Book Review: Before I Knew

Before I Knew (The Cabots Book 1), by Jamie Beck

Publication: Montlake Romance; August 22, 2017

before I knewAbout the book: 

On the second anniversary of her husband’s suicide, Colby Cabot-Baxter is ready to let go of her grief and the mistakes made during her turbulent marriage. Her fresh start comes in the form of A CertainTea, the restaurant she’s set to open along Lake Sandy, Oregon, with help from her family. But when her executive chef quits just weeks before the grand opening, Colby is pressured to hire old family friend Alec Morgan. His award-winning reputation could generate buzz, but their friendship has withered since her husband’s reckless dare cost Alec’s brother his life.

Distracted by guilty secrets concerning the tragedy that changed his and Colby’s lives, Alec self-destructed and lost his famed restaurant. With his career in tatters, he’s determined to use this opportunity to redeem his reputation and to help the woman he’s loved from afar find happiness again.

But secrets have a way of coming out. When Alec’s do, they might destroy the new life he and Colby have rebuilt together.

My Review:

Do you ever read a novel that you absolutely love but also frustrates you to death while reading? That’s the best way to describe my feelings about Before I Knew, the latest novel by Jamie Beck. Don’t get me wrong, I loved this story, but God the stubbornness of the characters made me want to pull out my hair at times! 


Main character Colby is a young widow after her husband Mark committed suicide a few years earlier. Ready to make a fresh start, she’s starting a new restaurant with financial help and business assistance from her father and her brother, Hunter.  Once a celebrated chef, Alec’s world began to fall apart after the death of his brother Joe and Mark’s suicide. Now that he has returned home, Hunter reaches out to Alec about being the new chef at Colby’s restaurant, bringing the two families and years of anger and animosity together. 

The Cabot and Morgan families have been neighbors forever and until Joe’s death, the families were close. Colby’s family has several issues surrounding her father, her step-mother, her clingy mother, Hunter and his wife Sara, and her half-sister Gentry. Alec’s family is even more strained due to his never being able to please his anger, explosive father. 

Back to my earlier reference to being frustrated while reading, my reason is that the author created such developed, real, and emotional characters that it was impossible to avoid becoming invested in them to the point of joy, heartbreak, aggravation, and so on. Whether I wanted to choke Alec’s father for hanging onto so much anger or if I wanted to hug and kiss Gentry for slowly opening up just a little, the characterization in this novel was fantastic. I can’t say that I fell in love with any particular character because it seemed all of them were equally flawed in their own ways, but I still wanted to learn more about their lives and what the future held for each of them.

Overall thoughts and reactions:

I thoroughly enjoyed Before I Knew from beginning to end. I didn’t experience any slow or repetitive points in the novel and was completely engrossed in the complex and emotional story line. Dealing with the death of a family member or friend is never easy, however, Jamie Beck went above and beyond to show just how far grief can reach. All of the characters had experienced loss, blame, guilt, anger, sadness, and eventually, forgiveness and hope for some. It was heart breaking to see how much damage resulted from Joe and Mark’s deaths and even worse, the length of time that everyone held onto their various emotions.

The theme of honesty was also relevant with the main characters both holding onto secrets, half-truths, and blatant lies. Just as the grief caused so much damage, the author also portrayed the effects of dishonesty on relationships between couples, friends, and family members. More specifically, a recurring theme in Before I Knew was rationalizations we tell ourselves to justify a lie or the continuation of keeping to lie going. 

My only criticism of the novel was the mood. Granted, death, suicide, mental illness, anger, etc. don’t typically represent any sort of happiness, but after reading it almost felt somewhat overwhelming because so many sad and negative issues were dealt with. Having said that, I’m still incredibly glad that I read this novel and highly recommend it to fan’s of women’s fiction that also appreciate real life issues, both good and bad.

*Many thanks to the author and publishers for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. 

Purchase Before I Knew on Amazon.

Learn more about author Jamie Beck!



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