Before We Were Strangersby Published 4 Dec 2018
|Before We Were Strangers.pdf|
Something happened to her mother that night. Something no one wants to talk about. But she's determined to uncover her family's dark secrets, even if they bury her.
Five-year-old Sloane McBride couldn't sleep that night. Her parents were arguing again, their harsh words heating the cool autumn air. And then there was that other sound--the ominous thump before all went quiet.
In the morning, her mother was gone.
The official story was that she left. Her loving, devoted mother! That hadn't sat any better at the time than it did when Sloane moved out at eighteen, anxious to leave her small Texas hometown in search of anywhere else. But not even a fresh start working as a model in New York could keep the nightmares at bay. Or her fears that the domineering father she grew up with wasn't just difficult--he was deadly.
Now another traumatic loss forces Sloane to realize she owes it to her mother to find out the truth, even if it means returning to a small town full of secrets and lies, a jilted ex-boyfriend and a father and brother who'd rather see her silenced. But as Sloane starts digging into the past, the question isn't whether she can uncover what really happened that night...it's what will remain of her family if she does?
"Before We Were Strangers" Reviews
Sloane McBride’s mother, Clara, disappeared 23 years ago following a violent argument with her father, Ed. Sloane was only five-years old at the time but vividly recalls the details of what she saw and heard that night. She left town suddenly and without warning when she was eighteen to escape her father’s domination and emotional cruelty, leaving behind her boyfriend, Micah, and best friend, Paige. Now she’s returned home to Texas after having gained fame and success as a model to finally investigate and solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. At the top of her suspect list? Her father.
The story begins with the death of Sloane’s beloved agent, mentor and benefactor who had encouraged her to go back home and reconnect with her family and friends. I really felt how alone Sloane was with no real meaningful relationships to anchor her anywhere. Even her return home was met with suspicion and hostility. Every relationship was complicated, including her best friend and ex-boyfriend who had married each other, share a son and are now divorced. The reactions to her return felt real, even if some were harsh and unfair, consistent with small town dynamics.
The mystery was gnarly, taking twisty and uncertain paths, especially with unreliable witnesses who were swayed by Sloane’s influential father, the town mayor. I found Sloane pretty naive and too trusting at times, especially where it concerned Paige. The romantic element was subtle, providing some relief to the tension. I enjoyed this story for its unpredictability and mystery, thinking I had this thing figured out until a major curve ball was thrown. There are a host of characters you won’t like and everyone has their share of flaws. That just made everything more interesting.
(I received an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review)
Well hello there Brenda Novak. My first book by her and I was a little hesitant because of the romance part.. while I do like my rom-coms, I tend to not like romance mixed in with my thrillers - but Novak has decidedly changed my mind on this with Before We Were Strangers. While the romance is a bit heavy, the plot is as twisted as the characters and this book is a breeze to read!
I absolutely admire Sloane's tenacity and as I'm rooting for her throughout this entire read, I was also like, "Oh no girl, just WHAT are you doing?!" Her character pulled me in right from the very first few pages.. and boy oh boy, in my last review I was discussing about how these books steer me clear of the desire to have ever grown up in a small town and this one also just proves my point... though if I had Micah waiting for me... well, hell.... 😉
There were a couple things that kind of stood out to me - I was giggling through one of the sex scenes because WOW I don't think I've ever seen so much dialogue happen in a sex scene before. I didn't mind it, it just seemed a bit... odd. And then there was just one typo with the reference to the Menendez Brothers being written as Melendez and you bet your sweet ass I googled it to see if there were other killers that I somehow did NOT know about because I used to research the crap out of this topic! Also, I'm reading an uncorrected proof so I digress.
What I especially love about this book is that I was going through all the ups and downs with Sloane and figuring things out WITH her rather than trying to piece mail everything together myself during my read. Ya get me? And I did let out a bit of a WTF gasp during the last few pages when something was discovered.... if you've read the book then you know what I mean. If you haven't then, well, GET ON IT.
Don't let the romance part deter you from this read - and keep an eye out for Novak. I just found another author to pile on to my bookshelves.
Thanks so much to Harlequin/MIRA books and the author for this copy.
★ 2.5 STARS ★
I have become a fan of Brenda Novak from reading several of her more thrilling titles but with over fifty books in publication she has anything from the lighter contemporary romance to darker thrillers. Before We Were Strangers is more along the lines of a romantic suspense novel but with enough mystery to keep readers turning the pages and guessing along.
In this story Sloane McBride had left home at eighteen and had not looked back for the last ten years. Sloane had her reasons for escaping her small town but they weren’t the normal dreaming of something bigger or searching for more, Sloane had wanted to escape her father who she suspected may have had something to do with her mother’s disappearance when she was five.
However, Sloane had not only left behind her father and brother but also her high school boyfriend and her best friend. As much as Sloane loved them both she couldn’t stay near her father for another day which made leaving tough but returning will be even tougher since the two had turned to each other after Sloane’s absence. Having married, had a child and divorced in the last ten years Sloane isn’t sure how either will handle her return as she looks for clues from the past.
Before We Were Strangers was another Brenda Novak novel that didn’t take long at all to become completely engrossed in. Sloane’s memories of that night when she was five and her mother vanished have had her in fear that her father is a murderer. In the years that have passed her father has also gained power in the small town making getting at the truth that much more tough for Sloane but with a bit of help and determination the secrets slowly rise to the top.
I will admit to being a little leery of the whole love triangle angle of the story since I’m usually not a fan of dating a friend or family members ex, again with those boundaries, however this is the creepiest, most disturbing dynamic that made the book even more compelling. There’s actually no “cheating” involved but instead this set up is even more mind games to add to the suspenseful side of the story. A great read from beginning to end that I’d definitely recommend checking out.
I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
The plot of this book is quite strong - a daughter returns to her home town after 10 years away, determined to face up to her buried suspicion that her father had something to do with the disappearance of her mother all those years ago. It promised the unearthing of buried skeletons, a mystery being untangled and the conflicting emotions tied up with such a 'prodigal' return.
Unfortunately for me it failed to deliver on some of those promises. One of the main frustrations I had was with the pace of the book, for the first two thirds it felt like hardly anything happened and then suddenly all of the action is crammed into the last third. Also it promised a 'twist' of an ending, which for me was not a surprise at all.
But my main problem was with the cliched nature of some of the writing and the juxtaposition of the characters relationships with their conversations. Hopefully this example will help illustrate my point:
"Their affair for one. His womanizing. What he's said about his wife. It doesn't have to mean they murdered her"
"Or it could mean they did it together." His hand slipped between her legs as he kissed her neck(.....)
Sloane closed her eyes as his fingers evoked little darts of pleasure.
"She didn't seem to be suffering from too much regret," she said, struggling to keep her mind on their conversation."
I don't know about you, but nothing is more likely to turn me on than discussing the possible murder of my mother and the possibility that my father and his lover may have had something to do with it....?!?! I mean, WHAT an opportune moment for some foreplay, huh??
There is a special place in my heart for books that have really bad sex scenes in them - and I'm afraid this has made its way into that category. I think if a sex scene is genuine, it probably isn't supposed to make you laugh, and I'm afraid this one made me snigger:
'He ran his fingers down between her breasts, which weren't particularly large but they were perfectly formed. "But..."
"My friend was...sick"
"Clyde, right? The one who died of cancer?" She nodded as he smoothed the hair out of her face."
Two things here - what an unnecessary description of her breasts. Secondly, AGAIN, I'm not sure that talking about your friend that died of cancer is really setting the mood here...or is it just me?
It just felt like the author was so keen to ram home the rekindling relationship between Sloane and Micah, that all thought of how people actually behave together was lost. Top this off with some of the cliched contrived plot devices (of course the first time she is reunited with her ex, Micah, Sloane just had to be wearing nothing but a towel....cue my eye roll) and it become irritating.
Apologies if this seems a harsh review, but unfortunately things like this took away from from what could have been quite a good story of intrigue, murder, family dynamics and redemption. But the clunky writing detracted from all of that.
Thanks to the Publisher and Netgalley for this preview copy in return for an honest review.
Before We Were Strangers is published on 4th December 2018 by Harlequin-Mira
All my reviews at hintonhitsthebooks.wixsite.com/blog