My heart’s a quivering mess

Overexposed (In Focus, #4)Overexposed by Megan Erickson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

See that quivering mess, that’s my heart that is, after this book took it, grabbed it, squeezed it a bit and then just for good measure, decided to stick a knife right through it before eventually wrapping it up in bubble wrap and singing a lullaby at it to calm it down.

This is hands down my favourite of all the In Focus series, not taking away anything from the other three because let’s be honest, #JusLanForeverRight?! But this one spoke to me on so many levels, not least the military aspect of it.

Part of it comes from having so many serving or former military people in not only both mine and partner’s families, but also among our friends, as well as that feeling of wondering just how you pick yourself up after a loss, how do you live with a changed family dynamic.

I’d guessed Thad’s secret long before it came out but even so, it still packed a real emotional punch. I felt Levi’s pain, his sense of betrayal, his quite understandable fears of not being able to stay on the sidelines again while a loved one deployed. It’s incredibly hard to be the ones left at home, to be a military spouse or partner is an incredible sacrifice.

But this wasn’t all doom and gloom, there was enough of the reality TV star sass we got to see from Levi in book three to help keep this book from being too much of an emotional weight and there was just enough sexual exchanges to keep the tensions on the boil. Their first time together was lovingly crafted, real and emotionally charged.

As I’ve said with each of the books in this series, they don’t feel NA, they have a maturity to the dialogue and the story telling which elevates them out of the everyday recounting of young men just into their 20s taking their first steps into “proper” adulthood.

But please Megan, don’t leave Matty’s tale untold, he needs to find his beach holiday guy too for the epilogue appearances.

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Running out of superlatives

Out of Frame (In Focus #3)Out of Frame by Megan Erickson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, this is becoming a problem for me, you see, as someone with a 20-year journalism career, I shouldn’t be running out of superlatives to describe the books in this series, but I am.

I’ve already used fabulous characterisation, I’ve used wonderful scene setting, I’ve even thought about incredible sex scenes (then again, who doesn’t think about those eh?!) So I think what it basically comes down to is that Megan Erickson’s In Focus series is the bomb, the dog’s bollocks, the big cheese, the top of the tree, it’s basically just bloody brilliant.

This time we’re not road tripping, oh no, this time we’re venturing out onto the choppy waters of a Caribbean cruise – although I’d probably want my money back as no one ever seemed to get off to visit and do touristy things.

Still, the things they did get up to on-board more than made up for it. Sweet, gorgeous unassuming Quinn, bold and brash but undeniably brilliant Jay, together they found the strength to take a leap of faith.

And what a leap it was, not just the actual one, 12ft into a swimming pool, but that one where you tentatively hand over your heart to someone else’s care.

For Jay it was having the courage to be himself, a bisexual black actor, out and proud no matter if utmost him roles or that he couldn’t save to pay for his brother’s medical treatment.
For Quinn it was breaking free of his well meaning but stifling parents and taking control of his life, learning that he didn’t have to consider every angle first, that he could live in the moment.

The epilogue was all ends up awesome and yay for more #JusLan and some #Rilin (okay so I totally made up that ship name for Riley and Colin, maybe #Coley works better 🙂 I dunno) but I love how the couples from the previous books all come together in them.

Oh yeah, I might have drooled a bit at the cover on this one too.

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Wowzers – that’s how good this book is

Focus on Me (In Focus #2)Focus on Me by Megan Erickson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wowzers, that’s how good this book is, it made me use the word workers.

Riley, beautiful Riley and his broken brain. I loved how he came to realise he had to want to try for himself and not anyone else, not even for Colin. I loved that there was no magic dick and that professional help was sought, but still had the proviso that he wouldn’t ever be “normal” (Riley’s own words).

Colin felt much older than his years. In fact both characters read as being older than their stated ages I think, their behaviour and dialogue felt more mature even in spite of Riley’s illnesses.
I also thought Megan dealt with mental illness with great empathy and understanding, the highs and the lows, the almost manic behaviour, the paranoia. It’s such a difficult subject to get right.

But I loved Colin, how he tried so hard but eventually realised he couldn’t be Riley’s answer to everything that was troubling him.

I loved the cameos from #JusLan, it was an interesting way of making the connection between books. There was also a lot of humour and smiley moments in the story too which stopped it from becoming an angst fest.

And the sex, get me a fan now because Riley and Colin’s first time was hot enough to give the Earth’s core a run for its money. I loved how Megan went against the usual tropes with these two.

Stunningly beautiful cover too, as with book one, which always goes a long way to making me want to read a book. Always a bonus when what’s inside matches the pretty exterior.

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#JusLanForever – I loved these boys

Trust the Focus (In Focus #1)Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh Landry how much do I love thee? Well, let’s start by saying lots and lots for many reasons, the biggest being how you put up with Justin’s behaviour on the road trip.

As for you Justin, well at first I wanted to shake you a lot and possibly give you a small kick up the backside. Then I realised violence is never the answer, especially not for someone who was struggling so hard to be true to themselves, so then I wanted to give you lots of big hugs and tell you it gets better.

Thankfully you found your own courage and did what you needed to do to trust in yourself and to find your best you. And it was right that you did it for yourself and not for Landry, even though we all know he was a big factor in you making that step.

Once you’d sorted yourself out though, I absolutely loved how you went for it 100% all out, taking charge of your destiny and writing that epic list of five things you needed to do.

Sally was a character all in her own right, and the imagery of her tooling down a dusty straight road with no other traffic but her is one which will now bring fond memories alongside the smell of cinnamon, which has always been one of my favourite spices.

So thank you Megan, for letting these boys out into the world and allowing us to ride shotgun for a while, they really were worth it #JusLanForever

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Another wonderful romance from Jay Northc

Into YouInto You by Jay Northcote

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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4.5* This book makes you smile with its little hint of magic and mystery, the humour and the full flush of young love.

I love body swapping stories so this was right up my alley and it was very well done, a ‘realistic’ twist to get two best friends who’d fallen apart from each other to realise that what they’d had at the age of 14 really was something special.

Olly and Scott were well rounded characters, each unique with their own distinct voice and expressions. The setting was also firmly laid down with the English flavour of secondary school, A Levels (arghhhhhh they’re a nightmare!), football and school plays, and the excitement of university.

There’s not a lot in the way of steam, it’s light as I’d expect when the MCs are just 18 but what there is has passion and emotion and a feeling of true connection.

Jay is one of my favourite authors and I don’t think I’ve ever failed to be entertained by one of her stories.

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