Before We Were Strangersby Brenda Novak Published 04 Dec 2018
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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
Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak is a 2018 MIRA publication.
A little heavy on the dramatics, but still a good, solid thriller-
When Sloane McBride was five years old, her mother suddenly disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again. Sloane has a few vivid memories of the night her mother left, and for many years she has suspected her father of foul play. Now, after ending a successful run as a popular supermodel, Sloane has returned to her hometown, hoping to finally discover what really happened to her mother all those years ago.
However, the adage about never going home again is proving true for Sloane in the most awkward of ways, not to mention the rather chilly reception she receives from her father and brother. However, the deeper she digs, she uncovers a few disturbing secrets about her mother, which causes her to question her own memories, and her powerful convictions about her father’s guilt.
Are Sloane’s memories faulty? Did her father have something to do with her mother’s disappearance or did she leave of her own accord?
Brenda Novak is usually a very dependable author. She writes across several genres, from contemporary romance to traditional thrillers. However, I seem to gravitate more towards her romantic suspense novels, since she is one of the few still around who writes them in a more traditional format. Although I had a few issues with this one, I still couldn’t put it down!
The mystery surrounding Sloane’s mother is a very solid thread. This part of the story is compelling and has some nice plot twists. However, the romantic angle was more like a soap opera, and all three characters in the love triangle, if you will, end up looking pathetic at one point or another, but none more than Sloane’s former best friend who alternately loves and hates Sloane. However, I kept turning those pages as fast as I could, all the same. What can I say? Sometimes, I’m a real sucker for an over the top sudsy drama.
Overall, the mystery has all the elements of a good, twisty thriller, which makes this one worth your time, even if you would rather skip all the heavy melodrama.
3.5 rounded up
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.
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What I love about reading is when you find that "gem" that keeps you thinking when you put the book down, or you can't put the book down because you are racing to the next page. A good book should make you "feel" and this did not disappoint.
Sloan is grieving over the loss of her friend who has been a father to her. She shared with him the reason she left her childhood home and he urged her to get answers. Sloan believes her father killed her mother when she was 5 years old and while she is terrified of him, feels that the answers will provide the closure she needs to move on with her life.
Her father is the mayor of the city she grew up in and is finding his power has a far reach. He does not want her to come home and blocks her attempts for a long stay as he is aware of the reasons for her return. He is up for re-election and believes her inquiries will thwart his efforts for another term. She is forced to stay with an old friend who married her childhood boyfriend. This is awkward to Sloan as she left abruptly after her high school graduation which broke her boyfriend, Micah's heart. Sloan's friend, Paige and Micah, are divorced, but there are lingering resentments as Paige feels Sloan is the reason for the breakup. This part of the storyline unfolds masterfully as the author is able to capture the pain that Paige feels as she cannot hide that she loves Micah too much, yet Micah does not love her enough. Sloan is in the middle as Paige feels guilty for marrying her best friends boyfriend, but is not willing to give him up. And the tension between Micah and Sloan is so palpable. Their feelings have not changed but they know if they act on their feelings that the consequences will be unforgiving.
Micah is also a police officer and he is aware of Sloan's intentions for her short stay. He is compelled to help her as he has concerns with her father's behavior and believes his power with the town needs to be reigned in. They learn that Sloan's mother had secrets that divided her family and as she starts to uncover the truth, she realizes her own life is in danger.
I won't give away any more as this story is a worthwhile read. I read it in one sitting and it just had that adrenaline that you want in a story. Another excellent reading experience from this author!!
★ 2.5 STARS ★
Thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication December 2018
Although I finished this book on the weekend, I needed to give myself some time to reflect before I reviewed. Before We Were Strangers attracted me for it's gorgeous cover-sure! But more importantly because I like the whole storyline of prodigal daughter(or son) returning and trying to bring the dark family secrets out into the open. Sloane McBride, this novel's protagonist squares off with her father, now her hometown 's mayor and her older brother over the disappearance of her beloved mother when she was only 5. Brenda Novak does a brilliant job at making Daddy McBride a total douchebag and I really despised him
From the very beginning , Sloane's father does every thing to make his daughter want to leave. He's also so horrible to many characters in the book. The snake in the Garden of Eden had more values than this guy. The parts in the novel that focus on the mystery are definitely a slow burn which pretty much escalates in the last number of chapters. But since Sloane doesn't have a lot of friends, her one outlet is the handsome high school boyfriend she left behind. Like many romance novels, Sloane was a hard act to follow because even though hottie married Sloane 's childhood best friend and had a child with her. Sloane was always at the forefront of his mind. Much of the novel is consumed with this love triangle.
And that's where this book falls into 3.0 territory for me. Because I am a you gotta own up to the decisions you make in life, don't go pointing fingers at others. That's where high school boyfriend falls into a very Nicholas Sparks type, Sloane who's facing some really intense shit( I mean she really feels her Dad killed her mother). But nope best friend and high school hottie got to talk about how Sloane was the third person in their marriage and the reason they ended up divorced. All I have to say is that is some messed up shit. You were all 18 years old and now you're parents of an eight year old. Grow the f----- up! I shall credit the author with invoking such a strong reaction from me, but this just wasn't my cup of joy!
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)