After four disappointing crime fic novels in a row, I decided I needed a change of pace, and was happy to fall into Overseas, an engrossing fairy tale by debut author Beatriz Williams.
Twenty-five-year-old investment banker Kate meets billionaire hedge fund manager Julian Laurence when he attends a meeting where she works on Wall Street. The two have an instant connection and embark on a tenuous friendship, but he suddenly disappears from her life, saying it’s not appropriate for them to continue. He surfaces several months later, and soon Julian and Kate are inseparable, deeply in love.
But Julian becomes overprotective, hinting at a danger that threatens their happiness. As the darkness approaches, Kate realizes she’ll have to take extreme measures to save his life, if not her own.
This novel is a time-traveling fantasy, with a prince doing dashing things for his princess. Julian is a powerful billionaire, a gentleman, poet, and hero, so he can pretty much give Kate anything: his heart, devotion, jewelry, use of a private jet, etc. It’s all very seductive, though Kate keeps saying she doesn’t want the material things. She won’t take his money, doesn’t want to be a kept woman, is determined to make her own way in the world, etc.
The problem is, after a major career setback at the beginning of the book, she doesn’t do anything toward that goal. She frets about not “paying my own way,” but she never even looks for a job. She becomes a damsel who’s entirely reliant on her man for most of the story.
It seems that Julian, when he meets her at different moments in time, is always immediately drawn to her simply because she’s beautiful and “not like other women.” As Kate points out, “You came out of the blue, my missing half. In love with me.” She also says, “And now I suddenly have this perfect life, and I didn’t have to do anything. I didn’t earn you.”
And that’s how I felt, too—the relationship wasn’t earned. Sure, attraction can happen instantaneously, but true love takes time and requires both people to know the complexities and depths of the other. Kate asks Julian, “I’m nice enough, aren’t I?” and the answer is yes, but to have this larger-than-life man be instantly, completely smitten with her—“over time” and “over distance,” as the cover says—her niceness and good looks don’t seem enough. She should match him in magnificence.
Julian’s vocal fervor toward Kate, while swoon-inducing at first, was too much for me, but I don’t read romance (though I loved Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife). He constantly tells her how utterly devoted he is to her, how he’d be “a mere soulless husk of a chap” without her. After many, many declarations like that, they started to lose their value as I became immune to them. When language contains that much ardor—and I did enjoy the old-fashioned way Julian talks—a little goes a long way. (In fiction, anyway; in real life, express your love freely!)
These issues aside, I liked the book quite a bit, and stayed up until four a.m. three nights in a row to finish it. Williams’s prose flows easily and she keeps the action moving forward. Overseas transported me to a glamorous life in New York City, a northern French town during World War I, and…well, another dreamy place at the end of the novel. It’s escapist and romantic and grand and that is nice enough.
Nerd verdict: Appealing Overseas