*I received a free copy of Before We Were Strangers from MIRA via ARC Publisher. This has in no way influenced my voluntary review, which is honest and unbiased *Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak
Published by MIRA on December 4, 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Romance, Thriller
Source: ARC Publisher
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 was chilling, riveting, and kept me guessing throughout. However, I had some difficulty connecting with some of the characters and the ending was a bit too tidy for me. This wasn’t my favorite from Novak but it was still a pretty good read.
*sighs* I didn’t really enjoy this one – I found some aspects of it to be too similar to her Evelyn Talbot chronicles. And the romance wasn’t all that sweet or hot. Plus, I found the ending to be, as you said, too tidy, as well.
I can’t fathom going through what Sloane has been through in suspecting her father in the disappearance of her mother. Her father was definitely formidable but do you agree with how Sloane went about things? Getting the justice she wanted for her mother?
I didn’t get the dynamics between Sloane and her father and brother at all. Both because I felt like Sloane thought she could just come back home and everything would fall into place, and because she wasn’t exactly stealthy with her ‘investigation’.
I don’t know that I’d have been as forgiving of Paige if I were Sloane. Or Micah. I know love can make you do crazy things but I felt Paige was more selfish, self-absorbed, and vindictive than anything else. Do you think it was all just jealousy that drove her actions?
Oh my gosh! I actually couldn’t stand Paige. And really, why did Sloane think it was a good idea to stay with her? Micah, too – I can understand still having feelings for your first love, but hey, he went to your best friend after you left town. I think Paige was a bitch… and I think if it was jealousy, she’s been jealous of Sloane her whole life. Sadly, I didn’t think Paige really brought much to the story – it was more as if there needed to be an antagonist, and so Paige was the placeholder for that…
Sloane’s father was clearly a sociopath. Maybe a psychopath. I was shocked at how little he seemed to care about his kids beyond what they could do to and for him. Do you think he had any redeeming qualities?
I don’t think he had any redeeming qualities. And it’s the sociopath / psychopath part of his personality and how big of a place it took in Before We Were Strangers that made me not enjoy it. That’s the main theme and plot point in the other series Novak has, and I just feel like the story could have been better if there was another reason for her father’s actions.
I had trouble understanding how Randy, Sloane’s brother, could be so blindly and staunchly loyal to their dad. He didn’t consider Sloane’s suspicions or feelings much. Why do you think he dug his heels in the way he did?
Ugh! Randy 🙁 I think he just wanted to think their father was a good man – and he probably also wanted what his father could give him and do for him. Maybe he’s closer to the father personality wise as well? It did appear as if his wife was a little afraid of him.
I liked Micah. I appreciated that he tried to do the honorable things by Paige and their son. However, he didn’t love Paige, so do you think he did the right thing by marrying her even though it eventually led to divorce?
No! I don’t understand the thinking that people ‘should’ get married because they’re going to have a child together. I think that can actually be more detrimental to the child than having parents who can be happy. I don’t think either Micah or Paige were ever truly happy together. Paige was in love with Micah – or she just wanted him because Sloane had him first. I’m not even sure. And I think most of the characters in Before We Were Strangers were very superficial. Which is another negative point for me.
You know I believe in true love/fated love, wifey, so I was thrilled that Sloane and Micah got their second chance. How did you feel about it and their feelings toward one another? Again, I questioned whether I’d have been as forgiving as Sloane (where Paige and Micah were concerned) but understood Micah had to be forgiving as well.
I usually love a second chance romance, you know that! I did enjoy the second chance Sloane and Micah got – but truly, Micah didn’t have that much to forgive. He could have tried to find Sloane if he wanted to – I mean, he must have seen pictures of her as a model. And he didn’t exactly wait long after she left before he hooked up with her best friend. And he knew how difficult it was for Sloane at home. I thought he should have been a little more understanding.
Having experience with familial estrangement myself, I could relate to Sloane on some levels. I’m curious how you feel about the complex feelings Sloane had for her dad. She, of course, wanted that bond with her father…that unconditional love and wanted it to go both ways. However, at the same time she had doubts about his character. Do you think you can love and hate someone? Specifically a family member?
I think it’s completely possible to love and hate someone – and especially when it’s a family member. Because I think most of us just want to believe that the family member loves us – at least a little bit. And when it comes to parents, I think it’s very hard to completely cut them off, no matter how many good and valid reasons we have for doing so. So that was one part of Sloane’s personality and thoughts I got totally on board with.
I felt like the ending was too easily tied up. It didn’t flow realistically with the story since it had taken so long for Sloane to move forward in seeking answers. You mentioned finding the characters rather unlikable and I confess to having a hard time connecting with anyone other than Sloane and Micah. And Sloane would have been more of a challenge had I not had something in common with her. Maybe it was Novak’s intention but there wasn’t many, if any, redeeming qualities about other characters or they were one-dimensional. So I didn’t come to care for them. And yet I did want Sloane to get her answers as well as her HEA with Micah.
Yeah, way too easily, especially because Randy suddenly changed his tune as well. And the whole thing with the teacher just made me roll my eyes. I think that now, a few weeks after having read the book, I like it even less than I did when I just finished it. I also don’t understand why Sloane waited so long before she truly dug into the past, she could have done that earlier. Especially because she had the financial means to do so.
Overall, Before We Were Strangers kept me engaged and guessing about the final outcome of Sloane’s investigation. I had trouble connecting with many of the characters though so I really only cared about the main characters. I also had issues with how neatly everything was tied up. So in the end, this wasn’t one of my favorites from Novak but still worth the read.
I’m not even 100% sure I think it was worth the read to me, Brandee, and that almost hurts me to say. Novak is one of my favorite authors, but I think I prefer her Whiskey Creek kind of romance than this psychopath / but kind of romance that she’s veering into these days…
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: