RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Before and Ever Since by Sharla Lovelace


Title: Before and Ever Since
Author: Shari Lovelace
Publication Info: 2012 2012
ISBN: 9780425253052
Genre: Paranormal

Book Before and Ever Since This RITA® Reader Challenge 2013 review was written by Ann Marie Gamble. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category.

The summary:      


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.

And here is Ann Marie's review:

Before and Ever Since has several elements crucial to its plot that aren't usually my big draws to a novel. Reunions? There's a reason it didn't work the first time. Secrets? How bad is the news, really, and of course they're not going to stay secret. The reviewer part of me googled background and whined that I'd picked this up. But the reader part of me kept turning pages. These elements were nicely grounded rather than facile tools for driving the plot, and I was engaged by characters who were more than the Perfect Sister, the Cheating Ex-Husband, or the Bad Boy Come Back to Town.

If I'd known more about the author, I wouldn't have been surprised at the paranormal element. Our heroine's mother is packing up the family home and moving on, and the upheaval upsets Emily so much that she shimmers back in time to have visions of events that occurred around the house. She can't pick the time she travels back to or alter the outcome, but she gets a new view of the other residents—her family—helping her develop a more mature, less egocentric view of why things turned out the way they have in the present.

The time-travel visions broaden the view for the reader, as well, from a first-person narrative in the present to engaging glimpses of the past and the motivations of the other characters: we and the narrator get to see things that hadn't been visible to her when they occurred.

I wasn't feeling very patient about the reunion or the secrets plots, but again, I sure was willing to read what happened next. Whatever bad-boy tendencies Ben, our hero, had in high school are so utterly absent, and his hotness (and Emily's interest) so obvious, why was she continuing to massage her agitation at his return? But agitated she was—vividly paced and displayed by the author—and their distance remained plausible to me. Moreover, although she grows to understand her old beau and the rest of her family, it's via the mechanism of the house dragging her into the past. The new knowledge—and knowledge of what it might show her next, as she has secrets of her own—become as distressing as the old dynamics.

In the end, I was impressed that a story of time travel and teenage sweethearts showed such realism and maturity. I may have been shouting “Just tell them!” at the characters, but I believed them, and I enjoyed the read.

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