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Profile Image for London.
725 reviews
November 24, 2019
I need a good hour to sit down and vent everything that was wrong with this book. That fucking pathetic excuse for a hero that I would have loved to punch in the nuts!

I had fallen in love with him at the beginning only for everything to go completely downhill after 25%.

The book starts out in his POV and for the first 20 some odd % into the book I was thinking "omg finally a 5 star read!" I was so sure that this was going to be an epic love story, but it all went down hill after that.

Matt & Grace aren't officially together for the first several months into their friendship, however, to me they were basically together. They spent all of their time together and they were completely inseparable. At one point in the book some people mention to Grace how the dark room where Matt goes to print is film is known for having raging parties and people hooking up. She considers how this might be true because every Friday when Matt would come home from the dark room he would be a bit tipsy. They weren't officially together and hadn't even kissed yet but it was easy to understand how she might assume it could be true.

She goes to dinner with a professor that she has a feeling might be into her but it was totally platonic. She sees Matt on the way to the restaurant but she's so hurt by what she heard that she tells him to go and brushes him off. When she gets back to the dorms from dinner Matt is sitting on the couch with a girl on his lap and taking body shots off her tits and making out with her right in front of Grace.

To me this was A COMPLETE 180 from the Matt we get when we read the book in his POV. It just felt so out of character and quite frankly incredibly cruel. What bothered me the most is that when she tries to get him jealous too by saying okay fine I'll hook up with a guy there.. he stops her. And that's it.

The subject is never brought up again and he never even apologizes for his behavior. That was one major strike against him for me. It was just insensitive and incredibly immature. Why did the author even throw this scene in there only for her to never address it? They don’t have a talk about what their relationship is or how he hurt the heroine by hooking up with someone else? Wtf? What was the point of this betrayal?

Once the two are finally together everything is smooth sailing but their relationship is kind of in limbo. He accepts a National Geographic photography internship out of the country for 3 months and never even considered her at all when saying yes. At this point they are in a relationship and he claims to be so in love with her. Wtf? So we are expected to accept this as romance when the hero doesn’t even give a damn to tell the love of his life he’s planning on leaving?

When the heroine is offered a wonderful opportunity to travel for a year in her professors orchestra, she says no. Of course, it’s because she loves the hero so much. The topic of what's going to happen between them comes up but not once during the conversations does he ever consider or bring up not going or what will happen between them. It’s like they’re in a completely one sided relationship.

A while before he is set to leave she asks him what he would say if she were to ask him not to go and he gets PISSED. Not only that but when she's asking him why he doesn't just leave his belongings in her dorm rather than send them back to his mom in California if he's only going to be gone for three months he says "right, but you never know." He didn't even think of her and would have obviously stayed longer and not even taken her into consideration. I don’t understand how this is still considered a romance when the hero is making back up plans for his belongings because he thinks they might break up. What happened to the guy that was so in love with her?

It just broke my heart to see him hurting her and he didn't seem in love with her AT ALL.

He jerked back and crossed his arms over his chest, cocking his head to the side.
“Would you ask me to?” Frustration could be read in every line on his face.
Lying there beneath him, I felt more vulnerable than I ever had before. I wanted to ask him to stay, but how could I be so selfish? If I asked him, would he love me less, if he even loved me at all? I couldn’t take his dream away to make mine better. I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t destroy what we had created.

“Answer me. Would you fucking ask me to turn this down?”
I didn’t want him to, but I just needed to know if he would. “Would you stay if I asked you to?”

His jaw clenched. He was breathing heavily. Through gritted teeth, he seethed, “Yes, but I’d hate you for it. So ask me. Go ahead.” It felt like he was taunting me. I began to cry. “Ask me to fucking stay here and work at the PhotoHut while you go to grad school. Do it.”

I shook my head but couldn’t form the words.
He bent over and gripped my face hard, glaring into my eyes. “Fucking Christ, Grace, this isn’t good-bye. This is ‘see you later.’ Tell me you can handle that, please. Say that you can handle that.”

I was hyperventilating now. He was angry but his expression revealed love beneath the ferocity.
“We made no promises to each other,” I whispered. “I’m sorry I brought it up. We’ll just see how things go, okay? This is just a ‘see you later.’ ”
He nodded. “That’s right.”



Don't even get me started on when he gets pissed at the heroine when he finds out something that HIS EX-WIFE caused NOT THE HEROINE.

He finds out that his ex wife is the reason that he didn't end up with grace and that she had in fact been trying to reach him for years. And yet when the cock sucking asshole finds out about the daughter he never met he has the audacity to get pissed at the heroine? You stupid fucking dick she had still been trying to reach you after she thought you dumped her for another woman! How dare he get pissed at her and say she didn't try hard enough!? How he fuck was she supposed to know the letters that your ex wife wrote pretending to be you weren't actually from you. And then the son of a bitch dead beat asshole (sorry but I'm so angry I have to curse to vent it all out) immediately runs out the door and leaves her standing there. He then accepts a job out of the country because he's so upset. You stupid ass fucking worthless piece of garbage! You don't even think "oh shit maybe I should meet the daughter I'm allegedly so upset I've never met?" Fuck this piece of garbage book.

Not only that but when he reads one of the letters she had written him (his ex wife had kept them from him) HE STILL DOESN'T APOLOGIZE!!! They don't get back together and he sees her crying and how sick she feels over the whole situation AND DOES NOTHING! THE LAST 30% OF THE BOOK THEY STILL AREN'T TOGETHER !! He doesn't pursue anything with her or apologize and tell her how thankful he is that she raised such a wonderful daughter. The cock sucking mother fucker didn't love her he was a pathetic little dick that only thought of himself! He sleeps with her twice but never considers something more with her when she DID NOTHING FUCKING WRONG! She wrote letters for years even after she thought he was with someone else just to let him know about his daughter.

If I was were I would never have written him fuck all. I know he didn't know he had a daughter but WHY WAS HE CONTINUING TO PUNISH HER FOR SOMETHING THAT WASN'T HER FAULT? Instead of taking it out on his whore of an ex wife he takes it out on the woman that he CLAIMS to love?

They spend the next few months alternating weekends or nights with their daughter and never once does he try to make things right with her. He should have been worshipping the ground she walked on for raising their daughter. She could have easily had an abortion, she was young and had her whole life ahead of her and yet she kept her, loved her, and raised a wonderful child.

I hated the heroine for loving such a pathetic excuse for a man. He had no backbone and was such a selfish bastard. He didn't love her enough to stay and he didn't love her enough when she DID NOTHING WRONG. This book needed major groveling and all we got was a shitty second change romance.

Then out of no where they finally get together and a few pages later they get married. The end.
For the few people who mentioned that he takes his rage out on the bitch of an ex wife... NOPE! He never confronts her about the letters or fucking rips her a new one. No, he saved all his anger and asshole behavior for the mother of his child. The only innocent one in the whole situation. I wanted him to go after the ex-wife and rip her to shreds but it's just glossed over!

Fuck this book. complete and utter garbage.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ayman.
212 reviews85k followers
February 7, 2023

ok so i gotta admit before getting into this, that i didn’t read this book as a romance book. when i see “a love story” on the cover, i expect the characters to piss me off in some ways. and they obviously did.🫣

but this is getting a high rating because it made me feel things. i wasn’t reading this to “escape from reality” as the entire book was a form of realism. so i went into it with an opened mind. 😃

i enjoyed how easy this book was to read and how i flowed through it so incredibly fast. these characters made me swoon and ache with anger, almost equally. a key plot point that plays into this book is miscommunication but i believe as humans, the reason we don’t like to read about this is because it’s so realistic. we miscommunicate everyday. things get lost in translation and there’s missed opportunities. so when reading over the fact that the main character’s lost 15 years worth of time due to that (and that psycho crazy bitch iykyk) it reminds us that we are, in fact, humans. flawed humans. 🥲

but i believe, for this story, it works for the overall plot. Matt and Grace made choices that had my eye twitching and wanting to slap the dog shit outta them. but i digressed. people make mistakes and love is messy. the ending couldn’t have been anything less than perfect. it was so tender 😭✨

seeing these characters work through real life hardships such as money, grief, death of loved ones, missed opportunities, right person, wrong time and yet STILL find their way back to one another���ahhh that was a sight for sore eyes. 🥹

Profile Image for Maditales.
581 reviews23.7k followers
August 16, 2023
if 1+1=2, then why is it 3 in this book?
Get ready for a rant:

Okay so this book started of great and I was so excited to see what happened and why they lost contact and Matt seemed interesting.
That was about everything before it all went downhill.

A lot of the things in this book don't add up or make any sense so here's the list:
1. Matt is supposed to be this in love guy and he even says that he would marry Grace any day.
Okay then please tell me why you never, NOT EVEN ONCE, called her. And yeah it is explained that he for some reason could only call his mom, but he could have asked his mom to reach out to Grace for him or at least say ANYTHING ABOUT GRACE to his mom but no.
When Grace calls his mom she goes "Yeah he calls me every week and say that if anyone asks that he is okay" doesn't seem very much like "soulmates in love" does it.

2. Matt is portrayed as this sweet photo loving guy that starts of being friends with Grace and thinks she is his muse but then he makes out with a random girl at a party and takes a tequila shot of her tits WHILE GRACE IS THERE. Puh-lease, this guy makes no sense like ever.

3. You are trying to tell me that Matt had never in 15 years, tried to find her? Yeah she married Dan but that was way after and AND her fùckin best friend Tati became famous and you are trying to tell me that you never even got the idea to maybe google her best friend??? Actually you never googled at all...

4. Matt proceeds to blame Grace for not telling her about his child after 15 years. Excuse me dude but she googled you and just saw you married and you never dud anything. Sit back down and start working on building a relationship.

5. Everything after they met again for the first time. Grace forgives him right away and never not once questions why he didn't ask his mom about her. His daughter for some reason who btw is a 15yo teenager just completely accepts everything, even him being mad at her mom. Dan got the worst card in this book.

So those where the things that didn't add up, but there's more...
Grace is yet again the "omg I am totally not pretty and guys do not notice me at all" 🥺🥺🥺 when she is the most gorgeous person on this planet and I just do not vibe with stuff like that at all.
Given the book was written in 2015 so the peak of not like other girls.

What annoyed me the most though was the lack of chemistry and correlation to the title of the book.
The first kiss was very anticlimactic with not really a lot of tension and WHY THE FUCK DID SHE NEVER NOT ONCE SAY I LOVE YOU TO HIM. NOT ONCE. SHE ONLY SAYS IT ONCE IN HER HEAD DURING THEIR FIRST TIME. And them reconnecting again before finding out he has a daughter is wayyy to quick.
Now the title: "Love, hate". There is literally not hate in this book. He says he loved her throughout all the 15 years they were apart and she says me too. And when he asks her how she felt when he didn't come back she says "I wasn't angry but heartbroken". So nope. not any hate in here.

Now obviously Elisabeth is a grade A bitch and I don't like her but wow Mr Matt isn't much better.

Here are the good things:
I like Tate.
I like the letter thingy in the news paper.

Thank you for coming to my rant 👍
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Amy Harmon.
Author 29 books17.5k followers
July 21, 2015
I got a chance to read an ARC of this book. I had never read anything by Renee Carlino before, but I have admired her from afar and had heard nothing but good things. I LOVED this book. And it made me cry. That rarely happens to me. I read with half my brain in critique mode. I can't help it. It must come from writing novels myself, but I can't ever turn off that part of my brain when I read anymore. But my brain was quiet and my heart was heavy in a lovely fat way. I highly recommend.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
September 18, 2019
whilst i consider myself to have recently suffered a quarter-life crisis, this book gave me hope that everything will eventually work out if you always try to make the best of your situation. which is really all anyone can do in life. so i appreciate when a story, such as this, has real-life value.

i also adore the way renee carlino so genuinely captures the complexities of human relationships and desire. i have never pined over a missed connection for 15 years, but i would be lying if i said i didnt feel the loneliness and heartache that lives on every page in this book.

the writing and story development makes it so easy for the reader to relate to the characters and their longing, and this particular story really spoke to me on a highly emotional level.

5 stars
Profile Image for Christy.
3,918 reviews33k followers
September 27, 2017
4 stars!

To the Green-eyed Lovebird: We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House….

I love stories about first loves. I love stories that go from past to present. And we all know I love Renee Carlino’s writing. I read Sweet Thing when it first came out and have been a huge fan ever since. This book had so many elements that I loved and even with the issue I had, it was still a beautiful, emotional and captivating read that I would recommend.


Grace and Matt’s story spans 15+ years. I would say close to half the book is written from the past, and the other half, the present. I’m not going to lie- I loved the past chapters. Watching Matt and Grace fall in love, seeing their younger, free spirit and artistic selves made my heart happy. All the past scenes were fantastic. Matt and Grace became ‘fast friends’ their senior year at college. Matt is a photography major, and Grace majors in music where she plays the cello. Their fast friendship quickly turns into more. Their breakfast for dinner, impromptu photoshoots, concerts, and all around fun times show a happy and completely in love couple.

When it comes time for graduation, things become difficult. Matt has a once in a lifetime opportunity to intern with National Geographic for the summer. And be away from Grace for months. And Grace has an opportunity to travel with an orchestra for a year and a half. Their lives are going in different directions, but both are determined to stay together.

Fast forward 15 years….
Time passes, life goes on, places change, people change. And still, I couldn’t get Grace off my mind after seeing her… Fifteen years is too long to be holding on to a few heart-pounding moments from college.


There were things I loved about the present as well. Aside from the miscommunication, it was great to see Grace and Matt reconnect again. They are both endearing characters. I love how they both never had anything like their first love. Their love for each other. It’s a romantic concept. Falling fast and hard and never truly moving on from the first love, the love of your life. Throughout the book, I rooted for these two. I desperately wanted them to have their happy ending.

If you’re looking for a fantastic first love story, a second chance romance story, a friends to lovers story, or a beautifully emotional story- Before We Were Strangers is the book for you. Renee Carlino’s writing and character development is wonderful. The end left me with a happy heart and a smile on my face.
“This is our time. You’re the love of my life. I fucking love you, Grace. I’ve always loved you. I loved you when I wasn’t with you, and before that, and right now.”

Profile Image for Angela.
676 reviews1,397 followers
July 11, 2023
"she was perfect... poetry in motion- the evidence of a life burning well and bright."

I do not say this lightly... This is one of the best contemporary books I've ever read. If you know me, then you know contemporary is my least favorite genre. There are some thing I'd like to clear up right away though. BWWS isn't an action packed book with a massive slap you plot twist, and for some reason it is classified in the YA section of the book store. This novel is simply what it says it is, a sweet feel good read, which is one of it's best qualities. Second in my opinion it should be filed under New Adult. It does straddle the line of Ya and Na, but to me it falls into the latter. This is also a plus for this book.

BWWS is a novel following two main characters. Matt who is a photography student and Grace who is a music major. Matt is really starting to discover who he is as an artist when Grace falls into his life. Matt is perfection when it comes to leading males. He is everything we want in a lead while bring something new to a protagonist. He is confident, charismatic, and so sarcastic. Completely loved everything about his character. I liked his charm and was consumed by his thoughts. I loved how he never second guessed who he is as a person. He has easily became one of my all time favorite leading males. Grace however was his opposite. She is confident, but is so clearly closed off. She is broken and lost. The way Matt knows who he is, is the way Grace struggles to feel herself out. As their relationship grows so does both their personalities.

They're relationship y'all, is perfection. It feels so real. You will really feel like you're going through everything with them. They're ups and downs will feel like yours. You will be experiencing all the emotions and pain right along with them, and it's flipping fantastic. The way these two feed off each other is amazing. They had me laughing, grinning, blushing, and breaking my heart. Sometimes all those feelings were happening at the same time. I probably cried ten times while reading this book. I wasn't even half way through and I had cried at least four. These two are a couple from the moment they meet you'll want to have a happy ending. I'm a sucker for books that the couple are friends first (legit friends) then turn into something more. Carlino makes this process seem effortless... Like she was born with a laptop in hand to deliver us friend first romance.

The plot is as I said above, steady. It's not a book where something is just going to jump out at you. This is 100% okay! The pacing was completely fine for me. I usually hate the mild speed of contemporary books, but not with BWWS. Their journey is sweet and perfectly timed. I was super worried reading because the first half the book was so strong, I feared the last half wouldn't live up. I thought the jump from past to present would do the same. I was taken back when neither of these things turned me off. I wont however lie to you... YOU WILL KNOW WHAT IS COMING!!! I saw it coming the moment it was winked at, I thought this would in the long run make me lower my rating. NOPE. When it happens and everything comes to light I was still (continued to be) a big blubbering mess. Not exaggerating at all... mess like-sitting in the middle of my bed, wrapped up like a burrito, using the bottom of my shirt as a tissue with no shame-mess.

Before We Were Strangers was a very pleasant surprise. I definitely under estimated how much this book was going to effect me. A book I simply thought would be a fill-in read till I figured out what I wanted to really dive into next. Turned out to be a huge punch to my heart. Anything that might be considered a "flaw" is wiped away by the pure beauty of Carlino's writing and by the way she will pull you into this love story. A book where the romance scenes are soul warming and the love feels authentic. Carlino takes us on an emotional rollercoaster of a read, and doesn't miss a chance at pulling at our heartstrings. Before We Were Strangers is the definition of "all the feels".

Just a little side-note too, I thought the cover and title of this book were gorgeous but after reading it realize just how amazing they really are.

Just finished my re-read and all these years later this is still a 10/10 for me.
Profile Image for Hulya Kara Yuksel.
933 reviews1,094 followers
October 25, 2020
Have you seen this news? 😍😍😍 I can't wait to watch Matt and Grace on the screen. Congratulations Renee Carlino. ❤


My original review:

The End and I'm crying so bad.. :( My God, It was phenomenal. This book gave me a lot things to think about. <3
I felt every sad and happy moment while I was reading it. I loved it so much... :)

Please just read this amazing book and don't forget to listen Jeff Buckley's Grace album while you're reading it. Link is below. :)


And Renee, thank you so much for this story. :)


“You can’t re-create the first time you promise to love someone or the first time you feel loved by another. You cannot relive the sensation of fear, admiration, self-­consciousness, passion, and desire all mixed into one because it never happens twice. You chase it like the first high for the rest of your life. It doesn’t mean you can’t love another or move on; it just means that the one spontaneous moment, the split second that you took the leap, when your heart was racing and your mind was muddled with What ifs?—that moment—will never happen the same way again. It will never feel as intense as the first time. At least, that’s the way I remember it. That’s why my mother always said we memorialize our past. Everything seems better in a memory.”

“The present is our own. The right-this-second, the here-and-now, this moment before the next, is ours for the taking. It’s the only free gift the universe has to offer. The past doesn’t belong to us anymore, and the future is just a fantasy, never guaranteed. But the present is ours to own. The only way we can realize that fantasy is if we embrace the now.”

“And in that moment, you realize how little control you have over your own destiny. From the time you're born, you have no control; you can't choose your parents, and, unless you're suicidal, you can't choose your death. The only thing you can do is choose the person you love, be kind to others, and make your brutally short stint on earth as pleasant as possible.”

"Like nothing else in life, sex is perfectly selfless and selfish all at once. Hot and cold, yin and yang, black and white, and all of the shades in between.”

“It was like the universe was teasing us; we saw each other just a second too late.”

"Once there was a you and me
We were lovers
We were friends
Before life changed
Before we were strangers
Do you still think of me?"
February 20, 2022
4.75 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨ I went into this book completely blind & let me just say.. it took me for an unexpected ride. I loved the vibe & energy this gave off, it was one of those you FELT deep within you. I adored getting to know Grace & Matt separately and together, and I loved the past / present aspect of it. The quotes in this book were unmatched, and the emotions we got to feel through all of it.. superior. The only reason this wasn’t a full 5 star for me was I did get irrationally angry in some parts (I won’t say which for spoiler purposes.. but just know, i was a ball of anger) & the ending did feel a lil too rushed for me. But overall, it was an unforgettable read. Matt and Gracie really showed us what ‘soulmates’ mean.

I also live books set in New York, they just hit different. & the 90’s vibe? yes pls.

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”
Profile Image for ✦❋Arianna✦❋.
790 reviews2,530 followers
February 1, 2016
3.5 Stars!!


“Before We Were Strangers” is a sweet, emotional story about two individuals who fall for each other two times. It’s a story about falling in love for the first time/finding second chance at love. Intense and heartwarming, but also heartbreaking at times, this story is told both in the past and in the present from both MC characters’ perspective. You certainly will enjoy this story if you’re a fan of missed connections listings.

"To the Green-eyed Lovebird: We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House…"

Matt and Grace meet each other in college. Matt is a photography student and Grace is a music major. Matt has good reasons from wanting to escape LA. While his family has money, Grace’s family is poor. She’s struggles to pay her tuition and she’s trying really hard to get good enough to be a studio musician. Matt is mesmerized with Grace from the beginning. She seems shy, but she can also be brazen. He is drawn to her like a moth to a flame and Grace seems to be intrigue by Matt as well. They start to hang out every day and soon they become more, but fate intervenes and they somehow are split up.

“I just met her at the wrong time. Fifteen years have gone by and I still think about her.”

Fifteen years have passed and Matt still remembers Grace and how good they were together. He never forget her smile or how talented she was with her cello, he never found a way to let her go. He recently divorced, so he’s not looking for a relationship. But when he spots Grace from across the subway and she seems to recognize him, he knows he has to find her. He posts a missed connection add on Craigslist and hopes that somehow Grace for a second time will find her way to him.

“We were victims of bad timing. But here we are again.”

“Before We Were Strangers” was a sweet, enjoyable read, well written for the most part and while I didn’t love it, I liked it. Honestly I enjoyed the past more. IMO was written better and unlike the present nothing was rushed. At least for me. I love first love romance novels, so I really enjoyed this aspect here. I loved how Matt and Grace started a tentative friendship that blossomed to something more. Their relationship development was really well done. You can actually figure out when exactly their feelings for each other start to change. Matt and Grace were great, endearing characters. I liked them separately and I loved them together. They were sweet, they were fun and they warmed my heart with their antics and interactions.

“No one could change the past or give us back the time we had lost, and there were no words to make everything better. We just had to accept the present for what it was.”

The past had some enjoyable moments as well. It was great seeing these characters trying to reconnect. Both Matt and Grace from the past were likeable and I liked the fact that their voices felt different from the ones in the past. I liked the fact that they never forget each other, but I would have a liked to feel a more powerful connection between them.

What it didn’t work for me in was the miscommunication between these two characters and of course the drama that fallowed. Also, I think both Matt and Grace didn’t try finding each other hard enough. I won’t go into details about what actually happened, but for me the whole situation they were in wasn’t so believable. The ending was sweet and full of hope, but was too rushed for my liking. Everything has been resolved too quickly. But this is just my opinion.

Overall, this was a nice, enjoyable read, but obviously not my favorite second chance romance I’ve read so far.
Profile Image for Karla Espinosa.
79 reviews3,920 followers
March 1, 2023
I can't remember the last time I read a book that stuck with me the way this one did. Most times I read a really great book that I love in the moment but then I never really think about it again. But very rarely do I find books like this one, where even before finishing it, I already know this story and these characters will stick with me forever. This is a second-chance romance that takes you through the journey of Matt and Grace and it shows you from the beginning how painfully perfect they are for each other. But life does them wrong and they're forced to part ways and not know of each other for 15 years. Everything from their early years when they were falling in love, to their unexpected reunion, to their trying to once and for all be together was done so heartbreakingly well. Needless to say, many tears were shed with this one haha. I truly, truly, truly can't recommend this book enough! I loved it!
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,051 reviews1,050 followers
February 24, 2016

""From the time you’re born, you have no control; you can’t choose your parents, and, unless you’re suicidal, you can’t choose your death. The only thing you can do is choose the person you love, be kind to others, and make your brutally short stint on earth as pleasant as possible."

After this first Renee Carlino read, I’m an instant fan!

Grace and Matt first met as senior university students- best friends turned lovers. Each a perfect half of one perfect heart, torn apart by time and fate but chanced upon each other by the same twisted fate fifteen years later! Does this mean a second chance for “the one that got away “or just a long overdue closure? Oh my feels!

Read the book! Read the book! Read the book! You hear me? READ.THE.BOOK!

Matt and Grace are adorable people. Matt’s unrelenting love and beautiful personality with his incredible talent in creating photos that have a story telling quality is impressive. Grace’s selflessness is endless and awe-inspiring. Her passion for music and devotion for her family (no matter what the cost) will make your heart burst. It’s really hard to point out flaws. It’s hard to tell which of them was wrong because really, they’re both just victims of wrong timing and an evil scheming witch named Elizabeth.

The story, written with comfortable ease and gracefulness is like the perfect blend of the most wonderful elements taken from books I adore without coming off as an imitation. The younger version of the characters reminded me so much of the adorable Dylan and Gray of First Comes Love series. The plot kind of reads a little like that of Love, Rosie only so much better and the element of music made me think of Where She Went. In short, it’s an unforgettably beautiful book you won’t be able to put down once you’ve begun.

The story broke my heart in the most beautiful ways (if that was possible) without being mean or tragic or dramatic. It’s raw and natural and true, it hurts. Somebody, please gag me now before I spill the entire story.

Thanks for the wonderful, wonderful recommendation, Arch. You can read his beautiful review here.
Profile Image for Jaidee.
605 reviews1,204 followers
July 31, 2019
4.5 "over the moon with swoon!" stars

2015 Honorable Mention Read

I cannot believe how much I cried and smiled with this sweet contemporary romance.

This book came in my e-mail box last week from my first love when I was sixteen. She wrote some very sweet words and ended by saying that this book made her feel so young and in love (which we were for the year she was visiting from Czechoslovakia). We are still the best of friends and have been there for each other through severe illnesses, divorces and other heartaches. My first love became my best friend.

This book took me back to those carefree teenage days. The heady intoxication of care, passion and the belief that the world was a wondrous place. Gracie and Matty in the book "was us" and also anybody that has been in a loving and compassionate relationship.

I loved Ms. Carlino's easy breezy writing style that felt so light yet so full of genuine emotions. I cried with much joy thinking of my beautiful girl from Prague that shared herself with me for a year of pure joy, fun, intense conversation and adolescent lovemaking. The sweet blonde pixie who loved her teddy bear (her nick for me) and continues to do so.

Most importantly though this book brought gratitude to my heart for the life I have now. My boyfriend said I have not kissed him this often in the past week (while reading this book) since we first met six years ago. I am grateful to that pretty pixie girl who taught me how to love at the age of 16 and now to the beautiful man that loves me unconditionally at my old age of 44.

Ms. Carlino thank you for this lovely romance.
Profile Image for Haley pham.
75 reviews102k followers
December 23, 2021
Ugh 4.5 stars 😭 The only reason I can’t give it 5 is because it was so real that I didn’t get those overly excited and enjoyable feelings throughout. You definitely go through the work of reading their story, with a feeling that something sad will be revealed. The payoff was so amazing though. Sometimes I can’t tell if I like books like these because, while they are so amazing because of how realistic they are, they don’t act as escapism bc they are so real. When it comes to romance, maybe I am just looking for escapism 🤣 but wow. So amazing.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for selin.
12 reviews29 followers
Currently reading
September 28, 2023
good morning new yorkers! spider-man audio inspired me to read this 🗽
Profile Image for Michelle.
2,082 reviews861 followers
March 24, 2017
This blurb was probably one of the most intriguing and captivating blurbs I’ve stumbled across. The moment I read it, this book became an obsession. I needed to read it, I had to.


Matt has the career most photographers would kill for. Fifteen years, an esteemed position working for National Geographic and a Pulitzer Prize photo adorning his wall. But a career isn’t everything. Divorced and standing still in a city that moves at the speed of light, Matt is lost. Then one day it happens. He sees her. Grace. It has been fifteen years since he said ‘see you later’ and she’s just there. But then she’s gone. A moment where their eyes lock, recognition strikes and old feelings being to stir. Suddenly Matt’s world goes from gray to color.

When the idea of placing an ad in the Missed Connections section of Craigslist, Matt figures, what does he have to lose? Now, for anyone who has ever been bored and read through these, you know how addicting they are. I do this. Often. I can’t help myself. The one romantic post is so worth reading through all the sexual propositions and just dirty, dirty posts. So months pass and Matt hears nothing from his Green-eyed Lovebird, until someone shows her the ad and she responds.


But this love story isn’t just as simple as that. Fifteen years have passed. A love that existed was lost somewhere, somehow along the way. And before we can get to the finish, we must first go to the beginning.

The past is revisited from the first day when Matt meets Grace, through their friendship and ultimately as they fall in love. But as often with young love, ambitions dictate decisions. You’re young, there is always more time to love but you only get one chance to live. So circumstances separate these two just as they are discovering how much their hearts belong to one another.

Watching these two fall in love was a thrilling experience. I fell head over heels with these two characters. They were so well written, complex and carried such depth. There was this whimsical feeling that made you feel just as carefree as these two souls as they had the world at their feet. A young love, rich in feeling even if they were managing to get by with just the bare essentials.

From his constant need to capture her on film to the moments he listens to her play her cello through the dorm walls; these two were perfection. Absolute perfection. And although you know that they spent the last fifteen years apart, your heart still breaks when it all falls apart. I was so lost in this story that everything outside of the words right in front of me just did not exist. My heart ached for the loss that these two must have felt. The loss of all those years, all those experiences. Everything that they could never get back.

As they reunite they talk about the lives they lived apart, reminisce on the days they spent young and in love and ultimately how they both still feel for each other now. But a lot happened in those fifteen years and the devastation as to what eventually led to the split is revealed, leaving you absolutely gutted just as your heart started to smile again.


I was all over the place while reading this book. The highs were utterly fantastic and the lows, well those stole my breath and left a trail of tears in their wake. This was my first read from Renee Carlino although she’s a name that has been on my list to read for some time. If this is the style of writing and storytelling I have to look forward to, I know it won’t be my last.

Before We Were Strangers hits all the spots in a second chance romance. This is a beloved storyline in the romance genre and this book is the perfect example to showcase why that is. A stunning love story exists inside these pages, one that became so vivid that it was as if it was leaping off the pages. I was a voyeur into Matt & Grace’s world for a few hours and I can say that it a place I’d love to visit again and again.


Profile Image for Geri Reads.
1,232 reviews2,066 followers
August 20, 2015
This book sort of sneaked up on me. Despite the fact that it used one of my least favorite plot devices in romance ever, I still ended up liking this a lot.

Matt and Grace met during their senior year at NYU. Grace is a music major while Matt is photography. They immediately bonded from the moment they met through their mutual love of the arts and Jeff Buckley. Slowly but surely their friendship evolved from friendship into something more. They became inseparable but the end of college, miscommunication, and misunderstanding brought an end to their relationship. Their break-up had far-reaching implication on both of them. While they moved on with other people, they never really got over each other.

Fifteen years later, Matt saw Grace and everything came rushing back. But picking up the pieces of their relationship was harder said than done. And both Matt and Grace had to deal with secrets and resentments and a whole slew of other issues.

Before We Were Strangers was told in dual POV and is set in the past and the present. Renee Carlino slowly unravel the threads for her readers in her trademark prose, which I find really engaging. Grace was a free spirit and Matt is desperate to prove to his father that he didn't make a mistake in choosing photography instead of law.

The first part was a bit slow but since I don't mind slow, it wasn't an issue for me. The only issue for me was the plot device used to break them up. I truly loathe plot device simply because it brings too much unnecessary drama and assumption that usually don't end well for the characters and me as the reader. But like I said, despite that I felt for both Grace and Matt. They suffered the consequence of their actions. I didn't mind the other plot device since I felt it was handled well. But again, the involvement of another character which I felt added to the length of their separation was grating. Ugh. Also, Matt was a wet noodle for not trying hard enough. I'm pretty sure we already have Internet in the late '90s but he didn't really try very hard to find Grace. Which was disappointing.

Still, this book tugged at my heartstrings. Plus the writing was stellar. I loved Renee Carlino's voice. So despite my issues with the plot and the characters, this book touched me. I was rooting for the characters to get their HEA, and once my feelings get invested, those little annoyances usually fade into the background.

ARC provided by Atria via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Pavlina Read more sleep less blog  .
2,434 reviews4,592 followers
July 29, 2016



Such a beautiful,sweet,heartbroken,intense and emotional story!!I didn't want to finish it!It felt so realistic and unique and I had so many feelings while I was reading it!This story touched me in so many ways that there are moments that I was crying and other moments where I was smiling and swooning because I was so happy!The story is told both in the present and in the past and this made me feel so inside the story,like I was with Grace and Matt!

We see how they became friends in the past when they were still in college.How they slowly developed a passionate and intense relationship!And soon this developed in something more,an epic love.But sometimes people have dreams and love isn't enough to keep people together.Now after 15 years they meet again and love is still there.But nothing can be easy,they have to uncover secrets to finally have their second chance..


I loved Matt and Grace so much!They are one of these couples that you wish they have their happy ending!!There is something special in their relationship, there is love,passion and intensity.I fell in love with Matt immediately!I loved him so much especially the moments he was crying because this made him real!You don't read often about men crying in books.Grace is sweet,funny and kind.I can see why Matt fell in love with her!There are moments where she talked about her family and I feel sorry for her!Close to the end around 80% , we have a twist which I didn't see it coming!


This book was a surprise for me since I have read a book from this author before and I didn't like it a lot!But with this one she goes on the top of my favorite books and authors!If you are looking for an emotional story this is exactly what you need!!I highly recommend it!!

ARC provided by Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Judith.
724 reviews2,663 followers
August 24, 2015
*** JUST AMAZING... ***

This book had me feeling all kinds of totally captivated me.Just a wonderful piece of writing.It's a story of the beautiful thing that is first love and second chances.
First love...all the tangled emotions that come with it.The hopes,the dreams,the insecurities but because you love so hard you firmly believe in the future...
Second mistakes and misunderstanding can shape the pattern of your lives...

The story starts in the present day where Matt is evaluating his life.One day on the subway platform he has an encounter that brings memories flooding back...
The first half of the book goes back to the past.

Matt and Grace meet when they have rooms next to each other at college.They discover they have a lot in common and quickly become friends and are inseparable.

You called us fast friends.I like to think it was more._Matt

I loved Grace,she had such spirit and a fierce determination to be independent as she struggled to put herself through college with no help from her family.Matt is captivated by her and they eventually become lovers.
After graduation Matt leaves for a summer internship for a few months while Grace stays in New York preparing for Grad school.The plan is to meet up again at the end of the summer...

The story then moves to the present day where they have not seen each other or had any contact for 15 years....until the encounter on the subway.
Matt cannot stop thinking about her and puts a post on 'Missed Connections' in an attempt to reach her.She sees the post and they meet up again.

I don't want to give too much more away but there are secrets revealed as we find out about the last 15 years of their lives.

This is just a beautiful story that I cannot recommend highly enough......
Profile Image for jess ꒰ა ☆ ໒꒱.
151 reviews463 followers
September 11, 2023
“We were victims of bad timing. But here we are again.”

this was such a disappointing read for me. i literally searched up mood boards and was romanticizing the fuck out of this setting because hello nyc? its so easy to romanticize even if it is dirty and infested with rats.

this was a second change romance between grace and matt who had met at nyu living in dorms next door to each other. they have a lot in common and their relationship was very sweet at some points. sometimes i found matt a little overbearing because he was constantly pushing a relationship onto grace while she was so stressed out because she did not want to lose focus on her grades since her entire goal was to graduate and make money to support her family who would beg her for money. but anyway they have a fallout after graduation causing them to go no contact for 15 years until they spot each other at a subway a minute too late, and find their way back to each other…

this is all spoilers so if you want to read this i suggest skipping this review but this book pissed me off so much so i hope my anger makes you laugh

i fucking hated matt so much. how are you a senior in college and do not know how to 1. communicate 2. act mature 3. not be a dickhead? like im sorry you are how old? and acting like this? no wonder your ex gf left you for your brother 😐

this is an actual scene that occurred because matt was mad grace had gone to dinner with a professor (which was still a red flag) because he had bought her a $1200 cello because she COULD NOT AFFORD IT!! she literally had pawned her previous cello before to send her parents money even tho she was struggling to pay off her own expenses!! the definition of selfless!

…when I turned the corner I spotted Matt on the couch with his arm around a girl who looked exactly like Rachel from Friends. He saw me, held up a shot glass full of brown liquid, and yelled, "Body shots!" He stuck a lime wedge in the girl's mouth, shook a saltshaker on her cleavage, and then
-I kid you not grinned at me before licking the tops of the girl's breasts. He took the shot and covered her mouth with his own.

how the fuck are you actually a grown adult man??? grace honey, you can do sooooo much better 😣 pls leave this dickless man!!!! like i swear girl you guys not seeing eachother for 15 years was probably the best thing to happen to you.

now onto the reason why they dont talk… ITS FUCKING MISCOMMUNICATION. a literal miscommunication. matt takes an internship in south america (or god knows where) and the entire time he is there he speaks to grace ONCE, and then from a paper stuck to her dorm door, she finds out he’s going to australia for almost half a year with some other photographer named elizabeth which guess what he's fucking elizabeth 😍 who eventually becomes his future wife!!! how exciting 😐

since she hears this she agrees to ditch waiting for his SORRY ASS and leaves for europe with said creepy professor and have a blast cause you go girl!! fuck matt!!!

anyway this is a convo from their present selves talking about the past and what actually happened…

No, I didn't go to Australia. I came back at the end of August. I tried to call you before I left, but I couldn't get through. I went straight to Senior House, thinking you'd still be there. When I couldn't find you, I thought maybe you had moved to grad student housing, so I went to check with the registrar. He told me you had deferred your grad school admission. On my way back to Senior House, I saw Daria and she said you had joined Pornsake's orchestra."

"I thought you were the one who left me. I didn't know how to reach you. I didn't even accept the job at National Geographic until I found out you were gone."

want to know what also played a huge factor in this shitty ass mess? elizabeth. she hid all the letters grace sent and ignored ALL the phone calls. and i will admit she is a shitty person, but matt.. if you love someone so much as you claim would you not attempt to reach out to them idk AT ANY FUCKING POINT? grace sent a letter for over ten years (ill get to that rn) and you did not bother at all?

you get this girl drunk to marry you FOR A BET, you have her get matching tattoos w you, and you do not even attempt to reach her? be fucking for real. literally my heart broke for grace cause she deserved even better but that is not even the worst part.

it turns out that grace had gotten pregnant right before matt left and the reason she had been sending letters and calling was that she wanted him to know.. now this was his ACTUAL reaction to finding out.

She looked up. "I'm so sorry. I tried to tell you." I stared at her for what felt like a wordless eternity. "Not hard enough."

like im sorry what? not you accusing GRACE when she fucking tried to contact you for so many years straight and you and your shitty ex-wife are assholes. im surprised i haven’t punched a hole in the wall yet.

grace would literally google matt and keep tabs on him for THEIR DAUGHTER!!! she made a scrapbook with all his accomplishments and stories bc she wanted their daughter to know who her father was at least!! even if she had the impression matt wanted nothing to do with her, she said it herself she couldn’t hate matt bc ash(their daughter) was half of him 💔

anyway to conclude this rant before i have to get my blood pressure checked, he meets his daughter who was luckily raised by someone else creepy professor from past and she brings them back together for good…

this book was chaotic and horrible.i usually am able to have some laughs but this book was so ridiculous, dear authors sometimes couples do not deserve second chances, especially with guys like matt.

if you loved this book im so happy for you bc i truly wish i could have since my expectations were so high 😞 but im done w this review and im done w this book. i changed my rating to one star because even that is generous enough for me, like sabs said the one star is for grace and grace only gn ❤️‍🩹
Profile Image for Lucie.
100 reviews30 followers
March 4, 2020

Just awesome. What a cool, completely engrossing, thoroughly heartwarming contemporary new adult love story.

Easy to read, hard to put down. Great characters. Yes, this is a love story, but it will also completely surprise you with its depth.

Matt and Grace meet on move-in day at the beginning of their senior year at NYU. Grace is a starving artist music major, specializing in the cello, while Matt is studying photography. They happen to be next door neighbors in Senior House and immediately bond over their love of arts and their easy-going, up-for-anything personalities. Well, Grace is probably more up-for-anything... while Matt is just up for anything if it means he can be around Grace.

Matt and Grace spend their entire senior year together, being best friends and falling deeply in love... until graduation nears and differing after-college plans, different career paths, and just the unpredictability of life inevitably gets in the way. They are pulled apart and each moves on.

15 years later, however, they see each other just for a second at a subway station. Grace boards a train and turns around to lock eyes with Matt just as the train pulls away.

This was a surprising read for me... and a VERY welcomed change. After reading a slew of really heavy psychological thrillers full of missing people, crazy people, abused people, I was in desperate need of something lighter, even if I ran the risk of it being too light, too cutesy, or too sweet. But this was not too sweet; it was just perfect. Like I said, it surprised me. This story is very layered, full of depth and surprises, thoughtful life lessons, love and wisdom. Just an all-around great read.
Profile Image for Irena BookDustMagic.
635 reviews572 followers
May 9, 2023
Actual rating: 3,5

I ahd Before We Were Strangers on my tbr ever since it came out, as many of my Goodreads friends loved it back in the day.
Now with the new wagon of popularity that hit this novel thanks to the BookTok, it was about time for me to let this story break my heart.

I loved it, and some scenes were very emotional for me, but I guess my expectations were little bit too high.

The story is written in a compelling way, it was hard for me to put the book down.
I was good in avoiding spoilers all these years, and I had no idea will there be a happy ending or a tragic one.
I prepared myself for the second.

I loved both persepectives and both timelines, which is rare for me. I usually prefer one over the other.
It was easier for me to put myself into Gracie's shoes.
I will make a confession and say that the book reminded me of my own heartbreak, and maybe it sounds silly, but I do appreciate it for it.

The only thing I feel like was missing is I would like to know more about Gracie's family in the present day. How was her relationship with her sisters, are they well or are they still strugling?
I know, it's a little thing, not very important for the main story, but I feel the book would be more complete with it.
Profile Image for EmBibliophile.
532 reviews1,355 followers
March 27, 2023
2 stars

Tell me that I’m not the only one who thinks that these two are so freakin toxic. Like really toxic.

I’m pretty sure that Matt has some kind of a personality disorder!! One minute he’s a sweet supportive guy and the next one he’s a complete insensitive immature jerk!! He’s a freakin walking neon red flag!!!!!

There’s something seriously wrong with the relationship of these two. They don’t communicate. They’re melodramatic and immature. Sometimes it feels like they’re in a one sided relationship with the way they make decisions without including the other. Everyone is living in his own head and doesn’t even bother to include the other person? To talk to them? They just frustrated me to death!!

And don’t even get me started on the “reason why” they spent 15 YEARS not talking to each other!! I don’t like second chance romances, and I HATE them when the reason they got separated or stopped talking to each other is stupid! If it’s something that could’ve been simply avoided if we tried hard enough to reach the other person or maybe talk?? Why waste what we have (even if it’s better wasted in their case because I haven’t seen people more wrong for each other)? Long story short, this was a wasted time both for me and for those stupid idiots who spent 15 years apart for a stupid reason.
July 20, 2015

4 Second Chance Stars!

To the Green-eyed Lovebird: We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House........

 photo 7A0D3DAB-C0AC-484B-87E6-7C089D1DB917_zpspgboaivq.jpg

Before We Were Strangers
had a book blurb that captured my attention immediately. What a unique spin on a second chance romance...Missed Connections on Craigslist. Couple that with the fact that this is written by Renee Carlino, the author of one of my favorite NA romance novels, Sweet Thing, I couldn't wait to dive into it!

Before We Were Strangers is divided into then and now. I'll divide my review as such because my opinion is split almost as if it was two different books with two different sets of characters.


Matt and Grace meet while in college. Matt is a photography student and Grace is a music major, a gifted cellist. Grace comes from almost nothing and struggles to pay her tuition, much less afford food. She fast learned how to make very little go very far. Matt is attracted by her inner strength, her positive attitude and they become fast friends. Matt's father is very wealthy so he doesn't much struggle for the things that Gracie does. He wants to help her...her pride be damned.

I LOVED this aspect of the book. NA is definitely hit or miss for me but this was PERFECTION. Ms. Carlino built their relationship one step at a time. It was realistic and I grew in love with their connection as two unique, fun college kids. It wasn't rushed. It wasn't insta-love. Those days hanging out in the dorm room, Grace practicing cello, Matt photographing Grace in every imaginable was innocent and sweet. Did I also mention Matt was perfect? Well, all good things must come to an end, maybe. Matt is offered a huge opportunity to go overseas for the summer after they graduate. Just for a few months and he will be back for Grace while she prepares for graduate school.....


This is the aspect of the book that somewhat failed for me. We see from the blurb that Matt spots Grace from across the subway platform but she's gone before he has the chance to catch her. They both set eyes on each other. He SAW her whisper his name. He HAS to reconnect with her.

What is this Missed Connections on Craigslist? It's a venue for people to post messages for missed connections with people they may or may not know. "To the woman I saw running down the street today at State and Eisenhower. You're beautiful..." Posted such as that. I had no clue such a beast existed. It's strangely very romantic to me. I found myself looking online to my area Missed Connections. Some are SO sweet and romantic, some weirdly sexual and stalker-ish. But I digress...

This is an example of where time jumps fail me. I really didn't mind all the events of NOW. My issue is more with what happened BETWEEN the then and now. My mind is still a little befuddled and I feel the author didn't 100% clear up why they fell out of touch while he was overseas. And, let's face it, that's a huge premise of the book! It just didn't make sense to me. Do not click the spoiler unless you've read this book or don't plan to- So, because of this giant question mark for me, I had to deduct a solid star. I really liked their reconnection part of the book yet my mind kept going back to the questions I had during the 15-year time gap.

Aside for my inner questions, this is a great book by Renee Carlino. She has the ability to create characters I immediately fall in love with. You can completely picture each person, envision their personalities and interactions.

This quote is while they were giving blood platelets for money during those poor days in college. Talk about endearingly cute...

“You come here a lot?”
“That’s such an old pickup line, Matt. I think you need new material.”
“I’m really into girls with big platelets.”
“Much better. Now you have my attention. You’re in luck, because I’m really into guys named Mathew.”
“It’s Matthias, actually.”
“No shit?” She cocked her head to the side. “I’ve never heard that name before. Is it biblical?”
“Yep. It means God-like.”
"No, I’m serious. It means God-like appendage.”

Before We Were Strangers is a great second chance, friends to lovers, romance that, for me, was both tragic and endearing. Characters both intelligent and so very stupid. Mature beyond their years yet immature in their own relationship, budding-life ways. I can see how events in this book may bother some readers. It didn't bother me to the point of not enjoying the book. It just gave me the lingering "huh?" through till the end. And I'm still kinda befuddled...

I'd still highly recommend this book for those who loved Sweet Thing. The character of Matt is so stinking endearing. I loved him. And I commend Ms Carlino for creating a NA book twice now that I truly enjoy!

I had to include this excerpt only because it's written so perfectly, describing that first feeling of falling in love. I just thought Ms Carlino hit this interpretation of first love right on the mark-

You can’t re-create the first time you promise to love someone or the first time you feel loved by another. You cannot relive the sensation of fear, admiration, self-consciousness, passion, and desire all mixed into one because it never happens twice. You chase it like the first high for the rest of your life. It doesn’t mean you can’t love another or move on; it just means that the one spontaneous moment, the split second that you took the leap, when your heart was racing and your mind was muddled with What ifs?—that moment—will never happen the same way again. It will never feel as intense as the first time.

Well said!

Advanced copy received by Atria Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Quotes are taken from pre-published version and may change in final product.

Profile Image for Aestas Book Blog.
1,059 reviews74.9k followers
August 18, 2015

Once there was a you and me
We were lovers
We were friends
Before life changed
Before we were strangers
Do you still think of me?

This is a book that grabs your attention from the first few pages. There’s an air of excitement to it — the twist of fate, the second chance, the luck that reunites these two lovers after a fifteen year separation. It’s a feeling that makes your heart race and your palms tingle, it begs you to turn the page, and Renee Carlino’s beautiful writing keeps you lost in the story from start to finish.

As we are told, this is ‘a love story about a Craigslist “missed connection” post that gives two people a second chance at love fifteen years after they were separated in New York City’ and even though I sometimes try to describe the books I review for you myself, I have to say that this particular blurb was just so unique and intriguing that I don’t think anything else I say will do it justice so, here it is:

To the Green-eyed Lovebird:

We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House.

You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more…

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half?


Gah. Don’t you just love that?? It certainly grabbed my attention!

“Three seconds doesn’t seem like a long time, but when you’re gazing into someone’s eyes, it’s long enough to make a silent promise.”

My book is full of highlighted quotes — it’s written in a way that makes you care on a very deep level for these characters. Once I’d started, I just didn’t want to stop reading. I needed to know what had happened to them in the past to both make them fall in love and tear them apart, and then I was so curious to see where their future would lead. Without a doubt, this is a story that tugged all of my heart strings.

It begins in the present day, then takes us back to the past when they met in college, before catching us back up to the current day and then the story even takes us beyond that into the future. It’s told in dual POV so you really get a very complete look at the whole story.

I did however have a frustration with the book, but I’d like to be clear that this is due to a long-standing, very personal pet peeve… which has to do with characters choosing their careers over their relationship after they’ve fallen in love. I know there’s no right or wrong way to handle this situation, but my personal belief is that, no matter what your previous priorities in life were, after you fall in love, you adjust them to allow room for your relationship to be a priority. Otherwise, it’s a clear choice: which do you value more? I will always choose love, and I have a hard time reading about people who either don’t choose love, or choose love but don’t take care to go the extra mile to maintain trust during a work-related separation. And this book is a prime example of the very painful result of what happens when a couple doesn’t do that.

I got to a point where I was pretty mad at them. This wasn’t a scenario of life dealing them a bad hand of cards that led to their 15 year separation, rather their misery was the direct result of multiple poorly made decisions on their respective parts. I could literally give you a long list of things that I personally (if I was their friend) would have strongly advised them against doing that, in the end, was what led to their separation. It was miscommunications, wrong priorities, and the consequence of not thinking about what the result of your actions would do to someone else. I don’t like blaming it on their ages either because tons of people that age can maintain functional relationships. So I just found it frustrating because I was literally watching them mess up their own lives, even though they both did have very good intentions.

But dammit, I CARED. I really did. So freaking much. And that gorgeous extra twist towards the end of the book definitely brought out all the feels in a big way. I loved seeing the way that whole scenario played out and, no matter how frustrated I was with the characters, I loved the writing so much and felt for this story so deeply that I couldn’t help but be swept away. This was definitely a great read. And I do think anyone who isn’t as sensitive to this particular issue as me would LOVE it. The reality of life is that a lot of people do make wrong choices in life (myself included) and there may naturally be painful consequences to those actions. I guess I just generally prefer to read stories where it’s more “them against the world” not “them causing their own problems”. Ultimately, this is a story about two people who chose wrong (each in their own way), but in the end were given a second chance to make things right. It’s heart warming to think that despite everything, they were still able to have their chance at a happily ever after.

And I feel it’s worth mentioning again, that the writing is beautiful!!

“You can’t re-create the first time you promise to love someone or the first time you feel loved by another. You cannot relive the sensation of fear, admiration, self-consciousness, passion, and desire all mixed into one because it never happens twice. You chase it like the first high for the rest of your life.”

Rating: 4 stars. Contemporary romance standalone.


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Profile Image for Catarina.
896 reviews1,975 followers
September 9, 2015
4 Second Chance Stars.

Matt and Grace fell in love during college and they thought it would be forever. Unfortunately life got in the way and for the next 15 years they didn’t see each other and their lives moved on in different directions.
In only took one random morning for them to see each other again in the NY subway in a way and life bring them together again. But 15 years change a lot of things, so can this be their second change of re-kindle their love or sometimes life is too different to fall back in love?


Second change romances are my favorites, I’m a completely goner for them, and despite not being big fans of convenient misunderstandings, I like them so much I really don’t mind. Join a first love romance, nice characters and a sweet, emotional and romantic background and you have a winner for me. There was some aspects within the plot that I really didn’t care much for, but in overall this was a great reading. A great second chance love story that proves that Renée Carlino sure knows how to write a good story and captivate the reader.
If you’re in the mood for a good and solid romance, this is a good choice.


Rating: 4 Stars.
Characters Development: I like how realistic the characters are. Regular jobs, some curveballs in their life, but regular people with normal dreams to whom life gave a second chance. Matt was a good guy, Grace was sweet and they together were a really nice couple. There was a character that I hoped that something bad happened because it deserved a good dose of bad karma, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. (And I had to take brownie points because of it.)
Steam: Some heated scenes.
Sensible Subjects:
Love Triangle:
Profile Image for Sara ➽ Ink Is My Sword.
569 reviews438 followers
July 21, 2018
“The past doesn’t belong to us anymore, and the future is just a fantasy, never guaranteed. But the present is ours to own. The only way we can realize that fantasy is if we embrace the now.”

You can also find it on my blog, Ink Is My Sword🌷
description All images were found in pinterest, I do not own any of them.

Depicts perfectly a love story that is raw, flawed, real and at the same time beautiful. My heart was beating alongside all the tangible moments.

I have seen this book floating around for years now, it always intrigued but because I am me I tend to abstain to read books with a lot of hype or that I know I will love. That, of course, changed rapidly when I saw it for 1.99 in Amazon, I mean come on who can resist good deals. I picked this book knowing it was about a young cellist, a second chance romance, and that I would cry. I never knew though that I was gonna be captivated by the writing, addicted to the story, swooning with cute sentiments, and that I was gonna overall feel happy rather than sad. I loved this book so much, but it lacked just a tiny bit to make me give it full five stars.

The writing was magnifique. It had an excellent flow, it carried so much emotion and realness, it truly touched me. Renné also made a wonderful job at creating scenes that were so well described and thought out I could imagine them happening to me. The dual point of view worked well for me even though the perspectives weren’t changing in a regular manner. In terms of the plot course, I found incredibly effective that we start 15 years after and we travel back in time, we knew things did not work for them the first time which made everything more impactful.

I grew so attached to all the characters that we were meant to love and also disliked fervently the ones we were supposed to hate. Matt with his passion for photography and capturing beautiful moments, his adventurer side and deep love for his mom, won me over. On the other hand, Grace was a character I was intrigued deeply by, her survivor tactics for being poor (I took close note), her musician soul, and her innocence felt realistic. The mix of both of them together taking their younger days one stride at a time had me highly entertained. But not only our main characters held my attention, Grace’s best friend and the professor Pornsake and Matt’s mother and of course , they contributed deeply in the story. Renee used the side characters output to make an impact in the storyline of our hero and heroine, reminding us that people surrounding us can make changes in our circumstances too. This cast made the story felt less fiction but realistic and relatable, which I was a huge fan of.

I usually like to read about “perfect” relationships, connections I know in real life one in a million has it, I love to leave my fantasy through characters. Amazingly I never knew until this book how much I appreciate and love to read about relationships that are realistic and still quite amazing. Matt and Grace’s relationship was that eye opener for me, from the start of the relationship to their difficulties and how they reunited years later, it reminded me of all the amazing love stories that are not perfect that surround me. My mom and that, great age difference, amazing love, but not a happily ever after, my dad died but even 18 years after my mom still loves him and has never married again. My uncle and aunt a second marriage, a relationship at a long distance, never could have kids but my aunt raised my uncle’s kids for the first marriage as if they were her own. The love of this near people is certainly to perfect or fairy tale like, but still hugely powerful and swoon-worthy. What I am trying to say is Before We Were Strangers reminded me, love doesn’t have to have a perfect course and it can be realistic. Matt literally stole my teenage heart, I really wish I am able to find a love like that in my college days. Someone real with flaws but that respects you, is open about their feelings and loves to be with you. Granted sometimes he was an ass, like when he opened the door of Grace’s room and stared at her while she changed, or perhaps that he never fought as hard as he wanted her to fight for him when they separated ways. But also someone like Grace, with an adventurer side, someone who doesn’t mind doing weird activities. I seriously fell in love with so many scenes of them together.

The last point I wanna talk about is how the second chance romance was handled. I found so mesmerizing how they didn’t find each other again until 15 years later, years in which both made separate lives and fell in love with other people. The book represented well the whole “Life keeps going and you just need to catch up”. Distance affecting relationship is a reality I was glad it was acknowledged in this story.

Overall I loved this story, I highly recommend it to all romance readers and even those who are just starting to dip their feet in the genre. My only complaint was that I wished it was a bit longer and that I didn’t cry. But I am not as sad because of the later, the book made me grin like a fool. Also sorry I got a bit too personal.
“It was such a strange idea knowing he and I were moving for our own pleasure while giving it back to each other, equally. Like nothing else in life, sex is perfectly selfless and selfish all at once. Hot and cold, yin and yang, black and white, and all of the shades in between. Finally, the whole world made sense. I was in on the secret now.”

😻How real everyone and everything felt & the writing.
😾I wish it was a bit longer, or with a less abrupt ending.

Recommendation. If you like second-chance romances, realistic stories that are carried out during the span of different years and wonderful writing then you will enjoy this book.
I want to know: Did you cry while reading? Who was your favorite character?

💭Pre-reading thoughts:

🤞🏼Crossing fingers I am gonna love this. If you have read this, am I gonna cry? I need to get ready with the tissues.

-SMUT-A-THON book #2 / Second Chances.
Profile Image for Jenny••Steamy Reads Blog••.
987 reviews1,850 followers
January 29, 2018
I’m late to the party on this one.

Keeping it short. This book tugged me in different directions. I loved it, I liked it, and I wanted to throw the book.

This book starts in the present, Matt & Grace seeing each other for the first time in 15 years. It’s a glimpse of each other that ignited unresolved feelings. From there the book goes back to relive their past up until the current future. So many regrets, so many lost opportunities, so much lost love, the amount of hurt, so much unresolved....

I have always loved this author, I enjoyed this book, just wasn't my favorite by her.. I wish we could have seen more searching, more fight within each of these characters to locate each other. In the end, I liked this. It’s that simple

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Profile Image for Brandice.
912 reviews
October 11, 2020
Before We Were Strangers is a second chance story about Matt and Grace — They met at NYU but lost touch after Matt graduated and took a once in a lifetime photography internship.

15 years later, they see each other on a subway platform but don’t have a chance to speak. Matt decides to write a “Missed Connection” post on Craigslist as he has no other way to get in touch with Grace again. Sidenote: My friends and I used to read missed connections as a form of entertainment in college — I will say, 10 years ago, most of the ones we read were much grittier than the note Matt writes.

The story is told in alternating past and present POVs from both Matt and Grace. I found both of them likable though I preferred Matt’s chapters a little more. While I anticipated some parts of the story, there were others I didn’t see coming and I appreciated that there were unexpected elements.

”The only thing you can do is choose the person you love, be kind to others, and make your brutally short stint on earth as pleasant as possible.”

Before We Were Strangers is a sweet story, with a reminder that timing is everything.
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