Before I Knew – Jamie Beck

 

What a lot of disagreeable people in this book! Maybe the author’s purpose was to present people in all their flaws and good qualities, but I found that almost all were disagreeable to some extent.  Colby lost her best friend Joe in an accident that her husband caused even if inadvertently. When they went to the funeral, Joe’s older brother Alec, refused them entrance to prevent further grief to his parents. Two weeks later, Colby’s husband Mark committed suicide.

Two years later, Colby is on the verge of inaugurating her new restaurant, A CertainTea, and needs a new chef. Her brother Hunter calls her to a meeting to introduce the new chef. Since Hunter is funding the new restaurant, he had the authority to hire the chef. To Colby’s surprise, the new chef is Alec. Alec had enjoyed national acclaim and won the James Beard award for his new restaurant, Une Boucheé, but after Joe’s death, he lost his concentration and his creativity, and he lost his reputation and his restaurant. He disappeared for two years and now he’s back to repair his losses, working at Colby’s restaurant.

A lot of things go wrong here. Colby had let her husband hide his condition, bipolar syndrome, during their marriage. In a manic moment, he had dared Joe to a risky dive and Joe died. Then she was contemplating divorce because she was fed up with dealing with Mark’s illness and his refusal to take his meds and follow treatment. Cue guilt for association to Joe’s death and Mark’s suicide. Alec had received an apology note from Mark, asking for forgiveness, and he never replied. Cue guilt for Mark, thinking he could have prevented Mark’s suicide if he had acted on that note.

Alec had a crappy relation with his dad. Mr. Morgan is a retired cop, very macho man, and he shunned Alec’s career as a chef. He also taught Joe to make fun of Alec because he wasn’t a manly man like them. And I hated that Mrs. Morgan saw all this and didn’t take steps to balance the situation in her home. I would take a frying pan to a husband and son that would dare mock another son.

Colby’s parents divorced when she was a child, her father remarried and had a second daughter who is now twenty-five years old. Colby’s mom is envious about her ex-husband’s success in his company, and the many gifts he bestows on his second wife. She’s even envious of the money Colby and Hunter receive as dividends from the stock they own in their father’s company. She’s manipulative, drama-queen, self-involved, and as Hunter’s phrases, “a black hole of neediness”. She genuinely loves her children but I can’t imagine having to deal with such a mother all the time.

The only characters I whole-heartedly liked were Hunter and Sara, Hunter’s wife. Hunter is working at their father’s corporation, and he is a driven, intense man.  Sara is the perfect wife for him because she makes him take off time for fun and family.  Sara is a great friend of Colby’s, very supportive.  As expected, Hunter is not close to their mother.

With this incredible cast of characters, this book is about redemption and forgiveness.  What I didn’t like about the book is the constant hiding of secrets, which is what powers the plot of this book.  Also, Colby fell into the same pattern with Alex as she did with Mark.  Instead of facing issues straight on, she managed around the truths, she hid some information, she procrastinated and evaded.  Alec faced stuff straight on, except he hid his guilt and the information about the note.  The book felt like a downrolling disaster train, going towards a total meltdown and implosion of everyone involved in the book.  Even though it had a HEA in the end, I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for the characters, except for Colby’s dad and brother.  It was a great read, and the author is a fantastic writer.  I just didn’t like most of the characters very much and felt that Colby kowtowed to everyone too much.

About Luisa Rivas-Martinez

Newly retired, lover of romance novels. I've been reading since early childhood, loved those fantasy tales with Princes and Princesses. As I grew, my love for romance blossomed into romance novels, beginning with Harlequin romances. I hope that through this page, I can share my experience and joy on reading my romance novels and make friends.
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