INSIDE OUT by Lia Riley (December 2, 2014; Forever E-Book; $3.99)
Lia Riley made New Adult readers fall in love with her breakout debut, Upside Down. Sideswiped, the second of her series, made readers clamor for more. Now, with INSIDE OUT, Lia Riley brings her evocative Off the Map series to a stunning conclusion.
When Talia first moved from California to Australia to study abroad, she never dreamed she’d find the love of her life. Bran understands her like no one ever has before. And despite the numerous challenges they’ve faced, they’ve always managed to figure out how to stay together. But this time they’ll face their toughest hurdle yet. Is their love strong enough to keep them together?
Who was I when I first fell in love with Bran?
A person who had courage to stare down an unfeasible situation and say, Sure, I’m up for the challenge.
Who was I when Bran threw himself at me like a wounded animal, all claws, abandonment fear, spit, and fang?
A person who accepted that the moon has two sides, light and dark.
Who am I now?
I feel like a lost soul rocking in the corner, fresh out of ideas.
Bran pushes me through the long line until it’s our turn at the passport desk.
“How long do you plan to stay in the United States?” The customs official glances from Bran’s face to his passport photo and back again.
My stomach squirms like a writhing snake. We’ve avoided any discussion about future plans, focused instead on the short term. I had to accept the reality that I couldn’t return to the Peace Corps, even with the medical separation. I was too sick, too shattered. Our discussions about the logistics of leaving Africa were easier to concentrate on than the looming issue of what we were going to do with each other. I treated the topic like an abandoned lot, filled with weeds and rusting cars, a subject to walk past and pretend to ignore.
Now a stranger is forcing the issue.
“Until this one gets better.” Bran cocks his head in my direction.
The woman scoots forward, peers at me with a faint frown. “May I see proof of a return ticket, sir?”
Bran digs out the photocopy of his itinerary. When we bought the tickets, he had to borrow money from his dad. He hasn’t said much, but I know the fact must eat at him. Add another bitter drop to my guilt bucket—soon it’s going to overflow.
“You’re on a temporary tourist visa.” The customs agent flips the passport to a blank page and stamps with obvious relish. “You have three months, starting now.”
Here we go again.
People imagine international romance is excitement, hot accents, and adventure. They don’t want to hear about the bureaucratic drudgery that threatens to harden the arteries of even the most passionate hearts.
I thought I was going somewhere.
I am an idiot Icarus who flew too close to the sun.
Bran leans forward, his lips hover an inch from my ear, his breath a hot caress on my cool skin. “You okay, Captain?”
“What are you thinking, thinker?”
“I’m just sitting here, a sitter.”
We roll past an American flag overhanging a framed photo of the president. His smile seems smug, as if to say, You really thought you’d get away?
Yes, sir. I kind of did.
“We’re up next.” Bran hands a final customs form to yet another officer who waves us toward big silver doors that open and shut like gnashing teeth. On the other side is California. I can’t shake the disorienting sense we’re heading in the wrong direction.
Bran crossed an ocean for me. I have to find the way out of this black swamp, but I’m manacled to an island of self-doubt, and the tide is rising.
Inside Out picks up right where Sideswiped left off. Talia and Bran are each following their dreams, landing her in Africa and him in Antarctica. The time apart has given Bran time to think about their relationship and he realizes that he doesn’t want to live without Talia, and he plans to do whatever we can everything he can to make things right with them, starting with an apology letter.
While in Africa, Talia contracts malaria, and after waking from a coma, is surprised to see Bran there. To prove that he loves her and can’t live without her, Bran dropped off the vessel he was working on to be by her side as she recovered, thus beginning the start of them finding their way back into each other’s lives.
Their journey to their HEA was not an easy one. They each had insecurities and personal demons that they had to face, but they were able to help each other through, which only made their relationship stronger. Inside Out was a sweet conclusion to the Off the Map series, and I was happy with how it ended. 4 stars.
About 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.
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