Title: Strong Signal
Series: Cyberlove #1
Author: Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
Release Date: February 15, 2016
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*
I don’t even know how to start this review while this book is sitting smack dab in the middle of my heart, feasting on my feels and keeping me all warm and fuzzy with its near perfect beauty. Because this book is near perfect. And it is beautiful. And it is currently holding my heart hostage—I’m not even one bit interested in saying goodbye to these characters yet. Let’s see if I can get through this review without flailing, shall we?
It’s okay though. Because if ever there were a book deserving of flails and squeals, it would be this one.
Garrett Reid is counting down his final months of deployment—spending his free time escaping from his mind-numbing reality by losing himself in his gaming—when he stumbles upon Kai Bannon, a fellow gamer, online. Kai isn’t just a fellow gamer, though. He’s kind of a famous one and he has his own stream channel with thousands of viewers. When Garrett starts following Kai’s gaming feeds, he isn’t looking for friendship, and certainly not more than that, but what starts as a few trollish comments eventually develops into deeper conversations and from there, completely catches fire and becomes so, so much more.
There’s a sort of stunning beauty to their story. Anyone who has ever met someone online knows how quickly and intensely those relationships can develop. It’s so easy to reveal the bits of yourself that you hide from the rest of the world when you’re tucked safely in anonymity. The feelings between Kai and Garrett grow fast and furious, and as things heat up in the sexiest ways imaginable, their hearts become fully invested and the only thing left is to take this cyber-relationship to the next level.
Of course, things are never as easy as they should be and that step is hard even in the most difficult of circumstances. For Kai, some secrets were too painful to share even under the blanket of anonymity and distance. The transition for Kai and Garrett isn’t smooth, but it felt real, true to their characters, and it raked across my heart in this torturously beautiful way.
I . LOVED. THIS. BOOK.
I loved surly Garrett (oh, I love a grumpy hero) and his alpha tendencies and over-protective ways. I loved introverted Kai and his big, beatiful heart that was too fragile for the harshness of the world. I loved every single thing about their relationship; the friendship that they formed, the scorching hot physical chemistry (I’m not even lying about that—your panties are on notice people, this is one of the hottest books I’ve read in a long time), and their devotion to each other.
The pairing of these writers was sublime—their ability to tackle the issues addressed in this book with aching tenderness, gritty rawness, and pockets of adorable humor gave this book a depth that is nearly fathomless. I was wholly sucked in—I still am, as Kai and Garrett hold my heart hostage while I bask in the beauty of them, their relationship, these words, and all the feelings I am left with. Fucking phenomenal. GO READ IT!
~ Review by Shelly
Everything. That's what this book is. EVERYTHING. From start to finish, I was hooked on Strong Signal. I’m pretty sure unputdownable is too mild a word for this book—that's how freaking good it was. Written by two authors who I have loved in the past—Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell—Strong Signal was like a co-writing dream come true for me. Too gushy/fangirly? Meh, don't care. I had expected to enjoy this book because of the authors. I just didn't expect to enjoy it this fucking much. Seamlessly written, sexy as hell and very emotional, this story just got to me, and now all I want to do is list increasingly elaborate and obscure adjectives in the hopes it'll make it clear that I LOVED THIS BOOK.
I won't, though. Mainly because I don't know where to start. Or if I even can. My *flails* are kinda out of control because Kai and Garrett were so much. So, so much. Their filthy hot banter was, well, filthy and hot. If for no other reason than that, you should read this book. But Strong Signal isn't just sexy webcam sessions and against-the-wall loving that'll raise your temperature and set your Kindle on fire. There are so many feels here, too. Dare I say ALL the feels? Yes, I think that's apt.
It made me happy—I adored seeing Garrett and Kai come out of their shells with one another. The dog and red panda? Gah, LOVE.
It made me sad—I may have a new brow winkle from the frowning I did as I watched these two men struggle. Garrett’s arrival home? Ugh. Worth the cost of anti-aging cream, me thinks.
It amused the hell out of me—there were some funny, funny moments that pulled loud chuckles, little giggles, and big smiles from me. Nicole was a scene-stealer.
It felt familiar and real, and oh, so raw—especially for someone that lives their life online, it was bracing to see how introverted and closed off one can become when you don't have to venture into the big, bad world.
And, damn it, it got me angry at times—I hated to see Kai and Garrett falter, and I hated to see them question themselves. There were a few other things that made me STABBY (in the best way), but those I'll leave you to discover for yourselves.
There's more. I could probably go on and on and on about this book and how it made me feel. Especially about Garrett. MY Garrett, that sweet, stoic, fucking perfect bastard. I mean, not really perfect, but perfect to me. He just made me sigh, and want to hug him and love on him a little. Okay, a lot. Can you blame me? He was stuck in the desert, and still managed to be this adorable and soft guy, who I never doubted was as rough, gruff and tough as he seemed. The ultimate mix of ripped alpha male and swoonworthy book boyfriend.
BUT...instead of continuing this ode to MY Army boy and Fuck Yea, Kai Bannon (and these authors), I'll just say this—BUY. THIS. BOOK. When I say it's everything, I mean it. It is Every. Damn. Thing.
~ Review by Beth
Rarely do I read a book that gives me complete ratings regret. In the case of Strong Signal, I wish that I could go back and re-review all the recent books that I gave outstanding ratings to and just simply put "Read Strong Signal for how a 5 star book should be written." It's not that the other books weren't great, it's just that the typical 5 star rating doesn't leave any room for what Strong Signal is: truly an outstanding book. If you are new to M/M, this book will pop your cherry in all the right ways. The author collaboration was a match made in pure euphoric heaven.
The main characters were written flawlessly. Kai is a gamer with the perfect dancer's body, who has a few secrets of his own, including a case of social anxiety...to put it extremely mildly. Once he is on his Twitch stream, he finds his escape and nothing else really matters. He becomes the star of the show and loves every second. While, Garrett on the other hand, is a macho soldier with a dream worthy six-pack, who happens to have a soft side for a specific 'gaymer' boy. Together, this unlikely pairing becomes what all relationships should aspire to. Caring, understanding, patient and loyal... these two are what geeky fairy tales are made of.
Let's take a moment to talk about the chemistry between them. Simply put, I wanted to be a gay man while reading this book. You will too, trust this. Without giving too much away, these two had such a slow simmer that when things finally came to a boil, there was no stopping the sex appeal from completely overflowing. I'm still recovering from my fantasy of being a different gender so that I could partake in some of what they were throwing down. That is how perfectly erotic this M/M is.
Do yourself a favor and buy this book. It is one you'll want to read again and again.
~ Review by Kelly
Megan Erickson worked as a journalist covering real-life dramas before she decided she liked writing her own endings better and switched to fiction.
She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids and two cats. When she's not tapping away on her laptop, she's probably listening to the characters in her head who won't stop talking.
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.