Time and Place: Overseas

Have you ever heard of chick-lit-sci-fi? No? Me neither…

Nonetheless, I’m going to use the term here, because I think it’s the simplest way to describe Beatriz Williams’ new novel, Overseas (Allen and Unwin). It’s got a heap of romance, twisted sensuously around a perplexing science fiction plot.

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. 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.

Kate is beautiful, Julian is handsome and their lives are exciting and glamourous. Still, New York is the stand-out ‘character’ for me. I love reading about the Big Apple in any context – Central Park, Manhattan, MOMA – and this story has them all.

It also has Amiens, France, mid-World War One and Julian and Kate are in both time and place.

This story draws you along with a promise of answers; how did Julian (aka Captain Julian Ashford) get to this current time? Why do he and Kate feel certain they’ve meet before and who is trying to undo them both?

Williams has included plenty of romance, with no shortage of intimacy – it gets quite steamy in parts. Kate’s independence and Julian’s chivalry creates a tension between them, a tension which works well to drive the story forward as they both try to work out how to survive in the here and now. Although their conversation gets a little repetitive at times, they are essentially very endearing and I can say that I was genuinely worried for these star-crossed lovers.

“He said nothing for a long time, only went on caressing my hair: long regular strokes to the very tips, letting the strands slip away from this finger-tips to rest on my back and shoulders. I let my eyelids sink downwards, savoring the tickle-soft sensation. Eventually I felt his voice stir the air about my head. “I won’t drift away, Kate. I won’t fail you.” He said it fiercely, as if he were trying to convince himself.”

The story culminates in a science fiction adventure, dramatic and revealing. It’s fast-paced and heart-thumbing and draws this story to a nice conclusion.

I enjoyed this book, even though it did take me a little while to warm to it. If you’re after something a little different, a little less formulaic, then this is a book for you.

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