by TJ O'Shea
Numbers rule Dr. Mei Sharpe’s life. She has no husband, one friend, two daughters, and three random meetings with the same woman within four weeks. Once is chance, twice is coincidence, but upon the third meeting, even Mei in all her empirical rigidness must admit that perhaps the universe is giving her a nudge. A nudge that lands her directly in the path of Lieutenant Morgan Kelly—an affable, charming detective for the Sheriff Department’s brand-new cold case team working down the hall from Mei’s morgue.
More golden retriever than hard-boiled detective, Morgan is determined to pull the asocial widow out of her shell. As the icy scientist warms to her cheerful new friend, an irrepressible chemistry develops, and Mei begins to realize she’s perhaps a different number on the Kinsey scale than previously considered.
As Mei and Morgan struggle with guilt and grief, drama and desires, Mei finds her scientific austerity is no match for the universe and its nudges toward the startling revelation of what her heart really wants.
GCLS Goldie Awards
Beyond the Blue — Finalist, Debut Novel.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"Writing this novel came to me out of the blue, no pun intended. The character of Mei arrived almost fully formed, loosely inspired by an episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. I was fascinated by a story about a widow who'd lost her effervescent husband and immediately wondered what love would look like for someone whose children have flown the nest, and who'd met and lost their soul mate. Morgan's life and heart developed as a result of that quest. What began as a romance turned into a story about exploring grief and the different kinds of love we are so fortunately capable of as humans. On the commute back and forth from NYC to New Jersey, their love story came to be in bursts, in out of sequence pieces, but thankfully came together!
Beyond the Blue is filled with lots of colorful people, all on their own journeys, who are in the orbit of Mei and Morgan and their enduring love story, and I think everyone can find a character to relate to. I hope everyone who reads it finds the same joy I found in writing it."
Lex Kent’s Reviews - An excellent age-gap romance that was actually one of the better romances I have read in 2022. I often talk about the amazing track record that Bella has in finding debut authors and with O’Shea, they have proved it again. If her debut is this good, it makes me so excited to read her future releases.
Abbott F. - The writing is very good, the dialogue witty and sometimes laugh-out loud funny. The pace of the book doesn’t sag in the middle of the book like so many others and the conflict is real. The ending is believable and is, of course, expected.
If you’d like to read an author’s debut novel, this is one not to be missed. If you love intelligent, believable characters, pick this book up. If you like a really well written book, this book is for you.
Michele R. - What a beautiful, heartwarming, heart wrenching debut romance from TJ O’Shea. If I had not known this was a debut novel I would have assumed that it was penned by a more experienced writer. I would rate this stellar debut 4.25 stars with high recommendations to other readers. I can’t wait for future books by this author.
Celina H. - A beautiful story indeed. The book is well written and the events are so carefully planned that it was very moving.
D. Booker - Oh my goodness! What a sweet amazing read this book was!
This is a character focused book and I really liked how the book was able to delve deep into the makeup of these two. As each part of their relationship evolved, I found I couldn’t put this book down. Each mini situation / moment was filled with a mix of witty banter, dry sarcasm (Mei) affection, emotional confessions and totally made this a page turner. This is a “late coming out” story as well, and I liked how it wasn’t made to be a big deal. There was no angsty crazy and the processing was managed like the mature adults they were. So refreshing!
Lastly kudos to O’Shea for representation. I love it when authors introduce characters of color, ethnicity, body types and gender. It makes the story so much more real and I really appreciate the effort that goes into that. As a debut book this is absolutely fantastic and will probably end up in my re-read pile. 4.75 stars.
Kaye Cox - Lovely debut novel.
This book surprised me at many moments. It's an age gap and a later in life coming out story. Both of those are dealt with well and with some humor. Overall, high praise for this debut. I can't wait to see what T.J. O'Shea writes next.
Della B. - For a debut novel, O’Shea has delivered an extraordinary story filled with humour and witty banter overlaying dark psychological trauma and loss. We are casually handed bits and pieces of Morgan’s past. The subtlety O’Shea employs to drop her plot line bombs is pure genius.
The story is refreshing in its originality and depth. We experience more darkness than is expected in any romance yet it is handled with a soft touch. All of this makes Beyond the Blue a must read novel on everyone’s list.
Diane W. - An auspicious read! (4.5stars!)
A rich and an enchanting romantic love story that tells the tale of an attraction between two people that is so deep that they both needed to realize being committed to their relationship is better for the long haul because in truth their bond & love can surely be one sweet ride. The narrative approach of Beyond the Blue encompasses everything a reader looks for in a story whether a debut or seasoned. It's well paced, has a steady tone suffused with many moments of amusing sense of humor, very good character development, a host of different friendships & family dynamics, spectacular storytelling, very good sexual chemistry, intimate & intense interaction plus even great dialogue.
Furthermore, an utterly compelling drama with this undercurrent of family complications and past traumatic experiences that is at its core, Beyond the Blue is definitely a brilliant, alluring and well written story. It's also an absorbing story that will keep readers involved and glued to each sentence, chapter and paragraph until the very end. A highly recommended book!
Cheryl S. - Definitely 5 stars from me. Great love story. Great and different. Different because instead of a long slow burn with a quick ending...while you wonder what happened next. In this story, the romance is in the first 20% of the story and the remainder is how they are together as lovers. How do they deal with the age gap and how do they each resolve their past loss and grief? How do the family members accept the relationship? It is a very thoughtful, interesting, and warm story. I loved the sex scenes. They were very hot without describing every minute detail. I enjoyed all the characters, and felt they were all very natural and the dialog insightful. I understand this is O'Shea's first published story. Amazing...hopefully there will be many more.
Sam D. - I believe this book is TJ O'Shea's first foray into the wonderful world of romance and the author did an amazing job. I consider this as much a story about finding love as a story of letting go.
Anne M. - I believe this is TJ O’Shea’s first book and I genuinely hope many more follow if this is an indication of her writing style and imagination. This is an excellent book with rounded, likeable characters who behave like human beings, mistakes included. The contrast between the exuberant, positive Morgan and the quiet, private Mei is perfectly captured. The ancillary characters add great depth to the main relationship—especially Ruiz—and help give explanations and assistance the main characters journey.
Kennedy O. - I was captivated from the beginning of the read. The setting and the characters were so well written. The emotional story of two women dealing with past and current issues was a draw for me. Lieutenant Morgan Kelly presented herself as one of the most dynamic characters I have read in a very long time. Morgan is a survivor of a childhood that you would not wish on anyone. I just wanted to pull her in and give her a big hug. Dr. Mei Sharpe appears to have it all together but when you look closer, that is not the case. What these women do is interact with each other in a way that they both need. Mei and Morgan are very good at their jobs and that gives them some sense of comfort but they need more. I also appreciated Morgan's best friend, Ruiz and Mei's best friend Shanvi. Morgan's daughters were quite the characters with some very funny interactions and dialogue. Lovely age gap romance.
J. Beebs - TJ O’Shea has done a masterful job in creating this story. Mei and Morgan were three dimensional, relatable women. The supporting cast of characters really helped to enhance the overall plot. The dialogue was witty and engaging. And the chemistry between our mains was spicy! I loved everything about this book from Morgan’s need to help others to Mei’s dry humor to Ruiz’s snarky wit. How can this be TJ O’Shea’s first book?
Leah M. - The characters were interesting and fun and had me right from the beginning. There’s a lot of humor and heart and there are parts that will tug on your heartstrings. Both main characters, Mei and Morgan, are dealing with issues that have an effect on their relationship and I loved how they grew separately and together to move on from those issues.
This is a romance where the romance is the star of the show, there’s not a mystery or exciting action going on. So, it’s always nice when the authors remember the main characters don’t live in a bubble and add more to the story to keep it interesting. Mei and Morgan’s family and friends were a benefit that added drama to the story in a way that felt natural.
I enjoyed this so much I was actually quite disappointed there wasn’t a back catalog of books from O’Shea to read. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for a follow up from her.
Ameliah F. - Loved This Tale!
I LOVED this book! The characters were so real and complex. The dialogue engaging and it’s just the right pace. I loved how patient Morgan was and watching Mei’s journey. I cried for them when trouble drove them apart and cheered when they started figuring things out. The secondary characters, especially Morgan’s best friend were really well developed and important to the story without overtaking our heroes. This is one of those special books that make you say aww and gives you the warm fuzzies. I already want to read this book again!
Chunky, stupid snowflakes dropped from chunky, stupid clouds and piled upon the other chunky, stupid snowflakes blanketing Mei’s car. Though her windshield wipers bravely fought the hellish white onslaught it was a Sisyphean task, as the snow impeded her vision regardless of their efforts. Trembling hands turned down the heat as she waited on the side of the desolate highway. No other soul would brave this sudden blizzard, especially on Valentine’s Day. Having agreed only to an early dinner with her daughter’s family, Mei expected to be home before the worst of the snow set in. She would be curled in front of her fireplace already had her tire not taken this most auspicious occasion to pop, flatten, and force her to stop, thus placing her directly in the path of the snowstorm and its chunky, stupid snow.
Because, of course, the universe would punish her for brushing off what used to be Allan’s favorite holiday. Marrying a hopeless romantic was an eye-opening experience for someone whose parents barely knew each other prior to their wedding day. Allan never needed a special occasion or corporate holiday to be romantic, but he could not contain his excitement for the kitsch and camp of Valentine’s Day. Over thirty years it became a tradition for Mei to spoil Allan on Valentine’s Day, and though she wasn’t inclined toward romantic overtures, she did her best.
On this second Valentine’s Day without him, her eldest daughter insisted Mei drive out to her suburban home for dinner assuming she would otherwise sit at home, melancholic and pathetic. Normally Mei would decline the invitation, but the more she declined the more insistent her daughters became about her attendance on these superfluous holidays. The more insistent they became, the more they visited unannounced or scheduled lunches to make sure Mei hadn’t dissolved into a puddle of human remains.
Now she regretted giving in to Grace’s demands as she sat on the side of the highway, in the middle of a blizzard, her tire flat against the asphalt. Roadside assistance insisted they were on their way, but no doubt predictably busy and reluctant to send a mechanic in the midst of this torrential snow. Keeping the heat as low as she could stand, Mei tried to reserve her car’s gas and battery, wrapping her head in a thick wool gaiter. A glimmer of hope in the form of a pair of headlights passed in the other direction, but they did not belong to a truck. Simply another fool out in this damnable weather, though Mei envied them their mobility.
Not long after that car passed, two yellow lights shone behind her, refracted in the snowflakes. As the car crunched through the freshly fallen snow, it surprised her to see it did not belong to a tow truck, but rather a two-door sedan. Grabbing the emergency safety hammer from her center console, Mei waited as the figure approached her. She was not about to be murdered on top of all the other inconveniences this night wrought.
The stranger knocked on the window. Mei clenched her hammer and rolled the window down about an inch. “I’m fine.”
She rolled it back up and the person knocked again.
This time, she rolled it down two inches. “I have called for help, thank you,” she stated in a tone she thought stern, and rolled the window up.
They knocked again.
Mei tightened her grip on the hammer and rolled the window all the way down.
It was a woman. Too dark to tell what she looked like, but Mei did see a smiling face tucked between a wool beanie and scarf. “Is everything okay?”
She nodded as the flakes began falling into her vehicle, onto the conditioned leather. “Yes. My car has a flat. I called my roadside assistance.”
Glancing left and right down the quiet highway, she inquired, “How long ago did you call?”
Already too many questions for Mei’s liking. “Thirty minutes. It’s fine, I imagine they’re busy.”
“Yeah, I bet,” she replied. “Do you have a spare tire in the trunk?”
Allan’s fastidious nature in regard to car ownership meant the spare tire remained inflated and in good condition. Mei hadn’t bothered with it in the last two years. “I believe so.”
“All right. I have a jack in my car. I can get that changed out for you in no time.”
Mei blinked in astonishment. Noticing the snow falling into her vehicle, the woman used a gloved hand to wipe the snow from the car door out into the highway. “Why?”
Pulling her scarf up by her chin, the woman narrowed her eyes. “Why? Why would you ask me why?”
“Because we’re in snowstorm and you are a stranger. How do I know you won’t use your altruism as an excuse to lure me out of my vehicle for malignant purposes?”
“You know what? That’s fair. It is a total serial killer move. Like a reverse Ted Bundy.” This made Mei chuckle unexpectedly as the woman graciously stepped away from her car. “Roadside is gonna take a while. I’m not comfortable leaving you here alone, but if you don’t want me to change your tire, I understand. I can wait in my car until roadside arrives.”
A generous offer considering the conditions. Mei released the hammer and placed it on the passenger seat. “I would hate for you to be on the ground in this weather.”
“Better than you freezing out here for the next hour, I’d think,” she responded, jamming her hands in her pockets. “I can change the tire in a few minutes.”
Mei should drive her car right to an asylum for taking up this stranger on her offer, but at least it wasn’t a man. “Okay. Thank you. It’s the rear left tire.”
“Sure thing.” Turning on her heel, she trotted back to her car. Mei turned off her engine and reluctantly stepped out into the harsh weather to open her trunk as well. Upon her return, the woman whistled and dropped her duffel bag next to them. “Wow, that is the cleanest trunk I’ve ever seen. Are you sure you’re not the serial killer?”
It was bare—a bag of emergency supplies tucked neatly into one corner, a first aid kit in the other, the rest a flat expanse of freshly vacuumed thin carpet. “If I were a serial killer I wouldn’t be foolish enough to transport a body in my own trunk.”
The woman paused, giving Mei a strange, amused smile. “I feel like I should’ve been the one with the emergency hammer,” she remarked. Lifting the carpet and the false bottom, the woman tugged the tire out of its place. She rolled it to the left and knelt down next to the offending wheel. Using a palm-sized flashlight, she lit the tire and searched it. “Oh, there it is. Looks like you caught a nail. Not surprising on this highway. If it’s not construction materials, it’s a pothole.”
Mei retrieved her emergency blanket from the bag and laid it on the ground. “Here. I don’t want you catching your death out here because of the state’s inability to use my taxpayer money correctly.”
“Boy, you said it.” Kneeling on the blanket, the woman started her work loosening the lug nuts on the tire. “So, what are you doing out so late on Valentine’s Day? Hot date? Or, cold date?”
Mei snickered, taking up a position next to the tire leaning on her car. “No, no. I had dinner with my daughter and my grandchildren.”
“Oh, nice. Sounds like a good time. Although, you did leave in the middle of a blizzard, so maybe not.”
“In my defense, I left before the blizzard started. And it would’ve been fine if not for that pesky nail.” The woman wiped snow from beneath the vehicle, then placed a piece of wood down. She put the jack on top and began cranking the car up. Mei had observed Allan do this at least once or twice and it took such considerable strength. It duly impressed Mei how effortless this woman made it look. Three cheers for feminism. “What about you? Spending the night perched atop a gargoyle, waiting to rescue those in need?”
This made the woman laugh heartily, and Mei smiled. “Totally. I forgot my mask and cape in the car.” Pulling the tire off the car, she set it aside and brushed her hands off. “Uh, I actually am on a date. A blind date. Well, it was a blind date, but we’ve seen each other by now. So, a regular date.”
“Oh no. I’m so sorry, I never would’ve asked you to do this if I’d known.” Glancing to her left, Mei barely made out the shape of a person in the passenger seat of this woman’s car.
“You didn’t ask. I offered,” the woman replied. “And it’s fine. What kind of person gets mad at someone for doing a favor?” Mounting the spare tire, she took to tightening the lug nuts.
“I suppose that’s fair. This is far and beyond a favor, though. Changing a tire in a snowstorm for a stranger is rather extreme.”
“Nah, it’s not. Any decent person would do it.” Not a consistent truth in Mei’s experience, but she remained mute. “Besides, between you and me, this date is a disaster. In fact, sitting on this blanket talking to you is the most fun I’ve had all night.”
Mei put her hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter. “Blind dates are the worst, aren’t they?”
“They truly and deeply are. Would you mind?” Taking off her jacket, the woman handed it to Mei and lowered the jack. Underneath, the woman wore a mauve blazer, the sleeves of which she shoved up before tightening the lug nuts again, with much more effort. The coat in Mei’s hands smelled wonderful, like wood and citrus. “It’s not my style. I’d rather go on a date with someone I have a connection with, you know? And I know instantly if there is one. I don’t feel it with her.” Placing the tools into her bag, the woman stood and brought the blanket up with her. “Plus, it’s Valentine’s Day, so there’s all sorts of weird expectations to be romantic with someone you just met. I don’t know a whole lot about love, but I do know it’s not something you’re given. It is something you earn.”
Shaking out the snow, she folded the blanket and stuck it back in the trunk. Mei handed over her jacket. “I have to say I agree. Though I suppose a gallant roadside rescue in this incredible snow is rather romantic. Perhaps your date will think so.”
Scrunching her face, she slid her jacket back on. “Is it terrible if I say I hope not?”
Mei snickered. “My lips are sealed.”
The woman hefted the bag over her shoulder, brushing snow from her pants. “She was rude to the valet and our waiter. That’s a hard no for me. I’m trying to keep an open mind, but I can’t stand when people are discourteous for no reason.”
“No, I’m sure the sort of magnanimous person who interrupts a date to help a total stranger in a blizzard is not turned on by boorishness,” Mei said, though the term stranger bothered something in the back of her mind.
Apparently reading her mind, the woman took off her glove and extended her hand. “Well, who says we have to be strangers? I’m Morgan.”
“Mei,” she replied, taking her hand and shaking it. They stood, hands clasped, as film-ready snow fell from the sky. A dying wind allowed a gentle stream of flakes to cascade around them. Mei withdrew her hand, shivering. “I’ll let you get back to your date. Thank you again.”
Morgan stared at her, unmoving. Suddenly, she shook her head and blinked a few times. “Right, anytime. Well, anytime, but hopefully not again when it’s below zero. Anyway, get home safe. Don’t drive too fast on the spare, okay? And you can’t go very far on it.”
“I won’t transport any dead bodies across state lines, scout’s honor,” she promised, grinning behind her scarf. “Have a good night.”
“Yeah. You too.”
Less impeded by snow, Mei eyed the irate woman in the passenger seat with her arms crossed, glaring daggers at her through the windshield. Morgan waved as she got into the car, and Mei waved back.
She slid into her driver’s seat, grateful for the meager warmth. As she watched Morgan’s brake lights fade into the distance, a feeling crossed between déjà vu and premonition came over her. Mei did not consider herself sensitive to the inner workings of the universe, preferring to plant herself directly in her beloved sciences, but her otherwise methodical brain entreated she remember this unspectacular moment. Like a late-night As Seen On TV advertisement, the universe insisted: wait, there’s more.
The wind picked up, bending snow-covered trees toward the road. Whatever the universe was trying to say, it had to wait. Mei could not rely on two good Samaritans in one night. Shaking herself from a trance, she locked her seat belt and maneuvered her car carefully back onto the white highway.