Title ~ Focus on Me (In Focus #2)
Author ~ Megan Erickson
Publisher ~ Intermix
Published ~ 21st July 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
A sexy new romance from the author of Trust the Focus.
Colin Hartman can now add college to his list of failures. On the coast-to-coast trek home from California, Colin stops at a gas station in the Nevada desert, and can’t help noticing the guy in tight jeans looking like he just stepped off a catwalk. When he realizes Catwalk is stranded, Colin offers a ride.
Riley only intended to take a short ride in Colin's Jeep to the Grand Canyon. But one detour leads to another until they finally find themselves tumbling into bed together. However there are shadows in Riley's eyes that hide a troubled past. And when those shadows threaten to bury the man whom Colin has fallen in love with, he vows to get Riley the help he needs. For once in his life, quitting isn't an option…
Megan Erickson is a prolific and well-respected author, but until her new “In Focus” series, she wrote primarily straight romance. With Focus on Me and Trust the Focus, she brings her amazing talent and rich characters to the Gay side. I’m so glad she did. I have quickly become one of her most ardent and dedicated fans.
It’s not just because of her brilliant writing and vivid characters. It’s not just because her themes are so personal and deeply-felt. It’s not just because her characters are passionate and hot. It’s also because her books are deep, they work on many levels, are rife with metaphor and meaning, but also engage both the heart and the mind – or perhaps more accurately, they engage the mind through the heart.
Both books share a couple of intriguing themes: road trips and photography. I must admit, I’m not a big fan of road trip books. I sometimes feel like I’m reading a sex tour of exotic locales in some kind of Gay road atlas. But Ms. Erickson has managed to take what should be mundane, what should be a boring look at the everyday lives of two relatively ordinary young men and imbues them with incredible power and fascination. Somehow, the author crawled right inside their heads and hearts and brought them to life, so vividly, that I was rooted to the page. I couldn’t put either “In focus” book down
From time-to-time, I’ve worked as a semi-professional photographer or written about photography which is, perhaps, why I found this second metaphor so resonant. I’ve always viewed photography as the art of taking the ordinary, the things we never pay much attention to, the things not obvious, and focusing in tightly on them to expose the extraordinary beauty within.
In Focus on Me, this is exactly what Ms. Erickson has done. She takes her characters, Colin and Riley, on a trip across the United States, and exposes the souls of both of these remarkable young men as she focuses tightly in on their shared experiences and internal conversations. This is a journey on the roads of America and a journey of discovery between these two and into the truths of their own souls, a journey neither knew he was on when they met, as strangers, in the California-Nevada desert.
Their story starts in a gas station on the side of a dusty, little-traveled road, heading east from California. Riley, the breathtakingly beautiful, but delicate and out-of-place young man, is arguing with the gas station clerk, who informs him that there is no longer a bus station there, or a taxi service, and he doesn’t want him to loiter, he needs to move along. How? With no bus, car or taxi service, he is stranded in the middle of nowhere.
As fortune would have it, Colin is standing right behind him in line, waiting to pay for his gas. He offers the stranded Riley a ride. Colin, the recently ex-college-football-player is heading home to North Carolina after giving up on his education and his sport when he realized he didn’t really want either. College and football were the expectations others imposed upon him, not his own dreams. His were much humbler. He was the typical small-town football star, the local hero who shouldn’t “waste his talent”. But in his heart, he is just a rather ordinary young gay man who wants nothing more out of life than someone to love and a life helping to run his family’s popular restaurant.
Both boys fell into a success they thought they should want, but turned out to be a burden, rather than a blessing. One way or another, they’re both on their way “home”, which adds another level to their story: they do indeed find home, but it wasn’t “where” they were looking, it was “with whom”.
Colin and Riley are both keeping secrets, some from each other, some from themselves. Riley is not well. He is seriously clinically depressed which leads to the most important theme, one that Ms. Erickson handles with accuracy, delicacy and empathy – mental illness. Trust me; this is no simple road trip. On the other hand, neither is Focus on Me a “heavy” book laden with nothing but deep truths, shared pain and internal discovery. It’s beautifully written by the assured hand of a master, with moments of levity, revelation, great beauty, and a passionate love that grows, mile-by-mile, as the pair travels on toward the East Coast.
They share many first-time experiences together, from The Grand Canyon to a Native American Sweat Lodge. With each mile, they also share a little bit more of themselves with each other, both wary, neither believing that anything will ever be possible between them. Colin can’t believe that someone as attractive as Riley could be happy with him. Riley just can’t feel. He really can feel almost nothing. He’s not even really sure he’s alive except that being with Colin has made him want. When they make love, he can feel the passion. But beyond that, he feels only irrational jealousy and out-of-control lust, lust borne of desperation and fear. At the same time, he knows that Colin deserves more, more than Riley can give him.
Colin is more and more baffled by this beautiful young man whose confusing and inconsistent behavior leaves him adrift, without a clue as to what’s happening, how this man he’s grown to care so deeply about, perhaps to love, can become so remote that it’s almost as though he’s left the room, or doesn’t even recognize him anymore.
I’ll leave the rest for you to discover. They arrive in North Carolina, Colin realizes Riley needs help, he doesn’t quite know what to do, with his love for Riley and his fear for him battling constantly. Very slowly and gently, Ms. Erikson unpeels the onion, showing us all the hope that always lays just beneath her narrative, like the beautiful photo waiting to be exposed, the truth waiting to be revealed.
And it is a beautiful sight to behold. I hope I haven’t left you with the impression that Focus on Me is a purely intellectual exercise, devoted to metaphor and technical feats of legerdemain. It is so much more. Yes, I love her books for the many levels on which they work, but none of them work without the humanity, authenticity and love that she invests in her stories and her characters.
So, whether you’re looking just for great writing by an accomplished author, or the whole package – a story that will move you to joy and tears, a story about love, a story about finding yourself, you simply cannot do better than this one.
With his college graduation gown expertly pitched into the trash, Justin Akron is ready for the road trip he planned with his best friend Landry— and ready for one last summer of escape from his mother’s controlling grip. Climbing into the Winnebago his father left him, they set out across America in search of the sites his father had captured through the lens of his Nikon.
As an aspiring photographer, Justin can think of no better way to honor his father’s memory than to scatter his ashes at the sites he held sacred. And there’s no one Justin would rather share the experience with more than Landry.
But Justin knows he can’t escape forever. Eventually he’ll have to return home and join his mother’s Senate campaign. Nor can he escape the truth of who he is, and the fact that he’s in love with his out-and-proud travel companion.
Admitting what he wants could hurt his mother’s conservative political career. But with every click of his shutter and every sprinkle of ash, Justin can’t resist Landry’s pull. And when the truth comes into focus, neither is prepared for the secrets the other is hiding.
Connect with Megan Erickson
Check out Alan’s Interview with Megan Erickson and enter the giveaway for your chance to win a copy of Trust the Focus.
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