for future storylines and are given a plausible epilogue for Gray and Ivy. A small plot device pops up towards the end that is used to push Ivy and Gray into making the decision they have been avoiding. While it’s not a favorite author twist of mine, Callihan presents it with compassion and didn’t leave this reader feeling manipulated.
Callihan’s writing continues to entertain and delight me with each new endeavor. I recommend this series to everyone who enjoys a contemporary new adult series with fun, realistic characters, witty banter, smexy romances, and strong friendships that will keep you waiting for each installment. Even though this is part of a series, it can be easily read as a stand alone.
**On a cute note, both Callihan and Elle Kennedy (The Mistake) have added a little easter egg to their respective books alluding to each other’s books so keep your eyes peeled.**