Blog Tour: Mature Content: Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Mature Content (Cyberlove #4)
Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
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Release Date June 2, 2017
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My life plan is to be brutally honest all the way to the bank. Don't believe me? I run a popular YouTube channel called TrashyZane, and my claim to fame is oversharing about every aspect of my personal life. Sometimes while tipsy. Not everyone loves my style, but I have a long history of icing out people who can't handle me. I have no time for judgmental foolishness.

Except, apparently, when it comes to Beau Starr. His channel is the polar opposite of mine, and so is he. Wholesome, inspirational, and clean-cut. Everything about him should turn me off, but when we hook up following a confrontation at a convention, my world flips upside down. Not only does Beau Starr turn me on, he uses the exact combination of dirty talk and roughness needed to turn me out.

But we still hate each other. I think.

Graphics from Santino Hassell's Facebook page
The fourth book in Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell’s Cyberlove series, Mature Content, continues the winning streak these two authors have had working collaboratively. While I still like Strong Signal as the best in the series, it was only one small thing about the chemistry in this book’s pairing that kept this one from pushing for that distinction itself.

Mature Content is a perfect example of the enemies-to-lovers trope done right. Beau Starr and TrashyZane each run popular YouTube channels, but their styles are complete opposites. More than that, each represents something the other dislikes about internet celebrities. So at the start of the novel, the adversarial component is there, but it isn’t until a flippant comment is made that the back-and-forth escalation to full-blown enemies starts. More often than I would like, books that use this set-up fail to make me understand why the two characters hate each other so much, usually because the cause is all in the past and/or it comes across as exaggerated or unrealistic. The set-up for Beau and Zane, though, suffered from none of these problems.

Moreover, unlike most of the enemies-to-lovers books that I have read, the first time Beau and Zane hook up, they’re still enemies and it’s full-on hate sex. Angry, primal, and explosive hate sex. And it’s a touch on the uncomfortable side because it has the feel of being dubious consent—don’t worry, it’s not. All of that put together makes this one of the most raw, intense, and shockingly real sex scenes in the entire series, and by far the best example of hate sex I’ve run across. And I didn’t even mention that there are light BDSM elements and angry dirty talk involved. (Note that although the light BDSM appears throughout the book, it never goes beyond the level of this first scene, so don’t sweat it if that’s not your thing.)

As with the other books in the series, the storytelling is top-notch, beautifully blending Erickson’s swoony-sweet style with Hassell’s edgy-raw one in a way that made it impossible to tell how the two authors split up the writing duties. The characters’ voices are clear and distinguishable, and their dilemmas are believable and relatable. The angst level is definitely lower here than that of the previous novel of the series (Hard Wired), and probably one of the things I appreciated most about the book was the fact that the authors chose not to wrap up all the sources of angst in a tidy fashion. They gave the guys their happily-ever-after but kept it real.

Really, the only complaint I can make about Mature Content is that, unlike the other three books in the series, the chemistry between Beau and Zane was heavily predicated on how well they meshed sexually instead of some deeper emotional reason. Sure, they eventually get to know each other, but outside their fulfilling the sexual need of the other so perfectly, I didn’t see what it was that caused the perfect sex to turn into a perfect-forever match. Fortunately, I liked the two characters enough that I wasn’t overcome with the feeling of “magic penis turns enemies into forever lovers,” but that’s what kept me from rounding my rating up rather than down.

One other thing I appreciate about this series as a whole is the fact that when characters from the previous books get mentioned or make appearances, it is never done so in a way that feels forced. I’ve had problems with this in the past by one of these authors, so I was delighted it didn’t happen here. Don’t get me wrong, though. There are plenty of Easter eggs to be found in Mature Content for fans of the series, so while this, like the others, can be read as a standalone, reading them all makes the experience all the better.

It’s unclear whether or not the authors intend to extend the Cyberlove series further. They hint at the possibility in their acknowledgments, but suggest that if it does happen, it won’t be soon. But whether they do or not, this series will be one of my favorites, and I look forward to seeing what these two do next, individually and maybe jointly. 

The authors generously provided me a complimentary copy of Mature Content in exchange for this fair and honest review.
Beau Starr and TrashyZane are YouTubers that have totally different styles and attitudes. Beau has a clean cut, good boy image where he tries to educate and support gay youth in a positive way. It seems like things do not bother him, but under his carefully constructed facade he has secrets and demons from his past. He keeps his private life private, but what he really likes seems in direct contrast to his vanilla public image. But it is really important to him to maintain that acceptable, positive image.

Zane Brody is more chaotic and messy. He is broody, unfiltered, and sarcastic. His show is more of a live journal and can be raw and negative. He is not afraid to talk about his sexual adventures and show his wilder side. He does not like to be judged or shamed for who he is and how he lives his life. He will cut people off that he feels does that to him.

These two start out as competitors and enemies that begin a little feuding in YouTube wars. They seem like opposites, are competitive, and love to get one over on the other. As they begin to tease out more about each other in messages and meet up at events, the sexual tension builds and explodes. And the one area that these two are completely compatible is in the bedroom. They share similar turn-ons and balance each other so perfectly that they literally rock each other's worlds. But their images, attitudes, fears, and triggers have potential to conflict. 

I loved seeing how strong their reactions were to each other whether it be in hate, lust, or like. From distraction, dares, truce, to something that could be real. I enjoyed their witty banter, power plays, and chemistry. But Zane really struggles with feeling judged and not accepted, And Beau wants something he knows he shouldn't pursue because of his history and serious situations he is dealing with. But the pull to each other is strong.

I loved seeing them start to open up, build trust, and understand each other. Their online personas are only parts of them. Their flirting and sweet times are swoony, and their sexy times are raw and hot. I loved their chats and flirty exchanges. But I could also see how their pasts and issues had potential to cause some problems. There is miscommunication, avoidance, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings. Though they develop trust in the bedroom fairly easily, trust with their hearts is a bit harder. Beau being the protective white knight has a tendency to keep things to himself and play into Zane's insecurities. And Zane does not want to be kept a dirty little secret. 

There is a group surrounding them that add depth to the story by adding support, humor, or drama. I recommend reading Hard Wired before this one since Beau and Zane were introduced. Beau's cousin, Jesse, and boyfriend, Ian, from Hard Wired are featured in this one and the timeline crosses events in that book. So antagonists Lush and Lyrix are present too. Zane also has a couple group of friends Miguel, Debonair, and Chanel as well as old friends, Gail, Abi, and Benji. Oh, and I just adored his sassy Grandma. All are important to his own feelings of self worth. 

This is told in dual points of view. I will admit that Zane took me a lot longer to warm up to than Beau. But when we could see the real Zane under the trashy, unfiltered, I-don't-care persona, I came to like him. He had more vulnerability to him than he let most people see. I was already attached to Beau, but there was more to him than I expected. He really was a good guy, but he could also make mistakes. He thrived on control and Mr. Clean Beau could get down and dirty. And Zane liked it that way. They were a dynamic pair but were forced to navigate their burgeoning relationship while trying to keep it secret. And their lives were based on social media attention so maintaining privacy was next to impossible. 

This story focuses on being true to yourself and not living in fear. They both had some growing to do and things to address to figure out where their futures may be heading. It is a fun, feisty, and sexy opposites attract, enemies-to-lovers story with a little kink and angst. It also takes on some heavier topics like slut-shaming and acceptance, but it is not too dark or dramatic. I am looking forward to more in this series that takes complex, strong, and sometimes damaged males that are current and relevant due to modern technology and online connections. 

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 
 “You want to talk now that Ian is gone?” Jesse asked knowingly.
I flicked the seam of my pillow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’re being weird, and I’m not sure if it’s because of Zane or something else.”
“It’s not because of Zane. Well, some of it is, I guess.”
“Ah.” He grinned. “Does that mean there is a thing with Zane?”
I stood up and ran my hands through my hair, which had a life of its own due to the amount of grease in it. “Fine, yes. Okay? We fucked at NerdCon. It was amazing, but we still hate each other, so it’s not happening again.”
Jesse’s eyes were huge. “I’m…not sure what to say right now?”
I wasn’t either. All our lives, I’d been the bossy one, the leader, and Jesse had been the follower. I was the ambitious one, the person with answers and advice. And now the shoe was on the other foot. Jesse had a career and a happy life, and I was a goddamn mess. But maybe I’d always been a mess. I was just excellent at covering it up with a smile. 
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

Hard Wired (Cyberlove #3)
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Our 4 to 4.5 star reviews

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.
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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