Saturday, February 11, 2023

The Wife Before by Shanora Williams


My sister gave me a copy of this author's other book, THE PERFECT RUIN, and I really enjoyed it. Even though I'd never heard of this author before, it was the perfect blend of well plotted and trashy, and I ended up devouring it like the thriller-soap opera it was. When I found out that this author was planning a loose retelling of REBECCA called THE WIFE BEFORE, I was all over that like white on rice. Give me all the drama, please, and if it has a twist of gothic soap, so much the better.

THE WIFE BEFORE is about a woman named Samira who is a bit of a moocher. She's living off her brother's good will as she does underpaying jobs, but all that changes when her brother ends up engaged to his fiancee and she decides it's for the best if they cut ties. Similarly, the heroine's roommate decides she wants to move in with her boyfriend and is tired of Samira half-assedly paying rent. When she takes a waitressing job and hits it off with one of the rich bigwigs at the event, it seems too good to be true. Especially when he invites her to move in with him as soon as he learns that she's having some financial trouble.

But Roland isn't exactly the perfect guy. He might have killed his first wife. And when Samira goes into his ex-wife's she-shed and finds her journals, she sees a very different portrait of Melanie than the rest of the world saw: she's angsty and fucked-up, and put Roland through the emotional wringer with her affairs. Add to that an unbalanced sister with a drug addiction, and there's no telling what either of these women are capable of-- or what Roland might have done to salvage his feelings and reputation.

So I've read the original REBECCA and as far as retellings go... I guess this was okay. It didn't have a lot in common with the original since Melanie wasn't exactly beloved by anyone who knew her. Samira also didn't have the innocence of the unnamed heroine in REBECCA: she was a pretty unlikable heroine, to be honest, and I didn't really see what Roland saw in her. Especially since she started the relationship basically doing as much prying as she could into his deceased ex's life, to the point where I was like, Girl, just take out a sign saying "Nosy snoop, kill me now." You're just that obvious.

I thought THE PERFECT RUIN was a better book (and I loved the Lola Maxwell shoutout in this book). As far as revenge thrillers go, I felt like that one was better executed. This one was kind of all over the place, and it wasn't really a close enough retelling for me to be like, Oh, yeah, REBECCA! But I'm not really sure it succeeded as a standalone, either. It wasn't bad, but it was a frustrating read, and I found myself getting annoyed with all of the characters, and not in a good way.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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