Title: Off the Map
Series: Beck Sisters, #3
Author: Trish Doller
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication date: March 7, 2023
Length: 272 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Carla Black’s life motto is “here for a good time, not for a long time.” She’s been travelling the world on her own in her vintage Jeep Wrangler for nearly a decade, stopping only long enough to replenish her adventure fund. She doesn’t do love and she doesn’t ever go home.
Eamon Sullivan is a modern-day cartographer who creates digital maps. His work helps people find their way, but he’s the one who’s lost his sense of direction. He’s unhappy at work, recently dumped, and his one big dream is stalled out—literally.
Fate throws them together when Carla arrives in Dublin for her best friend’s wedding and Eamon is tasked with picking her up from the airport. But what should be a simple drive across Ireland quickly becomes complicated with chemistry-filled detours, unexpected feelings, and a chance at love – if only they choose it.
Content warning: Loss of a parent, dementia.
Call me late to the party, but I only discovered Trish Doller’s loosely connected contemporary romance series a couple of months ago. After finishing Float Plan, I moved on to The Suite Spot as soon as I could, and here I am, just a few weeks later, to report back on book #3, Off the Map.
In Off the Map, the main character is the best friend of Anna from Float Plan. Carla works as a bartender at a cheesy pirate-themed restaurant in Fort Lauderdale during tourist season, each year saving up as much as possible to fund her true passion in life, world travel. During her time away from the bar, she goes wherever the road takes her, living on beaches or off-roading in her trusty jeep, enjoying flings but never making plans beyond the here and now.
As a child, Carla’s beloved father Biggie used travel as a way to distract his young daughter from her mother’s abandonment. Each summer, as soon as school was out, they’d hit the road for adventure and exploration. Biggie is a larger than life character, an ex-hippie and Vietnam vet who loves his daughter, his friends, and his music — but eight years before the story opens, Biggie was diagnosed with dementia. And his immediate response was to hand Carla the keys to Valentina (the jeep) and demand that she go off on more adventures, not wanting her tied down or forced to witness his decline.
As Off the Map starts, Carla has come to Ireland for Anna and Keane’s wedding. Keane’s brother Eamon is tasked with picking Carla up and driving her from Dublin to the small town where the wedding will take place. But that would be too straightforward! After giving into their mutual attraction and having an extremely enjoyable night together, Carla discovers that Eamon has never pursued his own dreams of travel and adventure, instead maintaining the steady, reliable existence his family seems to expect of him.
With Carla urging him on, Eamon revs up his classic Land Rover and the two set out for the wedding… but with plenty of detours along the way. As they travel, their connection deepens, and by the time they arrive at their destination six days later, it’s clear that this is way more than a fling.
Reading about Carla and Eamon’s escapades is quite fun (although it’s absolutely feeding the fire of my own wanderlust). I personally wouldn’t want to camp wild or go off-roading, but reading this book let me indulge my fantasies of traveling the world without strings or limitations.
The chemistry between the couple is immediate and fiery, but it’s not just hot sex (of which there is plenty; this book gets a steamy rating) — there’s also tenderness, intimacy, and prolonged kissing, just for the sake of kissing. I appreciated how the author depicts the growing trust and connection between the characters. Yes, their sexual connection is instantaneous, but it’s heightened and deepened by their personal and emotional connection.
Carla’s relationship with Biggie is complicated, and becomes the focus of the last quarter or so of the book, as she finally realizes that she needs to return home and be with him, whether or not that’s what he’s instructed her to do. Carla’s time with Biggie is sweetly and sensitively depicted, and I found it very moving.
Being a romance, Off the Map of course has complicating factors that seem to send Carla and Eamon in diametrically opposed directions before bringing them back together. The ending is lovely but bittersweet, and seems very fitting for the characters and their story arcs.
I enjoyed Off the Map very much (although Float Plan is still my favorite of the three books), and hope there will be more set in this world. The characters in the Beck Sisters books are wonderful, and I want more of them!