REVIEW: Hard Wired Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

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Title: Hard Wired (Cyberlove #3)

Authors: Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell

Publication Date: February 13th 2017

Publisher: Megtino Press

Rating: ★★★★★/ 5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, m/m relationship

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.

“I don’t hate you.”

“I don’t hate you either. Not even a little bit. Not at all.”

Ian leaned back to look at me. “Did you just quote Ten Things I Hate About You at me?”

“RIP Heath.”

“You’re such a dork.

Trigger Warning: Alluding to past abuse but not explicitly, slut shaming (challenged on page)

By now, if you’re reading the books in the order they’re released in, you’ll know that incredible chemistry is awaiting you with a load of even more incredible dialogue. Well, I’d like to think that Hard Wired is extra special since it touches on topics that were so close to heart.

Jesse and Ian are both mods for Kai’s channel, hence you’ll get a delightful cameo by our favorite Streamer but the book focuses so nicely on their story without isolating them from other characters, which Erickson and Hassell are genius at doing. The book is written in the same dual point of views I grew to love since it gives the perfect balance between the characters. Not once was I confused to whose point of view I was reading, they had remarkably poignant and clear voices. Actually, I rather anticipated the change of views so I’d see the scene from both boys’ eyes. And, oh, what a treat.

As per the series’ theme of cyber love, this time around it’s got the gorgeous amount of online and offline interaction that got me going “Same.” By far, Jesse and Ian are the youngest in the cast at 24 and 22, I believe. While Jesse moderates for Kai, he has dreams of starting his own streaming channel on YouTube and finally getting out of the control of his hippy parents who find no problem in draining their own kid’s cash flow when they need. Ian on the other hand takes a big risk of going to a convention as both Cherry and Cerise, his two online personas (among many) which he kept separate for as long as they existed. Bubbly and supportive, Cherry is nothing like Cerise who’s known for his sullen pouts and daring sense of style. In the heart of these two personas is Ian, nerd and artist, and a boy so helplessly in love.

Chemistry and flares sparks off between Ian and Jesse at the convention, Jesse without a hint of knowledge of Ian’s online identities and Ian knowing exactly how wrong the night can go if he tells Jesse that he’s his co-mod Cherry. What I loved about these two’s relationship was how they hit it off so nicely and they were somewhat daring to get in one another business to demand answers, even if they did it after hours of contemplation. Ian personally felt so extremely relatable because growing up queer in a society that hated me offered me zero help. Being online and having another persona was the deal for me and I bet many of us who grew up early 2000s. Not to exclude anyone older from this but Ian was so close to my age that I felt like I was reading about someone who is so vividly alive. On top of that, Ian had his own chunk of anxiety which is why his shield of being Cherry or Cerise was important to him. And I liked how although it caused some problems, his shield was never compromised even when it wasn’t understood by Jesse. The protection Ian had assembled onto himself was threatened by rumors but not once did I get the feeling that Jesse wouldn’t try and protect Ian. It’s kind of Jesse’s growing point in his life. The guts he never had to stand up for his parents showed up at times with Ian.

At the heart of this, there is an incredible message of not compromising one’s coping mechanisms to past trauma, and to put one’s self first even in a relationship. With a more than generous layer of fluffy online convos, steamy phone-sex while the boys were long-distance, and a sprinkle of romantic endeavors that got my heart pounding in my chest like a god damn FOOL! It’s okay, I love being a fool for Jesse and Ian. (Can the OTP name be Jan it’d be FUCKING hilarious… and I’ll probably receive glares from Ian but oh well…)

The cast of this book includes cameos from Beau Starr, Jesse’s cousin and the MC of the next book MATURE CONTENT, Lyrix an asshole antagonist who somehow gets schooled, a smattering of other YouTube celebs who I’m sure everyone wants to have their own books (I know I do!) and of course: KAI AND GARRETT, who are kind of the POWER COUPLE of gaming…

Things I enjoyed intensely in this book:

  • Online lingo in text! Woohoo! Felt so natural
  • The “You don’t know who I am but I know who you are” trope
  • Sloppy making out in front of everyone and not giving a damn because you’re cute like that
  • Misanthrope admitting that they’re full of salt (MY SON IAN)
  • “Babe you had a crush on me? Awwww.” “We’re married.” “Still.” (Not an actual quote but if you know P&R you’ll know the scene.
  • Power bottoms…
  • Healthy coming out
  • An adorable scene including a hammock and Jesse falling off it.
  • “’Hey Beautifuls,’ Zane drawled, flipping his hair again.”
  • Anytime Beau and Zane were mentioned.
  • Ian fangirling over Zane
  • Kai addressing how he never assumed “Cherry”’s gender.
  • PHONE SEX! HELLO, RELATABLE.
  • Jesse learning how to turn out Ian… yes, please.

Overall, probably my favorite book out of the series but I’m going to be honest and admit that I can never choose. While I have an affinity to Ian, I mean I am adopting him to be mine and Leah’s son, I relate the most to Beau… who you’ll all have the pleasure of meeting in Mature Content…

Have you picked up a copy of any of the Cyberlove series by now? And if not, what are you waiting for?


About the Authors

Megan Erickson

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.

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Santino Hassell

Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family but grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a grumpy introvert and unlikely romance author with an affinity for baseball caps. His novels are heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, and his desire to write relationships fueled by intensity and passion.

He’s been a finalist in both the Bisexual Book Awards and the EPIC Awards, and was nominated for a prestigious RITA award in 2017. His work has been featured in BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Washington Post, RT Magazine, and Cosmopolitan Magazine.

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