the bump coverRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Wyatt Wallace and his partner, Biz Petterelli, have been together for years. The couple may be total opposites, but they just fit together. Along with their dog, Matilda, Wyatt and Biz enjoy their lives in NYC, along with frequent trips to Provincetown for vacation. But now, their lives are about to change in a big way. Two years after they started the process of surrogacy, Wyatt and Biz are about to welcome their new baby.

Both men are excited, but they are also both dealing with a lot of fear and self doubt about becoming fathers, which is unfortunately leading to a lot of tension between them. Rather than flying to California, where the baby is being born, the guys decide to take a road trip across the country. It will be a chance to rekindle their bond and hopefully work through some of the recent issues between them. They plan an itinerary full of gay meccas, hoping for a chance to have some fun and excitement along the way before the responsibilities of parenting kick in. So, along with Matilda, Wyatt and Biz head out in their aging convertible for their weeks-long babymoon.

Unfortunately, pretty much nothing about the trip goes as planned. Their relationship continues to be strained and neither man is willing to talk about their real feelings. They encounter family crises and unexpected detours, not to mention car troubles, terrifying storms, and scary convenience store owners. But Wyatt and Biz also have a chance to reflect on family and what kind of fathers they want to be. They also slowly begin to reconnect with one another, remembering what brought them together all those years ago and how much they truly love one another. With their lives about to change and the new baby coming any time, Wyatt and Biz may finally have found their way back to one another and be ready to take on the next stage in their lives together.

The Bump is a entertaining road trip story that has fun and humor, along with some nice depth, as Biz and Wyatt reconnect while traveling across the country. I am a big fan of forced proximity and road trip stories, so I was intrigued by this one from the blurb. This story has a bit of a twist on that trope, in that Wyatt and Biz are not meeting for the first time on their journey, but are an established couple who are hitting a rough patch in their relationship that they need to work through. We meet the men in the prologue when they are happily in love and making decisions about egg donors for their future child. Then we jump ahead to two years later with the baby soon to be born, and it is clear that things have become strained between them. Both Wyatt and Biz are having doubts about their ability to be a good father. In Wyatt’s case, his father walked out on his family when he was a child, and he has always been the support for his mom and brother in his dad’s absence. Wyatt can’t help but worry about being a good dad without that role model in his own life. For his part, Biz is just worried he won’t be good enough, that he will somehow be a failure as a dad. The two men are stressed and snapping at one another, and the conflict is exacerbated by their very different approaches to life — Wyatt steady, organized, and planning everything; Biz enjoying spontaneity and taking life as it comes. Especially as Wyatt feels Biz’s desire to cut loose before the baby comes as a sign he isn’t ready for the responsibility, and Biz wants Wyatt to relax and reconnect before their lives change.

Nothing quite goes to plan with their trip and those changes at first just add to the tension between them. But, over the course of the story, we see Biz and Wyatt finding their way back to each other. Even as the guys are stressed or annoyed with each other, there is never any doubt that they truly love one another and want to be together. The dual POVs really help give insight into their feelings, and I loved the little moments where we see one of them catch sight of his man and think how much he loves him, or how attractive he finds him. The story is also peppered with memories of their past and the joy they had in one another, and it is so rewarding as we see that happiness reappear along their trip. I also liked that we get some foundation for why these guys are slow to talk to one another. For Wyatt, in particular, we see clearly how he comes from a long line of conflict avoiders. The fact that the men are not communicating feels less like a plot device to keep them apart than a means of showcasing their characters. That said, there were a few too many “the phone rings at the critical moment just as they are about to talk” situations and I did wish to see them actually have some deeper conversations a little sooner.

This story is really rooted in family, both the one Wyatt and Biz hope to build with their new baby, and also each of their individual families. Wyatt has a small circle, just his mom and brother, and he has always been expected to be the caretaker. No one really talks to each other in his family and Wyatt has never been told just what exactly happened with his dad. In comparison, Biz is the baby of this giant, Italian family who adores one another and wants to be together all the time. We get to spend time with both families, and it would have been easy to set things up so it all looks perfect with Biz’s boisterous family in comparison to Wyatt’s more reserved one. But we see the good and the bad in both family dynamics and how their relationships with their parents/siblings shaped both men. In particular, their dynamics with their fathers, and how it is affecting each of them as they look toward their own fatherhood. This isn’t a heavy story, but Karger gives some nice weight to this exploration of family and fatherhood and how it affects Wyatt and Biz.

But along with the heavier topics, this one is also just a lot of fun. There are funny moments and wild events and unusual encounters that keep the tone light overall. This is a fairly long story, but I was just so caught up in it all that I couldn’t put it down. I enjoyed following along as Biz and Wyatt find their way across the country and back into each other’s arms, and can definitely recommend this story.

P.S. Also, can we talk about this cover? Perfect tone, beautiful design, and it captures so many little details of the story, right down to the orange convertible with Matilda in the back.

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