Burning the Map

Burning the Map

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by Laura Caldwell

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The choices Casey Evers has made in her twenty-six years aren't exactly making her happy. In fact, her life is so on course—college, law school, boyfriend, job offer—that it's actually off. So, before she slides into fourteen-hour days at a Chicago law firm, she heads to Rome and Greece with her two best friends for one last hurrah. The thing is, her best

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The choices Casey Evers has made in her twenty-six years aren't exactly making her happy. In fact, her life is so on course—college, law school, boyfriend, job offer—that it's actually off. So, before she slides into fourteen-hour days at a Chicago law firm, she heads to Rome and Greece with her two best friends for one last hurrah. The thing is, her best friends haven't really been all that close to her since she started seeing John two years ago, she hasn't been all that close to John lately, and she's awfully partial to Mediterranean men….

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Burning The Map

By Laura Caldwell

Harlequin Enterprises Limited

Copyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-373-25021-5

Chapter One

Our taxi bumps and jostles its way along Rome's cobbled streets, swerving around centuries-old buildings, narrowly missing women shopping at the outdoor markets. The scent that gusts through the open windows is old and heavy. Lindsey and Kat wrinkle their noses, but to me it's a sweet, familiar fragrance - bread and dust and wine and heat. The way Rome always smells in the summer.

I haven't been to Europe since my junior year in college, most of which I spent in Italy sodden with Chianti and wide-eyed over a bartender named Fernando, yet I've always considered Rome my second home after Chicago. It's a place that sticks with me, so that an image in a movie or a line in a song can immediately send me back here in my mind. Now I really am back, and I feel the first twinge of optimism I've had in months.

The taxi driver continues his Formula One maneuvers through the slim stone streets, winding toward Piazza Navona. The Colosseum appears before us, a towering, earthy structure with gaping holes like missing teeth. I raise my hand to point it out to the girls, but the driver accelerates and flies by it with all the reverence of passing a 7-Eleven store.

"We are definitely going to crash," Lindsey says through clenched teeth as a pack of mopeds streaks alongside and passes the taxi.

I laugh for what feels like the first time in a long time. "No, he won't. This is how they drive here. He knows what he's doing."

Lindsey gives me a long look, which was designed, I'm sure, to wither her underlings at the ad agency where she's been crawling up the ranks for the last four years. "What he's doing is trying to kill us. You know some Italian, Casey. Tell him to slow down."

Lindsey, or Sin, as we call her, has always been a pragmatic, cut-through-the-crap type of person, but all that cutting seems to have sharpened her edges. Lately, she often borders on a state of irritation, and I find myself holding my breath around her, afraid to piss her off. Her nickname is something of a misnomer, since she's the most straight-laced of all of us. The name should have been bestowed on Kat instead.

I lean forward in my seat. "My friends find you attractive," I say to the driver in rudimentary Italian. In fact, I think I may have referred to him in terms usually saved for food, but he seems to get the point.

The thirtyish, swarthy, perspiring man slows the cab considerably and gives Kat and Lindsey a meaningful look in the rearview mirror.

"Grazie," Kat calls to the driver, trying out one of the Italian words I taught her on the plane.

I'd also told Kat and Sin that one of the most important Italian words they could learn was basta, which, loosely translated, means "get the fuck away from me." It would come in handy for some of the Italian men, I explained. Lindsey had nodded intently, mouthing the word, but Kat told me I was nuts. She wanted to meet Italian men, not tell them to take a hike.

You know that stereotype about how most men are like dogs, wanting to mate with hundreds of different women, while we gals pine away for the split-level suburban home, minivan and offspring? Well, Kat blows that one out of the water. She constantly has at least three guys on deck in case she gets bored with the current one, and I don't think she's been celibate for more than two weeks since I met her eight years ago.

By the time the car rolls down one of the side streets that lead to Piazza Navona, I'm sweating along with the driver and sticking to the cracked leather seats like gum. Yet when the taxi stops outside the courtyard for Pensione Fortuna, the sight of its burbling fountain and abundant flowers rejuvenates me.

"It's gorgeous," Kat says. She pushes open the door and practically skips down the path between the flowers, looking like Maria from The Sound of Music.

Sin and I follow her, Sin lugging Kat's suitcase along with her own. Lindsey can be like that - biting and impatient one minute, mothering the next.

The mothering is something I've looked forward to on this trip, since my own mother seems more like a teenage sister right now. For the last year, I've been trudging through my days trying to avoid lengthy, intimate discussions with her, while at the same time attempting to engage in them with my boyfriend, John, who's been practically living at his law firm, slaving over a huge M&A deal. Meanwhile, since I blew off my corporate law class, I can't even have an intelligent conversation with him about his work.

I'd found Pensione Fortuna when my parents came to visit me in Rome, and I'd hoped to bring John here this summer, figuring a few romantic weeks in Italy and Greece would be just what we needed. But he couldn't, or wouldn't, get away.

So I turned to Kat and Sin, knowing that both had always wanted to go to Europe and had lots of vacation time racked up. I hadn't seen much of them this summer, and to be truthful I'd been a little distant before then. I'd spent most of my last year of law school studying at John's condo on Lake Shore Drive, painting and repainting the walls of my own apartment in an attempt to find a color that would uplift me, or holing up in the school's library checking citations for obscure law review articles no one would ever read. Even though I've been out of circulation for a while, or maybe because of it, they quickly agreed to the trip: a few days in Rome and then a few weeks in the Greek islands.

I'm determined to make up for lost time with Kat and Sin. I don't want to fall into the same trap my mother has. My father's gradual withdrawal is destroying her, and I'm the one she talks to about her womanly needs and her upcoming face-lift, as if she can't trust her friends with that information. But isn't that what friends are for?

As we walk through the courtyard, I notice that it's changed little since I last saw it. A few wrought-iron tables with linen umbrellas still surround the fountain, and the carved oak door to the pensione still stands open.

For a second, I flash back to my parents sitting at one of those tables, sharing a bottle of wine, laughing as they play their hundred thousandth game of gin rummy, but I can't reconcile the image with the present.

"You coming, Casey?" Kat calls from the doorway. I look at the table one more time, seeing my parents smile and raise their glasses, before I nod at Kat and shake off the memory.

Our room is sparse but cheerful, with three single beds covered in sunny-yellow spreads, the color reminding me of a recent paint I had on my apartment walls. It was cheerful all right, but I could never seem to match my mood to the color. I went next to an eggshell-blue that made me feel twelve years old, then to the current mossy-green. It gives the place a foresty feeling, which can be good or bad depending on whether I'm feeling lost at the moment.

The beds here are placed under huge French windows that open to the courtyard, while a bureau made of dark wood is pushed against one wall, a vase of fresh cut flowers on top. If they'd let me decorate, I'd put the beds on the other side of the room so you could lie down and see the flowering tree outside.

After a two-hour nap, it's eight o'clock at night, and our stomachs are beginning to rumble. We decide to get cleaned up and hit the town.

"What's with this dribbling?" Lindsey calls from the bathroom. "Is this really the shower?"

"Get used to it," I say. I don't know what it is about Europe, but as far as I can tell, the entire continent suffers from a lack of decent water pressure.

When I get my turn in the bathroom, I peer at myself in the mirror and sigh. I'd hoped that taking this trip, even just getting to Rome, would alter me, make me feel more alive, look more exotic. No such luck. Same old Casey.

I give myself a big smile in the mirror, thinking of those self-help books I've read that recommend acting happy as a means of transformation. The grin looks fake, though, almost lecherous under the fluorescent light, so I drop it.

As we get dressed for the night, we fall back into our old patterns - I can't decide what to wear, Lindsey is ready in two seconds and talks me through my outfit decision, and Kat dawdles. Finally, Lindsey and I sit on the bed, waiting for Kat to make her finishing touches - a dab of perfume between her breasts, the application of jewelry.


Excerpted from Burning The Map by Laura Caldwell Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Burning The Map 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Casey Evers seems to have it all. She just received her law degree and landed a job with highly regarded Billings, Sherman and Lott. She is seeing one person, a nice attorney. However, with her future looking bright, Casey is unhappy, but not sure why. She wonders if it is the job that feels like jail sentence, her parents¿ imminent break-up, or her boyfriend¿s toiling seemingly twenty-four hours day. Casey and her two friends from the University of Michigan, Kat and Lindsey travel to Rome and the Greek isles on a three-week vacation. In Rome, Casey feels estranged from her two pals unable to tell them about her concerns. Further separating her from her two friends is that Casey meets a nice Italian in Rome and another male in Greece. What will Casey do when the vacation ends and the rest of her life begins? BURNING THE MAP is an interesting character study, done in the ¿chic¿ mode. The story line mostly focuses on the lead protagonist especially her doubts, but also provides insight into her friends, boyfriend, and parents at least from Casey¿s perspective. Genre fans will empathize with Laura Caldwell¿s intriguing look at a young lady at the threshold of adult decisions and responsibilities. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
You know, this is one of those books that you'll always remember reading because of how fun it was! I loved the scenery and the main character...I found her relatable and witty...overall, I really enjoyed reading this!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Laura Caldwell's, Burning the Map, captures all the emotions that every female as encoutered at least once in their lifetime. From realizing that friendships aren't the college beer drinking days, to seeing and understanding the bigger picture about family dynamics...this is a must read. Rarely, while reading books, do I find myself showing outward emotions. Usually, I feel and understand the characters thoughts internally. However, Caldwell has such wonderful description and fluid thoughts that you feel as if you're traveling right along with Casey, Kat and Lindsey. Burning the Map is a book you'll love to read over and over, one that you'll discuss with your girlfriends over Cosmos.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Laura Caldwell's Burning The Map is for anyone who has ever travelled with her girlfriends, or for anyone who has wanted to travel with friends. The novel made me long to pull out my back pack and book a flight to the Greek Islands. Caldwell's insights on friendship, family, and finding your own path in life are wise and witty. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Need a virtual vacation or just plain tired of your boring old life? This book is the page-turner you want to curl up with. The main character goes on a fab vacation with her best buds from college to romantic Rome and exotic Greece - described in delectable detail by this first-time author Caldwell. The main character, a law school grad, faces a life crisis in these beautiful locations. Should she enter a boring and tedious law practice and marry her boyfriend? Or, should she chuck it all and follow her dreams to really find herself - despite what her friends and family may think? You'll be inspired to take another look at your life and really think about making a change. Caldwell is a promising author who can really take you inside the heads of her characters. You will really feel like you've had a vacation! All I can say is - I can't wait to see what else she'll write!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Casey Evers seemingly has the perfect life. All her choices to date have been good, too good. She is living a perfect good girl's life, and is bored out of her mind, and losing herself in the process, she fears. Before she settles into a career that will mean long hours and little fun, she goes off to Greece with her best friends for one last shot at having fun.

As the three friends tour the magical island, Casey begins to discover herself through a series of sexual encounters and becomes unsure if she wants to settle for her boring boyfriend. She fears she is smothering her personality to accomodate John's lifestyle, and finds Billy and Francesco much more exiciting to be with than he ever was. So, when John shows up, what will she do?

** This first person novel of self discovery is targeted to a narrow audience, thus many readers will find the fickle heroine difficult to relate to or to give much sympathy. Also, the lack of a definite hero is a drawback. However, the setting is beautiful, and vividly painted so that one feels that they are able to visit Greece vicariously. **

Reviewed by Amanda Killgore.