Out of Frame
Megan Erickson’s Out of Frame is the third book in her marvellous In Focus series. The author continues the series’ road-trip theme, but this time sets the majority of the plot on board a cruise ship during Spring Break. This rite of passage for American students is a bit of a mystery to the British or European reader, but it isn’t hard to work out the attraction of this holiday for them.
Quinn and his best friend Jess have booked to spend their week on a cruise ship that is also hosting the last fling of a reality show calledTrip League. The show has two cast members that Jess and Quinn each have a crush on. Jess makes no secret that she fancies the blonde haired, blue eyed, all American dude Casey Arlington, whilst Quinn keeps his crush on J.R. Butler a secret even from Jess. The reason is that Butler, the supposed bad boy of the show, is straight and has a well-talked about girlfriend, Andrea.
Quinn is such a sweet character who is completely swamped by his over-protective parents, who have transferred their fears to him. He bemoans that he isn’t Kate Winslett but – … a ginger college student who needed at least SPF 50 so I didn’t broil red like a lobster. Jess is determined that Quinn is going to let go on this holiday, as she certainly intends to. She quips that Quinn has an old soul and he thinks – We hadn’t even gotten on the boat and I was prepared to wear Sea-Bands, a hat, and zinc on my nose. I should just get out my loafers and be done with it. Join AARP and buy a Buick. Alcohol, of course, comes to his rescue, and his inhibitions start to fade. After meeting J.R. Butler on deck, Quinn gives him his Sea-Bands, as the sick cast member needs them far more than Quinn. Their encounter sparks a very strong attraction between them, one that J.R. Butler cannot act upon, as he has signed a contract to play straight for the show.
As the story progresses, the pair finds it harder and harder to keep their hands off each other, but with live feed cameras all over the ship and confusions to overcome – all is not plain sailing on this cruise ship. Megan Erickson writes sexual tension really well, and the sex scenes are not only sexy but also very tender and revealing of the protagonists’ emotional states. This is a very sweet romance between twenty-somethings during a drunken spring break on a cruise ship with live camera feeds – what could possibly go wrong?
There are some really good secondary characters; in particular, Quinn’s best friend Jess, and the cast members Casey and Levi. By the end of the cruise, with the help of good friends, the two principals are in love, but real life intervenes. J.R. Butler (Jay), hopes to further his acting career, but is also earning much needed money to help a family member. He thinks, probably realistically, that a black, bisexual American is less likely to get work in the acting profession than a black, straight guy. Quinn must also find the courage to break away from his parents and accept the offer of the job he wants – rather than the one that will keep him near home. I like that the troubles and tribulations that affect these characters are fairly everyday ones, but ones which are difficult to face nevertheless.
Personally, I liked Trust the Focus and Focus on Me slightly better than this, but Out of Frame is still a sweet, enjoyable romance from a good, confident writer that I feel happy recommending to all.