Published by Penguin Focus on Me on July 21st 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, M/M
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…
Focus on Me was an unexpected read. Unexpected and welcoming in the direction it took. I commend Megan Erickson for making it central to the storyline. Mental illness can be a combination of many things and what was great is that Riley’s issues aren’t magically wished away or cured by the end of the book.
Focus on Me is the second book in the In Focus series, in which I reviewed the first book favourably here. Focus on Me follows the road trip theme romance but with strangers instead of friends-to-lovers. Colin and Riley connect with each other instantly and from their first destination trip to the next, the bond they share grows stronger. I adored Colin. He was such a caring and friendly person who went out of his own way for Riley. But even though I really enjoyed this book, the beginning for me didn’t quite work as I found Colin’s eagerness to help a complete stranger just a little too accepting because stranger danger! And yeah, I know, it’s a contradiction to what I just said about Colin going out of his way because of his kindness lol.
The book is told in Colin’s POV, with the odd exception of the letters Riley sends to Landry, one of the heroes from the first book in the series. Colin and Riley’s romance is full of tension but it’s also very slow at first because Riley is so wary of getting sexually involved with Colin. The story moves quite fast between these two and yet Riley is a mystery to Colin. It’s not until a surprise reveal to Colin that Riley’s history is revealed. Even though they’ve known each other in such a small space of time, Colin feels betrayed about Riley and Riley feels as if he’s been violated by Colin finding out about his secret without Riley revealing it first.
The sex and intensity between Colin and Riley is smoking hot but soon after their relationships heats up, Riley’s illness, as well as his eating disorder, becomes more prominent and Colin realises that Riley needs help–professional help that he can’t give. I also loved that Megan Erickson made Riley’s illness not apparent and obvious. Riley’s illness reaches breaking point and oh my gosh that particular scene was heartbreaking. But as I mentioned above, Erickson doesn’t cure Riley’s illness with the magic of love. Colin has to go against Riley’s wishes because he recognises this is something he can’t deal with or handle on his own.
Focus on Me went into a much deeper direction than I was expecting when Riley takes a course of action that is literally life or death. Colin reaches out to Riley’s parents and that was also so heartbreaking and it reveals how much Riley hid of his own illness. Things of course work out for Riley and Colin but Riley’s treatment is very much in the centre and it will be a work in progress that both of them will deal with together, which was so romantic because the attraction and connection they share is amazing.
I give Focus on Me a B+