Monday, August 17, 2015

BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS by Renee Carlino - #HEAGirls Reviews!

Bethany and I read BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS by Renee Carlino together! It's been a while since we've had the chance to buddy-read (shame on us!) and suffice it to say, I absolutely enjoyed doing so! We texted back and forth from the second we each started the book, all the way through the very end. If you've never read a book with a friend at the same time, I highly recommend you do so.  :) It's quite the fun experience! 

Check out our reviews below!


From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Sweet Thing and Nowhere But Here comes a love story about a Craigslist “missed connection” post that gives two people a second chance at love fifteen years after they were separated in New York City.

Author: Renee Carlino
To the Green-eyed Lovebird:
We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House.

You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.
We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half?


Have you ever finished a book and wanted to INSTANTLY re-read it? To experience all the emotions all over again? To fall in love with the characters and their story as if it was the very first time you were reading it? Yes? Well, THAT was exactly how I felt once I finished reading BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS. I abso-freaking-lutely LOVED how this second-chance love story unfolded. It’s no secret that Renee Carlino is one of my favorite authors and that I’ve loved all of her books (they’re FANTASTIC!), but I think this one became my most favorite one of all.

“I was in the middle of the city I loved, back in her arms again, but we were strangers.”

The depth of all the emotions developed along the way – love, passion, angst, anticipation, frustration…THE BUILD UP – was completely breathtaking. What an EPIC and BEAUTIFUL story – and DIFFERENT! It was like a breath of fresh air; reading a unique story line where the outcome was not predictable, nor the events leading up to it. There was one detail in this story that I always predict in other books and I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that Renee managed to shock me when it happened. I did NOT see that heart-pounding twist sneaking up on me at all, which goes to show how amazingly well this book was written.

“I feared there would be no healing us. The scars were too deep.”

Another detail about this book that I totally loved was how it was written. We start in the present, then get a huge, FABULOUS, page-turning chunk of the past, then come back to the present again. Ohmygosh. My heart was RACING through a lot of the scenes. I found myself sneaking in some reading time while having family over! BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS became a book that I could NOT put down once I got into it. Grace and Matt’s story is one that will forever stay with me. It showed how it would feel to always wonder “what if” and proved that things can change in a blink of an eye, when you least expect it.  

Upon meeting in college, Matt and Grace shared a connection – a love – that went above and beyond anything…. Well, except timing, that is. Reading their current state and then seeing how beautiful their relationship was, how it all started, made me want to cry! How could a love that pure and deep fall apart? How?! *Sigh*

“You told me I was yours and you were mine.”

Truth is, a love like that NEVER dies, and Matt and Grace proved it. Even after all the years they spent apart and the lives they had built for themselves, they still loved each other through and through. The connection they once shared was still very much alive. Simply put, what they once had was unique and irreplaceable. Now, reconnecting did NOT mean things would be easy for them. Trust me, finding each other triggered a ripple-effect full of heartache and angst. The things they had to face and deal with were FAR from easy. But everything was WORTH IT. I was very nervous while reading, but at the very end, I could not have been happier!

Seriously, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you’re in the mood for an EPIC love story, you MUST purchase your copy of BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS. Five beautiful stars!!   

“I love you too. Always. Forever.” 

Easily stated: this was a beautiful read. This was my first read of Renee's and I will say that I really enjoyed the way her story unfolded. One thing I immediately picked up on was the way that the story was told and how the chapter breaks were named.....if you are a music lover or have ever been in an orchestra, you will pick up on it immediately. I just smiled while reading that part. Beautiful....and so neat!!

This story is a wonderful second chance romance that showed purpose and love behind every action and reaction. From when they first met, to the memories they made with each other...we got to know Matt and Grace as individuals, but as a couple too. Sometimes it's just hard to capture that meaningfulness behind actions, but the way this story was written, it embraced all the different emotions you have and run through when a second chance presents itself. It just made me feel the passion and the love that these two held for each other, but also the pain and the anguish they lived through while trying to come to terms with this 'second chance' they're given.

The past doesn't belong to us anymore, and the future is just a fantasy, never guaranteed. But the present is ours to own.

The story could have been easy. Reconnect and move on, right? Life is good, we found each other. Right? No. That wouldn't have had any depth....and that is where I think this story excelled. It let us fall in love with Matt and Grace, and then they were separated and life happened. But, my goodness, the reconnection was beautiful and lyrical and the love and passion was there again.....and I loved it. My gosh, I couldn't soak it up enough. The love poured off the pages....the intensity and the desire was palpable. Magical.

Time passes, life goes on, places change, people change.

However, with the happy comes the sad. The heart-breaking, soul-crushing sadness and grief. I wanted to cry for Matt....but I wanted to hug Grace. The turmoil these two went through while being separated from each other is a whole story on it's own!! Grace was so strong....I loved the way she was portrayed. She was so quirky and marched to the beat of her own drum. She just went with the flow and never needed anyone's approval. I loved that most about her. Her personality was so perfect....and Matt? Matt was the epitome of the first love you never forget....and I know I wouldn't want to! He was caring and sweet, he was strong and resilient, and he was intense and a pure gentleman. I loved him!

And in that moment, you realize how little control you have over your own destiny...

I will highly recommend this story to anyone that wants a memorable read with heartfelt emotions. The book was slow in the very beginning and I was really worried, but the minute I got into it, it picked up and the story ran away. Beautifully, I might add!! I am very anxious to read some more of her books as they come highly recommended by my BlogSister!!!
*An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review*



RenĂ©e Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of romantic women's novels. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she’s not at the beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.


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