***NOTE: (Updated Mar 2018) Leaving the review not because of Santino but because of Megan. Also, I received an ARC for this so I am holding up my end of the bargain. This is no way a denial of those hurt by Santino and and I actually do want to give a shout out to all the brave souls who bared themselves and told their stories. May they find the healing they deserve.)
By Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
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.
Not to make light of a medical condition, but I’m seriously experiencing word salad as far as my feelings are concerned for this one. While I love all the previous books, especially Luke and Dom's, there is something with this one that hit all the right buttons for me. Once I started this, my eyes just stayed glued to the pages so no matter how much I wanted to slow my reading down, I just couldn’t.
This is Beau and Zane’s, or Bane’s, story. If you’d read Hard Wired, you’d have met them. Beau is Jessie’s cousin who was really a good support for Jessie. Zane is another vlogger like Beau. They move in the same circle but approach their vlog very differently. Beau is all about positivity and Zane is all about playing it real. They don’t like each other, plain and simple. But underneath that dislike, there is a strong simmering attraction that neither one can explain. As the saying goes, love and hate are just 2 sides of the same coin.
One act to change the tide of things to come, one challenge to confirm what they already know, one move to amplify up the heat between them, one event to move their relationship forward, one wrong decision to unravel them all, and one epic grovel for a grand gesture. Love, love, love, love!!
Beau is full of surprises, I must say. I didn’t expect that side of him when I had my first glimpse of him. I love the subtlety in which Megtino reveals a different side to Beau. Zane, on the other hand, has a larger than life personality so to give that kind of contrast to his private life in a nuanced manner is quite absorbing to see. Goes without saying, Beau and Zane are like yin and yang; a nice balance to each other’s personality and complements to each other’s strength.
If you’re ambivalent about enemies-to-lovers trope, then I believe this will convert you. There is such a bite to their relationship, the banter is on point. I thought it was clever to show the relationship evolving thru their texts. The humor opens up and the feels build up.
This online world that Megtino creates for us captures the time we're in now when people can become internet famous, when people can have more followers than the Hollywood types, when their lives are just on display as the A-list celebrities. It's insane on the one hand, but makes sense on the other given how technology has managed to equalize and shift power to those who know how to use it.
Anyhoot, getting off my soapbox, let me just say that Beau and Zane together just sizzled!!! 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 This may be the hottest one so far, just sayin... It also has just the right amount of feels, from their moments of doubts to their resolve. I dare you not to be moved by Beau's words near the end, I just dare you!
And in similar fashion as its predecessors, you meet old characters who've become near and dear to the series' fans' hearts and new ones who definitely will pique your curiosity.
Ok, Megtino, next, please!!!!!!!!!!
My door burst open, and I sat up from my two-week-old couch divot. Had I locked the door after the pizza man had left days ago? When I heard Jesse’s and Ian’s voices, I thought I was hallucinating. Why were they in L.A.?
“You can’t just barge in,” Jesse said. “Knock.”
“He’s probably just in the bathroom looking at himself in the mirror and taking selfies.” That was Ian.
What was the date? I picked up my phone and swiped to my calendar. Oh f*ck, Jesse and Ian were in town scouting apartments. They said they’d drop by to see me and I was….
Jesse stopped so abruptly that Ian crashed into his back. They both stared down at me in horror.
“Beau has facial hair?” Ian clutched his boyfriend’s shoulders. “I honestly thought he had laser hair removal.”
“Seriously?” I said, at the same time Jesse rolled his eyes. “I can grow a beard if I want to. I just never want to, okay? It comes in patchy and it itches.”
“Huh.” Ian watched me suspiciously, like I was going to turn into a werewolf.
“I’m just having a bit of a lie-in,” I said.
Ian’s eyes got bigger. “A lie-in? What are you, British?”
Jesse, my dear cousin, looked downright concerned. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Nothing is wrong. Can’t a guy have some downtime?”
Jesse sat down next to me, wrinkling his nose and glancing down at my body. “Beau, downtime for you is like…drinks at the beach. This is—” He gestured at me. “I don’t know what this is. Did you remember we were stopping by?”
I picked up my phone and pretended to look at it. “I might have put it in my calendar wrong. Sorry about that. So, how is apartment hunting for you two lovebirds? Are you two okay in separate chairs here? Any separation anxiety?”
Jesse poked me with his elbow. “Apartment hunting is expensive.” He eyed Ian who’d curled himself up on a chair across from us, gaze on his phone. “But we can talk about that later. Do you want to shower? Change your pants?”
“Are you my mom?”
“Well, no, but I’m concerned!”
“And I’m fine,” I said through gritted teeth, annoyed with his questioning.
“Did you pre-record the last two weeks’ videos?” Ian asked bluntly.
“Yeah, I do that a lot when I travel.”
Ian raised his eyebrows, but I stared back at him in a challenge. Usually I lived for our banter, but today was not the day.
“Okay,” he said slowly. “Just curious, because you look like that. And Zane has been posting weird videos. And there’s some rumors you had some kind of intense convo at the bar at NerdCon.”
I froze. My mom mentioning our videos was no big deal. But actual rumors that we were talking? Shit. I wasn’t ready to explain my actions at the bar, or in the hotel room, with anyone. Not even Jesse. Especially considering how much shit I talked about Zane to him on a regular basis.
“We talked for a minute about the panel, but that was it.” I rolled my eyes and flopped back down on the couch, resting my feet on Jesse, who made a face. “People always want to make drama where there isn’t any. And is Zane posting weird videos out of the norm? He’s Zane.”
Ian eyeballed me suspiciously. “I guess,” he muttered before refocusing on his phone.
“Ian’s been worried about Zane,” Jesse said.
“Oh?” I was so good at pretending everything was okay.
“Yeah, his videos have been off for the last two weeks.”
“Huh. I’m sure he’ll let everyone know why soon or snap back in a little bit.”
“Maybe I’ll reach out to him,” Ian said.
“I’ll see him at Rainbow Ball next week,” I said, not knowing why I was speaking at all. “I’ll check in with him, tell him you asked about him.”
Ian gave me another of his analyzing stares. “Yeah, I’d like that. Tell him I’m thinking of him.”
“Sure,” I said.
It looked like he wanted to say more, but his phone rang. A smile spread over his face, and he jumped up. “Hey, I need to take this. This author wants to hire me for a big commission piece.”
I gestured down the hallway. “You can go into my bedroom if you want.”
When Ian was out of the room, I glanced at Jesse and found him still studying me.
“You want to talk now that Ian is gone?” he 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 f*cked 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.
ABOUT SANTINO HASSELL:
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.
ABOUT MEGAN ERICKSON
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 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.
For more, visit meganerickson.org
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