Review: Along the Infinite Sea

24875387Title: Along the Infinite Sea

Author: Beatriz Williams

Rating: ★★★

Provided Synopsis: Each of the three Schuyler sisters has her own world-class problems, but in the autumn of 1966, Pepper Schuyler’s problems are in a class of their own. When Pepper fixes up a beautiful and rare vintage Mercedes and sells it at auction, she thinks she’s finally found a way to take care of herself and the baby she carries, the result of an affair with a married, legendary politician.

But the car’s new owner turns out to have secrets of her own, and as the glamorous and mysterious Annabelle Dommerich takes pregnant Pepper under her wing, the startling provenance of this car comes to light: a Nazi husband, a Jewish lover, a flight from Europe, and a love so profound it transcends decades. As the many threads of Annabelle’s life from World War II stretch out to entangle Pepper in 1960s America, and the father of her unborn baby tracks her down to a remote town in coastal Georgia, the two women must come together to face down the shadows of their complicated pasts.

Review: After successive novels by Beatriz Williams that did not appeal to my tastes, I was wary and hopeful at the same time. The former because I did not want to be disappointed and not finish another of her stories; hopeful because I find Pepper to be the least nauseating of the Schuyler sisters and because the cover was gorgeous. The synopsis also appealed to my interest in historical fiction, as Pepper becomes acquainted with a woman who buys Pepper’s car due to the role it played in her escape from Germany in the year 1938.

Along the Infinite Sea follows the life of Annabelle, beginning as she meets a man named Stefan along the coast of France and falls in love with him. Circumstances of their own making and of outside forces go on to bring them together and pull them apart during this three-year time span, and the answers revealed at the end of Annabelle’s story color the action of the narration being told from Pepper’s perspective in 1966.

Unlike the model she used in the books I did not like, Williams focused this story nearly entirely on the love affair of the past. And that is why I enjoyed this book — the lives of those from the past have always been the most interesting for me to read about in Williams’ novels. Rather than drownAlong the Infinite Sea with too much drama in Pepper’s life, or a rapidly moving insta-love trope, she delved more into the historical fiction to share a story that held my interest. If you, like me, have had issues with this author’s books in the past because of the issues mentioned, then I can see this one holding more appeal with you.


DNF Review: The Secret Life of Violet Grant

Title: The Secret Life of Violet Grant 18667976

Author: Beatriz Williams

Rating: DNF (Did Not Finish)

Provided Synopsis: Manhattan, 1964. Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Mad Men world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine. But when she receives a bulky overseas parcel in the mail, the unexpected contents draw her inexorably back into her family’s past, and the hushed-over crime passionnel of an aunt she never knew, whose existence has been wiped from the record of history.

Berlin, 1914. Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany. The arrival of Dr. Grant’s magnetic former student at the beginning of Europe’s fateful summer interrupts this delicate détente. Lionel Richardson, a captain in the British Army, challenges Violet to escape her husband’s perverse hold, and as the world edges into war and Lionel’s shocking true motives become evident, Violet is tempted to take the ultimate step to set herself free and seek a life of her own conviction with a man whose cause is as audacious as her own.

As the iridescent and fractured Vivian digs deeper into her aunt’s past and the mystery of her ultimate fate, Violet’s story of determination and desire unfolds, shedding light on the darkness of her years abroad … and teaching Vivian to reach forward with grace for the ambitious future––and the love––she wants most.

Review: DNF — July 2014

Unfortunately this is the second Beatriz Williams book that has not gone over well with me. I wanted to like this story, and I was very intrigued by the synopsis and the beautiful cover. But my impressions of the characters evolved to such a point that I decided to abandon this book almost exactly at the halfway mark.

Vivian, no matter how much I love her name, got on my nerves. I felt as if the attempt to make her this damaged woman who uses wit to protect herself was completely over-the-top. Her dialogue was insufferable and the way she treated the woman who is supposed to be her best friend was the last straw for me, especially once Vivian continued to carry on with Doctor Paul after the reveal that her friend was dating him when Vivian met him and had been expecting a proposal from him. Doctor Paul also grated on my nerves with his talk of love after spending twelve hours with the woman. Was the sex really that wonderful? Could you be any more of a lust driven man? I did not buy their “love” and I was disgusted with them, so bye book!

Violet’s life was far more interesting and I continue to be interested in the mystery of what happened to her, her husband, and her eventual lover, but I cannot put up with the Vivian chapters and the information that will be contained within them to get there. I’ll just read other reviews to get my answers. To be honest, Violet aggravated me too — she is a woman with the strength to separate from her wealthy American family to travel to England in the year 1914 to pursue a career in science. But once she gets there she becomes a total doormat. Just blech!

Not the book for me.

Review: A Hundred Summers

ImageTitle: A Hundred Summers

Author: Beatriz Williams

Rating: ★★★

Provided Synopsis: Memorial Day, 1938: New York socialite Lily Dane has just returned with her family to the idyllic oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island, expecting another placid summer season among the familiar traditions and friendships that sustained her after heartbreak. 

That is, until Greenwalds decide to take up residence in Seaview.

Nick and Budgie Greenwald are an unwelcome specter from Lily’s past: her former best friend and her former fiancé, now recently married—an event that set off a wildfire of gossip among the elite of Seaview, who have summered together for generations. Budgie’s arrival to restore her family’s old house puts her once more in the center of the community’s social scene, and she insinuates herself back into Lily’s friendship with an overpowering talent for seduction…and an alluring acquaintance from their college days, Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton. But the ties that bind Lily to Nick are too strong and intricate to ignore, and the two are drawn back into long-buried dreams, despite their uneasy secrets and many emotional obligations. 

Under the scorching summer sun, the unexpected truth of Budgie and Nick’s marriage bubbles to the surface, and as a cataclysmic hurricane barrels unseen up the Atlantic and into New England, Lily and Nick must confront an emotional cyclone of their own, which will change their worlds forever.

Review: As much as I wanted to fall in love with this book (because I adored the author’s debut novel, Overseas), there were elements of her new story that did not hit the mark in terms of my taste. The story is told from the point of view of Lily Dane, who has grown up spending her summers along the Rhode Island seashore. In the summer of 1938 her idyllic beach retreat is thrown a curveball when her former best friend arrives in town with her new husband, who just so happens to be Lily’s former fiancé. In a return narrative arc from the past, it is revealed how Lily and Nick met, how they fell in love, and why their lives never reached the future they had so wistfully planned together. Fellow vacationers believe they are privy towards a scandal that happened seven years ago between the former lovers, but the question still remains in Lily’s mind as to why Nick married her best friend.

Beatriz Williams’ writing is a good as ever, yet I failed to establish a connection with the main characters. Lily had such a large heart, and it often lead to her downfall as she allowed others to walk all over her and take what she wanted for herself. Nick had moods that alternated so much, never quite leaving me sure what to make of him or what he stood for. And Budgie, well, while she is constructed to have a villainous bad-girl persona, I never believed it to the extent that I believe the author intended. The main issue is that I expected to receive a strong love story from A Hundred Summers. Instead, I felt very little connection or love between Lily and Nick until the end of the book. If this lack of connection was because of Lily and Nick’s strained relationship then Williams succeeded with her writing, but if it was because Lily and Nick did not have a love to fuel the ages then I am disappointed.

Set in a beach town I can see this being an appropriate summer read for many readers. I would just advise not to expect a kind of love that will make your heart skip a beat as you read it.