Many thanks to Bookouture for inviting me to take part in Anna Mansell’s blog tour, and for providing me with an ARC. Here is my review:
‘Dear Ben, I can only write you this letter because I know you’ll never read it…’
When Jem writes to her ex Ben, it’s to explain everything. All the secrets she kept from him – from the little lies she’d sometimes tell about how new those shoes really were, or how many glasses of wine she’d had that evening… right up to The Big Thing that happened on the night that changed everything. But she never expects he will actually see what she’s written.
She is just writing because she thinks it will help to get the words out. Later, she resolves, she’ll burn the letter, and then the past will be in the past for good.
Because Jem is doing fine now. She’s busy: working, spending time with her best friend, and looking after her mother, who’s in remission from cancer. She’s even dating again and has just met a guy who she thinks she could actually fall for. At long last, Jem is really, definitely somewhere close to happy.
But her mum finds the letter and thinks she’s doing Jem a favour when she posts it to Ben. And Jem’s new, carefully rebuilt life begins to unravel in ways she could never have imagined. Then, when her mother gets ill again, she finds herself asking who has the key to her future. The man she’s falling in love with now? Or the man she loved before?
What does TWG think?
Theres a lot of various avenues to explore in ‘The Man I Loved Before’. Not only is Jem finding it difficult to get over the man who had her heart, her mum was in remission from cancer. And, if that wasn’t enough, Jem finds herself being pulled in directions that arent good for her emotional wellbeing that ends up threatening her friendship with her best friend.
I reckon a lot of readers would find it difficult not to be empathetic towards Jem. The situations she deals with is more than enough for several people to contend with, let alone just one. Of course the fact that Jem’s mum is in remission is clearly good news, however with something like that, you cant help but wait for it to return. Not only that, her mum didnt return to her usual self after the cancer.
I enjoyed the realism of the storyline as it focused on things that can happen to real life people, without pretending that life is hunkydory because, contrary to popular belief, it isnt always like that. I appreciated the angle of the book, even though it was emotional at times and very powerful.
When Jem found herself in a sticky situation later on in the book, it did bring memories back for me as I had been in a similar boat myself many years ago. It wasnt easy to read, but i respected the author for including a topic that is often seen as taboo. However (sorry), I felt that it overpowered the rest of the book and took my attention away from other scenes in the book that I felt were important.
‘The Man I Loved Before’ is a romantic, poignant, topical read which puts relationships to the test big time. I really enjoyed the heartfelt storyline but, most importantly, I loved how difficult topics were given their time to shine in attempt to help others understand. Something that Anna Mansell has Mansell exceptionally well.