Rest with Romance: “Before We Were Strangers” will have you captivated

I’ve always found myself drawn to second chance romances. I enjoy discovering the reasons the characters separated. I love the heart-stopping moment in the book when they see each for the first time in years; it’s always a moment described with such detail, and leaves my heart aching for them to reunite once more. No book has delivered this trope as well as Renée Carlino’s “Before We Were Strangers.”

The book is dual point of view, with the exception of the last chapter, switching between past and present tense. It follows Matt Shore and Grace Starr on their journey as a couple during their college years and when they reunite in their 30s. The two are immediately drawn to each other, but their difference in careers interferes with their relationship and they become merely a memory to each other. Years later, they meet on a subway train and their romance rekindles, but they both continue keeping secrets from one another.

I’ve never related to a book character’s values as much as these two. Matt and Grace’s passion for different areas of art was one of my favorite aspects of the book. Matt is an aspiring photographer and Grace an aspiring musician. I loved how their enthusiasm for art was obvious, and I appreciated how much they fought to be known in the industry.

Rahma Shaikh

However, the romantic relationship between Matt and Grace left me with mixed feelings. Their love for each other was endearing, but there were moments throughout the book where I felt extremely frustrated with their miscommunication. It made it more interesting, but there were unneeded conflicts that could be solved by merely talking to each other.

The plot itself was a slow burn, so I struggled to feel motivated to read the book at times, but once I reached the middle, the conflict was introduced and I became enamored. I didn’t expect the plot twist toward the end, but I loved what the drama added to the story and the relationships that came of it.

Ultimately, “Before We Were Strangers” was incredibly well-written, and the relationship between Matt and Grace was one I will cherish. Carlino did a wonderful job balancing conflict with sweet moments. I can easily call this book one of my favorite reads of this year so far.