Author ~ Megan Erickson
Publisher ~ InterMix
Published ~ 20th September 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance, New Adult
Love runs wild on the Appalachian Trail in the latest from the author of Out of Frame and Focus on Me...
Levi Grainger needs a break. As a reality show star, he’s had enough of the spotlight and being edited into a walking stereotype. When he returns home after the last season of Trip League, he expects to spend time with his family, only to learn his sister is coming back from her deployment in a flag-draped casket. Devastated, Levi decides the best way to grieve will be to go off grid and hike the Appalachian Trail—a trip he'd planned to do with his sister.
His solitary existence on the trail is interrupted when he meets Thad, a quiet man with a hard body and intense eyes. Their connection is stronger than anything Levi has ever experienced. But when Levi discovers the truth about what Thad is hiking to escape, their future together looks uncertain, and uncertainty is the last thing Levi needs...
As with the other books in this series Megan Erickson again puts her characters on a literal and metaphorical journey and takes the reader along for a wonderful trip. This time it’s hiking the Appalachian Trail as Levi Grainger (the seemingly flamboyant, out there gay character from the TV series Trip League that we met in book 3) sets out by himself on a trip that was meant to be shared with his sister. He’s taking this trip to remember and to escape.
When Levi happens upon the handsome, quiet Thad, the two decide to hike the trail together. Thad is on his own solitary journey, but since the story is told from Levi’s point of view, Thad remains mysterious for a while, only giving out bits of information and leaving hints behind in his text conversations with a very concerned “M”.
There is a lot of emotion bubbling under the surface for both men. Some of it comes out as sexual tension that they can’t ignore, other times it comes out as quiet conversation and confessions as they talk under the moonlight. As they forge a bond, neither knows what to expect from the future but they both want to stay together for the duration of the trip. For the most part both seem to have a steadying, calming influence on the other. Unfortunately, the emotions also make things bumpy at times. As feelings between them get stronger, there’s one secret that threatens to blow the whole relationship out of the water. Levi has barely put himself back together in the year since his sister was killed in action. Thad coming along was unexpected and perhaps too good to be true as Levi ultimately needs to decide if he can put his own fear and pain aside to stand with the man he quickly is falling in love with.
There are a lot of ups and downs here and the underlying story is heartbreaking, but while I may have shed a tear or two, it was not so heavy as to bring the feel of the story down. Both men are hopeful that this journey will change them and the fact that they find each other along the way is a bonus. Levi and Thad are very different outwardly, Levi rambles on as Thad listens and Thad provides food and safety for Levi, who isn’t much of a mountain man, but their individual pain is similar. They are healing each other and looking to come out of the trip each having dealt with the hurt they are running from.
Megan Erickson writes dialogue that is real, easily conveying the characters’ emotions and getting the reader fully engaged in the story. I didn’t feel like I missed out on knowing Thad by having the story told through Levi’s eyes only. It kept me wondering about him, and getting to know him just as Levi does completely worked for me. The Levi we see in this book is lost and quieter than the one introduced in Out of Frame, but even there we saw his caring nature in the way he helped Jay. There is still the fun, out there Levi in the way he tells stories once he finds out Thad likes hearing him talk, but he’s not the caricature that millions got to know on TV (except for his devotion to his hair products).
This story had a different feel from the prior books, possibly because Levi and Thad are a little older and a bit more world-weary than they should be at their age. I liked the new setting, their isolation during the majority of the trip allows for a quick bonding and dependence on each other that might have felt too fast otherwise.
This is a sweet romance as well as a touching story of overcoming loss and finding inner strength. Fans of the series will love catching up with the prior couples in the Epilogue. This story, as all the prior books, can be read as a standalone (but I would suggest reading all the other books because they’re just as good!) but you may be a bit confused as to all the men referred to in that one portion of the book. With sold pacing, loveable characters and a good balance of emotions, this is a lovely hurt-comfort romance that still allows for plenty of fun and hope along the way.
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…
Book #3 Out of Frame
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...