Review – Before and Ever Since by Sharla Lovelace

Before and Ever Since by Sharla Lovelace

Publisher: Berkley Trade
Publish date: November 6, 2012 (out now)
How I got this Book: eARC from publisher

Emily Lockwood, your past is showing…

Emily Lockwood has been sitting on a secret for so long, and buried so deep that she really doesn’t even think of it anymore. Why should she? She has a successful career, an ex-husband who rarely tests her patience, a mother who usually does, and a stubbornly independent grown daughter. Everything is fine, just another crazy kind of normal.

Until Ben Landry comes back to town. From childhood friends to young lovers, Ben and Emily had an unbreakable bond. Or so she thought—until he disappeared for over twenty years without explanation. Seeing Ben again triggers more than mere memories and a tug at her heart. It rips the cover off an old secret that could hurt the people she loves most.

While Emily works to keep her secret safe and her heart safer, her sanity gets a reality check. She’s been seeing things—her past played out like home movies unreeling before her eyes, visions that are making Emily see herself, her family, everyone she knew, and every choice she made, in a revealing new light and a startling new angle. For Emily, seeing her life in rewind makes her realize she has hard choices to make for her future. Choices that may redefine everyone else’s future as well.

*Blurb from author’s website here (where you also can read an excerpt!)

I know I’m going to love a book when I first fall in love with the author’s voice and writing style. Such is the case here. I almost took a pass on it when the ARC was offered because it was categorized as “Romantic Women’s Fiction” and I’m not a big chick-lit fan. Nothing wrong with that genre per se, it just doesn’t speak to me. But then I read the excerpt. And Wow. O_O That first page – hell, that first sentence – I knew I had to read this story.

LOVED IT!!!! No, seriously. LOVED.

I had started this book on a Friday night just before dinner and only got through the first chapter before being called away. It was later that evening before I could pick it up again and I ended up reading through the night. It was 5:30am and there I was, still sitting in the family room, iPad propped on my knees and I didn’t want to stop reading (yeah, I know, I’m not a fast reader). Sometimes the body dictates otherwise, so I took my gritty, red, tired eyes to bed. But only for a few hours and then, it was right back at it (oh, happy Saturday!).

I’m not really sure how to categorize this book. This is a romance set within the context of real life. This is a second-chance romance. This is a what-do-you-do-when-your-decisions-come-back-to-bite-you-in-the-ass romance. There is an element of the supernatural but not in the overt ways common to genres such as UF or PNR. Rather, the supernatural presents itself in a more subtle mystical, transformative and psychic way. This story asks the questions: what if the past as you remember it doesn’t tell the whole story? What if you could see multiple sides to a singular experience, how would that affect what you think you know about the people in your life?

Lovelace’s writing style is clean, humorous, at times gut-wrenching and always honest. One of the subtleties of her style is the way she presents information – she sidles up to it all cozy-like rather than hitting us over the head with it in a direct way. I found my imagination much more engaged as a result. Lovelace has created a rich, character-driven story. This story is a fine example of how a first-person POV should read. I thoroughly enjoyed being in Emily’s head and experiencing the story from her view. All the characters feel real. All are flawed and relatable and read like people I’d want to know.

As for a discussion of Emily and Ben specifically as characters – well, I think the enjoyment of this story is to go on that journey of discovery and I don’t want to give anything away. Let me just say that it becomes clear early on that their respective experiences of the past may not be all as it appears. Until they figure that out or decide if they can get past it, they keep walking back into that wounded space and it continues to rip them apart.

Lovelace crafted a story rich with emotion. Yes, there are smexy bits. And it’s hot. Toe-curling body-tingling kind of hot. But guess what? Not all that explicit. What made it so well-executed was the emotional tension.
[mild spoilery] [spoiler]When Emily and Ben finally got together – wow, I haven’t read such a satisfying smexy scene in a loooong time.[/spoiler] [end mild spoilery]

Although there is some drama (as one might expect from a book classified across both Romance and Women’s Fic genres), you will not find over-angsting or melodrama here. Lovelace keeps it real. Right down to the comfy/ratty pajama’s favored by Emily, the unkempt hair, or the ill-timed pimple. Life happens amongst all those scenarios, even poignant scenes. It’s not always pretty.

The ending felt a bit abrupt to me. I was surprised to turn the virtual page and find it blank. And then I was sad. But come on – my biggest complaint was that there wasn’t more? That I wanted it to go on and on because I was in love with the characters and wasn’t ready to say goodbye? Yeah, not much of a complaint.
[mild spoilery] [spoiler]Granted, the ending doesn’t get wrapped up nice and neat and we are left wondering if it’s an HEA or an HFN – although, I really do think that the characters will find their way to an HEA, it just may take a little while.[/spoiler] [end mild spoilery]

My rating of Before and Ever Since: A+

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10 thoughts on “Review – Before and Ever Since by Sharla Lovelace”

  1. If I see the words: woman’s fiction, I pass. I do like some chicklit, as it usually has more humor. One of my favourite authors has switched genres to woman’s fiction, and I just can’t like the books. I wish she would go back to romantic suspense.

  2. Aurian….i love when a book keeps you up till the wee hours..and when I am wrapped up in a book that is exactly what happens to me..i am constantly sleep deprived, and rely on a constant flow of coffee into my system..LOL Adding this to my list, and will start in the am !

  3. Hi Kimba, lol, I do know exactly what you are talking about. I have become more careful about when to start a new book. Not after 20.00 hours on monday, tuesday or wednesday. Thursday is allowed, only one more workday to go.

  4. @aurian:

    Understand that, Aurian, 🙂 I’m kind of the same way. That’s why what I write rides the fence. I love the journey aspect of WF, the humor of chick lit, and the heat of a romance. My stories always have a good romance in them, and I’m so snarky by nature that I can’t write without humor. It just falls in there independent of trying. 🙂 I hope you’ll give it a shot and see what you think!

  5. Thank you for such an awesome review! I love to hear other perspectives and it always fascinates me to see where readers go in their own minds. 🙂 Appreciate your time!

  6. @aurian: Ya know, that’s exactly why I started the post the way I did because I so get that! I think this is one book where I would have missed out on something special if the excerpt hadn’t been included with the review request. I wish more (read: all) review requests would come with an excerpt (or link to it) because it’s so hard to make a judgement call based on the book blurb alone, especially if it’s an author with which I am unfamiliar or a cross-genre that makes me hesitant. So glad I didn’t pass this one up!

  7. @kimba88: You have been warned! Keep the coffee pot brewing, LOL. Maybe get in a good nap before starting – marathon reading sessions must be prepared for;-)

  8. @Sharla Lovelace: Well, I suppose I should say You’re Welcome but really I just want to say Thank You for writing the book. I picked up your first book and am going to work it into my reading rotation…as a reviewer, my personal TBR pile gets bumped by my review schedule but I’ll be making a concerted effort in this case. You’ve got a great way with First Sentences!

  9. @miscjoy:

    LOL I hear that alot lately…about my first sentences. Had a signing this weekend and someone picked up both my books and read both first sentences out loud to the crowd to make the point. Thank you! And I’m so glad you decided to read my first book…I hope you enjoy it!!

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