Off the Map
By Alane
Mar 1, 2006 - 12:52:00 PM

Tessa Wright is a thirty-nine-year-old banker.  She's had the same job for seventeen years and she's been married to her husband, Jack, for ten.  Except for a time shortly before she met Jack, when she couldn't handle her father's death and seriously fell apart, she has been in control of her life.  Tessa and Jack are having fertility problems, but they've been going the medical route and Tessa figures she can eventually talk Jack into adoption if science fails them.  Her life may not be perfect, but for the most part things are stable, just the way she likes it.  Then suddenly, Tessa's whole life unravels.  She is "streamlined" out of her job along with her best friend, Kate.  Still reeling from the shock and hung over from an afternoon of drowning her sorrows, Tessa shares her horror story with Jack.  In return, he drops a marriage-ending bombshell on her.  Being unemployed and single as she turns forty certainly did not figure into Tessa's plans for her life.  Now what?

Tessa is in the midst of wallowing in self-pity when her old friend Vee comes to town for a visit.  Trying to help snap her out of it, Vee offers to let Tessa use her vacation home in a tiny Costa Rican village for a few months.  Kate can go along with her and maybe they can both sort out what they want to do with their lives.  According to Vee the house is empty, with just a relative of Vee's husband's living on the grounds as a caretaker.  Tessa, who normally plans every detail of her life and analyzes it to death, decides to just go ahead and take the risk.


Things definitely don't go anywhere near as smoothly as she'd hoped.  She and Kate were nearly stranded at the airport, Don the Caretaker is nowhere to be found, and two strange women are living in Vee's house.  And Tessa keeps crossing paths with an appealing, attractive lawyer named Javier who just happens to live in the house next door.  Can she adapt to the unexpected and figure out what she wants to do with her life?


OFF THE MAP is a quirky chick-lit type story from Harlequin's NEXT line.  There are romantic elements, but they're really not the main focus of the story.  It centers on Tessa, although the spotlight sometimes shines on her good friend Kate, on pregnant Costa Rican teenager Isabel, or even on Mila, an older German woman who has been helping Isabel.  Tessa is the nurturing type and I loved the way the eclectic little group began to feel like a family, with Tessa as the mother hen.  Each woman is searching for something, and each has to figure out what she hopes to find.  It may be love or friendship; it may be a new way of life or simply refuge from an old one.  I hoped they would all find happiness, contentment and purpose in their lives.

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