Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Overseas" by Beatriz Williams

So because I am a glutton for punishment, I subscribe to LibraryThings advance copy giveaways. These are generally uncorrected proofs that a distributed to the kind of people who lurk on LibraryThing, namely people that publishers think will not only read the book but will be willing to write a review of it. These things are often a gamble because many of the books are written by first-time authors and the publisher is trying to get a sense of the reception of the novel before they go back for final edits. Inevitably this means that there are consistency issues in the text, which just drives me bonkers, but hey: a free book is a free book.

Most months I get a few of these and this month I received a copy of a book I have no memory of requesting, called Overseas by Beatriz Williams. The accolades printed on the front and inside covers are by authors I have never heard of, and the usual insincere note that came along with it from the publisher billed it as a "beach-read" for women who have loved books like "The Time Traveller's Wife". I was a bit put off by that because Audrey Niffineger is one of my favorite authors and I doubt many would call her novels "beach-reads".

In reading the back summary, I deduced that "Overseas" was going to be a trashy romance with some time travelling thrown in and I was correct. More surprising (possibly because I had such low expectations) it was not nearly as bad as I went in expecting. Not great, but not wretched--is that vague enough for you?

The plot of the story mainly revolves around the protagonist, Kate, a Wall Street Analyst, and her overnight romance with a billionaire tycoon, Julian Laurence, who in a bizarre story twist, turns out to be a captain from World War I, mysteriously transported through time. Seriously. I can't make this stuff up. Williams really oversimplifies the time travel aspect of the novel and doesn't waste elaborate explanations on it... the star of this novel really is the romance between the two characters, which is as expected.

Problems: Many. To be blunt I found the characters to be vastly one dimensional (Julian was good-looking and perfect, as was Kate when she wasn't shrilly flying off the handle during sudden and somewhat inexplicable emotional outbursts). Secondary characters were mainly caricatures that made you wonder if every woman on Wall Street was either a conniving bitch or a vapid socialite, while the men were mainly dogs, with Julian being the obvious exception. The book could have been substantially improved by doing away with about half the love scenes (it also would have helped length-wise... 456 pages is a bit much for a romance) and if they had to go so completely gaga over each other on every other page could there at least have been some sex? Am I alone on this?

Upsides: If I am completely honest... I totally devoured this book in a day. Yes it was trite, and clearly a classic case of a self-fulfilling fantasy on the authors part (did they really have to be rich AND pretty?), but it was a fairly original idea and she tried her best to wrap up all the loose ends. I didn't grow bored before the end or flip through any of the chapters, and I am generally not a fan of this genre. I may be biased because I do have a slight fetish for any aspect of time travel but I didn't think this was a complete waste of time.. I would be willing to read future books by this author to see if there is any improvement.