Desert Isle Keeper
Focus on Me
I had a chance to see Megan Erickson on a panel, and meet her briefly, at the RT Convention in Dallas. She was super funny, and charming, and I couldn’t wait to read one of her books. When I heard she was writing gay romances I thought it was about time to give one a try. Flash forward to me devouring Focus on Me in a single day and weeping alone in my bed. I know the weeping part might sound bad, but that is a big compliment from me.
Collin and Riley meet at a gas station at the brink of big transitions in both of their lives. Collin is leaving college in California, having decided he wasn’t cut out for academia, and driving home to his family in North Carolina. When he sees the somewhat stranded Riley, he offers him a ride to the Grand Canyon. Collin is in no hurrying to get back home and face his future working in his parent’s barbeque restaurant. He feels like a failure for dropping out of college and knows that the reality of his choice will hit once he has to face his parents. So, going a bit out of his way to see the sight with the model-handsome Riley is no hardship.
Riley is on the run from his past, and from himself. He is hoping this road trip will be what it takes to wake him up and help him to overcome his inner demons. He has a sort of bucket list of things he would like to see and do, believing that one of these might be monumental enough to help him out of his depression.
I absolutely loved the way the romance blossoms between the two men. They are in close quarters driving together, and crashing in motels, but experiencing their road trip adventures is what begins to bond them. They start falling for each other in small ways that make you really believe it. Since the book is told in first person, with no alternating view points, I appreciated Riley’s emails to his friend Landry, since they helped us to see how he was feeling and how the relationship is developing in his eyes.
Besides the romance, and some very sexy bedroom scenes, this book will rip your heart out. It was obvious from early on that Riley was struggling with something, and I had guessed what it was. However, I expected Erickson to brush it off and have Riley magically healed by the power of Collin’s love. I have seen similar plots in romance novels before. That isn’t the case here. Riley is truly struggling within himself with his depression and eating disorder, and there’s no easy fix. His dependence on Collin becomes somewhat manic, as though he is depending on the other boy for his happiness. The fantastic part of this story is that Collin realizes that is a problem. He can’t “fix” Riley just by caring for him and wants him to seek professional help.
I have personally been through depressive moments in my life, although not to the extent that Riley does, so reading about his pain tore me up. I wanted so badly for everything to be okay and easy, but that’s not real life. This journey was also important for Collin to grow. He had to realize that he and Riley were both worthy of being loved, and that sometimes love means making hard choices.
If you have been on the fence about trying out a male/male romance like I was, let me highly recommend Focus on Me. I had never ventured into any LGBT romances, I think, because I wasn’t sure where to start, but I think this was the perfect foray into the genre. Erickson shows her writing chops in creating characters that are believable, well rounded, and moving. This is the perfect road trip, heartbreaker romance. Just get your tissues ready!