If I Should Stumble, by Claire Davis and Al Stewart
Series: Tork & Adam, Book 3
Published by: Beaten Track Publishing
Release Date: December 1, 2016
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Love is sure and timeless and forever. It whispers over the morning coffee and the last thought before sleep. Love is beyond hope, and cruel as life.
Kaz has been in the UK for almost a year, but the days pass by in an endless round of alcohol and nothingness. He has a story but no words good or bad enough to tell it, until one day, he is assigned a new peer mentor who asks him to help train a sponsored running team. Something that was stretched as old parchment breaks inside, and memories begin to re-surface.
Zack is overjoyed when his friend Adam asks him to be part of the sponsored run team trying to make money for the local homeless shelter. All day he makes cakes to lighten people’s load, but something is missing from his life. Then he meets the boy with eyes like the desert, and with every step he runs, Zack’s light burns away the darkness in Kaz’s heart.
As the race heats gets nearer, Tork, Adam, Zack and Jo realise that under Kaz’s careful programme, they have a chance to qualify and set right some of the wrongs of this world.
What if you had to run? Had to leave everything and everyone behind and flee for your life? What if the journey you had to take was so heartbreaking, you would gladly spend each day doing whatever it took to forget the faces and the voices of those who weren’t strong enough, fast enough…lucky enough. And what if you had to do it alone?
Kaz is a boy who likes other boys. He knows it. His family knows it. His coach knows it. But other people have noticed too, and they’re talking. And Kaz knows, words are dangerous.
Words to terrify. Words to end all sleep. Words that no denying could dint or change. Once you shared a laugh – lingered over a glance or went to the café with boys too many times – eventually they always found out.
Words that got you beat up.
Words that killed
Words – words – words.
So Kaz runs. Runs like his coach taught him to do on the track, when the possibility of an Olympic dream didn’t seem so far away. But two years on, in a new country, Kaz is still running. Only this time, he’s running from himself; from the memories of a journey so harrowing that the people who couldn’t run as fast or as far, haunt the very marrow of his bones.
But salvation is coming in the form of a charity race where Kaz is given the opportunity to coach four young men and women. Not only are they breaking down his defenses, they are giving him a chance to build friendships – build trust – and giving him his voice back. Now he just needs the courage to allow himself to love without fear and to finally stop running from his demons.
This could very well have turned out to be a depressing story about a young refugee struggling to adapt to his new country. But there is no preaching and no heavy-handed rebukes. Instead, in the authors’ deft hands, it’s full of gentle humour, compassion and characters that are entirely relatable.
If I Should Stumble brings back Tork and Adam, the MC’s from the first two books in this series (and if you haven’t read them, go now. You need to get to know how amazing they are first before you read this book). It’s lovely to see them, still together and going strong.
And then there is Zack, the young, chef in training with body image issues. Where others see reason to ridicule, Kaz sees something to treasure.
Zack was large and hairy – nothing like the physique-obsessed boys Kaz had trained with.
He’d always been drawn to bigger men with swelling arms and round stomachs – real men who didn’t waste time comparing protein shake flavours.
Kaz and Zack are opposite sides of the same coin. Even their names are practically a palindrome. Where Kaz is all bony and sharp angles, Zach is soft and curved. Where Kaz is deflection and shadows, Zack is open heart and clear intentions. Where Kaz denies himself all but the barest amount of sustenance, Zack enjoys cooking and eating with full flavour and gusto. Their strengths offset each other’s weaknesses. Their careful courtship is an absolute joy to read and I’m not sure I have come across two sweeter boys in romance this year.
There is so much to love about this book. I give full credit to the authors for being able to discuss important social issues without beating their readers over the head with IMPORTANT MESSAGES. Because even without the sermon, it’s not difficult to imagine the horrors that Kaz faced on his journey. After all, we’ve seen them in our nightly news reports. What we don’t often see, is the aftermath. Of how survivors must not only live with what they’ve seen, but acclimate to a way of life that is often strange and unfamiliar. This book portrays just a small portion of that struggle, and does it quite beautifully.
This book, this series, is highly recommended.
I live in the beautiful UK and grew up in the Midlands. As a writer, I mostly strive to absorb and capture the sunlight in people then turn it into words.
I am originally from an enormous housing estate in the south of England.
Early influences include male ballet dancers or anyone in tights, Robin Hood, and all my sister’s boyfriends.
I’ve written poetry from a young age but fairly recently moved on to books about ordinary people.
I’m crippling awful at talking about myself but I can draw a horse.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.