** DISCLAIMER: Before I Saw You was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Random Things Tours and Transworld Publishers for the opportunity. **
Alfie Mack has been on the Moira Gladstone ward in the hospital for months recovering from a serious accident. He’s been the life and soul of the ward, and always kept everyone’s spirits up. So when he hears that a mute, traumatised patient is moving into the spot next to him, all he wants to do is help her to talk again.
After being badly burnt in a serious accident, Alice Gunnersly refuses to look at herself or let anyone else see her. As she’s wheeled into the ward, all curtains on all patient’s beds must remain shut so no one can catch a glimpse of her. Once Alice is settled in, the other patient’s curtains open, but hers stay shut. Alfie is determined to make friends with her, even though he can’t see her. As time goes by, slowly but surely Alice starts to open up to Alfie. Is it possible to fall in love with someone you’ve never seen?
Before I Saw You was an un-putdownable read. It had me hooked so quickly and took me on a romantic journey I wasn’t expecting. You often felt as if you were on the ward with the characters. It was easy to become completely immersed in all the patient’s stories and want to know everything about them.
For me, this book wasn’t simply a romance. It delved far deeper into friendships, mental health struggles, and family-life than I’ve found most romances do. Whilst their budding romance felt like a slow burner, the story itself didn’t read that way. In my opinion, all thoughts and feelings were revealed at the right times for the characters.
Speaking of the characters, let’s start with Alfie and Alice. Yes, adorable in every way. I loved them. Alfie was the true light of the ward, he gave everyone all he had. From the endless sarcasm to the “world’s hardest puzzles” he was a very endearing character and it was impossible not to like him. Alice could be insufferable at times, but it became clear why she reacted in certain ways as her backstory became clear. Her character development was great, and she definitely became more likable as time passed.
“Our scars are simply the marks of our stories. They show we’ve lived our life and most of all that we have survived it. Don’t hide your story away in the shadows.”
It’s key to mention the other characters, mainly Mr. Peterson and Nurse Angles. Whilst Mr. Peterson could be a grumpy old man, he truly loved Alfie and their friendship was refreshing. There we plenty of humorous exchanges between the two, but it was nice to see Mr. Peterson share his wisdom with Alfie when he needed a nudge in the right direction. Nurse Angle, aptly nicknamed Nurse Angel, was just that – an angel. She gave her all to the patients in her care and showed the greatest empathy and respect. There was also Alice’s best friend, Sarah, who could be the best friend you could ever ask for. She showed the depths of her love and loyalty during Alice’s time of greatest need.
The takeaway from all these friendships was that they developed into families. The characters created such strong bonds with one another that it was hard not to feel like you were a part of the story. There were times I felt I was on the ward with them (glad I wasn’t though – obviously!).
Whilst I really loved this story, I found the ending disappointing. It left too many loose ends and didn’t fully delve into Alfie and Alice’s budding romance. This had a five-star read written all over it until I finished it. However, this isn’t to say that it isn’t brilliantly written as it most certainly is. Houghton brought the characters and the ward to life right before my very eyes. I felt all their emotions, cried when they cried, laughed when they laughed. It was an absolute pleasure to read.
To round off this review, I did love this book and I would recommend it. I wish it had a stronger ending. For the reason of the disappointing ending, I rate Before I Saw You a solid 4/5. It had me in tears of laughter and sorrow. The rollercoaster of emotions was intense. It had all the elements of a good rom-com, mixed with emotional turmoil.