Blog Tour, Reviews, and Giveaway: Hard Wired: Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Hard Wired (Cyberlove #3)
Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
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Released February 13, 2017
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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.

“Finish your other drink. I want to show you something.”

Jesse did as commanded, tilting his head back and wincing, but he swallowed it in one gulp. I leaned in closer, pressing my body to his broader more muscular one, and tangled my fingers with his. He was so warm, and he smelled so good that I wanted to keep him close.

He dropped the glass to the table with a comical grimace. Jesse wasn’t much of a drinker, but he was still sharp. Even so, I leaned in and whispered, “Are you sober?”

“Does slightly tipsy count as sober?”

“In my world, yes. But… are you sober enough to make a decision you won’t regret about someone you know nothing about?”

Jesse sucked in another breath. I leaned back far enough to search his face and found parted lips still damp from the drink and dilating eyes. On a whim, I darted out my tongue to taste the gin and tonic on his lips. It tasted better.

“I won’t regret anything I decide,” he croaked.


My smile was slightly feral, but I couldn’t check my eagerness. This was happening. It was going to happen, anyway. And my heart was in my throat because I’d waited…dreamed…for years for this, and finally the moment was mine.

We speed-walked out of the party like a couple of over-excited kids, my hand sweaty as it gripped his. He didn’t pull away as our fingers twined together. I looked at him once to see he couldn’t take his eyes off me.

Fuck. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

FallenCon had completely taken over the convention center. There were cosplayers everywhere, people with badges, and drunk folks spilling out from the party. The entire place seemed like a party, and this was usually the moment that I loved the most. When everyone dropped their insecurities and their rivalries and online dramas, and we all had fun. Lost ourselves in a moment that would forever remain in our minds as the one time we truly enjoyed being out with others.

But my brain was a mantra of fuck other people, must have Jesse. I dragged him down a hallway, opened the first conference room door I saw, and was relieved to find the lights dimmed and no one inside.


I had him up against the wall before he could ask the question. Those explosive blue eyes widened, but he didn’t shy away. And he didn’t hold up his hands in typical over-the-top adorkable Garvy fashion, a please wait sign, when I plastered myself against him. His body was harder than I’d imagined, the bumps and ridges of muscle causing my pulse to race faster.

“I hope you don’t regret this tomorrow,” I murmured.

He shook his head. “Never.”

I wasn’t so sure, but I drew him in for a kiss. That first taste had been nothing compared to his mouth slanting open for me, immediately inviting my tongue. I gave it to him with sweeping glides, fucking his mouth with it, and drinking every delightful little sound he made.

It was Jesse’s first time kissing a guy, and I knew I should be making it sweet or gentle. Probationary, even. But I couldn’t. I ravaged him until we were clutching each other in the kind of raw make-out that belonged in the back of a pickup truck after a night of drunken tailgating, not in this haven for gamers and nerds.

We were grinding on each other, and I was too dazed to know when it had happened. All I knew was that the heaviness pressing against my own erection was causing my knees to weaken.

My moans filled every corner of the room, but I didn’t care if I seemed desperate or slutty. That he didn’t understand why a kiss was causing me to tremble with need. He couldn’t know that I’d imagined this so often, that I’d drawn it, that I’d wished for it. And he couldn’t have known that sliding his hand into my hair and holding me harder against him would unleash the part of me that wanted nothing more than to drop to my knees.
"Art by Cerise"

This story blends the online and gaming world with the real world even more. Jesse Garvy is a mod for Kai's Twitch channel and is attending the Fallencon convention. He's nerdy, awkward, dependable, likable, and cute. He is just realizing that he is more attracted to men and is inexperienced and shy. He is living in a rut, apathetic, afraid of stepping out of his comfort zone, and not sure where his life is headed.

Ian Larsen is also attending Fallencon to represent Kai's channel since he is also a mod. But he has been living an online life with various personalities. In the gaming world, he is perceived as the sassy, positive, and possibly feminine, Cherrycakes that has been a mod with Garvy for a couple of years.  He is also a dark, broody, sexy, goth looking artist named Cerise who is bold and unafraid with a big following online and at cons. He is able to put on the facade he needs to based on his environment. His only real friends are online, but they do not really know him. The real Ian does not really know who he is. His past has made him untrusting, afraid to be vulnerable, isolated, and unsure of himself. The problem with attending Fallencon is that his worlds will collide and he is not being honest about who he is. And it is more complicated by the fact that Ian has had a longtime crush on his mod partner and online friend, and Jesse has no clue.

When Jesse meets Ian at the con, they have chemistry and some fun times. Ian makes Jesse bolder and encourages him to take chances. But Ian keeps hesitating on coming clean about his other identities to Jesse creating a situation that is bound to be hurtful and destructive. It's drama, angst, pain, and escape, with things left unresolved.

The fall-out is confusing, but eventually they tentatively find their way back to communication. And like other books in this series, they make the best of messages and online chat in order to start to really get to know each other. I enjoy this process and it is so relative in today's world where it is easy to find connections with people online and be able to say things in a safe place that are harder in person or on the phone.

These are two guys who are lost--one hiding under armor and facades and the other in a rut and afraid to put himself out there. They begin to connect online even more, challenge and inspire, and even prop the other up when needed. But online and real life are not really the same.

They both have issues that affect them and make it harder for them to truly reach out and be confident that they can hold on. They have fear of rejection and failure. Ian is anxious and afraid to let go of the personalities he has created to keep him protected and empower him, and tends to retreat into them to cope. And when facing the world, it is easier to hide behind his armor and defenses. He is insecure and afraid that he is not good enough or likable enough on his own. And Jesse can be more outspoken with Ian, but sometimes still reverts to either not expressing his needs or saying the wrong thing. It's hard to navigate a new relationship, the real world, and an online world when you are not even sure who you really are or want to be.

They are not typical heroes. They are geeky and awkward, but intense and interesting. Ian is particularly damaged and high maintenance. This is more of an angsty coming of age story than the previous books as they are still struggling with their own identities and goals. I liked getting both of points of view to really understand their internal struggles. They were both so in need of love, acceptance, and real confidence.

It will take them being honest, brave, and to make themselves truly vulnerable to really unravel all of the underlying issues and gain trust. Distance, real life issues, conflicting online audiences/personas, goals,and various fears also complicate their situation and provide ongoing challenges. But if they can fight their fears and get on the same page, they have the potential to help each other and find their way towards a better future.

I loved getting more with Garrett and Kai (Strong Signal) and how there was a small cross over with Fast Connection. There are some side characters that have potential for being leads in another book. I am hoping for the  perky, optimistic, YouTuber, Beau, and his broodier, sarcastic competition, Zane. That would be a great match up. 

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell’s Cyberlove series is one of my favorite still-in-progress series, so Hard Wired was one of my most anticipated reads for the early part of this year. Though I liked it just a touch less than the first two—considering how much I liked the first two, this is a little like saying I liked the third scoop of ice cream less than the first two—it is another great title for this writing team.

Jesse Garvy’s position as a moderator for a popular Twitch channel hosted by a man with severe social anxiety means that he, along with the other mod—known as Cherrycakes—attended FallenCon as panelists. Along with helping out his cousin, a popular YouTube vlogger, during the con, Jesse expected to meet some people and just have a good time hanging out with gamers and geeks like him. What he didn’t expect was that the convention would also be a chance for him to explore his sexuality by hooking up with a moody and edgy artist, who goes by Cerise, for a night that turned out to be the hottest of his life. Jesse hoped the man, Ian Larsen, would show up for the panel the next day, but what he didn’t expect was for him to be Cherrycakes and that Ian had known exactly who Jesse was the whole time. Worse, before Jesse can nail down his feelings about this, the con ends, and they are back to living half the country apart. And still worse, when they’re back online, Cherry acts like nothing happened. But Jesse knows they made a connection, and he’s not willing to let it go.

Much like the first book in the series, Strong Signal, Hard Wired features a character, Ian, who is highly dependent on his online personas as an empowering method for coping with his anxiety. Ian’s two online personas are diametrically opposed—Cerise is a dark and broody, goth-dressing artist whose intensity, confidence, and in-your-face male sexuality screams I-don’t-give-a-fuck, while Cherrycakes is a over-the-top happy, friendly, positive, and hard-not-to-like person who is good at tamping down problems in the chatroom and has been mistakenly labeled by others as female, a distinction Ian never corrected—but neither fits Ian’s real personality. His past, without getting into details about why (spoiler-free reviews FTW! *ding*), left him feeling isolated and vulnerable, full of cynicism, and confident about only one thing, that people could never like him for who he is, let alone love him.

Jesse, on the other hand, looks like the laidback surfer-boy that he grew up being, right down to his blond hair and beach bod. He’s a likable guy who has recently come to terms with the fact that he’s gay, and before meeting Ian at the con, he was completely inexperienced in being with a man as more than friends. But he’s also stuck in that he’s afraid to rock the boat, so he doesn’t challenge himself to go after what he wants. That’s something else that’s different when he’s with Ian, and it’s his desire to make the experience with Ian more than a one-night fling that drives him to make other changes in his life too.

The connection between these two clicks from the start. Though it’s a classic hook-up, both these guys feel the intensity and let their guards down quick. While Jesse wants more, Ian is afraid of what would happen if he ever publicly dropped the armor his Cerise persona grants him. It’s more than just fear; he isn’t even sure it’s possible for him to do it. This conflict is hard for Jesse to understand, even though he tries his best to be supportive while expressing his wishes for Ian to just be himself. In fact, this conflict can be difficult for the reader to understand fully, even though we get not only Ian’s attempts to explain it to Jesse but his thought process as well. This actually led to the thing that kept me from liking Hard Wired as much as either of the first two books of the series: Though I understood Ian’s issues and why they would cause tension between him and Jesse, I struggled to understand what caused the escalation into them fighting about it. In fact, there were times earlier in the story where I expected them to be fighting about it, but they weren’t, so once the actual fighting happened, I didn’t know when and where they crossed the line. As such, it didn’t work quite as well for me as I would have hoped. Not bad, just not great. Other than that, I fully enjoyed the story and pairing.

Hard Wired feels much more like the first book in the series than it does the second, Fast Connection. I think this is largely because of the importance of the long-distance, technology-based component to the relationships found in these two books in comparison to the other for developing both the plot and the characters. This distinction is so prominent that Fast Connection almost feels out of place in the series now—not that it means anything about it as a book, I loved it too—and this looks to be more like the case as the rumor mill suggests there will be a fourth book In the series. My guess is that it will feature Jesse’s cousin, Beau, with another vlogger we meet in the story. This makes the formula that worked in books one and three look likely again for number four. And that’s certainly something I would look forward to.

While I didn’t connect to Hard Wired quite as much as first two books in the Cyberlove series, Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell have scored another winner. As much as I’ve enjoyed the individual works I’ve read from these two authors, this collaborative partnership is my favorite to date in the genre of M/M romance.

The authors generously provided me a complimentary copy of Hard Wired in exchange for this fair and honest review.
Strong Signal (Cyberlove #1)
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Jay's and Kim's 4.5-star reviews

I was counting down the months until the end of my deployment. My days were spent working on military vehicles, and I spent my nights playing video games that would distract me until I could leave Staff Sergeant Garrett Reid behind.

That was when I met him: Kai Bannon, a fellow gamer with a famous stream channel.

I never expected to become fixated on someone who'd initially been a rival. And I'd never expected someone who oozed charm to notice me—a guy known for his brutal honesty and scowl. I hadn't planned for our online friendship to turn into something that kept me up at night—hours of chatting evolving into filthy webcam sessions.

But it did. And now I can't stop thinking about him. In my mind, our real life meeting is perfect. We kiss, we fall into bed, and it's love at first sight.

Except, like most things in my life, it doesn't go as planned.

*Strong Signal is a standalone, full-length novel with no cliffhanger.*

Fast Connection (Cyberlove #2)
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Jay's and Kim's 4.5 star reviews

After a decade of serving in the Army, everyone still expects me to be Dominic 'Nicky' Costigan--the skirt-chasing player. They don't know I've been spending my days trying to figure out my post-military life. Including how to pick up guys.

When I meet Luke on a hookup app, he makes it clear it's for one-night only. That's fine with me, because I'm down to see what this silver fox can do. But after I arrive at his doorstep, it doesn't take long to realize we have serious chemistry, and we end up meeting again.

He's got more walls around his heart than a military base, but I think he's as addicted to me as I am to him. He can't resist me for long. I mean, who can? Except Luke's rules exist for a reason, and when I test his limits, things get complicated. Maybe too complicated.

*Fast Connection is a standalone, full-length romance novel with no cliffhanger*

The Visit (Cyberlove #2.5) 
Free bonus short, available here

Megan Erickson
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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 liked 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
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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.

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