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…
The previous book in this series Trust the Focus was one of my favourite feel good reads of the year, so I was really looking forward to this, and it totally didn’t disappoint. I would say that in theme it’s darker than the previous book, but also that while it isn’t necessary to read Trust the Focus first, it does set the tone, plus its a great read.
Focus on Me, is set on a road trip, and this is used cleverly, so that the normality of the characters lives are dismissed, the focus is on the emotional journey without any mundane life issues really interfering, so that we get an intense and pure look at a relationship. I found this totally riveting, and incredibly emotional. I would also say that there are triggers here if you have issues with mental health and eating disorders.
Colin has been at college, and has left – he is on his way back home to his parents and their restaurant. Colin is a man who loves to take care of things and people. He is also at a crossroads in his life, he feel that he has always run away when things got tough. Colin is a lovely likeable guy, his focus is on being emotionally happy, and ensuring the happiness of those that he loves. So his return home could be seen as a retrograde step, or the first step in being self aware. He is also a little clueless with a tendency to stick his head in the sand. I think that in the hands of a less accomplished write Colin could have been annoying, and potentially weak, but Erickson develops him so well that you go on his journey with him, and while there were occasions that had me shouting at my book ‘come on Colin’ I was always totally with him.
Riley, aka Runway is one of those guys that if you meet in real life, you are blown away by the colour, he is fascinating and complex, and we are drawn to him, as is Colin, knowing that he is damaged, but perhaps believing that we (read Colin) can be the one to make him better or whole. While Riley’s issues aren’t skirted over there is very delicate balance going on, between making us aware that he has issues, and keeping him attractive and sympathetic as a character. This is accomplished so well, that there are times when I felt that that he was getting better simply by being alive, and by being loved.
The relationship between Colin and Riley could easily have degenerated into cloying co-dependency, especially once the ‘I love yous’ had been said, but here the romantic relationship allows Riley to accept help, and in turn actually help himself. The balance in this part of the book is so good, and so believable. There is no quick fix, Coin and Riley being together doesn’t magically make everything better. There is no doubt that what they have is a real and loving relationship, but they both have to learn about themselves, and make their own choices alone, before anything lasting can happen for them.
One of Riley’s issues is extremely close to my heart, and the way that Erickson dealt with it was extremely real, and for me that is the strength of this book, it deals with some very serious shit, one of which is not seen as generally affecting men , and deals with them sympathetically and with humanity.
This is totally a love story and there are a few supporting characters, Justin and Landry from Trust the Focus make an appearance, as do the families of Colin and Riley, but ultimately this is a book about making the right choices for your self, growing up a little.
Because of the subject matter, I found this a difficult read at times, but also found it rewarding and satisfying. Highly recommended.
Grade : A
You can buy a copy here.