3.5 stars upgraded to 4 because gaming rocks, y’all. Albeit far from perfect, Strong Signal made me smile so big, I have to be lenient. Here’s why.
1) RELATABLE STUFF ALERT for my gamer heart –
A message popped through from Samwise – a single wink emoticon.
What. The. Fuck.
The orc once again started dancing in his shiny metallic tunic while my human archer lay dead on the floor at his green feet.
I was so pissed.
I can’t begin to express how much I enjoyed Kai and Garrett’s first interactions. See, Kai’s farming in a low-level catacomb, even though the guy’s got A++ stats. Now that’s just annoying, you know? So when he *GASP* kills that poor Garrett’s avatar, I was right there with him, outraged. Of course Garrett starts stalking him on his stream, but what else could he have done, I mean…. Nooooo, I wouldn’t do that. Nooooo.
ANYWAY. From Twitch over-the-top chats to near-stalking tumblr posts, everything felt so realistic to me, I loved it. I’d totally watch Kai’s stream, by the way.
There then follows a smile-inducing exchange of emails, during which Kai and Garrett slowly become accustomed to each other, and…
2) THEY ARE FREAKING ADORABLE TOGETHER. For real. I’ve said it before, but online interactions make for the best romance novels when they’re done right, and in Strong Signal it was perfect. First, they acknowledge the different personas one shows on the internet, and what it means in terms of honesty. Sure, there are creepy trolls everywhere, but most of the time we are not so much lying as expressing ourselves more freely, you know? I mean, I already have slightly different personalities in English and in French (no I am not making shit up, look it up), I can’t deny that typing my thoughts rather than expressing them out loud also change my interactions. I’m always Anna, though, as Garrett and Kai always are themselves too. They’re just a bit less introvert, and that was for the best 😉
Secondly, seeing them getting closer and closer was just so damn fun (and hot, alright). And when they do meet… Oh boy… I was scared that their chemistry would falter, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Their complicity was just so beautiful ❤ So, sure, the jumps in time do make their love seem a bit insta-lovish, and there are many sex-scenes (I wouldn’t say too many, but other readers might feel differently), but I really rooted for them all the same. Shrugs.
3) NO MAGIC DICK. See, Kai has social anxiety and needs to control his environment in order to feel safe enough to interact with someone. Too often do romance novels make a mental illness disappear in the wake of a love-story, and I really appreciated that it wasn’t the case in Strong Signal. Of course, their burgeoning relationship matters and weighs in his decision to consult someone, but it isn’t magically erased.
4) FAMILY DYNAMICS WOOT! In all honesty, Garrett’s interactions with his sister and his mother were pretty rare, BUT they rang so true and were really heart-warming and funny?
However, the story was a little too short for my liking, and it resulted in a lack of depth in my opinion. Some scenes were rushed, especially towards the end, and I’d have loved to get more details about their every day life, their fears, their hopes along the way. I wasn’t really convinced by Garrett’s deployed life either, only because everything felt so… vague, out-rooted, like a gigantic bubble of glass. Compared to gems like Sutphin Boulevard or Illegal Contact, it did feel a bit superficial, unfortunately.
Nevertheless, if you ever need to read a feel-good romance without stupid angst, chances are that Strong Signal. will be right up your alley.
TW – social anxiety