Wednesday, May 6, 2015

ARC Review: Focus on Me (In Focus #2) by Megan Erickson

Focus on Me (In Focus #2)

 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…

 Todd’s rating:

One of my two favorite books of 2015, so far, is "Trust the Focus," book 1 of this series. So naturally, after being blown away by the first book, I began stalking book 2 like a crazy person (sorry, Megan), then finally got an ARC this week and am so glad that I did.

This story deals with much more life-threatening issues than just choosing a career (or sexuality) to please your overbearing mother, as Justin did in book 1.

This book deals with the very serious issue of mental illness and falling in love with someone, warts and all, then helping them rid themselves of as many of those warts as they possibly can, all the while supporting them unconditionally, in spite of your own insecurities. Love is love.

Once again, the story centers on a road trip; however, this time it starts out as more of a hitch hiking situation between complete strangers.

At 21, Colin is an ex-football player, ex-college student, ex-dreamer and ex-several-other-things, causing him to see himself as nothing more than a failure. A quitter.

So Colin is finally quitting his life in California to hop in his rusty jeep, Butch, and drive cross-country to his parents' home in North Carolina to help out in their thriving BBQ restaurant.

But Colin actually enjoys the work and, as his plans to make it big in business have failed, he's content to use the family restaurant as his backup plan, even looking forward to it.

Then during a routine gas stop in the middle of nowhere Nevada, Colin crosses paths with a stranded young man who's also headed East, so Colin rescues him from a cranky bastard of a gas station attendant who was about to force the traveler out into the desert to fend for himself.

At 23, Riley isn't very forthcoming about many details of his past to Colin, only saying he'd worked as a bartender in LA. That may be partially true, but only if it happened between photo-shoots while modeling underwear for the likes of Armani.

Yes, Riley is hot. The kind of hot that makes Colin realize he's not in that much of a hurry to get back to North Carolina. So when Riley says he's headed to the Grand Canyon, Colin immediately spins Butch's tires in that direction.

Then, as the two men make their way across the US, the miles reveal that Riley is fighting two forms of mental illness and the trip is his personal quest for something, anything that will make him feel again.

Colin had already promised that he would take Riley all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, but as their feelings become more entwined, Colin is hoping that Riley will gift him with the promise of an "us" once the trip is done.
What was it about him? It wasn’t just how he looked, either. I wanted him to smile. I wanted for him to be happy. And I wanted to be the person who made that happen.

And then Colin finally got the "us" that he was looking for when Riley informed him know that he was officially off-limits for anyone else. *Two* anyone else's to be precise, but I digress. (Okay, so that was a teaser. I'm a little evil sometimes, sorry, I'm not sorry.) ;- )
“You always smell so good,” [Riley] whispered as he tasted my skin with his tongue.

“Yeah? What do I smell like?”

“You smell like mine.”
But there are a lot of ups and downs along the way, with Colin realizing that the new clingy affection that Riley draped over him was more than it seemed. He'd become Riley's lifeline and not in a healthy way.

So Colin became determined to get help for Riley, even if Riley ended up hating him for it. After all, if you truly love someone, their well-being is much more important than your own happiness.

But Colin got some unexpected assistance on the "Helping Riley" front, in the form of Riley's pen pal, Landry, and Landry's partner, Justin.

I absolutely loved the return of Justin and Landry in this book, as Landry was the only friend that Riley would actually open up to. As in the last book Landry proved himself to be a true friend and Justin was still as protective of Landry as we'd previously seen.

And they're still madly in love, exactly the way I like my established couples. It's all about the "Happily *EVER* After," folks. As my friend, Jewel once said, "If I wanted my HEA fucked with, I'd step out into the real world." Amen, sister, preach!

So in the end, Riley's journey didn't end the way that he'd expected or planned (thank God); however, Colin's homecoming ended exactly as he'd *hoped*, only delayed a bit as Riley worked through his debilitating issues to be well again.
“You’re not going to tell me to shove it, are you, Col?”

“Not a chance in hell.”
So the boys get their (very) hard-won HEA and I can't imagine a better way for book 2 to have concluded.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, not sure how, but I did... SEXY PARTS...

YES, unlike book 1, which was a bit more innocent and demure with the naughty bits, this book *goes there*. As in *GOES THERE.* "And the angels sang."

Yes, Megan brought the (motherfucking) heat this time. Colin & Riley's first time, brought upon by a bit of jealousy? Sweet. Merciful. Crap.

You know 'jealousy sex' is the best kind, with all that "You're mine, you son of a bitch and, after this, I goddamn DARE you to forget it" business going on.

Lord help who ever gets in the middle of *that*. So yeah, how in the hell did I almost forget to mention that??? : )

We even got a very uplifting epilogue from a year later, again with Justin and Landry, as they'd continued being an important part of Colin and Riley's continuing lives as a happy, (mostly) healthy couple.

Given the subject matter, I was genuinely shocked that those topics were dealt with in such a straight-forward, yet sensitive manner, but without all of the gut-wrenching pins and needles that I'd anticipated enduring. Very happily so, please don't get me wrong there.

At times, the story did get slightly heavy; however, Erickson kept the story moving at a good pace and didn't bog the reader down in chapter after chapter of unnecessary angst, so the reader doesn't feel trapped in a dark, unhappy place.

5 extremely satisfied *Be-the-Light-in-My-Darkness* stars, because that's all I'm allowed to give here.

** My copy of the ARC was provided by the publisher (with the help of the author, thanks again, Megan!) through NetGalley for a fair, unbiased review.

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