Release Launch: Before We Were Strangers: Renee Carlino

Before We Were Strangers
Renee Carlino

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Expected August 18, 2015

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.

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?


Want to see Matt's Missed Connections post? 
Click here to see a copy!
This is a story about love, life, mistakes, missed connections, and second chances. Matt and Grace found friendship and love in college, but a series of unfortunate circumstances sent their lives in different directions and  kept them apart with no real closure. 

Fifteen years later as they catch eyes across a passing subway leaving the station, past regrets and memories come crashing back. And Matt is determined to find a way to locate her again and find out more about her current life. They are older, wiser, and have both been through challenging situations since they last saw each other. They found career success and some happiness, but also disappointment and heartbreak. They are both stagnant in their current personal lives and missing the connection from their past to which no one could really erase.

In their younger years, Matt was so sweet, protective, loving, and was not afraid to show emotion. Grace was  funny, proud, determined, and vivacious. They both were so talented, passionate,  and had such potential for an amazing future. They had no idea that their lives were going to change so significantly and veer so far of their intended course.

Now they are both harboring regrets. Mistakes were made, there were misconceptions, missed opportunities, interference, and their lives did not go as they originally planned. There is resulting pain, anger, and resentment that was never addressed or dealt with. And in the present it is hard to come to terms with all that transpired and be able to move on. They both have to face some hard truths and deal with some emotional situations.

They were victims of poor timing. They found the right connection and feelings at the wrong place in their lives. They had a special true love, friendship, and bond that they never thought would break. Years later they were considered each other's "one that got away". Their bond might have bent, but never fully broke despite distance and lack of communication.

But is that enough to move past their previous pain? And are the people they have now become still compatible?

This was a beautiful second chance love story that dealt with friendship, faith, loss, distance, and sacrifice. My heart broke for these likable characters and what they went through. It was told in Matt and Grace's points of view in the present and fifteen years in the past. Their earlier years are more fun and whimsical. It is a gradual building of trust, friendship,  first real love, and passion. The contrast to the older couple that have more life experience and disappointments is obvious. But in many ways, their reconnection brings a spark back to other's life. But there are also secrets and unknown events that occurred that will be hard to come to terms with and threaten to ruin their second chance. This is a journey of discovery as they face their past, take charge of the present, and try to find their way in order to determine a future.  It was emotional, humorous, angsty, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. The story line is current, realistic,  and unique.  I am sure everyone can think of one person from their past that had an impact on them and they would like to find out where they ended up. But sometimes it is more difficult than just finding them on Facebook.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Renee Carlino does the broken-hearted, missed connections like no other. This was a beautiful love story with an immediate best friend connection and a timeless love that leaves a trace even when they are no longer in each others’ lives.

Matt Shore is stuck. The 36 year old, divorcee is uninspired and floundering at work. His inner thoughts are fairly typical of those stuck in a rut, in a mid-life crisis type of situation. He wants to change his situation, but isn’t sure what the best way to go about it is, or even what aspect of his life needs to change. He just knows he is restless and unhappy.

In one short moment he catches sight of the girl he fell in love with in college, the one who just disappeared from his life 15 years prior. That one sighting sent him even further into his restlessness, but it also spurred him to begin changing his life back into something he recognized. It also brought on the memories of his last year of college, the first time he met Grace.

While the present day scenes are all from Matt’s point of view, I loved the addition of Grace’s memories in the past. The picture painted by the alternating points of view makes the feelings between them intense, real, and clearly honest. It also makes the miscommunications and miscues that lead to their separation even more raw as readers watch both sides flounder.

These two had that kind of connection that everyone searches for. They are not opposites, but they do not have carbon copy personalities and interests either. They are just a natural fit ad together they complement and challenge each other.

When the story shifts back to the present, all the pain from those final months in college returns compounded by time and all the missed connections along the way. But I loved the way the story played out, and the things that conspired, both for and against them, in the end. I stayed up late to finish this, and did so with a grin on my face from the mirrors that reflected even 15 years apart.
This was everything I was hoping for from the blurb and my own expectations. It had me feeling such a range of emotions for the characters. Each character was both perfect and flawed to make the story compelling.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Renee Carlino 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 book, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate. To learn more, visit ReneeCarlino.com.

Photo credit: (c) Jack and Lola Photography, 2013

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