Author ~ Megan Erickson
Publisher ~ Intermix
Published ~ 15th March 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Romance trades the open road for the high seas in the latest from the author of Focus on Me and Trust the Focus...
Perpetually shy, Quinn Mathers is content to remain in the shadow of his brash best friend Jess Hartman. But before their college graduation, he and Jess have planned one last hurrah: a spring break Caribbean cruise.
And it won’t be just any cruise. On board are members of the reality show Trip League, which follows young twenty-somethings on adventures around the world. Since the show’s beginning, Quinn has been fascinated by J. R. Butler, with his amazing body, warm eyes, and killer grin. Unfortunately, he’s straight—or so the world thinks.
At nineteen, J. R. signed a contract to play straight for the show, and there’s no way to get out of it now. Yet with each passing day, Quinn and J. R. find it harder to keep their hands off each other and to keep out of the camera’s frame. But when the lens finally focuses on them, J. R. must decide if he’s willing to risk his career by admitting his bisexuality, and Quinn must determine if he's bold enough to stand in the spotlight with the man of his dreams...
Megan Erickson is one of my favorite gay fiction authors. “Out of Frame” is the most recent addition to her “In Focus” series, which also includes the beautifully-written and moving “In Focus” and “Focus on Me”. She uses a camera metaphor as a framework on which she hangs moments in time, events, emotional reactions and insights. “Out of Frame” is a slight departure, in that this one is not snapshots, but rather video – video that never stops, never lets up and never affords the subjects a moment of privacy. What is the most invasive camera of all? The cameras of a reality show, a show designed not to show reality, but to use unscripted moments to build a false, but engaging, narrative, a story born out of editing software with characters created from whole cloth to fit predetermined roles.
To make matters worse, Ms. Erickson ups the ante by adding a whole new level of claustrophobia – the reality show is filmed on a cruise ship while plying the high seas. In so many ways, the voyage is the journey from hell. Trapped by inescapable cameras and hokey, staged events, the cast, crew and people on the cruise live a week of unreality, pressure and manipulation that would make any rational person scream.
Of course, the main characters are anything but rational. But that doesn’t keep them from screaming.
Quinn is a young gay man, a ginger college student who needs SPF 50 just to go out in daylight. He’s accompanied by his BFF, Jess of the blue eyes and hair whipping around her shoulders, as the ship prepares to embark. This is a long-time dream they’ve shared all through college - scrimping and saving to finally “live it up” on a Caribbean cruise alongside the cast and crew of the hit reality series, Trip League.
Of course there are a number of potential obstacles already creating possible angst: Quinn is infamous as “Mr. I-Puke-On-All-Forms-of-Transportation”. Quinn’s parents, who will call approximately once an hour to make sure Quinn is OK - because they both think their son is only four years old – hence, he sports a package of sea-sickness wrist bands to ward off the inevitable nausea threatening to ruin their cruise. Quinn is a college senior, embarking on his first attempt at a pre-planned good time, and he’s determined not to let his propensity to over-analyze everything spoil his fun. If he can’t get over himself, he’s going to have to “…get out his loafers and be done with it. Join AARP and buy a Buick.”
Jess, at least, has some ulterior motives. Her good time will not be a good time without spending time with Casey Arlington, the “jock” of the show. She’s got a bit of a crush going. Of course, they’re both big fans of the show, but Quinn’s fantasy is more along the lines of J. R. Butler for whom he harbors a secret fascination. And that’s surprising for the shy and retiring Quinn, since J. R. is the overly heterosexual macho jerk in the cast, decidedly not Quinn’s type. On the other hand, he can’t take his eyes off him whenever he appears on the TV screen. He’s a dark-skinned, big, built guy with his head almost shaved to the scalp, even if he might just be a total ass. This is a secret crush and Quinn is entitled to imagine him any way he wants to!
The friends’ first encounter with the cast does not go well. Lubricated by booze (like everything else on the cruise), Casey is an obnoxious ass, and J. R. warns Quinn away – he’s definitely not interested. J.R. is straight, with a girlfriend. I suppose so. Except, once you realize that the personas of all reality show stars are just masks that don’t necessarily bear any resemblance to the person beneath, perhaps J. R. is more available than his image suggests. Quinn and J. R. have a surprisingly tender follow-up when Quinn accidentally discovers him hurling over the rail, felled by a bad case of sea-sickness. Quinn, surprisingly, has done just fine with the ship’s motion, so he offers one of his emergency seasick bands to J. R. Surprisingly, it seems to work and J. R. wonders why someone he was so rude to should treat him so kindly. Of course, the answer is quite simple: that’s who Quinn is. J. R. is not used to kind, honest and attractive young men and he lets down his guard enough to offer Quinn his friendship.
Of course, Quinn is hoping it might be more, but even if J. R. is actually gay, he’d have to be deep in the closet to survive the show. Quinn isn’t interested – his last lover was a bad closet case and Quinn had long ago decided he’d never again submit to the humiliation of living in the closet. On the other hand, the cruise is only a week, so perhaps…
Well, this wouldn’t be a Romance without the boys falling for each other, with results that are sometimes tender, sometimes passionate, and often hilarious. Just finding a place where there isn’t a camera is challenge enough, but keeping it secret from all the other cast members, cruise guests and crew is fraught with dangers – and occasional hysterical repercussions.
I don’t want to give away any more, because I really want you to experience Megan Erickson’s surprisingly affecting “soft touch” for yourself. “Out of Frame” is quite a bit lighter and more fun than the other books in the series, and she proves to be just as deft with light banter, ironic situations and hot men in speedos as she was with the heavier subjects and situations of the other books in the series. This book is simply lovely. It’s a romp, albeit a heartfelt one, written with the sure hand of a supremely talented writer.
Don’t miss this “Out of Frame”. It will not change your life, but it will make your day – and we all deserve a little cuteness, fun, love and happily-ever-after in our lives. Ms. Erickson is one of those rare authors whose writing is superb at delivering all of those. So open the book and smile – you’re going to have almost as good a time as Quinn and Jess, and it won’t cost you anywhere near what a cruise does.
In Focus Series
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.
Book #2: Focus on Me
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…