Book Reviews

Book Review: The Man I Loved Before, by Anna Mansell

The Man I Loved Before,

by Anna Mansell

Publication: Bookouture; March 10, 2020

man i loved beforeAbout:

‘Dear Ben, I can only write you this letter because I know you’ll never read it…’

When Jem writes to her ex Ben, it’s to explain everything. All the secrets she kept from him – from the little lies she’d sometimes tell about how new those shoes really were, or how many glasses of wine she’d had that evening… right up to The Big Thing that happened on the night that changed everything. But she never expects he will actually see what she’s written.

She is just writing because she thinks it will help to get the words out. Later, she resolves, she’ll burn the letter, and then the past will be in the past for good.

Because Jem is doing fine now. She’s busy: working, spending time with her best friend, and looking after her mother, who’s in remission from cancer. She’s even dating again and has just met a guy who she thinks she could actually fall for. At long last, Jem is really, definitely somewhere close to happy.

But her mum finds the letter and thinks she’s doing Jem a favour when she posts it to Ben. And Jem’s new, carefully rebuilt life begins to unravel in ways she could never have imagined. Then, when her mother gets ill again, she finds herself asking who has the key to her future. The man she’s falling in love with now? Or the man she loved before?

**My Review**

Once again, Anna Mansell has evoked more emotions than I knew were in me while reading one of her novels! I just finished The Man I Loved Before which releases next week, and it was amazing.

Jem has lost the love of her life, Ben, because of a string of poor choices and her relationship challenges. When he couldn’t take her crap anymore, he picked up and moved 6 hours away. Jem has since lost her job, her home, her money, and is living with her mom (who has been battling cancer off and on). In an effort to try to move past everything that happened with Ben, Jem writes a letter confessing everything she did wrong while they were together, all of the things that she still has not forgiven herself for. Jem plans to burn the letter as a symbol of letting go and moving on, however, her mother finds the letter and thinking she is being helpful, mails it to Ben. That very same day, Jem’s best friend, Leanne, signs Jem up for Tinder, sets up her profile, and swipes right to a man, Mitch that they went to school with but haven’t seen in years. 

This is not a lighthearted novel. Not at all. Mansell’s trademark fabulous conversation and banter are scattered throughout, but the subject matter is pretty heavy. Topics covered in this book include alcoholism, cancer, emotional abuse, financial issues, miscarriage, and much more. There are certainly a ton of laugh out loud moments, but there are some moments that will you reach for the Kleenex also. What I love about The Man I Loved Before (and all of Mansell’s novels) is although the plot is always unique and intriguing, her books are so incredibly character-driven. Which brings me to Jem.

Jem is such a fantastic character! Unfortunately, I see so much of my younger self (and some times my current self) in Jem. Don’t get me wrong, she’s funny, caring, attractive, smart, and so on. But she is also incredibly hard on herself, stuck in unhealthy cycles of self-sabotage, reaches the for the bottle a bit too much, and often times does not trust in herself at all. Whether it’s from the things revealed in her letter to Ben or current things in the novel involving her relationships with Mitch or Leanne, Jem does some things that will make you cringe. Maybe you will feel bad for her or maybe you will be put off by her bad decisions. I assure you, however, that you will root for her. You will want her to find happiness in every aspect of her life. You will hate it when she is sad, and you will cheer when something good happens. 

Overall, this is just a beautiful, well-written, all-consuming novel. There was absolutely nothing about it that I did not love and highly, highly recommend this one. Anyone that has ever loved and lost, anyone that has ever tried to move on, and anyone that has watched a loved one battle an illness will find so many ways that they relate to this novel. But most importantly I recommend this to anyone that is still struggling to forgive themselves for the past and move forward with their lives.

This author blows me away every time!

*Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for providing this advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion,


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