Rating: 5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon
Type: Novel in a Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: 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*
Review: Staff Sergeant Garrett Reid doesn’t like people. Being deployed and stuck on a military base makes it hard to avoid people, but he manages to hide out in his bunk and game on his nice, high end laptop. As he’s happily gaining some experience in a cave complex he gets killed. Publicly. By a guy who turns out to be amazingly gorgeous, with a group of fans in his Twitch chat who are devoted to him. Garrett lurks and learns everything he can. He’s got plans to beat this guy. For the most part Kai isn’t bothered by the new guy lurking in chat. He is bothered by the fact he killed a deployed serviceman’s character. Is he about to be stalked and killed by a crazy? Maybe? Garrett really didn’t expect to be so interested in Kai. He found himself researching Kai. He found himself a little stunned with what he found. Kai has a porn history, which Garrett avoids, but Kai also has quite a few people who seem to be very obsessed. Even though he knows he’s skirting an obsession himself, Garrett attempts to start a dialogue with Kai. Kai surprises himself when he starts talking to Garrett. Kai’s social anxiety makes it hard to deal with people. And new situations. And going outside. And confrontation. But, things progress with Garrett. Nicely. It becomes way more than either guy ever expected.
This story starts with a meet cute and progresses into a funny, sexy, compassionate, and sweet romance. I don’t really care about that stuff, though. What really impressed me about this book was the handling of social issues. I’ve read too many books that are preachy and come across like a bad ABC Afterschool Special. Veteran unemployment is a serious issue. Stalking is a serious issue. Acceptance of porn actors is a serious issue. In this book they are treated as such, but they’re handled in ways that don’t overwhelm the story or the reader. Veteran unemployment and mental illness function successfully as plot points, but at no point did I feel they were exploited or written about purely because they are issues.
Garrett and Kai make a great couple partly because of their respective issues with people. Neither man wants extraneous people in his life. However, Garrett just dislikes most people whereas Kai has a social anxiety disorder. Garrett can function with people around him, Kai can’t. Garrett was a wonderful strong, silent type who found himself opening up to the man he loves. Kai was a cute Gaymer, and he appeared maybe a bit quirky, but he had serious issues that weren’t going to go away with the love of a good man. And really, it’s appropriate they didn’t. Love doesn’t cure mental illness. Kai really shone as a character when he had his Jack Nicholson moment and realized he wanted to be a better man, because he refused to believe never leaving his own apartment could be as good as it gets. Kai wanted more for himself. That it also worked out great for Garrett was gravy.
So yes, this is a respectful treatment of problems affecting society and I appreciate that deeply, but this book does start with a charming, on-line meet cute and progress into a funny, sexy, compassionate, and sweet romance. It appears to do both effortlessly. That’s rare.