Over the last eight months as a member of Outback Boys, an LGBTQ+ adventure group, Trey has gotten to know the gorgeous Mark. The two have become friendly, but Trey has never reached for more and can’t help but feel nervous around Mark. But as the group is headed to the U.S. for a ski trip, they are going to be spending a lot more time together. And when Trey finally gets up the nerve to share his interest with Mark, it turns out Mark feels the same way.
The men end up having a fabulous time together on their trip and really start a connection. But they soon have to head home and back to reality, particularly navigating Mark’s long hours running his company. Now that they have found each other, Mark and Trey have to figure out how to take their holiday fling and turn it into a lasting relationship.
Stumble is the first book in Becca Seymour’s new Outback Boys series, which looks to be focused on members of the adventure group. It was originally released for free as part of the Winter Wonderland giveaway, and has since been expanded to include more content and an epilogue. This is a cute and easy book about two guys who have been interested in each other for a while, but neither has worked up the nerve to say anything. Their ski trip gives them a chance to be in close proximity and get to know one another better, as well as act on their attraction. I appreciated that Seymour moves this beyond just a week-long vacation romance. The first half or so of the book deals with the guys while they are on their trip, but the second half brings them home to work through integrating their romance into real life. Both Mark and Trey are sweet and likable and there is a nice, easy tone here as the men fall for one another and find their happiness.
I did feel like things felt perhaps too easy at times, however, in the sense that there is not much conflict or a lot driving the plot. Some of this might come from the blurb, which I think kind of oversells things in terms of conflict. It describes Trey working not to be a “bumbling mess” around Mark and making an “epic stumble” that “makes his head spin and he throws all caution to the wind,” leading to him sharing his attraction with Mark. So based on that, I was expecting more awkwardness at first, and definitely more of an event around this “epic stumble,” which in reality felt like just a minor “blink and you missed it” moment to me. So between not meeting the expectations set out in the blurb, combined with the fact that things are just super easy for the guys — they express their attraction, they act on their feelings, they easily fit into one another’s lives — there just didn’t feel like enough here to really carry the story. I wonder if perhaps the shorter format of the original would have tightened things here, but I just wanted more from the storyline.
The conflict really all comes at the end, and for me, it felt kind of out of nowhere. It deals with Mark’s ex-boyfriend, and we never learn much of anything about their relationship or how it affected Mark. So when at the end it is the focus of the main story conflict, I felt there wasn’t enough scaffolding earlier on to really develop it. There is also a situation regarding money that seemed really hard to believe, and again, not really supported given how little we know about Mark’s ex-boyfriend and their past relationship. (I know that is vague, so here is a spoiler that explains it a little better. Basically,But again, knowing nothing about Mark’s past relationship, this just seemed so over-the-top and unrealistic for a man of his Trey’s means, given Mark really didn’t seem to need “saving” in any serious way that was conveyed to us.)
I also found the men sounded very interchangeable. Even though the chapters alternated POVs and were clearly labeled, the character voices felt so similar I constantly had to check whose POV we were in throughout the book. While there were some basic differences (Mark is rich, for example), the men just sound so much alike I struggled to remember partway through a chapter whose POV I was reading.
The set up is nice for this story, as well as for the larger series, and we meet one of the next MCs at the end of this book. While I felt like I wanted more from this story and the conflict presented, overall it could be a good choice if you are looking for a sweet and easy read.