REVIEW: Fast Connection (Cyberlove #2) by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
After a decade of serving in the Army, everyone still expects me to be Dominic “Nicky” Costigan, the skirt-chasing player. They don’t know I’ve been spending my days trying to figure out my post-military life. Including how to pick up guys. When I meet Luke on a hookup app, he makes it clear it’s for one-night only. That’s fine with me, because I’m down to see what this silver fox can do. But after I arrive at his doorstep, it doesn’t take long to realize we have serious chemistry, and we end up meeting again. He’s got more walls around his heart than a military base, but I think he’s as addicted to me as I am to him. He can’t resist me for long. I mean, who can? Except Luke’s rules exist for a reason, and when I test his limits, things get complicated. Maybe too complicated.
Dear Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell,
I am aware that many readers loved the first book in this series, but I was underwhelmed by it and to be quite honest I was not sure whether to buy the second book. However, I enjoyed Santino Hassell’s solo works so much that I decided to give this book a try, and I’m glad I did.
In this story we are reintroduced to Dominic, and in much greater detail. He was Garrett’s comrade in arms, occasional hook up, and kind of an ass in the first book. In the first book Dominic came to realize that he was bisexual and that he had feelings for Garrett, but Garrett was no longer available. That’s my recollection anyway – I have no desire to reread the first book to double check, sorry. As far as I remember, Dominic wanted to keep in touch with Garrett after they leave the army. Garrett did not sound too enthusiastic but did not completely shut down the possibility.
The book begins with Dominic texting Garrett, asking how to use Grindr dating application and Garrett gives him some pointers about what pictures he should use. From Dominic’s narration, we have learned almost immediately that returning to civilian life is like going back in time – he’s working in his parents’ bagel shop and living in his parents’ basement. He feels that at 27 he has matured as a person and needs to move out, but he is not a hundred percent sure about what he wants to do as a career and what steps he needs to take to pursue it. There is also an incident where his father loses his temper and yells at both Dominic and his sixteen year old sister, and Dominic is reluctant to leave her without his support. As I mentioned before, Dominic knows now that he is bisexual, but with the situation at home he is at no hurry to come out to his parents.
As an aside, I was so impressed with the portrayal of Dominic’s parents. They are portrayed as flawed people, but not as terrible people and terrible parents. I mean, of course terrible parents exist too; I was just happy that the writers avoided the easy route and did not make them into caricatures. In this situation even decent people can make mistakes when external pressures are piling up and they are worried that their family’s livelihood can be taken away.
Dominic needs relief from the everyday routine he has fallen into, and when he puts his picture on the dating app, he meets Luke.
Luke is 39 years old and also served in the army. He became an officer but was dishonorably discharged because of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. I don’t want to give away the specifics about what happened, but as you can probably guess the circumstances of the discharge left Luke with a huge chip on his shoulder. Thankfully, Luke did not fall apart – he had two small kids to raise whom he parented with his lovely ex-wife Nadia (who rocked as a character too I thought), so he pulled himself up and kept going. He started his own landscaping business and made it a success, and overall life is good for him when the story starts.
Luke is still friends with Nadia, and they share joint custody of the kids, who are sixteen now and who seem to be well-adjusted teenagers. However, Luke does not do relationships – he keeps his personal and sex life completely separate. The kids now live with him during the week (because Nadia moved to New Jersey and the kids did not want to leave the prestigious high school they had been accepted to) and stay with their mom on weekends. So Luke schedules his Grindr hook-ups on the weekends when the kids are away. Oh, and he has also made it a rule not to do repeats. Nadia knows all about his personal situation, and she hope Luke can eventually find somebody to have a real relationship with.
Of course since this is a romance you can guess that when Luke and Dominic meet, Dominic gets under his skin pretty fast and as much as Luke resists it, he bends his self-imposed rules one after the other.
As much as Luke does not “do relationships,” once he realizes that Dominic means a lot to him he is able to listen and encourage his dreams and inspirations. And Dominic is able to help Luke to unwind (even if that happens with one step forward, two steps backwards kind of pace). These two just seemed to fit well together to me. I am going to let you listen to a serious conversation they had, but their text messages were also worth reading and funny.
“I polished off the sandwich and nodded. “My situation isn’t ideal. Most days I just want to fucking—” The rest of the sentence was too pathetic to finish. I sneaked a glance at Luke. He was watching me closely. “Most days I just feel like all of this is pointless.” “Explain.” “Just—” Gesturing vaguely, I tried to find the words to explain without saying too much. “I’m just… I’m a waste, man.”
Luke moved the plate from the bed. I almost expected him to give me some empty platitude or to brush it off and change the awkward subject, but he just kept giving me that thorough glare of his. “You feel like a waste because you’re wasting your time. Decide what you want and follow through with a plan.” When I didn’t say anything, he went on. It was the longest he’d ever spoken to me in person. Which was sort of weird to realize.
“You’ve been thinking about this. Tell me what’s on your mind.” “It’s stupid.” “It’s stupid of you to act like a shy kid being asked to the prom when I’m asking about career prospects.” A laugh popped out of my mouth. “You’re such a grown-up.” “What do you want to do with yourself, Dominic?” “Fine. Jesus.” I raked a hand through my hair. “I was thinking about being an EMT, but that’s probably not going to happen.” “Why do you want to be an EMT?
He asked, totally skipping over my pity-party. “Because I’m good at being a first responder. I have fast reflexes. I don’t freeze up in an emergency. I can handle gore.” I searched his face for a sign of judgment. My father had scoffed and said I was still trying to play hero without taking on the responsibility of having to once again carry a gun. Maybe other people saw it that way. They probably did. It was partially true. “I want to do something that matters.” Luke nodded shortly. “Makes perfect sense to me. Do it.” “Really?” “Yes. And you’d be good at it. Your sense of humor would be a good distraction. You could ask them about whether the Mets have a shot at the pennant while checking their vitals.” I smirked. “That would depress them.” “You know what I mean.” Luke stood up…”
“I hadn’t been blowing smoke up his ass. I did think he’d make a great EMT, and my research showed the field was supposed to grow over twenty percent in the next five years. Yeah, I’d made fucking notes and shit. I wanted him to be happy. When I’d told him I thought he’d make a great EMT, his whole face had lit up. It pissed me off he didn’t have other people to encourage him. Except… I liked being the one who made him smile.”
Of course there are always complications the characters need to overcome on the way to happy ending. At first glance the complications may have arisen because of the coincidences the writers imposed on the narrative (no kidding, if the guys are living couple of blocks from each other, they are bound to see each other’s families at some point). However, taking another look, I realized that really the complications arose because the characters acted the way actual human beings would act. I mean, teenagers being rebellious is nothing new and will always be happening even if the teenagers in question are wonderful kids overall. Loving parents will frequently be protective to the point of being overprotective of their kids against the world even if they do not need much protection. I am deliberately speaking in generalities because I do not want to spoil the book for you.
I really enjoyed the book and have already reread it twice, which to me signifies a memorable read.