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REVIEW: Overseas by Beatriz Williams

Dear Ms. Williams:

I read this book for one reason only. Lydia H, your publicist at Putnam, said I would love it. Lydia H, though, is not a romance reader (but we do share a love for the PJ Tracy series, Monkeewrench) and I’m always a bit leery of non romance reader recommendations. Plus, this book was a time travel and anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of time travel books. But Lydia was so excited about this book and she never recommends anything to me that I had to give it a try. I promised myself I would only have to read the first chapter but by the end of the first chapter, I knew that this book was for me.

Overseas by Beatriz WilliamsI’m going to write a somewhat spoiler-y book review because I feel that is the only way I can convince my die hard romance reader followers that this book is going to hit their sweet spots. For those readers who don’t want spoilers and are going to give this book a try, let me give you a two sentence summary (or you can read Ms. Williams’ debut questionnaire here).

This is kind of a “what if Time Travelers Wife wasn’t so tragic and unhappy” sort of book. Julian, a billionaire hedge fund manager, and Kate, a low level analyst at an investment bank, share a past and depending on the time period (WWI or modern day) only one of them is aware of it.

Slight spoilers ahoy:

Make no mistake. Despite the vague title and the strange and meaningless cover, this is a romance book through and through. Julian is helplessly and devotedly in love with Kate. Kate is helplessly and devotedly in love with Julian but she is afraid. She’s afraid of being seduced by Julian’s money; she is afraid of losing herself in him; but mostly she is afraid that their time together is imperiled by Julian’s secretiveness.

The story begins with a young American woman, standing in the rain outside the Amiens cathedral where the Honorable Julian Laurence Spencer Ashford is saying his prayers. Captain Ashford is a religious man and he is to be sent on another tour in a little over forty eight hours. It is all the time that Kate has to convince Ashford of a wild and improbable truth and to hopefully save his life. When the young woman faints, we fast forward to New York City, December 2007. Most of the book will take place in modern day New York and Connecticut.

In chapter one, we meet Kate Wilson, a low level investment analyst working at an investment bank. She is charged with preparing projections for an investment that the bank wants to sell to a hedge fund owned by billionaire Julian Laurence. (I may be getting some of these terms wrong) Unfortunately, despite all her hard work, Kate is dismissed before the meeting starts by her boss but not before Julian sees her and subsequently seeks her out.

I picked up my silent BlackBerry from the counter and made my way back through the maze of identical heather-gray cubicles to my own, where I stopped short.

A tall lean man stood there in perfect stillness, resting one hand on the back of my chair. His curling hair gleamed dark gold in the remorseless office lighting; his back, broad and immaculate, bent forward a degree or two toward my desktop.

“I’m sorry,” I snapped. “Can I help you with something?”

He straightened and turned to me. “Kate,” he whispered.

I flinched in shock.

Kate and Julian form a tentative bond, exchanging cute texts over the holidays until Julian sends her an abrupt message which signals the end of a flirtation. Kate is reeling, unsure of what happened and what it means other than she is somewhat broken hearted even though their relationship, if she could call it that, consisted of one evening of intense discussion and a flurry of holiday texts. Julian re-enters her life a short time later, apparently because even though he thinks separation is for their own good, he simply cannot stay away.

There are two things that bothered me in this book. First, Julian lies to Kate from time to time to “protect” her. I understood his justification at the end but it made me wonder how often he would be willing to intentionally mislead her. Second, Kate begins the book as a business analyst. Part of her objection to Julian’s great wealth and his willingness and desire to buy the world for her is that if she accepts that, she becomes simply an appendage of Julian’s empire but when she loses her job, she does little to seek out a new one even though she was saving for B school. Granted, much of the story does not involve her working, but she is supposed to have some kind of ambition but it’s not evident from the text. She spends much of her time waiting for Julian.

But those problems were overcome by a few things. The book is very romantic. Julian is of the big gesture school.

“Yes,” I said. “I just can’t quite believe this is happening.” “This?”

“You. Me. This. I’ve never felt this way. As though I know you perfectly, but not at all. And then you say ridiculous things like that, when we haven’t even . . .”

“Haven’t what?”

“You know.” I felt the blush climb relentlessly in my cheeks. “Even kissed.”

A chuckle. “Well, and whose bloody fault is that? Coffee breath, for God’s sake. Little minx. Anyway, I did kiss you last night. And this morning.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

He fell silent for a few seconds, and then the car swerved across three lines of traffic into the exit lane and slammed to a halt. “What are you doing?” I yelled, gripping my seat. SUVs and delivery trucks zoomed past us, horns howling in outrage.

“Kissing you,” he replied, and he took my face in his large long-fingered hands and bent his lips into mine.

And, (and this is a big spoiler) [spoiler] Julian has only had one lover his entire life, Kate. He is transported to the future twelve years before he meets Kate. His single goal in the new life is to find her and live out their happy ever after. His search for defines his life. He goes to Wall Street because that is about the only knowledge he has of Kate. He builds up an empire so that he will have enough money to provide for her, search for her. He buys homes that he believes she will like. Most of all, though, he holds himself chaste for her because his body belongs to her and her alone. [/spoiler]

While there are separations, they largely take place off page so most of the book is spent with Kate and Julian together. Julian is quintessentially British and the patterns of speech evidenced by Kate and Julian were so different and distinct that there was no need for dialogue tags. I was impressed by how “in character” every one stayed during the duration of the book.

I struggled with the time travel aspect, even breaking down to write you for clarification. That said, I kind of had an epiphany the other day explaining the book to Robin so I believe I finally get it. I’m thinking I might like time travel after all because what is more romantic than a love that transcends time.  Oh, and of course, ends happily.

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

51 Comments

  1. Sarah
    May 09, 2012 @ 14:23:39

    I absolutely hated The Time Traveler’s Wife. Will I like this do you think? I like your review of it but I’m not sure if I’m up for another time-traveling duo.

  2. Jane
    May 09, 2012 @ 14:26:49

    I wasn’t a fan of TTW either. I guess I used it as an example because it is about a tragic time traveling duo but this is a happy time traveling duo. Or they end up happy. While TT is a source of the conflict, the majority of the story takes place in modern day Manhattan and Connecticut (where Julian owns a home).

  3. Moriah Jovan
    May 09, 2012 @ 14:30:55

    I stopped after the 2-sentence description and went to buy, and then I saw $12.99 for Kindle. I think not.

  4. Sarah
    May 09, 2012 @ 14:31:14

    @Jane:

    Okay, thank you! I requested it at my library. I think as long as TT isn’t happening constantly as you said, I could really like this book.

  5. Brie
    May 09, 2012 @ 14:51:24

    I have a love/hate relationship with TT books (I also hated the sappy mess that was The Time Traveler’s Wife) but I keep reading them because when done right they can be amazing stories, like some of Susanna Kearsley’s books. So I want to give this one a try, but you must promise me that there is a happy ending.

  6. Lynnd
    May 09, 2012 @ 14:52:05

    @Moriah Jovan: It’s $16.10 for Kindle in Canada – requested it from my library.

  7. Katie D.
    May 09, 2012 @ 15:18:39

    I got a digital ARC of this after seeing you talking about it on Twitter, and I got sucked in to. I was making mental connections to TTW (haven’t read it either) as well, but even more so, I was thinking: “So this is what Twilight and Fifty Shades could have been like if the main character had a spine!”

  8. Elyssa
    May 09, 2012 @ 15:33:12

    Sold.

    Sold.

    Sold.

    This sounds incredibly awesome, and I love the whole romanticism of it. It also sounds like it would make a great movie. You know, like SOMEWHERE (I think that’s the title of the Christopher Reeve movie?) but with a HEA.

  9. Jane
    May 09, 2012 @ 15:35:48

    @KatieD – I definitely felt like there were echoes of 50 Shades and Twilight in this book, particularly Twilight. I think I first wento to 50 Shades because it was recent in my mind but then I realized the dynamic was much more Twilight, particularly with Edward trying to stay away from Bella in order to protect her and just kind of the way he treats her with such adoration.

  10. Jane
    May 09, 2012 @ 15:47:34

    @Brie: I would never mislead you on an HEA.

  11. SonomaLass
    May 09, 2012 @ 15:59:18

    Time travel works for me when it is done well. Usually that means that the characters have to really work hard to deal with its consequences; as you say, a love that transcends time is pretty romantic. With the couple working out a way to be together somehow, too, of course. I think that’s why I still love Voyager, the third Gabaldon book. And I agree with Brie that Kearsley deals with time travel very well. I just have to stay away from books where time travel is just an excuse to bring a “feisty” modern women into a relationship with an Alphahole hero from the past.

    I will put this on my library list, and I’ll consider buying it if the price comes down by at least 50 percent.

  12. Denise
    May 09, 2012 @ 16:22:40

    I like time travel books, so this is something I’m definitely interested in reading. But at $12.99 for an e-book? No way in hell. I’ll keep my fingers crossed there’s a sale soon.

  13. Faye
    May 09, 2012 @ 16:43:44

    Gah! This sounds amazing, but there is no way I’d pay $12.99 for an e-book (not even for a long and desperately awaited romance).

  14. AMG
    May 09, 2012 @ 16:49:43

    Ugh! $16+ in Canada. I normally don’t like TT, but this sounded intriging. Why so bloody expensive? I also want it in e-version. I’ll wait.

  15. Maili
    May 09, 2012 @ 17:27:30

    @Elyssa: Somewhere in Time. /filmnerdmoment

    I was interested until I read the first excerpt. After YAs and self-published romantic novels, I’ve had my fill of first-person POV. At least for a while. Shame. Maybe some day.

  16. Susan
    May 09, 2012 @ 17:45:08

    This is definitely on my wish list, waiting for a price drop. (And I hope I remember to check on it later.)

  17. CK
    May 09, 2012 @ 17:49:12

    You had me sold at the two sentence summary, then I saw it was in 1st POV and the price was the final nail in the coffin. Bummer, I love TT romances (except for TTW, lol).

  18. Elyssa
    May 09, 2012 @ 17:49:15

    @Maili: Thanks, Maili! I knew I was off on the title but was too lazy to look it up.

  19. MaryK
    May 09, 2012 @ 17:52:42

    This reminds me that I have a copy of The Time Traveler’s Wife taking up space somewhere. I should get rid of it. At one time, I thought I might work up the nerve to read it and see what the fuss was about; but I seem to be getting more sensitive to tragedy rather than less.

    I don’t like time travel. Before paranormal hit big, I read a lot of books from the tiny futuristic/time travel section of my local UBS and ended up with an aversion to time travel. The heroines were always traveling back into history and trying to turn it modern (is that the embodiment of anachronism?) and then there was the end of Knight in Shining Armor which I found sad. I also somehow got ahold of a book tie-in to that Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour movie. So, yeah, now I only read time travel if somebody says “it’s time travel but I liked it anyway.” LOL

    This is an example of why knowing what a reviewer dislikes is important. I’m glad it turned out to be a rec because the twitter excerpt really grabbed me.

  20. Darlynne
    May 09, 2012 @ 18:28:49

    I’ve always loved time travel and scoured the old library card catalog for that topic when I was a kid. Which is as close as I’m going to get to this book since my current library doesn’t have it and the price is too steep. Bummer. It sounds great and congratulations to Ms. Williams on earning an enthusiastic recommendation from Jane.

  21. Ducky
    May 09, 2012 @ 21:27:05

    Boggles at the price. No thanks.

  22. Kaetrin
    May 09, 2012 @ 21:46:16

    I. Want. :)

    (I was very self restrained and managed not to read the big spoiler). Better leave now before my resistance crumbles…)

  23. Janine
    May 10, 2012 @ 01:06:14

    Am I the only one who loved The Time Traveler’s Wife?

  24. MaryK
    May 10, 2012 @ 01:26:28

    @Janine: Didn’t you also love A Knight in Shining Armor? Clearly, you are not to be trusted in matters of time travel. ;D

  25. library addict
    May 10, 2012 @ 04:27:43

    Not a fan of first person usually, but this sounds good so I reserved it from the library.

  26. Suzannah
    May 10, 2012 @ 08:02:25

    £14.45 in the UK, for the hardback, delivered in 12 – 14 days. No ebook at all. A shame, as it sounds good, but I’ll just have to spend my money on someone who wants to sell to me.

  27. Twila Price
    May 10, 2012 @ 08:47:59

    Ooooh. They have an Audible version, and I have a credit. Score!

  28. Tina
    May 10, 2012 @ 08:50:06

    This sounds very interesting. Price point is a deal breaker though. I’ll probably put it on the back burner to look at a bit later. At this point I am getting obsessive Billionaire fatigue. They are the like modern day spying Dukes. They seem to be everywhere. LOL.

  29. Kati
    May 10, 2012 @ 08:52:14

    I think I’m going to buy this one. I love supporting new authors. I see that it’s $12.99 on Kindle, but our tastes are similar enough that you’ve sold me, Jane.

  30. Jane
    May 10, 2012 @ 08:53:32

    @Kati: Aghhh. So much pressure.

    @Twila Price: Let us know how you like it.

    The rest of you, I totally understand your reservations about price. It is expensive. I hope your libraries get it and you can request and read it that way.

  31. Jane
    May 10, 2012 @ 09:10:17

    Whee! Cool news. Lydia H emailed me this morning and said that they were excited about the Overseas chatter and offered 5 books to give away. DA will throw in 3 digital reads. I’ll post about this tomorrow.

  32. Moriah Jovan
    May 10, 2012 @ 09:39:36

    It’s lovely they’re giving away five free books, but it doesn’t fix the issue.

    Nearly 50% of the people who commented in this thread said price was a factor, if not THE factor in deciding not to buy. That’s 11 sales lost. Who knows what percentage of lost sales we represent?

    I would have been very impressed if they’d just lowered the price, even if it was above my personal threshold. Now I’m just insulted. Do they think we’re stupid and/or easily mollified with a giveaway?

    Just lower the fucking price. You don’t even have to give anything away. What’s difficult about this?

  33. Jane
    May 10, 2012 @ 09:44:49

    @Moriah Jovan: Wow, I’m surprised at your vitriol here. I doubt that they can lower the price because books are commodity priced. I guess I should say that they offered the giveaway because of the excitement.

  34. Moriah Jovan
    May 10, 2012 @ 10:02:59

    I don’t think I’m alone in my vitriol, and usually I just shrug and go on, but this hit my button at the tail end of a long string of passing up books I want because of price. Vitriolic? Yeah. It’s my money and I’m a reader tired of being seen by publishers as an endless supply of cash. So here’s me actually saying something (in a way that is representative of how strongly I feel) instead of passing it by and letting them have an erroneous data point about how people don’t buy/read ebooks.

  35. Janet P.
    May 10, 2012 @ 11:00:12

    Well, I appreciate the news of the give away. I’m sure that the contact (a Publicist?) doesn’t have much control over how prices are set but I’d really appreciate it if she would note with her company that $13 is well above ~this~ buyers price point for a new to me, unknown author and it does stop a sale. I’m another who read the review, clicked on the link, saw the price, and moved on.

    Its seems like the pricing controversies never stop and we cover the same ground continuously, but $9.99 was an “expensive” ebook for me back in the day. I feel like the major publishers are just driving me away.

  36. Maili
    May 10, 2012 @ 11:09:54

    @Janine: I’m pretty sure Karen Knows Best and DA Robin enjoyed TTW quite a bit. I’m still on the fence over TTW, myself. Half of me enjoyed the novelty of author’s take on time travel and the other half found it confusing, but I blame that on my disability than on author, though.

    FWIW, time travel novels I quite enjoyed: Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog, Daryl Brock’s If I Never Get Back, Susanna Kearsley’s books and Linnea Sinclair’s SF romance, An Accidental Goddess.

  37. Tina
    May 10, 2012 @ 11:18:50

    Ah, I just noticed on Amazon that this is a Hardcover release. So the price makes more sense.

  38. Jane
    May 10, 2012 @ 11:24:14

    @Tina: Yes, I think it will be published in paperback at some time. Hopefully not four year delay like the Beth Kery book.

  39. MaryK
    May 10, 2012 @ 14:21:36

    @Maili:

    Linnea Sinclair’s SF romance, An Accidental Goddess.

    I’d forgotten that was a TT. I’ve heard really good things about Susanna Kearsley (and doesn’t Lynn Kurland write it too?) – but TT!

    Hardcover for a brand new author seems excessive, but it does look like they’re aiming for mainstream readers. I can’t pay $13 for an ebook. I just can’t. For that kind of money, I want to know it’s there taking up space in my house. I’ll probably end up buying the hardcover since it’s so appealing. I’ve been doing a lot of PBS’ing lately so I figure I’ve saved enough to justify plunking down on this one.

  40. Janine
    May 10, 2012 @ 17:49:35

    @MaryK: I liked A Knight in Shining Armor but I loved The Time Traveler’s Wife. But then Niffenegger’s prose is so astonishingly good and I will sell my soul to the devil for that kind of thing.

  41. hope
    May 10, 2012 @ 19:41:03

    I want, but not for 12.99. Will be putting a hold at the local library.

  42. SeaGrace
    May 11, 2012 @ 21:22:08

    @Janine: I loved Time Traveler’s Wife also. I totally agree on the prose. It took me a few chapters to figure out what was going on, but I stuck with it, and it ended up as my #1 read of the year. I must have hand sold half a dozen copies.

    I agree with all the other posts about the price being too high for my budget. Hopefully I can win a copy. I put in a purchase request with my local library, too.

  43. Overseas Giveaway
    May 12, 2012 @ 10:02:09

    […] REVIEW: Overseas by Beatriz Williams […]

  44. Angela James
    May 12, 2012 @ 11:12:10

    I read this (on your earlier rec to me) and finished it this morning. I don’t think I loved it as much as you did. I found the storyline intriguing, and that’s what kept me going, but I couldn’t work up the same enthusiasm for the characters, and this is one instance where the writing got in the way of my enjoyment, which isn’t something I normally say. But all of the dialogue is riddled with italics for emphasis (not a page goes by without it occurring, I don’t think) and it got so distracting, that I found it easy to disengage from the book and put it down. I happily admit that other readers might not notice this to the extent I did, and that it’s a “it’s not you, it’s me” issue, but it did really effect my enjoyment of the book.

    All that said, I appreciated the story set up (and the ending) and thought it was a nicely unique story. Would I recommend it at $13 for ebook? I don’t think so, given my reservations about some of the distractions, and some lack of total investment on my part in the characters, but I’d recommend it without hesitation at a mass market price point to those who love time travel.

  45. nasanta
    May 12, 2012 @ 14:41:24

    Thank you, Jane. I was initially of the mind to dismiss this book when I saw the word “time travel” but your review has definitely changed my mind.

  46. nasanta
    May 12, 2012 @ 14:54:43

    $12.99 for the Kindle version? eh… My library has the hard copy version so I’ve placed a hold on that.

  47. Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe
    May 14, 2012 @ 06:44:09

    I stayed up until 3 AM finishing this book. I just don’t do that much anymore, and will be paying the price all day. I’m a huge, huge fan of Susanna Kearsley, and while the writing styles were very different, there was a similar vibe. The mechanics of the TT were a little off/odd to me, but the rest of the book was very compelling. I look forward to see what’s next from Ms. Williams.

  48. Janine
    May 14, 2012 @ 19:40:45

    I think I’d give this a B. The characters were a little too perfect for me and I wanted more bumps in their road to the HEA. Also, there was so much emphasis on Julian’s wealth in the book, and the storyline was so much more weighted toward the older, powerful Julian rather than the younger Julian, that I didn’t completely buy that Kate would have loved him just as much if he hadn’t been older, wealthier and more powerful. I’m not sure why this bothered me — maybe because Julian was a bit of a Marty Stu — gorgeous, great in bed billionaire, amazing athlete/scholar in school and famous poet too? I needed a little more personality to these characters — some quirk or something to make them more real to me.

    With that said, it was absolutely a compelling read, the mystery kept me turning pages to see what would happen next. I could hardly put the book down and I grinned a lot because the wish fulfillment/Cinderella aspect was satisfying and Julian, although too perfect, was at the same time charming and adorable. This was definitely a hero-centric book, Kate was the less interesting of the two, and I got a bit of a Twilight vibe for that reason.

    At it’s heart it was a romance but it has some mainstream novel aspects so I can understand why the publisher chose to market and package it with that title and cover.

  49. Jane
    May 14, 2012 @ 21:23:29

    @Janine – I definitely agree that there was an unrealistic feel to the book but it worked for me because, well, time travel! The book exaggerates, for effect, the romanticism and I guess Julian’s wealth was an example of that.
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  50. Janine
    May 15, 2012 @ 01:03:07

    @Jane: Yes, I completely agree with what you said in the spoiler. Which is why, though at one point Kate told Charlie that she would still love Julian just as much if they had to live in a studio apartment, I wasn’t sure I bought it.

    Maybe if Julian hadn’t been a viscount and a billionaire, an athlete and a brilliant student, a commanding officer and a poet of literary greatness, all wrapped up in one gorgeous, sexy package too, it would have been easier to picture them living in a studio apartment and being just as in love.

    I thought there was an interesting dichotomy to the book in that we are constantly told that Kate isn’t a gold digger (and I agree she isn’t one) and that she feels overwhelmed by Julian’s wealth and afraid it will alter her, but at the same time, Julian’s character is constructed in such a way that his appeal to readers is based in large part on that same wealth and power that Kate doesn’t seek, so that even though she’s not seeking it, the authorial voice and by extension, the reader, are reveling in it and wanting it for her.

    But then, this same criticism has been leveled at Pride and Prejudice and could no doubt be said about other romances too.

  51. Anne
    May 20, 2012 @ 00:01:00

    Thanks for the recommendation. I just finished reading “Overseas” last night in a marathon evening of reading. It’s one of the most engaging books I’ve read in a while. I hope to see more writing by the author.

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