The Friend Zone by Kristen Callihan
Series: Game On #2
Also in this series: The Hook Up, The Game Plan, The Hot Shot
Published by NLA Digital LLC
Publication Date: May 5th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Romance, New Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Sports
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Gray doesn’t make friends with women. He has sex with them. Until Ivy.
The last thing star tight-end Gray Grayson wants to do is drive his agent’s daughter’s bubblegum pink car. But he needs the wheels and she’s studying abroad. Something he explains when she sends him an irate text to let him know exactly how much pain she’ll put him in if he crashes her beloved ride. Before he knows it, Ivy Mackenzie has become his best texting bud. But then Ivy comes home and everything goes haywire. Because the only thing Gray can think of is being with Ivy.
Ivy doesn’t have sex with friends. Especially not with a certain football player. No matter how hot he makes her…
Gray drives Ivy crazy. He’s irreverent, sex on a stick, and completely off limits. Because, Ivy has one golden rule: never get involved with one of her father’s clients. A rule that’s proving harder to keep now that Gray is doing his best to seduce her. Her best friend is fast becoming the most irresistible guy she’s ever met.
Which means Gray is going to have to use all his skills to win Ivy’s heart. Game on.
Gray Grayson doesn’t do relationships. He’s all about hooking up for the night, but he isn’t interested in attachments. Until he needs to borrow a car and his soon-to-be agent offers up the use of his daughter’s pink Fiat. When Ivy texts him telling him to take care of her baby, they become surprisingly close …considering she’s studying aboard and they’ve never met face-to-face.
When Ivy needs to be picked up at the airport Gray is happy to do it. He can’t wait to finally see the person who has become really important to him. Until he meets her and realizes they have sizzling chemistry. The last thing he wants is to ruin their friendship by getting physical, but the more time they spend together the more he wants her.
Ivy is just as surprised at the punch of physical attraction she feels for Gray. She considers him her closest friend, and she doesn’t want to ruin that any more than he does. Plus, she watched her father treat her mother like crap, and she has no desire to hook up with a playboy athlete who’ll break her heart. Keeping things platonic is the best course of action…until Ivy gets sick and Gray ends up sleeping in her bed. The enforced physical closeness just heightens their awareness. Before long Gray is trying to convince Ivy to take a chance on him…on them.
Gray seems to have it all: a sport he loves and is good at, looks, brains and a great sense of humor. But he’s harboring pain from his past and wants love just like everyone else…only he doesn’t think he deserves it. He’s afraid of putting himself out there with Ivy and losing her altogether. Ivy doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes of her parents. Plus, she’s planning to head back to England in 3 months. Even though neither was looking, if they stick together this could be the start of something beautiful..or it could ruin them both.
I was really looking forward to this book after finishing The Hook Up. To be honest, I struggled with the heroine in the early part of The Hook Up, and thought it was kind of slow in the middle. But I zipped right through The Friend Zone, loving every minute of it.
Gray was everything I’d hoped he’d be – smart, funny and sexy as hell. His ribald sense of humor and realistic outlook on life really endeared him to me. Too often in New Adult novels we see the pasts of the main characters dictating every decision they make. That wasn’t the case here. Gray had suffered and still carried some scars, but he also lived in the moment with an eye toward the future. It’s hard to move forward with one foot stuck in the past, and Gray realized that.
Ivy was still trying to figure out what to do with her life, and struggling to deal with the pain of having a father who was mostly absent. I thought her issues were well written and she was a sympathetic character. She could have come off as too-young or immature, but rather I thought she was entering a new phase of her life and trying to navigate unfamiliar waters.
Despite her issues with her father, they clearly had a lot of love for each other. I really liked their family dynamic and her relationship with her sister. Gray didn’t have a relationship with his family, but his friendship with Drew was important to him and they were more like brothers than not. While that came across in The Hook Up, I think I felt the connection more here. I also loved his friendships with the other guys on his team. They were all close and I liked how they turned to each other when things got rough.
“She’s not…‘this’ Ivy,” I pant out. Dip, touch, turn, sprint. “And what’s to tell? She’s…” I touch the next cone. “My friend.”
“Hmmm…” Drew takes a pull on his straw—Jesus, the drink has an umbrella. I swear he put one in it to fuck with me. It’s forty degrees out here, and he’s acting like he’s on a beach somewhere. “And yet you’re attached to your phone like it’s become your second dick.”
“Don’t see a problem with that.” I grunt. “Two dicks, twice the fun.” One. More. Set. Fuck.
There’s quite a bit of humor in the book, and I laughed out loud more than I expected to. Usually when the team was all together and giving each other a hard time, Ivy and her sister were teasing one another, or Gray and Ivy were texting each other.
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.
IvyMac: LMFAO! Gray got it from a goat!
IvyMac: Goat-on-Gray action! Heeeee! *Falls down ded*
GrayG: You suck, you know that?
IvyMac: No, the goat does! *Dies again* My sides. My sides!
GrayG: Laugh it up, Chuckles.
IvyMac: Okay. I’m good now. Aw, Cupcake, I’m so glad we’re friends.
I really felt the connection between Ivy and Gray. The early part of their relationship is shown via the text messages they exchange, and I thought it gave us great insight into their friendship. They got to know each other without any kind of physical attraction getting in the way, and they took their time exploring their friendship in person once Ivy came home. They joked and laughed, traded secrets and fears, and came to rely on one another. I really loved their romance.
“Every inch, Ivy,” he whispers against them.
I open my eyes and smile. My arms wind around his neck, holding him close. “You said that once, before your last game. But you never really told me what it means.”
Gray’s hands move to my waist. “Before you, it meant I’ll fight for every inch of yardage, never give up until I’m in the end zone. But now?” His blue eyes meet mine. “It means I’ll fight for every inch of you.”
I was really bothered by the number of typos and grammatical errors. At one point they agree to meet at 1pm and in the next paragraph it’s 8pm on the dot. That was a minor issue, though, and didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment.
The story was touching, funny and engaging. I fell right into it and didn’t come up for air until the end.
4.5 out of 5