Riley has decided he needs to get a bit more fit, so he goes with a co-worker to a weekend event for the Outback Boys, an LGBTQ+ adventure group. The experience is hard work, but rewarding. However, the best part is meeting Aiden, one of the group leaders. Riley has heard that Aiden usually keeps to himself, but around Riley, Aiden is friendly and even flirty. As the two get to know each other, it is clear there is a connection, one that they would both like to continue to pursue.
Once the weekend is over, Riley and Aiden have a bit of a challenge with the distance, as Riley lives closer to the city and Aiden owns a farm further out. But the men like each other enough to make it work, and begin to grow closer the more time they spend together. However, both Riley and Aiden have complicated pasts and traumas that still affect them. When those old hurts come to the forefront, it could ruin what the men are building together.
Bounce is the second book in Becca Seymour’s Outback Boys series. The books both feature the adventure group, and Mark and Trey show up briefly here, but the stories stand alone just fine and you can easily jump into this one without having read Stumble.
Riley and Aiden are likable guys and they have an easy development to their relationship. They are both kind and sweet and there is some cute interaction between them, especially as they hang out with the Outback Boys. Seymour does a nice job highlighting their adventures and showcasing some of the natural beauty of Australia, so I enjoyed the scenes where they are participating in the outdoor activities. I also liked the sweet relationship Aiden has with his somewhat crusty grandfather, particularly when he gives Aiden a bit of a kick in the pants. My issue here is that the story just feels so easy as to be a little bland in parts. The guys meet, they like each other, they spend time together, they fall in love. For most of the book, there is essentially no conflict or much plot beyond watching two guys start dating. There just wasn’t enough story here to keep me fully engaged as things move placidly along. Toward the later part of the book, we start to learn more about both the men’s pasts, which brings up some painful issues for each. Ultimately, things clash and it brings up some more tension that the men have to work through and this added more energy to the story. But that comes fairly late in the game and I just needed more from the rest of the book. (As a note, this story addresses themes of suicide, attempted suicide, and mental illness, so be aware if those are triggers for you.)
I also found myself confused about the role in the story of one of Riley’s friends and coworkers, Pete. Pete is the one who brings Riley to the Outback Boys, and it is clear something is up with Pete, but it is never really resolved. Well, two things are up with Pete. One is that something going on with his personal life that he shares with Riley, and Riley ends up being a supportive friend. But aside from that, there is a very clear indication that Pete is not pleased with Riley and Aiden’s relationship. It is never explained if it is jealousy (and if so, if he is jealous of Aiden or of Riley), or if it is something else. But this awkwardness is mentioned multiple times and I kept waiting for it to be addressed, but it never does. So I am really not clear what Pete’s role is here as a character (other than fodder for his own book that seems to be forthcoming) and why he has such a large focus in this book, particularly when his issues with regard to Aiden and Riley are never resolved.
Overall, I found this one a sweet and easy story. Riley and Aiden are likable guys and it is easy to root for them. I just felt like there wasn’t enough here to keep me fully engaged and things just move so smoothly for most of the book that I was just watching two nice guys date each other. But I also think that this story is going to appeal to a lot of readers who just want an easy contemporary with two nice guys and a touch of emotional intensity toward the end.