Book one of the In Focus series
By Megan Erickson
Available now from InterMix (Penguin Random House)
Justin just graduated from college. He's going to start working for his mom's political campaign in September, but until then he's going on a road trip with his best friend Landry. It's not all happy: they're going to spread Justin's father ashes on twelve sites that were important to him. There's also a catch: Justin has been in love with Landry since high school, but he's still in the closet.
I feel like the closeted story has been fading away as marriage equality and other movements for equal rights for LGBTQ people gain more steam. But it is still a reality many people face, especially if they don't have supportive families. Justin planned to tell his parents, but then his dad died, and that was the parent he trusted to be supportive. His mother is a conservative, and already upset that her divorce affects her family values image. He's afraid of how she'll react when she learns the truth. It is a reasonable fear, even if he is a grown up. He lives with her and is relying on her for a job, after all. (And sadly, those don't grow on trees.) TRUST THE FOCUS is a very modern take on a familiar story.
One thing I absolutely love: Justin's interest in photography. His dad was a father, and always told him to "Trust the focus." (Title drop!) Throughout the book Justin takes shots to memorialize the trip and his relationship with Landry. Too often books tell you that a character has a passion and never shows it. Justin's photography runs throughout the whole books, and is used to advance the plot in multiple ways. It also gives a chance for Landry to get a little of his side of the story in, through excerpted blog posts that he writes to go with the photos.
I believed that Landry and Justin felt deeply for each other. I love that everything initially happens fast after the truth comes out, since they've pined for so long, but that the brakes come on soon after because Landry is understandably upset about being lied to by a friend (when he clearly would've been supportive) and he's not content to be with someone still in the closet. There's also the issue of Justin's temper, which becomes more and more of an issue. I liked that Landry didn't put up with Justin saying mean things whenever he got angry. I also liked that Justin knew he needed to work on a lot of the things making their relationship difficult whether the relationship ended up working out or not. Being comfortable with himself, not being angry with himself and turning that anger outward, those things are important.
TRUST THE FOCUS is a cute friends-to-lovers story with a touch of angst and many spicy scenes. New Adult author Megan Erickson does a good job with her first gay romance. She manages to incorporate the issues gay couples face into the story without making them all that the story is about. I did wish for a little more Landry sometimes. Since Justin narrates, he's the more vibrant character. I did still believe in their happily ever after.