The idea of a house swap holiday seems very appealing - getting away from the daily grind and experiencing a different culture without the holiday costing much more than the flights and a bit of spending money. This is the background to 'Before I Knew You', the wonderful new book from one of my favourite authors, Amanda Brookfield.
The idea certainly appeals to William and Beth Stapleton when they agree to swap their luxurious Connecticut home for one in London belonging to Andrew and Sophie Chapman and their daughters. For newly weds, William and Beth, not only is it the chance to visit London but also the opportunity to spend time with his three teenage sons. For Sophie and Andrew, it will be the opportunity for a complete rest which, after Sophie suffering a breakdown, has to be a good thing. Both couples set out on their holidays full of hope and expectations, but as in life as well as fiction, things rarely go entirely according to plan!
As it turns out, Sophie's and Andrew's holiday goes better than expected with Sophie finding a new found confidence. However, Beth is very disappointed to find herself a little squeezed out by William's sons and discovers that she does not enjoy taking second place to them in his thoughts and priorities. The holidays are only the first part of the book, and where it becomes even more interesting is when we discover what happens when they return to their own homes. One of the characters in particular changes quite extremely which has quite significant repercussions for the others. Also, although the intention is to carry on with their own lives, somehow, the families have become interwoven in some surprising ways.
I thought that 'Before I Knew You' was a thoroughly absorbing and entertaining read. It started off quite lightly and I really enjoyed reading about how the two holidays went. However, I felt that the book really took off after the holidays when, surprisingly, things became a bit more sinister and disturbing. This was most unexpected but that made it all the more enjoyable. It also kept me wanting to read more as I was continually wondering what would happen next.
All of the main characters were engaging but I think that some were intended to be more sympathetic than others. This is certainly how I felt as I was reading. All of the characterisation in the story is excellent and I really felt that I got to know them as I was reading, especially Sophie and William.
'Before I Knew You' starts fairly gently but definitely soon gathers momentum. The pace is good and with such an intriguing storyline I definitely wanted to keep on reading until the very end.
Before I Knew You is available on Amazon for £4.89.
This review has previously appeared under my name at www.curiousbookfans.co.uk