Book Review

The Wife Before

The Wife Before

  • Author: Shanora Williams 
  • Genre: Mystery/Thriller
  • Publication Date: June 28, 2022
  • Publisher: Kensington

Rating: 2 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: violence, mention of parental abandonment, mention of death of a parent, blood, molestation, suicide, murder, mention of addiction, abusive relationship

Samira Wilder has never had it easy, and when her latest lousy job goes south, things only promise to get harder. Until she unexpectedly meets a man who will change her life forever. Renowned pro golfer Roland Graham is wealthy, handsome, and caring, and Samira is dazzled. Best of all, he seems to understand her better than anyone ever has. And though their relationship moves a bit fast, when Roland proposes, Samira accepts. She even agrees to relocate to his secluded Colorado mansion. After all, there’s nothing to keep her in Miami, and the mansion clearly makes him happy. Soon, they are married amid a media firestorm, and Samira can’t wait to make a fresh start—as the second Mrs. Graham . . .

Samira settles into the mansion, blissfully happy—until she discovers long-hidden journals belonging to Roland’s late wife, Melanie, who died in a tragic accident. With each dusty page, Samira comes to realize that perhaps it was no accident at all—that perhaps her perfect husband is not as perfect as she thought. Even as her trust in Roland begins to dwindle and a shadow falls over her marriage and she begins to fear for her own life, Samira is determined to uncover the truth of Melanie’s troubled last days. But even good wives should know that the truth is not always what it seems . . .

I’m always ready for a good domestic mystery, and I was looking forward to this story. The summary gives it potential, with some echoes of Verity, and I had high hopes for this one, and it was especially nice because it featured mostly all Black characters. Plus, I always love a story within a story. However, this one didn’t really work well for me. Here’s why.

First of all, there wasn’t a single likable character in the story. It’s really hard to enjoy a book when I hate literally every single character in the story. Samira mooches on her brother, but then resents him when he puts his own needs before hers, and acts like he’s doing everything to spite her. The fact that she’s 28 years old makes it even worse—she’s immature, selfish, and self-serving, making Roland Graham a perfect mark for her. It didn’t sit right that she felt like she needed to slut shame herself as well:

“I should have been a little ashamed about letting him have me on our first date, but he knew exactly how to talk to me, how to touch me, using just the right amount of control and pressure to drive me crazy.”

Like, girl! If you’re going to cut loose, OWN IT! Slut-shaming is not cool, and I don’t care if you’re going to do it to yourself or others, I’m not really a fan of seeing it in books. The story only gets more convoluted when Samira and Roland get together, and Samira’s brother Kell doesn’t approve. Kell is worried for her safety, and Samira is just enjoying her status as successful gold digger. Even her stated reasons for being with him just feel skeevy to me:

“I mean, of course I wanted to be with him. Sure, I loved his money and his cars and the way he spoiled me. Hell yes, I loved the sex, the candlelit dinners, and our endless conversations.”

I don’t know about you, but when I talk about someone that I want to spend the rest of my life with, I can guarantee you that the first three things I bring up aren’t money, cars, and being spoiled. A relationship isn’t built on tangible things—it’s built on love, respect, trust, and a mutual connection. And I just didn’t really buy into the relationship between these two.

Once Samira starts reading the journals, I realized that I actually didn’t like Melanie much either. She’s an awful lot like Samira, and through her writings, we get to see how truly terrible the other people in their lives are. Roland has a hot and cold thing going on, where he gets moody and distant, otherwise he’s super involved, sweet, and caring. 

Since I disliked all the characters so much, it was kind of tough for me to really get fully invested in the story. I ultimately just wanted to find out if my theory was right, and go figure, it was. There’s a prologue in the beginning of the story that piqued my curiosity, and that’s the main reason why I didn’t DNF this one. But overall, there weren’t any big surprises or plot twists that weren’t somewhat predictable. This turned out to be a pretty disappointing read.

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