The Game On Series: The Hook Up and The Friend Zone by Kristen Callihan

A pair of new adult contemporary romances set at an American college and written by Kristen Callihan, The Hook Up and The Friend Zone were my first and second books by this author and my first foray into this genre niche. I really enjoyed the books while I read them, The Hook Up in particular, and while they were good and sometimes pretty great, their primary accomplishment was to make seek out other new adult books, including Elle Kennedy’s excellent The Deal.

The Hook Up from Amazon: Anna Jones just wants to finish college and figure out her life. Falling for star quarterback Drew Baylor is certainly not on her to do list. Confident and charming, he lives in the limelight and is way too gorgeous for his own good. … Football has been good to Drew. It’s given him recognition, two National Championships, and the Heisman. But what he really craves is sexy yet prickly Anna Jones. Her cutting humor and blatant disregard for his fame turns him on like nothing else. But there’s one problem: she’s shut him down. Completely. That is until a chance encounter leads to the hottest sex of their lives, along with the possibility of something great. Unfortunately, Anna wants it to remain a hook up.

Anna and Drew spark and banter their way through The Hook Up with delightful results. As always, I am enamoured of a besotted hero and appreciative of a heroine who is both strong and has issues I can relate to (a little too much). The highlight of the book for me was a take-no-prisoners fight towards the end when ALL of their respective issues combined into a blazing row.  I’d recommend this book, but I have mixed feelings towards the next one.

The Friend Zone from Amazon: 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…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.

I suppose the Taming of the Shrew trope must have a counterpart in the Pig Who Becomes a Person, but it’s one I am annoyed by. Gray spent The Hook Up alternating between being a good friend to Drew and jumping anything that moved. He’s a really nice guy once he meets the “right woman”, but despite the entertainment value of the The Friend Zone, I’m not sure I cared. I suppose Gray was meant to be a jock stereotype after Gray’s mostly mature story, but I am tired of being required to forgive piggy behavior because the men involved are supposedly harmless. This kind of entitlement I can do without and it litters our culture, as though it’s okay in the end because he stops giving himself permission to a dudebro and decides to be a PERSON instead. Why am I being asked to overlook lewd and vulgar behavior (such as Gray’s early texts to Ivy and his conduct in The Hook Up), especially in this genre? I don’t expect the men in these books to be perfect, particularly when we see things from their viewpoint, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a decent person and really into the heroine at the same time.

Other than my unexpected hostility, The Friend Zone was a nice read. Gray and Ivy made sense together and, despite my complaints, these is a good chance I will read more Kristin Callihan books.

I LOVED the next book in the series: The Game Plan

Thank you, Malin, for the gift of these books.

New Adult romance recommendations can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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