What happened to Clara McBride? This is the central question in Brenda Novak‘s riveting Before We Were Strangers.
When she was just five years old, her daughter Sloane overheard her parents’ violent argument. Sloane never saw her mother again.
Sloane left her small hometown, Millcreek, Texas, shortly after her high school graduation. She left behind Micah Evans the day after they’d lost their virginity to each other. She also left behind her best friend, Paige Patterson, who had a secret crush on Micah and was insanely jealous of Sloane. Paige plunged into the void in Micah’s heart, got pregnant with Trevor, and became Mrs. Evans. The marriage was destined to fail because Micah’s heart belonged to Sloane.
Meanwhile, Clyde, a modeling agent, discovered the gorgeous Sloane and launched and guided her very successful ten-year career in New York City. He became her surrogate father, landlord, and best friend. After Clyde’s death from cancer, Sloane returned to Texas to investigate her mother’s disappearance.
Sloane accepts Paige’s duplicitous offer to stay at her home until Sloane can arrange permanent lodging. Sparks fly when Micah visits Trevor. Punches fly when Sloane’s brother Randy drops in. Sloan opts to decamp to Millcreek’s only motel, and Micah agrees to contribute his detective skills to help Sloane dig up clues. After Paige discovers Micah and Sloane have hooked up, she tries to extract revenge by agreeing to a date with Sloane’s father Ed. She quickly discovers that revenge is a dish best served cold; her manipulative skills are no match for Ed.
Ed is the narcissistic, womanizing, abusive, vindictive, powerful mayor of Millcreek. He enjoys squashing perceived enemies like bugs and has zero qualms about abusing his power to thwart Sloane’s efforts. Secrets emerge. Some are true. Some aren’t. Who can Sloane trust? Who is betraying her?
The book is loaded with page-turning plot twists, intrigue, child abuse and domestic violence, family dysfunction, mystery, betrayal, courage, and romance as Sloane and Micah Evans launch a quest to finally answer the haunting question: what happened to Clara McBride?