My FallenCon agenda is simple: sit on a couple of panels and let people meet the real me. Jesse Garvy—mod of a famous Twitch channel and, if I ever come out of my shell, future vlogger. I definitely didn’t plan to sleep with a moody tattooed fan-artist, but he’s gorgeous and can’t keep his hands off me. There’s a first time for everything, and my first time with a guy turns out to be the hottest experience of my life.
But the next day, I find out my moody fan-artist is Ian Larsen AKA Cherry—someone I’ve known online for years. And he’d known exactly who I was while shoving me up against that wall. Before I figure out whether to be pissed or flattered, the con ends.
Now we’re back online, and he’s acting like nothing happened. But despite the distance between us, and the way he clings to the safety of his online persona, we made a real connection that night. I don’t plan to let him forget.
Cyberlove, book 3
260 e-book pages
1st person alternating
Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
Click for more information regarding ratings.
Welp. The dynamic duo MegTino has done it again.
WAS THERE EVER ANY QUESTION?
For anyone not reading this series I just don’t even know what to say to you, other than GET THEE TO THE BOOK MART OF YOUR CHOICE AND DOOOO IT WITHOUT DELAY.
So, this Cyberlove series, Strong Signal, Fast Connection, and now Hard Wired, I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall when the brainstorming sesh of titling was happening. The titles are all tech-ish, gamery fun and it’s obvious what the theme is — honestly, I didn’t put much thought into it beyond that for the first two books. But now…now, I’m starting to see some mastermind action at work. I need to carve out some time to revisit books one and two because HARD WIRED is the most perfect title for this third book.
Brace, I’m about to get Back Porch Philosophical™.
Hardwired — think beyond the technical definition of physically plugging the ethernet cable into your laptop. Go further until you realize what behaviors you might have because they’re ingrained in your psyche for nature/nurture reasons — the good, bad, and ugly.
So, Ian (aka Cherrycakes/Cherry, aka Cerise) — he’s the guy so uncomfortable in his skin he’s kind of a detached shell who hides from himself, except for the online personas he created — the ones he has ultimate control over in his interactions with others. Ian — the flesh and bone guy — has been let down by everyone in his real life. Mistreated, neglected, used, abused, and ridiculed to the extreme. He has zero self-confidence, zero trust, and an abundance of fear and anxiety in the regular day-to-day. The place he can just be is in the online personas he’s created in Cerise and Cherry — two very different personas for different reasons and platforms.
Real-life interactions were never as satisfying as the ones that happened in fiction.
Cerise is the artist. He’s vague, snarky, a sexy sort of self-proclaimed fuckboy who is all armor and deflection. He’s broody steel, salty smirk, and an adorable grump. Cerise just is who he is without apology.
Cherrycakes is one of Kai’s Twitch moderator (from book one). He (presumed by many to be she) has a positive outlook, encouraging and doesn’t even try to hide his excitement by using exclamations, LOLs, and emojis. Cherry is still somewhat aloof, though far more approachable.
Confused? Hang tight. It sounds like Ian is juggling a lot of personalities. But no…I’m pretty sure we all have variances of our personas we only let out at specific times. Maybe not to this degree, and we probably haven’t named them. But for me, and I’m pretty much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of woman, I can sure tell you that there are parts of me my uber-religious relatives don’t see. (Yikes!) There are parts of me my work pals don’t see. It’s based on audience and/or comfort level — and the whole proprietary ‘be a proper southern lady of grace’ business that was hardwired into me growing up. And that’s not nearly as comfortable as yoga pants, a beer, and not concentrating on watching my foul mouth. (Like that one time I said fuck very loudly in a popular restaurant during the after-church rush because of a salad dressing mix-up. The manager and patrons were not best pleased. Nor was my husband. Whoops.)
The thing with Ian is he was hardwired to believe nobody would ever like him or love him…that he was essentially worthless. He found a place, in the online world, where he was wi-fi-free to be whomever — the parts deep inside that were screaming and clawing to get out and be seen, appreciated, and accepted. It just takes him a while to realize that all three parts of him are the real deal and that it’s okay to wear all of them at the same time.
Because of Jesse.
Goofball, surfer-dude, gamer-geek Jesse who is boatloads of laid-back fun but has his life on hold because of reasons. And while it’s easy to think, because of the perceptions he’s put out there in the online community, that he’s got a charmed, easy, together life. He has a few of his own crosses to bear and life lessons to learn so folks don’t take advantage of his good nature.
These two dudes are the perfect counterpoint to each other. It just takes some work to fit all these personas together.
And that leads me to: OMIGOD the angst. Amongst tons of wit and spot-on snark between these two that had me rolling in hilarity, there’s a metric-ton of non-communication and holding back for self-preservation. I wanted to mash em together like I did my Ken dolls when I was a kid and then pop their heads off like bottle caps to see how far they’d fly. (I can’t be the only one who did that. Also, did anyone else have a Mork action figure? Mine had a crush on Ken. It was a messy three-way thing with amazon Darcy. Anyhoooo.)
I’m not complaining about the angsty business. (I know, I often do.) HERE, even though I might’ve shaken my Kindle in basic frustration, the way it all worked and fit, how they negotiated the real life/online and ultimately took the big leap to embrace the life they could make together…. Well, I was too plugged in to even think about being mad at ’em. Bad pun, whatever.
Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell, as I’ve said numerous times, are a powerhouse. Individually they’ve got major chops. Together they are incendiary. They each bring unparalleled depth to their characters that they’re nearly tangible reflections of at least some small part of all of us. Relatable in unexpected ways. Or, at the very least, a lot like someone you know.
This series has been an in-depth study of internet relationships, whether they get their start from a Twitch stream, Grindr, or finally meeting a longtime chat-buddy at a Con. And, personally, I don’t have any experience with the first two…a little with the last, but the stories are crafted in such a way that feels familiar, thoroughly possible, and (again) relatable.
Even though I’m not a part of the gaming community, I could still see a whole lot of nearly startling parallels between that culture and that of the online M/M Romance community. Ummm…serious commonalities, y’all — which is probably the case for many little pockets of the world where we find a fit.
My crystal ball says that Beau and Zane are on deck for book four. But I see a hazy swirl of something because there’s definitely a weird vibe between an asshole called Lyrix and Zane that needs to be sorted out. MMM? It’s not a question of could they….but WILL they?
To sum up: FANTASTIC, ENGAGING, RELATABLE, and UN-PUT-DOWNABLE.
ALSO!!! Stop by the Back Porch on February 13th as Megan and Santino drop in along their Hard Wired blog tour!
Advance Review Copy generously provided by the authors in exchange for an honest review.
Other Books in the Series:
Title links to BackPorchReader reviews.
About the Authors:
Megan Erickson is a USA Today bestselling author of romance that sizzles. Her books have a touch of nerd, a dash of humor, and always have a happily ever after. A former journalist, she switched to fiction when she decided she likes writing her own endings better.
She lives in Pennsylvania with her very own nerdy husband and two kids. Although rather fun-sized, she’s been told she has a full-sized personality. When Megan isn’t writing, she’s either lounging with her two cats named after John Hughes characters or… thinking about writing.
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.
Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.