Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sideswiped (Off The Map #2) by Lia Riley

* * * 3/4

It was only meant to last the summer . . .

Talia Stolfi has seen more than her share of loss in her twenty-one years. But then fate brought her Bran Lockhart, and her dark world was suddenly and spectacularly illuminated. So if being with Bran means leaving her colorless NorCal life for rugged and wild Australia, then that’s what she’ll do. But as much as Talia longs to give herself over completely to a new beginning, the fears of her past are still lurking in the shadows.

Bran Lockhart knows that living without the beautiful girl who stole his heart will be torment, so he’ll take whatever time with her he can. But even though she has packed up her life in California and is back in his arms for the time being, she can’t stay forever. 
And the remaining time they have together is ticking by way too fast. Though fate seems determined to tear them apart, they won’t give up without a fight—because while time may have limits, their love is infinite . . .

After a rather rough but eventually redeeming end in Upside Down, you’d think things would get easier. At least that’s what I was thinking for some reason. I was naively dreaming that Talia and Bran would somehow find a way to be together and that they’d be off in la-la-lovey-dovey land being all sickeningly new –coupley cute.  Not so much. It’s downright romantic to declare your eternal love and devotion to someone, but once in the thick of the relationship when problems arise, how devoted can you be?

Sideswiped follows Talia and Bran enjoying the newness of their relationship as reality begins to set in. Remember that Talia struggles with keeping her OCD in check and Bran has trust issues thanks to a previous girlfriend and his own parental drama. Now living together and being around each other 24/7 really draws the curtains back on their issues. They’re forced to learn to deal with those issues because turning away is not an option.  One of their biggest hurdles is communication. Either one will tend to shut down depending on the circumstance. It’s clear they love each other fiercely and their physical attraction is limitless (plenty of magic time). They just need to work out the kinks.

I had a love/hate thing going on while reading this. I loved all their silly banter and how much they were into each other. What got me upset was Bran. Because of his fear of losing Talia, he’s ready to resort to a short-sighted plan to keep her with him. He’s so consumed with this that he’s willing to give up an opportunity of a lifetime, something he’s been passionate about for some time. Talia knows this and has a hard time handling it. But he’s not the only one with dreams. She has her own and as she starts to find her footing, she begins to realize that may be she could have it all – her dream boy AND her dream calling. She’s willing to try but convincing Bran? That’s another matter entirely.  I admit that my being upset with the characters during this part of the story is simply due to the gift of hindsight on my part and a lack of it on theirs. Bran and Talia are in their early twenties and have so much to experience out in the world that I was concerned about them tying themselves to each other before fully taking flight.

Things work out in the end though not the way either of them envision. But that’s okay. By the time I was done with Sideswiped I felt renewed hope for this couple. They go through quite a bit of hardship that tests their resolve. The effect it has on each of them is interesting. For Bran, the more things feel out of control, the more stubborn and overbearing he gets. It's like he has this lasso around their relationship that tightens by the minute. Talia’s reaction is the opposite. With each new thing thrown her way, she demonstrates a growing confidence in herself and a willingness to step out of her comfort zone. So as Bran falters slightly, Talia is "finding her brave" as my kids like to say. 

I wasn't certain where things were headed while I was reading it, but I ended up liking Sideswiped even more than Upside Down. Bran and Talia had to be forced out of their bubble at some point to face their challenges head on. It's the inevitable part of growing up and I'm anxious to see how they tackle the next phase in their lives!

~ Bel

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