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.
This book features the characters Tork and Adam from The Invasion of Tork and The Invasion of Adam.
If I Should Stumble is the third book in the Tork series. I love these authors. Love them. And while this story is not about Tork and Adam, we do see plenty of them, throughout, and they are still going strong. And Tork shines brightly - so good to see.
This book. This story hit me. My heart broke for Kaz and all he's been through. Forced to leave his country because his family knows. Because his coach knows. Because his life is in danger.
Kaz fled from a war-torn country. He left his family, friends, university because they sent him away. He's been in the UK for a good while, now, as a refugee and he feels lost. He feels alone. He's not processed anything and he feels loads of guilt, not just for leaving his family behind, but for things that happened on his way to sanctuary. He puts on a brave and cheerful face, but it's all surface. Underneath that facade, he is suffering greatly. He gathers things that were needed then, but weren't to be found. He builds a cave, a fort to house all his fears and regrets.
But not everyone understands, because he won't talk about it, and, even worse, he's been using alcohol to quiet the memories and the guilt, so he is in danger of losing his place at Citywise. Only Tork is keeping him in the program by volunteering Kaz to coach their charity running team, because he discovered Kaz was a runner in his home country and he knows how to train properly.
Zack is a member of the charity running team that Adam and Tork have put together. Zack isn't athletic, at all, but he wants to be part of a team and he wants to lose some weight, so here he is (my hero, because - go him!) ready to learn and train. Zack is in culinary school and also volunteers at the same shelter that Adam does. Cooking and baking is Zack's passion. And because he is overweight, Zack doesn't see himself as attractive and certainly doesn't think someone like Kaz would see him.
But Kaz loves Zack's body. And his personality. The whole package. He has trouble admitting it, at first, because back home, being gay could get you killed and even get your family killed. So he has kept his desires inside and has tried hard not to even think about it. Seeing Tork with Adam, being so free with their affections, helps Kaz learn that his love is a good thing.
The charity run gave them all purpose, not only as a team, but an individual purpose to improve themselves and make a difference in the bigger picture. Kaz needed the team as much, if not more, than the others. Kaz had lost his purpose under a mountain of regret and fear.
What I loved about If I Should Stumble was that, beyond the charity run, Kaz and Zack each needed something that the other was perfect at giving. Zack needed some self confidence and acceptance for himself and his body. And Kaz needed someone who could help him see who he really was. That he was worth loving. Both of them needed someone to see beyond the outer packaging to what lay inside themselves. And they found it, along with some happiness. Kaz still has a ways to go to process everything he has been through, but he'll do it now. For Zack, and for himself. He's finally ready.
ARC of If I Should Stumble was generously provided by the authors in exchange for an honest review.
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