From the author of Make it Count comes the first novel in the In Focus series…
With his college graduation gown expertly pitched into the trash, Justin Akron is ready for the road trip he planned with his best friend Landry— and ready for one last summer of escape from his mother’s controlling grip. Climbing into the Winnebago his father left him, they set out across America in search of the sites his father had captured through the lens of his Nikon.
As an aspiring photographer, Justin can think of no better way to honor his father’s memory than to scatter his ashes at the sites he held sacred. And there’s no one Justin would rather share the experience with more than Landry.
But Justin knows he can’t escape forever. Eventually he’ll have to return home and join his mother’s Senate campaign. Nor can he escape the truth of who he is, and the fact that he’s in love with his out-and-proud travel companion.
Admitting what he wants could hurt his mother’s conservative political career. But with every click of his shutter and every sprinkle of ash, Justin can’t resist Landry’s pull. And when the truth comes into focus, neither is prepared for the secrets the other is hiding.
Megan Erickson worked as a journalist covering real-life dramas before she decided she liked writing her own endings better and switched to fiction. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids and two cats. When she's not tapping away on her laptop, she's probably listening to the characters in her head who won't stop talking.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
More than a thousand graduation caps flew into the air behind me, but I was already walking down the aisle between the concrete bleachers. My sneakers scraped the macadam as I unzipped my graduation gown and slid it off my arms. I fisted it into a ball.
Landry’s lighter steps echoed off the bleachers behind me. He didn’t call to me, or ask me to wait for my mom. He knew better.
When I reached the entry gate, I stopped and turned, holding my gown between my hands. Then I went through my windup and pitched the gown—curveball grip—into the trash can.
I wanted to spit on it. Then scrub my skin raw to wash off the stink of four years of undergraduate work in a major I detested while my mother’s stiletto heel threatened to crush my windpipe.
Landry stopped next to me and peered into the bin. My crumpled navy-blue gown lay among ketchup-covered French fries, dirty napkins, and a broken noisemaker. My right index finger twitched and I longed for the comforting grip of my camera. I’d take a picture of my gown in the trash can and label it “Justin’s Feelings About His Undergraduate Degree.”
“Well, I was going to ask if you were sure you wanted to throw it out, but now I don’t care, because I’m not digging in that trash can just so you have a souvenir.” Lan grimaced and then gave himself a little shake in disgust. If he were stranded on a deserted island with only ketchup to eat, he’d starve. He hadn’t touched it since he came down with a stomach flu in sixth grade while we were at the town fair. He’d thrown up a lot of hot dogs and a lot of ketchup. Sometimes the red stuff even made me queasy now.
“Gown’s right where I want it.”
“Let’s just go, please?”
I waited, because Lan had a habit of arguing every little point until I wanted to strangle him, but once I saw him nod, lips pursed, I knew I’d won this one. I should mark it on a calendar.
The stadium was turning into chaos as relatives and students were finding each other. Laughing. Taking pictures. Congratulations hung in the air around me and I wanted to swat the words away.
A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have hesitated to grab Landry’s arm and pull him after me. Because we’d been best friends then. I guess we still were, sort of, but my hesitation showed the strain our relationship had taken toward the end of college. So instead, with a longing in my gut, I jerked my chin in the direction of the parking lot. He followed, his long strides matching mine as we cut through the swelling crowd and burst out into the parking lot.
And that’s when the freedom bubbled inside me, rumbling and growling and boiling, until I had to release the steam. So I did, right there in the middle of the stadium parking lot at Brackett University in California. I fisted my hands at my sides, arms straight, and screamed at the Saturday afternoon sun. I’m sure I looked like a lunatic. I felt like a lunatic. And I didn’t care. Because I was a free lunatic.
At least for the summer. I didn’t want to think about the fall yet.
Lan was smiling at me, the smile I liked, the big one that showed his crooked bottom-right incisor. The smile that brought out the deep creases around his mouth and wrinkled his forehead and made his dark-blue eyes glint.
The smile I hadn’t seen turned in my direction in way too long.
The smile that socked me in the gut and brought me to my knees because he didn’t know how badly I wanted that kiss I’d never taken.
And probably never would.
I smiled back just so he knew I wasn’t possessed, and with that, he turned with a laugh and continued walking.
His steps were sure and strong. I faced the ground but looked up through my lashes, fascinated by the confidence of his stride, his unzipped graduation gown billowing behind him. It’d been a long time since it was just the two of us. Our last years at school, I’d felt him slipping through my fingers. He’d inked his skin and pierced his ears. His clear eyes, which used to fill with humor, had darkened with cynicism.
I wanted him back. I wanted our friendship back. This trip was the beginning of that, and I already started to see some of the old Landry.
He stopped abruptly, and since I wasn’t paying attention, I nearly smacked into him. He rolled his eyes and then pointed to something front of us.
The camper sat in the corner of the back lot, which we reached after about a half-mile trek through several parking lots teeming with visiting cars.
It was a 1972 Winnebago Brave. A red stylized W by the driver’s-side window stretched into a stripe down the side, ending with the word BRAVE. That and a blue cracked rail along the bottom were the only colors on the stained, once-white paneling.
The eighteen-foot camper was the possession with the most monetary value awarded to me in my father’s will. But the nondescript silver canister inside held the most worth to me.
It was why I stood there, in front of a vintage Winnebago, itching to hold the hand of my best friend before we took a road trip across the country to visit twelve important sites from my father’s life. For the first time, I stood up to my mother, demanding to let the only pieces of my father left rest in the locations he held sacred.
The May breeze ruffled Lan’s blond curls, the sun highlighting the streaks of red. “You sure you don’t want to go talk to your parents?”
He shook his head. “They understand that it’s important to us to get going as soon as we can.”
Important to us. Would he ever know how much I wanted to grab his words and rub them into my skin like a balm?
When I didn’t answer, he turned to me with raised eyebrows. “Well? Get in, asshole. You need an invitation?”
I shoved him with a mock glare and he laughed as I sprinted around to the other side of Sally, my dad’s name for his camper. My dad had wanted a Mustang, but he and his camera equipment couldn’t live out of a Mustang as he crisscrossed North America, taking pictures of beautiful locales for luxury travel magazines.
We clambered into Sally, already stocked with food, supplies, and luggage. Landry removed his gown and stuffed it into his bag. I sank into the blue polyester–covered seat, the cinnamon-candy smell of my dad surrounding me, and rubbed my fingers over the stains his hands left forever ago on the leather-bound steering wheel.
Barefoot now, Landry flopped down beside me, wearing the cargo shorts and black tank top he’d had on under his gown. He buckled the large, silver clasp around his lap with a snap and then propped his feet up on the dash, crossed at the ankles. His feet were perfect, long and thin with a high arch. Mine were calloused, my left big toenail always infected after an ill-timed slide and collide with a second baseman this year.
One-inch black gauges hung in his ears, and the sun reflected off the colorful tattoos on his left arm as he raised it to scratch his head. They made him even hotter, but they were also a reminder of when he began slipping away from me. Not needing me anymore, which made me realize how much I needed him back.
He slid a pair of mirrored aviator sunglasses over his face and rooted under his seat before coming up with a bag of white cheddar popcorn.
I didn’t hide my gazing at him. He had a boyfriend. And he thought I liked tits and pussy.
Landry threw his head back to toss a handful of popcorn into his mouth. After he swallowed, he turned to me. “Let’s fire up the old bitch, Justin.”
I laughed, stuck the key in the ignition, and turned it. Sally roared to life. Well, she grumbled to life, sighed when I coaxed her with a pat on the dashboard, and then offered her grudging acquiescence.
“Yeah?” he said around another mouthful of popcorn.
“Thank you.” My voice cracked on the “you,” but I kept my eyes on his. I’d cried in front of him before, so it was no big deal.
It was a horrible, ridiculous fact that he was the one person I needed to make this trip with and also the one person I shouldn’t be around if I was going to stay on track to a future already mapped out for me.
But right now, I focused on his lips and that smile—that one smile—and the tip of his tongue as it peeked out the corner of his mouth.
“Of course, Justin.” His voice was low, the honest emotion behind it sending my head whirling.
I gunned the engine and put Sally in drive.
We left Redding at two in the afternoon, hopping on Interstate 5. Lan bade farewell to the Sacramento River by belting Coheed and Cambria at the top of his lungs. He trilled along in that high falsetto he had, the one I pretended to hate, just to tease him. So I furrowed my brow and rolled my eyes appropriately, but meanwhile, his voice fuzzed my head like the first pint of a good, hoppy beer.
Traffic was light and the finicky air-conditioning unit in the roof wafted in the scent of sun-baked asphalt and the dead grass lining the road. We had Lan’s GPS, which he dubbed “Simon” because of the voice—a man with an English accent—that he had paid extra to download because, “the guy sounds hot, Jus.”
I sort of agreed.
My dad’s atlases were stacked in the cabinets above our heads, all of them dog-eared and coffee-stained. My father insisted on using them, meticulously taking note of landmarks he wanted to photograph, the best routes, where to get the best angle for his shot.
Lan had been there when I found them, tears streaming down my face as I read notes like, “Tell Justin I saw a tailless squirrel” and “Bring Justin to see this waterfall.”
He drew doodles in the margins, circled 69 anywhere he could, and wrote a “Ha-ha” next to it.
God, I loved him.
The grief rose up in my throat, cutting off my air. My tongue dried and thickened like cotton. I gripped the steering wheel, wishing my hands could turn into his, that he’d appear and crush on his candies with his molars, his husky laugh and the click of his camera shutter in my ear. His salt-and- pepper hair flopping onto his forehead, his furry forearms sticking out from the rolled-up sleeves of his ugly plaid flannel shirts.
But instead, all I saw were my hands, all I smelled was the stale cinnamon.
Then Landry’s voice, clear and high like Freddie Mercury on helium, cut into my thoughts, belting about how he believes in a thing called love, and the mist over my eyes cleared. The grief receded into the pit of my stomach and I took a deep breath. It’d come again when I didn’t expect it, but for now Landry beat it back.
I smiled at him and he threw back his head and laughed, the pale skin of his throat bared. He gestured toward his iPod and the speaker dock. “Want me to turn it down?”
I shook my head. And pretended to cringe as he sang on.
Two hours later, we passed the green sign welcoming us to Oregon.
“We should stop at the stable and purchase new oxen.” Landry said, his voice hoarse from all his screeching.
“Well, if they die, then we’re stranded.”
“Oh my God, are you making Oregon Trail references?” Lan was a graphic artist and had a vice for old computer games. Because of him, I must have died of dysentery and drowned in high waters five hundred times in my life.
“How long are we going to be in Oregon?”
I ran my hand over the top of my head. My friend Mia insisted I get my dark-brown hair cut before the trip, since it was staring to curl around my ears. I was glad I listened. It was too hot for that. “I want to make it into Washington before we stop tonight. So I dunno, another five hours or so?”
He grinned. “So I have five hours to talk about covered wagons. Excellent.”
I groaned. “You’re cruel.”
“You hungry yet?” He slapped my stomach with the back of his hand—an easy touch for him, but torture for me. “I need to fatten you up. Get a little padding on those abs.”
He stood up and I heard him rummaging around in our “kitchen,” likely making instant mac and cheese in our microwave, which was powered by our generator.
I stared out the windshield, feeling the mark of his hand and the sear of his eyes on my skin through my T-shirt.
He made off-the-cuff references to my body all the time, telling me how the girls talked about my ass in the pants of my baseball uniform, the curve of my biceps, the shape of my back. He probably thought I wanted to hear it, to build up my confidence to ask one of them out on a date.
But I hated it because it reminded me of the lie I lived with every day, the one thing I kept from him.
I didn’t want those girls. I didn’t even want other guys. I wanted Landry. His skin and his freckles and his soft curls between my fingers. His lips on mine, saying my name in passion instead of teasing me.
My cell rang, drowning out Lan’s humming and the whir of the microwave behind me. I glanced at the caller ID and then turned my eyes back to the road. I didn’t want to answer it, but if I didn’t, she’d keep calling, like an alarm clock that never shut up.
“Hey,” I said.
“Justin.” My mom’s voice was forced warmth and starch and severe powdered blush. “You’re on the road, then?”
“Just passed into Oregon.”
There was a hum in response, a muffled instruction, and then a rustle of papers. I imagined her sitting in her mayoral office after hours, pretending to be busy while lording over the janitorial staff, telling them they “missed a spot” while vacuuming. I should ask her how work was. I should ask her if she was excited to announce her campaign for Senate in the fall.
But I didn’t. Because I was still pretending the fall would never come.
Landry stumbled between our seats, Sally’s rocking making him unsteady on his feet. He set a cup of mac and cheese next to me on the console and then sat down in his seat. He started to eat, but I shot him a look and he made a show of buckling his seat belt before taking his first bite. I smiled.
My smile dropped instantly. “Yeah?”
“I asked if you still plan to be on the road until August.”
We’d been over this. Many times. “August or beginning of September.”
More papers rustling. Would that be my life come September? I looked over at Lan. He slurped his noodles and hooked his fingers on the top of his head like devil’s horns, sticking his tongue out—the silent symbol for my mother. I laughed.
“Is—” She cleared her throat, “—Landry there?”
Like she didn’t know he was coming. “Yep, right here. Just made us some gourmet mac and cheese in a cup in the microwave. Living the high life.” I kept one hand on the wheel and braced the phone between my ear and shoulder so I could fork some food into my mouth.
Mom snorted derisively. “Come fall you’ll be making real money. No instant noodles for you.”
The sodium-laced cheesy sauce turned to paste in my mouth. Fuck her. I happened to like instant noodles. And Landry. She didn’t like either.
“Well.” There was the sound of nails on a keyboard. “I’ve sent you some e-mails that I need you to start taking a look at. There are fact sheets of my voting history and charity work. The campaigns I’ve helped to implement. I need you to be an expert on my history. That will be your main job as a member of the campaign team—the go-to man for facts on my career.”
If Landry wasn’t in the RV, I might have driven it straight into a tree.
“I know you know a lot of this already,” she continued, “which is why you’re best for the job and an invaluable part of the team, yes?”
Was I supposed to answer? Maybe I could act like my battery died. And my e-mail was hacked. And I had decided to live off the grid for the rest of my life.
“Yes, Mom,” I said automatically.
She made a sound, something like a growl. “Please acknowledge you heard what I said and will check your e-mail.”
I was a robot now. “I acknowledge what you said and I will check my e-mail.” Probably the day I arrived back home in Pennsylvania, but I wasn’t admitting that.
“Right,” she said, her voice full of irritation, and I wondered if she could read my thoughts. “I also wanted to check in. Make sure you were all right. Please drive safe. And call if you need anything.”
I glanced at the Saint Christopher medallion hanging from the rearview mirror with a leather cord. Dad said he was the patron saint of travelers, and his job was to watch over them, keep them safe, and help them find their way on their journey. He’d given me the necklace when I graduated high school. He’ll be with you when I can’t. Which was a lot.
“Right, thanks,” I said into the phone to my mom.
“You too, Mom.”
When I hung up, I threw my phone over my shoulder behind me, listening for the thunk as it landed on the sofa cushions.
I was surprised she hadn’t tried to talk me out of it. She was pissed when her ex-husband left me Sally, furious when he awarded me the possession of his cremated remains, and livid when I told her my cross-country plan to scatter his ashes. Each location was picked based on the latest calendar published by Charlie Akron—my dad.
All she cared about was that I showed up in the fall, clean-cut in a suit, and straight, not that she knew there was any other option. Because that’s the kind of son who would help run his mother’s election campaign. That’s the kind of son I’d been, never wanting to disappoint her, yielding to her pressure to major in political science.
So I’d kept quiet and closeted, unwilling to add “rogue gay son” to the top of her list of personal failures, next to divorce. And now I’d stayed silent too long. I was in too deep. If I gave in, told her who I was, who I wanted to be with, I’d not only lose her and a job, I’d hurt her conservative political campaign. So many times I wondered what would have happened if I took a different path. But I’d started this career decision in high school, and with every step, it had been harder to change course. And now, I couldn’t get off the damn train.
I looked over at Landry, licking the tines of his fork.
“So, how was the she-beast?”
“Landry.” I sighed, but my voice lacked heat.
“Come on, you usually laugh.”
“I don’t know. Same. Didn’t try to talk me out of it again, so that’s an improvement, I guess.”
Landry picked at the frayed hem of his shorts. “She doesn’t get it. This is important.”
It was. But only Landry understood that. Understood me.
“Oh, and hey!” Landry clapped his hands together, cheeks flushed. Then he reached down and pulled his slim netbook out of a wooden basket nailed to the wall by his seat.
“You still doing that?” I asked, feeling a mixture of embarrassment and elation that he cared enough to use his talents to blog our journey. We planned to take pictures of Dad’s urn at each location. Corny, but who the fuck cared?
“Yes, Jus. I am. I know your teammates said it was ‘gay,’ and it probably totally is, but you know they’ll be checking it. Or getting their girlfriends to read it for them.”
I laughed. Lan blew off my teammates and their comments. They didn’t understand our friendship, but I explained that we’d been friends since middle school. And when they saw Landry attend every game and cheer the loudest, they’d reluctantly accepted him into the fold. Plus, their girlfriends loved Landry. He was like a one-man chick magnet in that way gregarious gay guys were, so my teammates risked female scorn if they weren’t nice to him. Which held more power than my scorn.
“Will you quit thanking me?”
“But all summer away from Jud—”
He put his hand up to silence me. “Stop. I want to be here. He understands.” Lan didn’t even say his name, but that he was a kick to the balls. “Now shush, because Landry has a blog post to write.”
He furrowed his brow and his lips parted in classic Landry Concentration Mode. So I shut up. And I focused on the road. And we flew with Sally through Oregon.
Just a quick note to let everyone know we are on our way. We left California this afternoon and are currently chugging our way through our own Oregon Trail. Thankfully we haven’t died of cholera or typhoid or measles. Thank God for vaccines. I wanted to shoot a bear for dinner but Justin said no. Buzzkill.
I included a picture in this post of Sally. Isn’t she pretty? The only woman I’ll ever be in. Oh shoot, don’t tell Justin I just wrote that.
Our first stop is the Charles W. Bingham Forest Learning Center at Mount St. Helens in Washington State. Mr. Akron took a beautiful shot of the volcano and an elk in the foreground. I don’t think we’ll be so lucky to see one of the beasts because of the season. I read that elk are more visible in the fall because that’s when they are getting all macho and fighting each other for females. So maybe I’ll layer one in with Photoshop (kidding).
Okay, well, it’s starting to get dark and I need my beauty sleep. Good night, and hopefully next time I check in, we’ll have our first picture for you.
12 To Go
Mia: Have a great trip, guys! Justin, quit being a buzzkill.
Trenton: Katy said I had to comment. So, here’s my comment. Akron—you still keeping that arm in shape?
Chase: Stay safe!
I didn’t know what time it was as we approached the border into Washington State. I knew it was late. Grit coated my eyelids, my ass was sore, and my arms were like jelly from holding headstrong Sally on the road.
Landry rolled his head to the side, yawning.
“You could have slept. I wouldn’t have minded,” I told him.
“No way. That’s Road Trip Buddy Rule Number One. I need to stay awake to keep you company.”
“Rules were made to be broken, Lan.”
He guffawed. “Oh really? Okay, Mr. Straight and Narrow.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“What rule have you broken in your life?”
“This is a stupid conversation,” I grumbled.
Landry cocked his head, then shifted in his seat, a knee on the cushion so he faced me. Oh fuck, he was in hunter mode. I was in for a chase, a bullet between the eyes, and then grilling over an open flame.
“Come on, seriously, Jus.”
This conversation was a little déjà vu. Landry spent all senior year of high school convincing me to apply to schools with prestigious photography programs. I hadn’t applied to them, but I’d looked. At the time, my dad was constantly on the road. He’d asked me to take care of my mom, and she was under a lot of stress as she campaigned for her second mayoral term. I was eighteen, still in denial about my attraction to Landry. So I’d committed to the major my mom wanted for me and to a straight and narrow path.
I hadn’t realized how much I’d come to regret the decision.
“Okay,” I said. “What kind of rules are we talking here? Like, a ‘Thou shall not steal’ rule? Or like, ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you’?”
Lan nibbled on his bottom lip. “Something you did that was the opposite of what was expected of you.”
He was trying to rile me up. This is how he’d been with me lately—antagonistic. “I refused to date her friend’s daughter.”
Landry dropped his chin to his chest. “You still took her to that fund-raising campaign.”
“But I didn’t date—”
“And you let her grab your ass—”
Landry shuddered. “She wanted to unwrap you like a present.”
“Landry.” I sighed, remembering the immature, handsy socialite.
“That wasn’t a good example.”
In that moment, I would have hated him if I didn’t love him. Because he knew what he was asking. He knew expectations were my guide in life, the carrot in front of me I never reached, but, like the definition of insanity, I tried anyway.
“I know what you’re trying to do.”
He shrugged. “I’m not trying to hide it.”
“Can we forget—”
“Just answer the—”
“This trip!” I yelled, banging my hand on the steering wheel. To his credit, Lan didn’t even flinch. “This trip,” I repeated in a normal tone. “I stood up to her, told her I wouldn’t start the job until the fall. Told her I was taking this trip with you.”
It’d taken me twenty-two years to stand up to her, but I’d done it. And this trip, my father’s legacy, meant everything to me.
Landry wasn’t in the mood to hand out participation trophies, apparently. “But this fall, you’ll follow that rule handbook again, right?”
“I’m going to do my job—”
“Are you going to marry the person she picks, too?” His words chipped at my brain, shorting out wires as sparks flashed behind my eyes. “Some pretty, petite brunette from a good family, like Mia—”
Why was he harping on this marriage thing? It’s like he suspected . . . “Drop. It.” My voice wasn’t me, it was some bitter monster. The boy beside me turned me into Mr. Hyde, but he was also the one who could turn me back into Dr. Jekyll.
So when his faced softened, the monster receded, and I was just left with a headache from beating back the beast.
“Okay, I’m sorry,” he said.
“And Mia’s just a friend. I’ve told you that.” She was a year behind us in school, and we met during photography classes. She came on to me one time, at a party. And I rejected her advances as nicely as I could. She took it graciously, and then cocked her head, green eyes shining, and asked if we could be friends. I said yes, and never regretted it. She didn’t bug me about dating, and she never judged my relationship with Landry. I think she knew, in a way, what I didn’t have the balls to admit out loud.
I sighed. “It’s okay, but . . . I’d like to spend this summer like the fall isn’t coming.” Like we used to be. “Is that okay? Can we do that?”
Something shifted in Landry’s eyes, but then it was gone. He nodded haltingly. “Of course. We can do that, Justin.”
“Thanks,” I whispered, drained.
We passed into Washington and took one of the first exits off of I-5, to a rest stop in Sara. I parked the RV in the designated overnight parking lot, turned off Sally, and leaned back, rubbing my sandpaper eyes with the heels of my palms.
I stumbled to the back of the RV to pee and brush my teeth. When I returned to the main cabin of the RV, Landry had pulled out the sofa to make the bed and had thrown on a sheet and two pillows. He flopped down on one side, wearing only a pair of boxers. He was so thin, having lost weight in the last year. I could see the definition of his back muscles and a few ribs. But my eyes were drawn to the two dimples in his lower back, just visible above his waistline, and I wanted to go right back into the bathroom and hide. Maybe I could sleep in the shower stall.
“Um . . .”
“Come on, Justin. Lay down. We have a big day tomorrow.”
There were no other places to sleep in Sally. I knew that going into this trip, but now, facing the reality of sleeping with Landry, I didn’t know if I could do it. I couldn’t tell him I would sleep on the driver’s seat. That would just be weird. But this bed was barely bigger than a twin. And I didn’t know how I was going to sleep on it with him for three months. I’d slept next to him before, but we’d either been encased in our own sleeping bags or we’d been drunk off our asses and passed out.
I stripped quickly, glad Landry’s face was turned away from me. And thankful I was so nervous that my dick hadn’t gotten the memo it’d be right next to another dick.
Then I crawled under the covers next to him and lay on my stomach. He turned his head and in the dark, I could barely make out the slope of his nose, the jut of his chin. Fingers brushed my bicep and I squeezed my eyes shut. My dick got the memo now.
“Tomorrow,” he whispered.
“Yep, tomorrow,” I whispered back.
Silence, then, “You doing okay?”
“Yeah Lan, I am.” Or, I would be if he would just sleep.
“Okay. Night, Jus.”
I’d slept in beds with girls a couple of times at the beginning of college, when I was still trying to pretend I was attracted to them. I had worried I’d elbow them in the head in my sleep, or kick them. I was aware of their soft breasts and hairless legs.
But sleeping next to Landry, listening to his deep, masculine breaths as he slipped into sleep, was completely different. I wanted to roll into him, let him take my weight, brush our legs together, and touch foreheads, lips, hips.
I didn’t know when this had all grown so big. I had thought I liked girls in middle school. Freshman year of high school, I started looking less and less at cleavage and cheerleaders’ asses and more at bulges in dudes’ pants and Landry’s ass in the little cross-country shorts he wore. Back when he laughed freely.
And then it was only Landry. His smile and his legs and his hands and his laugh.
He had a boyfriend, though, this Jud Cameron guy he’d met online in a chat room, who went to college in Los Angeles. I had never met him, which made me uneasy, but I saw his picture.
I was better looking.
Landry was happy. Jud seemed to treat him well. And in my mind, I pretended the boyfriend didn’t exist. It was easier than constantly feeling rage at someone else getting to be with Landry like I wanted to be. I’d asked him what Jud thought of our trip and Landry had brushed me off with a he’s not worried.
And why should he be?
Because I was a rule follower. And Landry was against the rules.
I woke up with a hard-on from hell, inches from Landry’s left forearm where it wrapped around my waist, the swirls of blues, reds, and greens vivid against my undecorated skin. He was a stage-five clinger in his sleep. Always had been. But before I’d been able to get up and get away from him—leave the bedroom or house or fucking state depending on my situation below the belt.
I didn’t have that option now.
I scooted out from under him and shoved my pillow in his arms, which he promptly snuggled with a huff.
It was difficult to piss with a raging boner, but I managed to wrestle it into submission so I could whiz. That helped the rigid situation a little. I hopped in the shower and turned on the cold water, hoping it took care of this hard-on the rest of the way for me. But as I scrubbed the shampoo into my hair, I closed my eyes, imagining Landry’s breath along my face and his voice in my ear.
See, I hadn’t gone there yet. I’d watched gay porn when I needed to get off, pointedly focusing on the guys in the video and not picturing Landry’s face.
But now? Here? He was all I could picture as my soapy hand coasted down my chest and over my abs. I braced my right forearm on the wall of the shower in front of me as my left hand reached the trail of hair leading down to my cock.
Then I took a deep breath and wrapped my fingers around the shaft. A small sound escaped my throat at the first tug and heat rushed through my body, sending spiky tingles down into my toes.
Shit, I couldn’t let Landry hear this. I took a couple of steps forward and closed my teeth over the fist of my right hand to muffle any sounds.
And then I stroked. And finally, while he was asleep feet away in another room, I let my mind go there. I pictured him with kiss-swollen lips and hair tangled in my fingers. I heard his moans. I felt his heat and hardness. What would it feel like? To hold him in my hand like I held myself now?
I stroked hard, twisting when I reached my crown, then gathering more suds off of my body to maintain the slickness. I widened my legs more, thinking of Landry’s smile and glinting blue eyes. And the last thing I pictured as my orgasm roared through my body were his hands in place of mine.
When my mind cleared, I panted, registering a pain in my hand. I unlocked my jaw and stared at the teeth marks in my fist. That would be fun to hide from Landry. How do you explain bite marks on your own fucking hand?
The water pounded on my back, and I reached around and turned it off. Hoping I left him some hot water. He’d kill me if I used everything in the tank.
But damn, that’d been the best orgasm I think I’d ever had.
Because I pictured my best friend.
Who I’d be in close quarters with for the next three months.
I. Was. Fucked.
When I stepped out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around my waist, Landry was awake, lying on his stomach, hands folded beneath his chin. Shit, had he heard anything? I wondered if my skin showed a blush. I guess I could have blamed it on the hot water. His eyes roamed my chest and I gritted my teeth.
“Hey, a shower would be awesome.”
I pointed to the bathroom behind me as he hopped off the bed. “All yours. I might have taken all the hot water.” Might have. Probably definitely did.
“Dick,” he said, smacking my ass as he walked by me.
The door shut behind him and I let out a ragged breath.
I pulled on a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, sweatshirt, and boots, because it was still cool in Washington in May. I shoved the bed back into a sofa so we’d have room to move around. Then I whipped up some scrambled eggs for us and popped a couple of bagels in the toaster we’d brought along.
Landry rested his chin on my shoulder as I piled some eggs on plates, startling me since I hadn’t heard the bathroom door.
“You want some eggs?” I asked.
“Sounds awesome. Thanks.”
We ate quickly, sitting at the little table across from the stove.
“What a good little RV wife you are,” Landry crooned.
“What? If anyone’s the wife, you’re the wife.”
His eyes narrowed in challenge. “Oh, really? Why? Because I’m gay?”
“No, because I’m driving, so I’m the husband.”
“No, you’re driving because you’re the wife, and I’m the husband who’s better at navigation.”
“You’re also a better cook.”
Landry shoved his legs in a pair of skinny jeans and pulled a long-sleeve T-shirt over his head. “I microwaved food like an eight-year-old. You actually cooked. And the majority of successful chefs are, in fact, male.”
He rolled his eyes. “Okay, you’re husband J and I’m husband L.”
Seriously? He’d basically just condensed my life fantasy into one sentence. “Fine, I’m HJ. You’re LJ.”
Landry snickered as he slipped his feet into flip-flops. “HJ. You sure you want to claim those initials?”
Landry opened up the door to the RV and motioned with his head. “I’m just going to pop into the gas station. And how do you not know this? HJ? Hand job?” He laughed and banged the door shut behind him.
Fuck, I needed another shower.
My brain felt fuzzy and my skin itched. I needed something to focus on that wasn’t Landry.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wish all books had this much suspense¿!!!
The characters are warm and real, imperfect and very human. Following their cross country journey stopping to appreciate beautiful places and sharing their personal journey as well is a joy. I reread this favorite when I need a pick-me-up.
Dont ever say the word homo ever again.
A Summer Road Trip Changes Their Lives -- MY THOUGHTS -- Judging a Book by it's Cover: I purchased this book when I received approval for book 2, Focus on Me, but had been wanting to read it for quite some while. The men, wearing a kind of match-y dress casual, are holding hands and it is this that is the focal point. Blurring and fading the edges brings your eye to the exact place the publisher wants it to be. The synopsis sounds interesting and I look forward to reading about how Justin adapts and overcomes (assuming he does) the obstacles that his mother set for him, and how Landry plans on helping Justin through it all. Looking Deeper: First person POV, from Justin's perspective. Justin and Landry; childhood friends, two halves of a whole. One out and proud, the other feels forced into repression. They have just graduated college and are taking a summer road trip together to honor Justin's late father. There are plenty of raw emotions on this adventure, and many laughs, too. The grilled cheese scene had me laughing out loud - while reading in public. Pike's Peak made my heart hurt. The characters felt very real... as did their dialogue, interactions, decisions and reactions. Their chemistry is raw and believable. Secondary characters were few and far between, many were introduced as memories, blog comments and/or telephone conversations but each added a layer to the characters and helped to build the story. The plot was an excellent concept, it was executed well and written very smoothly. There were plenty of conflicts, and not many were resolved in a mature manner, but by knee-jerk reaction which makes the story more tangible. There was only the most minor of predict-abilities (Jud, for one) but that did not detract from the overall effect. The conclusion was solidly wrapped up, no cliffhangers. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Heat Level: 4 [R] ~ Score: 4.1 ~ Stars: 4 ------------------------------------------------------------------
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel for two cogent reasons: the two main characters and the exploration of their friendship and it's evolution. This isn't a sugar-coated romance but has the ebb-and-flow of a real-life relationship. I saw it as a realistic portrayal of how two young adult men would handle the conflicts and fears that would arise as they figure things out and resolve the issues they would face. I strongly recommend this book, especially for young gay men who are coming to grips with who they really are.
This is an exquisitely told story of a young man's journey to not only honor the memory of his father but also finding and accepting his own self. It is gripping and heartwarming and a book I won't forget for a while. Coming to terms with his sexuality and the love he feels for his best friend Landry as well as determining the right path for his future is weighing heavily on Justin Akron. There are moments of tenderness, anger, love, and rage but in the end, being true to his heart is the only way to go. This is a great m/m love story that I highly recommend.
I just adored JusLan! First book i have read by this author, but definitely not the last. I can't wait for the next one!
This was a really good book. Looking forward to more like it.
Upon finishing, my initial reaction: Simply beautiful. <3 My Thoughts (full review): To say that I was blown away by Trust the Focus would be an understatement. In fact, I'd like to think this story was by far one of the best NA novels I've come across, and that's honestly saying a lot since a truly brilliant NA novel is hard to come by. Justin and Landry have an amazing friendship. I love how that was clearly established from the beginning. This road trip is a beginning in itself, one that held promise of plenty of things, as long as they were both willing to be open and honest with each other. But when secrets are held on for so long, sometimes it's difficult to tell the truth, to not care what other people think. That's what happens when we allow our fears to control us. With Justin and Landry, it's revealed, and it's so powerful that you can feel the emotion lift off the page. Trust the Focus is simply beautiful. Justin's thoughts, his actions, his feelings--they all kept me interested and wondering what could happen next for him and Landry. I fell in love with them like they fell for each other. Megan Erickson's In Focus series will be not only followed but coveted and purchased the instant it's available. My Rating: Exceptional
Okay, so. Megan is a super lovely person, and I really enjoyed MAKE IT COUNT, which was released last year, so when I heard she was writing a m/m New Adult romance, I basically freaked out with uncontained excitement. Super quick note: this is, indeed New Adult (not Young Adult), so everything you would expect from NA is here. I, obviously, did not have a problem with it, but I figure it’s good to mention because sometimes people get confused when I say NA. It is not the same as YA. Okay. As for TRUST THE FOCUS! Generally, when I read Erickson’s romances, I expect sweet and sexy NA. This was exactly that. Justin and Landry go on a road trip to honor Justin’s dad with no plans of making anything happen romantically between them (Justin isn’t even openly gay, so there doesn’t at first even seem to be a possibility of anything happening between them), but the more time they spend together, the more they begin to realize ignoring their feelings for each other isn’t going to work for much longer. TRUST THE FOCUS had me smiling, awww-ing, laughing, internally raging and getting teary-eyed—which is to say, making me feel all the things a good romance should. I absolutely loved Justin and Landry’s chemistry, and while Justin frustrated me (as any good flawed romance hero should), I was rooting for them from the first page and loved seeing their relationship pull together. If you’re looking for some sweet and fun diverse NA, I absolutely recommend TRUST THE FOCUS. I’ve already added the next in the series, FOCUS ON ME, to my TBR shelf, and I can’t wait to continue to diversify my collection of NA novels!
4.5 Stars I truly wasn't expecting to fall in love with this M/M romance but I did. It's the story of two 22 year old best friends. Landry is gay and has always been in love with Justin but thought he was straight. Justin is straight but we soon learn that it had always been an act. After he confesses his feelings to Landry, the story becomes about how these two deal with these new feelings for each other and how Justin deals with others knowing he's gay. In the background, happening throughout the book, is the cross country trip to spread Justin's fathers ashes. I enjoyed reading this very real and beautiful emotional story of self-discovery, acceptance and love. Received a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Having read Megan Erickson's first book in her Bowler University series, Make it Count, I had a strong feeling that I'd enjoy this book just as much as that one. What I didn't predict was that Trust the Focus would blow that one out of the water. However, I'm not here to compare the two books, or series, more than that. It's just more proof that Erickson's a great writer. Going into this book, I knew I was in for a new experience. Aside from some short works, this is my first novel featuring gay main characters. I've been wanting to expand my reading experience for some time, and now that I've read Trust the Focus, I'm glad I chose this as my first. Erickson stepped up her writing in this book. The way she portrays Justin, the narrator, makes him seem so real. Landry, his best friend who's traveling along on this cross-country road trip with him, is no different. I haven't felt this in touch with characters in a long time. There wasn't a time in this book that anything felt forced. Their actions, inner commentary, consequences, was all natural and helped in my enjoyment. Aside from strong characters, and the even stronger and passionate romance throughout the book, the story itself was one I loved. A road trip is a great device to bring in a wide-range of settings, but can also lead to each scene being weak or feeling lacking detail. I felt like in many of the stops on this road trip, I was there. I was with Justin while he took these pictures in places that were so important to him. Overall, the tone of this story is what gripped me the most. It was the combination of the characters, story, and the conflict that arises from it all that had me turning page after page wanting more. But I fought the page turning urge, and savored this book. I didn't want it to end and it'll stay with me for some time as a favorite.
Megan Erickson brings readers the first book in a new series, Trust the Focus. This is a new adult novel with a m/m lead couple. Erickson gives readers a lot to focus on in this one, from the grief of losing a parent to the confusion of not being able to meet the expectations of people around you. This is a book about discovery, exploration and figuring out who you really want to be. It also dealt with sexual orientation and figuring out what you are passionate about in life. Erickson hits it out of the park with this sultry coming of age story! I wasn't too sure what to expect with this one. I will have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I was skeptical about reading a book with a m/m lead couple. I have read books where m/m relationships are secondary but not the main focus of the story and I was worried it would not be my cup of tea. I do believe that love is something we can't take for granted in life no matter we may find it. Erickson surprised me with her realistic and poignant portrayal of a young man on the brink of taking his next step in life. She made me believe in Justin's exploration of his life and his sexuality. This part of the book was very well written and very entertaining. Justin was such a wonderful main character. It was easy to feel not only his grief over losing his beloved father but his passion for photography. It was not just a past time for him and loved the way he honored his father's memory by scattering his ashes in the places he loved to photograph. I thought Erickson excelled with her character development. Justin came across as a young man, with a good head on his shoulders, but one who was expected to live a life he didn't believe in. Erickson really worked hard to show the way that Justin was feeling and the reader will be able to feel it as well. Landry was a gem as well. He was one of those friends who is happy to be right there with you no matter what the circumstances are. He obviously loved Justin and his father. I liked the fact that he let Justin make his own decisions. Nothing felt forced or unnecessary. He just let him figure it out on his own and waited in the wings. I thought they made a great couple and the love scenes were scorching. Landry was a real lover and he understood that he needed to put Justin first. It was a beautiful romance. Very well done. Bottom Line: Justin's problem with his mom was a hard thing. Anyone wants to make their parents proud. But Justin just did not want what she wanted for him. It was nice to see him find his courage to live the life he wanted to live. I loved his connection to his father and how much he meant to him and I loved the photography aspect of the story. But most of all the romance between Justin and Landry was sexy and heart warming. There will be tears with this one. Be prepared.
I want to thank Intermix for providing me with a copy of this book to read and give an honest review. Receiving this book for free has in no way altered my opinion or review. So, I'm a huge fan of Ericsson's Bowler University series. It's cute and quirky and just plain old fun. When I heard she was publishing another book, I immediately added it to my list. And then when I found out it was a male romance, I got really excited. I haven't ever read a male/male before and I knew Megan would do it right. It didn't disappoint. I think my favorite thing about a romance, my favorite way to read one, is friends to lovers. And this book does just that. Meet Justin. He's in the closet. And he's in love with his best friend. And he has NO idea how to go about coming our or telling Landry. His life is on a course, which does not include him being gay or him not doing exactly what his mother wants him to do. I love that Justin has other plans. That he takes the opportunity of one last summer to explore not only his feelings, but what makes him, well, him. We get him from two perspectives, which is also nice. First there's the boy/man who is missing his father. The one who wants to honor him by traveling around the country and visiting the places they were to visit together. Throughout the book I feel Justin's pain at the loss of his father. But I also feel how he comes to some closure, some form of peace by doing these things. Then there's the Justin that needs to man up and face the fact that he's in love, with his best friend, who has no idea that Justin is gay. And to top it off, he's been holding it in so long, he's scared to tell Landry. But when it finally comes out, sparks fly and the chemistry between the does not disappoint. I like how Erickson really makes this book about exploration. There are parts that are sad, parts that make you made, but above all parts that show you how finding who you are brings you peace. Her writing is easy and paced well, though I do wish she would have had a bit more build up between the two men. I feel like they kind of crashed together too early and I needed more of the pining. And I never say that! I will say that Justin stewed a bit too much for my liking. I felt like he was on a bit of a pity me trip. But, at the same time, I totally understood how his dilemma. How his mind was torn in two between being the person he has been put on a path to be and being true to himself. In the end, he's certainly true to himself. And he's able to even work things out with his mom, which definitely gives the warm and fuzzy feels I am looking for. Overall, I really enjoyed my first venture into a book about two gay young men who find each other and at the same time find themselves. I'm looking forward to see what Erickson does with her second book in this series.
For years I’ve been looking for the perfect LGBTQ+ book. That one quintessential book that when people asked me for a recommendation, it would be the first one that came to mind. I’ve read a few decent LGBTQ books and a few really good ones, but none of them have felt like THAT book - the one that had everything I wanted: real emotion, humour, romance, sex, sweetness, adventure, and a happy ending. When I read the first half of Trust the Focus in one sitting (which may not seem like a big deal, but considering a) I was in a huge reading slump and nothing was holding my interest, and b) I’m a super slow reader, so it’s no small feat to read that much at one time), I was pretty sure I had finally found THAT book. By the time I finished reading it the next day, teary-eyed and with a huge smile on my face, I knew I’d finally, finally found that book. Trust the Focus is such an authentic book. There were so many times I found myself nodding along when Justin was thinking or talking about his fears regarding coming out, being out, dealing with the possible backlash from family and friends, and just his feelings for Landry in general. I connected with him almost instantly, and on so many levels. Having lost my own father, I appreciated his desire to take this grand adventure to honour his dad. The sentiment of it and his obvious love and respect for his dad was just beautiful. Road trips are one of my favourite things in the world, and I’ve always dreamed of taking one in an RV, so I felt like I was right there with Justin and Landry. Throw in the photography element and several other similarities between myself and both boys (including the fact that my last name is Landry) and I felt like this book was written for me. There were so many beautiful, poignant moments throughout Trust the Focus. I ran the gamut of emotions while reading - I’d be giggling one minute, swooning the next, tearing up the next, needing a cold shower the next, and then I’d be back to laughing. It had such a great mix of everything. There were also moments that frustrated me and made me want to yell at Justin and/or Landry, but even those moments felt so genuine and real that it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story. These characters were wonderfully, realistically flawed, and had so much depth and experienced so much growth. I enjoyed every moment of their story. Also, I won’t lie - I loved that there were actual sex scenes in this book. So many LGBTQ books have fade-to-black sex scenes or no sex at all; it doesn’t bother me if it feels like it fits with the story and the characters, but I often feel disappointed because I want more. There were no ‘behind closed doors’ sex scenes in Trust the Focus and I loved that honesty and bravery from Erickson for writing those (totally freaking hot) scenes. I can’t say enough good things about Trust the Focus. These characters and their journey took hold of my heart from the very beginning and never let go. Justin and Landry will stick with me for a long time to come. I laughed with them, cried with them, swooned over them, and cheered them on. If you’re a fan of sweet, swoony, sexy, raw, emotional stories with depth, character growth, heart, and humour (plus an epic road trip!) you need to read Trust the Focus.
Spoiler-Free Review: Trust the Focus is not just a friends to lovers contemporary romance. It is not just a road trip of discovery. It is not just an GLBT book. Trust the Focus is all of those things and more. It is very different than some of the LGBT books I have read in my past; and I have read a few, mainly because I am gay (shocker, right?!). I think everyone needs to read at least one gay romance in their lifetime, just like I still read many heterosexual romances, and I can honestly say that I would recommend Trust the Focus to be that book! It spans many genres and I think anyone who loves a well-crafted love story will devour this book! This story of the post-college graduation road-trip, the last summer before growing up all rang very real and true to me. We all need that last run at freedom before we have to settle down and get a job. I know I had my post-graduation freak out, I drove all around the country, even hitchhiked a little. I withdrew from grad school during my exploration…and well I was also trying on my sexuality for size at this time too. Confused the crap out of my family that’s for sure. However, sometimes you make the best decisions at the rashest times. Nonetheless, Justin needed a lot more from this trip. It was a chance to say goodbye to his father who passed away and it was also a chance to determine who he really is and if he wanted to continue to hide his true passions in life and take the easy road already laid out before him. Justin loves photography, just like his father, and he wanted to take this journey to honor his father’s life & work. But being in close proximity with his best friend, Landry, he has to come to grips with what he really wants in life. Landry also knows some things, like Jus is talented with his camera and he hopes this trip will encourage him to explore his passion. They both grieve for the loss of Justin’s father but they also gain a deeper understanding about themselves along the way. These characters are profound, albeit frustrating at times, and they feel like my best friends! This book had me running a gamut of emotions. It was just so perfectly sad, funny, emotional, and damn sexy. OK…are you wondering if you can find a love story between two men sexy? Well let me tell you it’s even harder for a gay girl, and let me tell you it is really, really sexy; let me scream it at you because IT IS SO FRIGGIN’ HOTT!! Did you hear me? These two boys are sexy mofo’s! I wish I had a #JusLan all for myself! *fans self* Again, this isn’t erotica, this isn’t porn, this is a heart breaking love story. So get your tissues and chocolates ready because you will need them after this book wrecks you (in a good way). Trust the Focus is a page turner, I read it so fast I had to force myself to stop reading just so I could enjoy it for longer and so I saved the ending for the next night because I didn’t want it to end. I just can’t handle how much I loved #JusLan together; so move over Alec & Kat (Make it Count) because I have a new Megan Erickson book couple to love forever! Well who knows maybe Megan’s next couple will usurp #JusLan. I don’t know much about the next book in this series as I just found out from a tweet by Megan that there will be another book called Focus On Me (In Focus #2) – hit that goodreads link folks! 5 fan-freaking-tastic stars!! I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of how amazing this book is…but take one thing away from this review and that is that I LOVED THIS BOOK! This has been my favorite read so far in 2015! I am sure you will see it on a lot of lists this year because it is just that good! Do yourself a favor and read Trust the Focus…like tonight. Thank you to Penguin Group/Berkley for the eARC copy of Trust the Focus from Netgalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
In this emotional and compelling romance, best friends Justin and Landry are going cross country on a journey to visit and photograph sites Justin's late father visited and say goodbye to him in their own way. But Justin didn't count on what being in close quarters for an extended period of time with his openly gay friend Landry would be like. Until now he's been able to hide his true romantic feelings for his best friend. But like his father's ashes being scattered on their journey, so too does Justin find himself torn in pieces over an attraction he can no longer deny. Will this journey of the heart bring them closer together or tear them apart? I loved this story! The idea of a cross country journey is symbolic of their own journey of course, and I really enjoyed the combination of real life destinations with their romantic ones too. Landry's blog posts at each stop were a great touch, adding realism to the story as they could have easily been taken from a real travel blog. I liked both characters equally. Though the story is told from Justin's point of view, you get a real sense of Landry and who he is - a friendly, sensitive and openly gay man who is there for Justin through thick and thin, having resigned himself to the fact that his best friend is straight and made decisions in his life based on that truth. Justin is a decent guy too, but hiding his sexuality for several reasons, chief among them his mother's political aspirations and the knowledge that being openly gay would hurt her. When his body betrays him to Landry and they make the tentative first steps towards something they both have wanted but kept hidden, the sexual chemistry between them sizzles and the resulting love scenes are steamy and tender, emotionally compelling as they can no longer hide their desire for each other. Of course there are complications and how Justin and Landry deal with them is what propels the story forward and makes for a story that you don't want to put down. The secondary characters, friends and family of Landry and Justin add both humorous dialogue and tension as the truth of their feelings is revealed. 5 stars for this entertaining and heartfelt read.
Having read and loved Megan Erickson's Bowler University series, I knew that Megan would be an author I could depend on to make me smile with her sweet, fun romances. This is my first experience with a m/m romance and having known Megan's writing style, I am really glad hers is the first I read. Justin and Landry's story will put a smile on your face and will have you rooting for these two the entire time to overcome any obstacles that may stand in their way. These two certainly have their share of obstacles too. I think that is my favorite part of this story to be honest. It makes the reward that much sweeter, because they have had to fight for it. Landry has always known who he was and has had to deal with the fact that he is in love with his best friend and that they can never be. Landry was such a sweetheart and every time Justin lashed out at him, I felt myself flinching because Lan was just such a good guy. A friend and I were talking about Landry's character and whether or not he had changed throughout the book and he does a little bit. He becomes more confident as the story unfolds and when he realizes the truth about Justin. In the beginning he's not as open and comfortable as he gets to be later on. Their relationship also starts out a bit strained as well- they are not as super close as they once were, which is mainly due to Justin. Oh Justin. I felt for him so much. He is struggling with his identity and who he is. He has known for a long time that he is gay, but has never felt comfortable coming out into the open about it. His mother is a politician for one and two she expects Justin to come on the campaign tour with her once the summer is over. He has always done as she's asked, never really standing up to her and admitting the truth about who he is. Justin is fighting an internal war within and he does lash out in anger several times, hurting Landry in the process. As someone who does the same thing when angry, I can relate to Justin and that is what makes me so sad because no one else deserves our wrath just because they happen to be in the line of fire. I like that Justin is so real. This is a huge deal for him and it takes a lot of courage to completely own up to the fact that he is different, especially with the way the world looks at homosexuality. I absolutely love the setting of this book too. I am a huge road trip fan myself, and while this wasn't the happiest of trips to take- Justin and Landry are revisiting 12 spots Justin's father marked in his atlas before he died and is stopping at each one to spread some of his ashes- it was one they won't ever forget. I also enjoyed that we would get to see some of Landry's blog post entries at the end of some chapters to detail the trip. I loved getting a little bit of the book in his voice! Overall, this was definitely a cute, sweet read about finding yourself and accepting yourself. Love is love and I'm glad Justin could get past all of his hangups and fears to just let himself be his true self. My only minor issue was that at times I thought their romance felt a bit cheesy and overdone. Granted, that could just be the cynic in me too and I'm a bit jaded when it comes to love. I also haven't been around many men in my life who are that expressive about their feelings, so maybe that's why I felt this way. No matter though- both of these guys have such great hearts and I loved the way their story concluded. I am so glad I read this one and as always can't wait for what Megan does next.
I've been excited to read Trust the Focus since Megan first began talking about it online. It's only the second M/M book I've read, but it makes me want to read more... especially if they're as well-written as this one was. In addition to loving the diversity of M/M books, I'm a sucker for the friends to lovers trope and road trip books and I'm a photographer, so I felt like this book was written just for me. It's really difficult to sum up my feelings about Trust the Focus. I loved that while it dealt with tough topics in a very realistic way, it never felt too heavy. I adored Justin and Landry (#JusLanFTW) and the literal and figurative journey they were on together. The characters felt so real. Their struggles were real. I've heard similar stories from my gay friends for years. (Maybe not the road trip...) Everything from their own acceptance of who they are to dealing with feelings for a friend to the issues less-than-supportive family members bring rang so very true. It was raw and emotional, but not overwhelming. I think I enjoyed the setup and setting for this book just as much as I did the characters. As I said above, I love a good road trip book. This is one of my favorites. It equal parts broke and warmed my heart that Justin was taking this trip in his father's memory. There was something really special about the way he was able to find himself while saying goodbye to his dad. There were definitely more than a few scenes that brought tears to my eyes. And, of course, the photographer part of me loved how seamlessly photography was woven into the story. I can't say enough about how great this book is. The characters gripped ahold of my heart and I don't think I'll ever forget them. If you're new to M/M books, this would be a fantastic place to start. It was a beautiful, realistic story. It made me smile, laugh and cry. But, I ended it all with a big, goofy grin on my face. I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.