Jesse Garvy is a mod for a well known Twitch channel and is attending his first con. Jesse feels out of his element, but he is there to sit on a well-attended panel and meet some gamers. He is also hoping to connect with Cherry, the other mod on the channel, as their communication has been strictly online. Jesse is also just getting comfortable with the idea that he wants to be with men and when he lays eyes on a sultry, tattooed, fan-artist he can’t look away.
The artist is none other than Ian Larsen, known to the gaming world as Cherry, and known to the fan art world as Cerise. Being Cherry allows Ian to be a little more upbeat and since all of his interactions as Cherry have been solely online, everyone mistakenly assumed he was a girl. Ian knows exactly who Jesse is and has been crushing on him hard for a while. Ian had a rough childhood and all the hands ever laid on him have been rough as well, but Jesse touches him with tenderness and although Ian knows he has to tell Jesse who he is, he can’t make himself let the night end.
The guys spend a close night together and it’s not until the next day that Jesse learns who Ian really is. While Jesse is hurt and feels like he’s been played, he can’t stop thinking about Ian and wants Ian to explain exactly what’s going on. But Ian’s not ready for all of his personas to come together and takes off. Back online, Ian shuts it all down, but Jesse knows how good they could be together.
Certain series stay with you and you highly anticipate the next book, and this is exactly the case for me with the Cyberlove series. Cherry and Jesse have been briefly visible in the other two books as the mods for Kai’s Twitch channel. They were also seen at the end of Fast Connection and the beginning of this book overlaps that time frame from a different angle.
Ian and Jesse are both amazing characters. While I do have a soft spot for broody characters like Ian, Jesse is the perfect complement to him. Ian grew up in a group home and then was in a foster home and both left its mark on him. His early years are not offered in great detail, but there is enough given to get a sense of what he might have gone through. After being bullied, he went right into the hating people mode and it was in his early teens that he created Cerise. Cerise enabled him to get his art out there, but was also a life line and a way to become someone different. Ian makes part of his living from his Cerise art work and he is a master of taking on different personas for different situations. He had no plan to merge any of these personas and he has yet to figure out how to be Ian and leave all of his carefully crafted armor behind.
Jesse is a blonde, California surfer. He lacks self confidence and is currently stuck. His parents, who consider themselves free spirits, really just haven’t figured out how to hold down jobs, and are constantly asking Jesse for money. Jesse’s cousin, Beau, a well known vlogger, has offered Jesse a place to stay in LA and pushes Jesse to go for his dream of starting his own YouTube channel, but Jesse can’t figure out how to cut the parental ties.
The story is highly introspective as we spend a lot of time in the heads of both characters. Ian fell for Jesse online and the authors do a great job of showcasing how in awe of Jesse he is. He’s filled with anxiety and never thinks that someone as good as Jesse would look twice at him as he doesn’t feel worthy of anything. A good portion of the book they are not physically together, but they chat online and it’s there where they can let their guard down and be themselves behind the computer screen. And it really doesn’t matter if phone sex is your thing or not because these guys make damn fine use of a telephone.
Most of their struggles are internal, both guys are messy inside, but they help prop each other up and untangle each other just a bit as they are better together. This series excels with character development and relationship building and it’s all in there to watch unravel. This book could work as a standalone, but having all of the connections and falling back into this already created world worked best for me. There are brief cameos from the other MCs in the series, as well as the regulars in chat–think Boricua. Also, the groundwork may have been set for another pairing in this world and now the anticipation can begin all over again. Achievement Unlocked.