Review – Strong Signal by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Posted May 18, 2017 by smutmatters in M/M, Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Strong Signal by Megan Erickson and Santino HassellStrong Signal by Megan Erickson, Santino Hassell
Series: Cyberlove #1
Published by Megtino Press on February 15th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 229
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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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.

Here’s the thing about romance novels. A large percentage of them are surprisingly light on the actual romance. Once our main characters meet, there’s a lot of gazing at asses and thinking about sex and then there’s usually a moment where one realizes they’re in love with the other, but often I don’t really know where that came from because the people involved in the relationship have barely had an actual conversation that didn’t center on why they should have sex and what position it should be in. That sounds like I hate romance novels, but I obviously don’t. It’s just that more often than I’d like I end up wondering where the romance went in my romance novel.

That was so not the case with this book. It’s one of the main reasons I love epistolary novels. There’s so much time and room for people to get to know each other and fall in love. Garrett and Kai first meet when Kai is isolated in his apartment in Pennsylvania and Garrett is stationed overseas. There’s emailing, then IMing, then Skyping. Through it all, Garrett and Kai are getting to know each other, telling each other things they don’t share with anyone else. When they each come to the realization that they’re in love with the other, I don’t question it at all.

This book was beautiful. Both of these men have their issues, but Kai’s go significantly deeper than Garrett’s. Kai hasn’t left his apartment in years. Going outside gives him panic attacks. He manages to go outside once to get some items to put into a care package for Garrett and it doesn’t go well, which just reinforces his agoraphobia. Garrett doesn’t have any diagnosable mental illnesses the way Kai does, but he’s extremely overprotective of everyone in his life, quick to jump to judgement and willing to do whatever it takes to defend those people, even if that means physical violence.

They’re both so considerate of each other and each other’s issues. And once they’re actually together, that doesn’t change. They both try so hard to let the other be who they are and to be better together than they are apart.

I was at RT a couple of weeks ago, and one of the panels I attended was on writing mental illness into fiction. Romance fiction specifically, of course, but what they said could be applied to any fiction. The panel was moderated by Denise Milano Sprung and featured Mercy BrownMelanie Harlow, and Brenda Rothert, and it was one of my favorite panels. One of the things all of these authors emphasized was making it clear that having a mental illness, no matter what it is, does not mean you are not worthy of love. You are worthy of love. But they also made it clear that these books should in no way imply that the love magically fixes the mental illness. This book demonstrated this gorgeously. Kai and Garett’s relationship was easy and fun when they were apart, but once Garrett came home and it became real, Kai struggled to accept Garrett’s love and to accept that he could have it unconditionally. Garrett’s circumstances meant that he couldn’t be as fully present as he wanted to, which fed into Kai’s anxiety, which fed into Garrett’s insecurities, and round and round we went. Garrett did not suddenly stop jumping to conclusions and beating up people he thought were offending him or Kai, and Kai was not suddenly able to leave the house with no issue. By the end of the book, I was confident that they could and were going to get the help they needed to deal with all of it, but it was by no means fixed.

I loved everything about this book. The relationship was a slow burn, even if the sex wasn’t. The sex was scorching hot and an immediate burn. I’m so excited to read the next book in the series and I cannot recommend this one highly enough.

 

About Megan Erickson

My first stories written in crayon-scrawl on loose-leaf notebook paper were about my childhood pet — a deaf cat with dandruff. And after covering real-life dramas as a journalist, I decided I liked writing my own endings better and switched to fiction. My romance novels full of humor and heart are a far cry from those early scribblings about my hygiene-deficient pet.

I live in southern Pennsylvania, with my husband, two kids and two cats. I like a good pint of beer, a greasy bacon cheeseburger, homemade mac and cheese, and a great book with a happily ever after. When I’m not tapping away on my laptop, I’m probably listening to the characters in my head who just. Won’t. Shut. Up.

About Santino Hassell

Santino Hassell was raised by a strict Catholic 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.