Book #1 in the OFF THE MAP series
New Adult Contemporary Romance
If You Never Get Lost, You’ll Never Be Found
Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying good-bye to the past-and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she'll act like a carefree exchange student, not a girl sinking under the weight of painful memories. Everything is going according to plan until she meets a brooding surfer with hypnotic green eyes and the troubling ability to see straight through her act.
Bran Lockhart is having the worst year on record. After the girl of his dreams turned into a nightmare, he moved back home to Melbourne to piece his life together. Yet no amount of disappointment could blind him to the pretty California girl who gets past all his defenses. He's never wanted anyone the way he wants Talia. But when Bran gets a stark reminder of why he stopped believing in love, he and Talia must decide if what they have is once in a lifetime . . . or if they were meant to live a world apart.
This is a story about two people who have been through intense experiences. One has loved intensely and one has been dealt an intense loss. Both of them wear emotional masks, building up walls and adopting personas that they feel are expected of them. For some reason when Talia and Bran meet, they are the only ones who can see past those layers and that’s scary. The vulnerability they bring out in each other is too much to handle. There is a lot of pushing away. But things that are meant to be will find a way to be.
It wasn’t necessarily the romance that grabbed my attention. It was the author’s note at the beginning about mental health, specifically OCD. Talia always needs to be in control and has developed a routine with many things from light switches to car radios. She’s well aware of how her issues can impair her social activities. Therefore, this journey to Australia which will remove her from her present life is not only her chance to leave behind a very painful past but also an opportunity to reinvent herself into someone who is better or "well". You know people like to joke about having OCD very so often but it’s a serious subject. Fortunately in this case, Talia is functional because she’s had the benefit of counseling and medication to help her. However, there are various triggers that cause her to withdraw and fall back such as her uneasy and dysfunctional relationship with her mother.
Bran’s the commitmentphobe who goes through great lengths to keep up his jerk-like demeanor. Their initial meeting is not spectacular and he doesn't bother to ingratiate himself to her. Despite this, their interaction is just enough to get under each other’s skin. He notices immediately her quirks and calls her on them and that catches her completely off guard. Even those supposedly closest to her had never noticed. So what is it about THIS guy that gets to her? In turn she calls him on his BS which only prompts him to kick it up a notch. Their flirty moments are fun and made especially entertaining because of Talia’s misunderstanding of the local vernacular that she’s still getting used to.
Upside Down offers plenty to get wrapped in from the beautiful sights of Australia to the growing tension and sometimes discord between Bran and Talia. In the end, it’s about deciding to face their shortcomings and fears to take a risk on falling in love with someone who can see right through them. This is the first in the Off The Map series and I’m looking forward to more.
* * * Excerpt * * *
“Is it true you have no regrets, not even one?” Hopefully he has no idea how dead serious I am in his response.
“There’s no point.” His fingers tighten infinitesimally on the wheel. “The past is the past. That’s it.”
“Like whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?”
“No, that’s a dumb-ass cliché. I mean there’s no meaning to life, despite what people pretend. Once I figured that out, everything got easier.”
“Has anyone ever said you are intense?”
“Since the day I was born.” He checks the rearview mirror. “So I got to ask you something. Maybe I’m presuming but—”
“If that’s your lead-in, then you’re probably correct.”
“You don’t fool me.”
He’s right. No matter how hard I try to hide and pretend away my crazy, Bran sees too much.
“But you try to fool everyone, don’t you?” He turns and catches me staring. “With the act. You, all breezy, cute as hell, always smiling like we’re at some big-deal party. You know what I think—”
“No, actually.” Wait, I’m cute? He thinks I’m cute?
“Not sure what your issue is, but—”
“I’m fine,” I mutter tightly. Reality wanders back, as unwelcome as a drunk uncle at a family picnic. Let’s face it, no one wants to be around a girl with issues. “Really, I’m all good.” Right, I sound like a five-year-old watching worms die in puddles.
* * * Meet The Author * * *
After studying at the University of Montana-Missoula, LIA RILEY scoured the world armed only with a backpack, overconfidence and a terrible sense of direction. When not torturing heroes (because c'mon, who doesn't love a good tortured hero?), Lia herds unruly chickens, camps, beach combs, daydreams about as-of-yet unwritten books, wades through a mile-high TBR pile and schemes yet another trip. She and her family live mostly in Northern California.
* * * Giveaway * * *
And finally, we can't have a blog tour without a giveaway, right? Since Upside Down is set in Australia, Forever Romance has put together this fantastic Australian-themed giveaway! Good luck!