The Woman He Loved Before – Dorothy Koomson

“Libby has a good life with a gorgeous husband and a home by the sea. But over time she is becoming more unsure if Jack has ever loved her – and if he is over the death of Eve, his first wife. When fate intervenes in their relationship, Libby decides to find out all she can about the man she hastily married and the seemingly perfect Eve. But in doing so she unearths devastating secrets. Frightened by what she finds and the damage it could cause, Libby starts to worry that she too will end up like the first woman Jack loved…”

The Woman He Loved Before was an impulse pre-holiday Kindle purchase – and one I was extremely glad I made. I’d read two of Koomson’s books previously – The Chocolate Run and The Ice Cream Girls, both entirely different – and I was please to see that her new offering was a far cry from either. Although I have a number of authors I am very loyal to, I find it very refreshing that Koomson uses such a variety of plot lines. She does use a similar character structure that she repeats here – a strong, independent woman who finds herself completely taken in by a man she is very reluctant to get involved with initially – but that didn’t detract from the book at all.

The story starts with a serious car accident that injures Libby, the protagonist of the novel and Jack’s. The incident raises eyebrows with the police – not least because Jack’s first wife, the love of his life, died from mysteriously falling down the stairs. Libby recounts their relationship from the start and a feeling that she has been living in Eve’s shadow for years starts to emerge and strengthen. Rendered housebound by her injuries and when exploring one day, she comes across Eve’s old diaries in Jack’s house, their marital home. She couldn’t read them… Or could she? Her relationship with Jack spirals downwards as she immerses herself more and more in Eve’s life, finding out things she would never have dreamed were possible. She starts to strongly suspect that Eve’s death was orchestrated, but she has three suspects in mind. Finding out who the killer is cements her own fate – until divine intervention steps in and incapacitates the murderer.

The Woman He Loved Before is a poignant, sharply written novel that quite honestly kept me guessing all the way through. Pacy dialogue and in-depth characterisation keep you hooked as all the plot lines Dorothy weaves through the novel are tied up one by one. The use of Eve’s diaries as a method of narration was both clever and interesting – a risk, as one-sided discourse often leaves the story flat for me.

A gritty, realistic novel quite unlike any of Koomson’s other offerings (that I’ve read), balanced out with an unpredictable, feel-good ending. A brilliant read.

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