Monday 8 June 2015

#CBR7 Book 58:"The Friend Zone" by Kristen Callihan

Page count: 309 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Gray Grayson does not have female friends, he has former and future conquests. The closest thing he has to a female friend is his best friend Drew's new girlfriend. That's it. So no one is more surprised than he, when he seems to be developing a close relationship with a woman he's never even met, via text message of all things. When Gray has to lend his own car to Drew for a while, he's left with no other options than to borrow the bubblegum-pink car belonging to Ivy Mackenzie, the daughter of his sports agent, whose studying overseas. She's none too happy that some jock is in control of her car, and sends him all manner of ominous texts about what she'll do to him if he damages the car in any way. Soon they are texting each other at all hours of the day, about much more than the car.

So when Ivy comes back home to the States, and Gray and Ivy finally meet, neither are wanting to risk their close friendship, even though they both find the other smoking hot. To add to the tension, Gray is one of Ivy's father's top clients, and Ivy isn't any more interested in getting involved with one of them than Gray is interested in ruining his chances with a future career. So it's best if they just stay friends...right?

Gray is the tight end (and yes, there are lots of jokes to that effect) on the same college team that Drew from The Hook Up is the quarterback of. They are best friends, and really more like brothers, considering Drew is orphaned and Gray's father and brothers were less than supportive to him growing up. Gray was a nice supporting character and he's a good protagonist as well. Not ashamed of his past sexual exploits, Gray is nonetheless aware that what he shares with Ivy is something special and shouldn't be taken lightly. Ivy, in contrast, hasn't really dated a lot, and has trust and commitment issues due to her sports agent father's lack of presence in the lives of her and her younger sister, as well as fidelity to their mother.

The friends to lovers story is a common trope in romance, but for it to work, the friendship needs to feel real and established. If this part is hurried, the romance doesn't feel as earned, in my opinion. Here, while Gray and several of his friends are surprised, he really does make a genuine connection with Ivy. This is possibly because the only visual reference he has of her is a photo of her as a young teenager displayed in her father's office, while they get to know each other though their in-depth text conversations. By the time they actually meet, and realise that the person they've been texting with is someone they find very physically attractive, they are both very invested in making their platonic relationship work.

Of course, the more time they spend together, the more staying platonic proves to be a challenge. Unlike in The Hook Up, where Drew and Anna start having sex quite early on, and Anna at least doesn't even want to like Drew, so they build the rest of their relationship slowly from there, the unresolved sexual tension between Gray and Ivy continues for a fair bit of the book, and when it's finally broken, it's quite explosive. Once they do give into their feelings for one another, the issue of their future becomes a serious question, as Ivy has been studying and working in London with the intention that she will take over one of her mother's successful bakeries, while Gray is obviously on his way to a hopefully successful sports career.

I really liked this book, and based on these two books, I really do need to check out more of Kristen Callihan's Steampunk paranormals, of which I've only read one so far. I wasn't blown away by the first one, but I've enjoyed her New Adult books so much that I'm going to give her paranormal historicals another chance.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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