Advanced Book Review: Hard Wired, by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Please note this book was reviewed prior to the revelation of author known as Santino Hassell’s identity and actions. Please read this statement from Riptide Publishing for more information.

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Hard Wired, by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
Series: Cyberlove, Book 3
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: February 13, 2017

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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.

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow


M/M Pairing
Gay Characters
Social Anxiety
Second Chances
Social Media

Book Review by Rita

It is with a heavy heart that I write this review, especially since Fast Connection (book two) was one of my favorites of 2016. Erickson and Hassell are at the very top of my one-click list but I am regretfully unable to say that this book was as stellar as I had anticipated. I’ll cut right to the chase because I feel something that was an issue for me will not be a problem for a lot of readers.

It seems that if you’ve been following these authors at all of their social media outlets, you’ll find there are quite a few references that you’ve probably heard before. If you don’t follow them then just skip this paragraph, because the following will have no affect on your enjoyment of the book. When I noticed the familiarity in the very beginning I was okay with it, because I’ve seen this done before, and done well. Shuffling in bits of reality with fiction creates a more realistic story and it makes sense that an author would do this. I mean, they’re going to do extensive research when they’re writing about a topic unfamiliar to them, so the only thing better would be to write about their actual experiences. The thing is, when key details have already been posted online it makes the book feel like a retelling of something the reader already knows. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when authors throw in the occasional easter egg or inside joke, but it went beyond that here. While I was willing to look past it in the beginning, as I continued to read up until about the halfway point I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I had already read this somewhere before, which made the story feel unoriginal. Again, I feel very strongly that if I wasn’t in the know I would find the story both imaginative and engaging. It’s something that I was disappointed with in the book, and disheartened that I had to mention in my review.

Putting the familiar bits aside, at the heart of Ian and Jesse, their story was not what I expected at all. Once again the authors do an incredible job with character growth and they do so seamlessly. It’s clear that this writing duo has fun together and it always shows on the page. Hard Wired could be read as a standalone but I feel like you’d really be missing out if you skip Strong Signal, the first in the series, where we’re introduced to these Twitch mods.

The authors also do an excellent job of depicting social anxiety and what it’s like for people affected by this disorder when so much of their lives are online. That said, Ian’s emo-angst is off the charts and I was often torn between utter frustration and feeling all the love for him as he struggles with how to deal with his different personas, and Jesse’s confrontations for him to just be himself. This was something that I really liked, but it also worked against the romance, which I feel ended up taking a back seat to everything else that was happening. For the majority of the book it was hard to see how they were ever going to make it happen, and if it weren’t for Jesse’s persistence I really don’t believe it would have. At least not with so much distance between them. However, it was nice to see Jesse fight for Ian since he often puts everyone else’s needs before his own. Needless to say, I wanted to smack both of them on more than one occasion so you can imagine my relief when they FINALLY started to get their shit together.

Something that I really love about Santino and now also Megan is that they go the extra mile with promo by doing things like posting character inspiration, commissioning original art and creating tumblr accounts. It enhances the entire reading experience and it’s something I look forward to with each new release. Be sure to check out some of Ian’s, aka Cerise’s, work here:

In the end this may not have been my favorite in the series but that’s not going to stop me from reading the next one. I’ll still one-click because I have no doubt they’ll have me falling in love with their words all over again.


megan14Megan 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.

Follow Megan: Website / Goodreads / Twitter / Facebook

Santino HassellSantino 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.

Follow Santino: Website / Goodreads / Twitter / Facebook

You can purchase HARD WIRED from:
Barnes & Noble

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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.


4 thoughts on “Advanced Book Review: Hard Wired, by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

  1. I was kind of meh about this one too. And I looooved Fast Connection.

    I don’t follow the authors on social media so I didn’t have the problem of it feeling unoriginal. But I definitely felt that the romance took a back seat to both of them starting to get their shit together. It works much better as a coming of age story for me than a romance. It was a believable relationship between two messed up 20-somethings but it wasn’t very romantic to me.

    I was glad it had an hfn ending. I liked both characters but I felt they both had so much more work to do that I would have had a problem with a firmer hea.

    I also have depression and anxiety related to childhood trauma and I thought they did a good job of portraying Ian’s various coping methods. But I wanted him to get more therapy! Good, trauma informed therapy!! I remember him mentioning getting treated for his anxiety and depression in book 1 so I was expecting it to show up more in this book.


    • I couldn’t agree more. I felt they read much younger than their twenty-something selves. Ian’s issues were serious to the point that I don’t think allowing himself to fall in love with Jesse was going to truly help him and I, too, was waiting for therapy to be part of the resolution so I was disappointed when it wasn’t. You also make a good point about the HFN ending. I agree with others who’ve said that after all they went through, the ending wraps up a little too quickly and neatly to be completely believable. That said, I think the epilogue hints at an HEA which I feel is a missed opportunity since it jumps ahead in time and doesn’t give the reader the satisfaction of seeing everything they went through to get to that point.


      • I felt the same way about falling for Jesse not being that healthy for Ian. In fact the dynamics of their relationship reminded me a lot of some of my less healthy friendships and relationships in my 20s.

        And I agree, I could have done without the jump to the future and the glimpse of an hea.

        The more I think about it, the more disappointed I am – especially compared to book one, where both Garrett and Kai took responsibility for getting their own shit together and where loving Garrett inspired Kai to get help.


      • So true. I feel like overall the quality of HW just doesn’t meet what we’re used to from these authors. As if they rushed through it or they possibly need fresh beta readers. I hope this isn’t a sign of what we’re to expect with future books.


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