Hard Wired by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell (Cyberlove #3)
Published by: Megtino Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Order at: Amazon
Reviewed by: Erin
What to Expect: An exploration of the intersection of our online identities and our physical lives, the realities of the modern economy, and the awesome power of fandom, all wrapped up in lots and lots of explicit sex. A smart and hot love letter to the digital age.
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.
Hard Wired is the thesis statement of the Cyberlove series. Throughout these books, Hassell and Erickson have played with the ideas of online relationships, fandom, identity, how our online and real-life selves intersect, and how those identities and relationships shift over time. These books have shown the – at times literally lifesaving – value of online friendships and also look at the power of having someone physically present in your everyday life who understands you.
This book is the culmination of those ideas: Cherry and Garvy are two people who only know each other online, as moderators for Kai Bannon’s Twitch channel. They’ve worked together for years, but never met in person. When they meet, it’s as Garvy and another of Cherry’s online identities, Cerise. Garvy has no idea Cherry and Cerise are the same person, and he knows nothing about Ian, the anxious, mildly agoraphobic graphic designer who is the man behind the masks. Hell, Ian doesn’t even know who he is himself, without those masks.
Garvy is the happier, less worried, more laid-back online identity of Jesse, a surfer dude who is just drifting along, working at a surf shop and supporting his fiscally irresponsible hippie parents. He’s a “go along to get along guy” in a way that’s slowly draining his money and self-respect. (I could write a whole series just on how money is addressed in this series – it’s complex, subtle, and incredibly modern.) He’s blown away by the prickly, gorgeous, seductive Cerise, but is even more intrigued by the glimpses he gets of Ian.
For me, while I enjoyed the romance and liked watching Jesse and Ian try and figure out their own lives to make room for each other, the best part about this book is its depiction of fandom. I’ve been in online fandom since the late 90’s. I’ve read and written piles of fanfiction. I’ve made all my closest friendships through fandom, friendships that have endured 15+ years. While I’m only on the margins of media fandom at this point in my life, I’ve been watching my teenage daughter get into gaming fandom via YouTube and Tumblr, and I’ve been able to watch the evolution of how fans interact with content/each other, and the growth of fandom-as-income. (Seriously, what other series is addressing the economic realities of modern life, trying to hustle out bits of income here and there from the dregs of our dying society…ok, I’ll stop now.)
My point is: There are a lot of books about fandom. This one felt right, and real. It didn’t ignore the ridiculous and often painful fandom drama, but there is a sincerity to Hard Wired that I really appreciated. Fandom is never the butt of the joke because they’re all inside jokes. I felt so known by this book, and felt the affection for fandom, with all of its problems, on every page. Fandom saves lives, it really does. And fandom saved Ian’s life to the point where he doesn’t know how to grow beyond the identity he created when he was an angry, messed-up teen. How can he turn his back on something so meaningful to him?
Hard Wired struck such a personal note for me that it’s hard for me to objectively review it for other readers. I’m honestly not sure how well it will for for people who have never been involved in online fandom. There are so many references and in-jokes. Additionally, I think the romance is good, but it’s ultimately a story of Jesse and Ian going through their own personal growth before they can commit to being together. This isn’t a bad thing at all, and it’s very satisfyingly realistic, but if you’re in the mood for escapist, big hearts and violins romance, this isn’t the book you’re looking for. (Fast Connection is still my fave in terms of romance.)
However, if you’re looking for absolutely blistering phone sex? Sex on a beach? Sex against the wall? “Never tried it with a dude” sex? Yes, this book is for you. Repeatedly and enthusiastically. Bless these two authors, my eyeballs were sweating.
What you might not like: If you’ve never been in fandom, this book might not be as accessible for you.
What you’ll love: This book is smart, nuanced, fun, and super super hot. What’s not to like?
Erin is a full time contributor to Binge on Books. She is a voracious reader and reviewer who has been been reading romances since she stole them from under her neighbor’s mom’s bed while she was at work. You can read all her reviews here.
Connect with Erin on Twitter: @booksandjoe