Review: “Before We Were Strangers” by Brenda Novak

Title: Before We Were Strangers
Author: Brenda Novak
Publisher: MIRA/HarperCollins
Publication Date: December 4, 2018
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks


ARC provided by publisher through Edelweiss.


A young woman returns to her hometown in search of answers to the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. Suspenseful from start to finish, Brenda Novak’s newest Before We Were Strangers deals with small-town intrigue, deadly family secrets and one daughter’s righteous quest to give her mother the justice she deserves.

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?

Brenda Novak, though she has over 50 titles under her name, is a new author to me, so I didn’t know what to expect when I finally picked up this book. All I had going for me was the enticing summary and that lovely, lovely cover.

I flew through the pages and finished it in record time.

Before We Were Strangers took me by surprise in all the good ways. From a protagonist I instantly rooted for to dubious characters and a despicable villain, and, of course, a second-chance romance that hits the heart — this book just had everything I’m looking for in a romantic mystery. It sucked me in, took me for a ride, and, oh my goodness, I loved every bit of it.

It was so easy to empathize with Sloane. Though she is far from perfect (and she did make several decisions that made me want to scream Stop, babe. Please, let’s just think this through) she was easy to like. She got me cheering for her instantly, and when Micah entered the picture, I immediately got on that wagon, too, as complicated as their situation was with Paige still waiting in the wings for a reconciliation that’s never happening. Sloane, as the protagonist of this story, got me invested on her from the beginning and I think that’s part of what made this book flow so easily.

But credit must be given where it is due and I would be remiss to not praise Brenda Novak’s writing. She artfully balanced romance and mystery, never letting the other take over the other element. She gave me these fully-realized characters (yes, that includes the bad guy who I love to hate) who just drew me into the story and got me turning page after page.

Though I figured who the big bad is early on, it did not lessen my enjoyment of this story. I still savored watching Sloane reach her end goal, peeling back the layers of long-buried family secrets, distill truth out of the misleading pieces she gathered, and, finally, uncovering the truth. Her and Micah’s side story was just a bonus to an already more than satisfying story.

With the exception of that one plot twist near the end that threw me off a bit and the long dialogue exchange during an intimate scene which got me giggling (because how are you two still talking!) this book was solid on all fronts. It was definitely a pleasure closing the year with this book as one of my last reads. You can be sure I’m going to get my hands on all those other books by this author.

🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂

About the Author:

IMG_5103-195x300 New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author BRENDA NOVAK has penned over 45 novels. A two-time Rita nominee, she’s won The National Reader’s Choice, The Bookseller’s Best, The Bookbuyer’s Best and many other awards. She runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at To date, she’s raised over $2 million. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.

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2 thoughts on “Review: “Before We Were Strangers” by Brenda Novak

  1. Jonetta (Ejaygirl) | Blue Mood Café says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more about this book, Rachel! It was very well done and your review is excellent.

    This is one of my auto read authors. If you’re interested in reading more of her backlist, I suggest you start with her Bulletproof series. I interviewed her a few years ago and asked where to start with her Romantic Suspense novels and it was her recommendation. I found the series outstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel says:

      Thank you, Jonetta. I’m so glad I discovered Brenda Novak though I’m late to the party. I was actually just browsing her list of books on her website thinking where to start so thanks for the recommendation. That series look interesting. I’ll start with it. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

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