by Beatriz Williams
Fiction — Historical / Romantic
Putnam; May 10, 2012
Synopsis from the back cover:
When twenty-something Wall Street analyst Kate Wilson attracts the notice of the legendary Julian Laurence at a business meeting, no one’s more surprised than she is. Julian’s relentless energy and his extraordinary intellect electrify her, but she’s baffled by his sudden interest. Why would this handsome British billionaire–Manhattan’s most eligible bachelor–pursue a pretty but bookish young banker who hasn’t had a boyfriend since college?
The answer is beyond imagining…at least at first. Kate and Julian’s story may have begun not in the moneyed world of twenty-first-century Manhattan but in France during World War I, when a mysterious American woman emerged from the shadows of the Western Front to save the life of Captain Julian Laurence Ashford, a celebrated war poet and infantry officer.
Now, in modern-day New York, Kate and Julian must protect themselves from the secrets of the past, and trust in a true love that transcends time and space.
In Overseas, the love story of Kate Wilson and Julian Laurence is told in two threads: one thread takes place in New York City in 2007/2008, and tells the story of Kate and Julian meeting and falling in love; the other thread takes place in France in 1916 during World War I, where Kate has traveled back in time to warn Julian of his imminent demise in battle. The premise of Overseas is a good one, and I like the way the story moves back and forth between the present and Julian’s past; I’m a little geeky, and time travel is always cool. (The way the time travel happened was cool, too, and I wish that part of the story had been more developed.) Also, the kind of love that makes someone want to travel almost 100 years back in time, without hesitation and with no real thought of oneself, to try to save the life of the person one loves, is a wonderful thing. I think Overseas had the potential to be a really good book, but I had a really hard time taking it seriously and I had to wait 350 pages for the story to actually grab me and pull me in.
Note: I think I should take into account that I don’t normally read romance novels because I find the majority of them over-the-top and cheesy. The romance genre just doesn’t seem to be my thing. So maybe I would have the same issues with all romance novels, and what I consider issues are really things that avid romance readers look for in a good romance novel. I don’t know. In other words, I’m not an authority on this particular genre.
I’ve said here before that the dialogue in a book can make all the difference; dialogue can make or break a book for me, and bad dialogue can ruin an otherwise great story. That is what happened with Overseas. I know from personal experience that new love is cheesy; no matter who the two people are, new love brings out the cheesiest in people, including myself. We say and do things we wouldn’t normally say and do, and we don’t feel the least bit embarrassed about it. I think that’s great, and I love it. There is no feeling in the world like the feeling of new love. Unfortunately, I found the dialogue between Kate and Julian to be so over-the-top that I found it unrealistic. I couldn’t picture anyone saying the things Kate said to Julian, and I did a lot of face rubbing and eye rolling. There were quite a few ‘nobody actually talks like this!’ moments.
The characters are off in some ways, too. Kate is portrayed as a pretty self-deprecating, relatively shy woman who never swears and constantly apologizes for things she shouldn’t, but then she says things like, “…it makes me want to have mind-bending all-night sex with you…” and her character is totally shot. I have a hard time picturing someone like Kate (or anyone, for that matter) saying something like this so early on in a relationship. As far as Julian goes, he is for the most part a perfect gentleman. The problem I had with this was that almost every guy Kate comes into contact with aside from Julian is a total sleaze ball. It was as though the author felt that in order for Julian to shine, the rest of the guys in the story had to be horrid. The obvious contrast just didn’t feel realistic to me. If characters are going to shine, they can easily do so on their own merits.
This is Beatriz Williams’ first book and I think maybe she was just trying too hard, which made some parts of the book feel very unnatural. For example, when sitting in an over-sized chair Kate thinks to herself, “…the handsome wing chair in which I was sitting could sallow me whole without a burp.” The ‘without a burp’ is just too much and sounds…weird. I think much of that kind of thing could have been edited out, and it would have made for a much better, tighter book.
The last hundred pages of Overseas are almost completely different. There is no more cheesy dialogue, and the story picks up and becomes a real page-turner. The last quarter of this book actually made all the face rubbing and eye rolling worth it to me, and that is not an exaggeration. If the whole book could have been written like the last hundred pages were, this would have been a really good novel. I cannot stress enough how pleasantly surprised I was. This proved to me that Beatriz Williams has it in her to be a really good author; she has a pretty good imagination, and with a little more experience and a willingness to tone it down a bit and edit out the superfluous stuff, Williams has the potential to write much better books. I am definitely willing to give her future books a chance.
(To learn more about Beatriz Williams, please visit her website.)
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(I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)