A couple planning to marry usually has a reasonably long history together.  They have several mutual friends, have met each other’s families, have even shared long-held secrets with one another.  This was not the case with Hannah and Mark Reilly.  After turning down suitors for many years, Hannah was overwhelmed with Mark’s suitability; he was everything she had ever wanted.  They married in less than a year’s time.

Mark’s business took him away from their London home for frequent trips to New York City.  It was not a problem because they stayed in touch daily and his homecoming was always a highlight of her life.

On his most recent trip, Hannah insisted on picking Mark up at Heathrow.  She had his flight number and his arrival time.  However, she was shocked and anxious when he was not on his scheduled flight.  This was the beginning of an unsettling, disturbing chain of events.  She tried calling the hotel where Mark always stayed when he was in New York; they had no record of a Mark Reilly registered there.  Hannah pondered her situation. They had only been married for eight months after a fairly short courtship.  Was her ideal marriage over?

It occurred to Hannah that she really had not known Mark Reilly very well when she married him.  They did not have friends in common.  Mark’s parents were dead and he was estranged from his only brother Nick.  Her own brother Tom was a little disturbed when Hannah told him she and Mark were getting married.  He felt it was too soon to make that decision.

Hannah, before meeting Mark, had no desire to marry, having been discouraged by the failure of her parents’ marriage and the suspicious wariness of her mother which led to the divorce.  However, Mark was different.  He was sweet and giving, owned his own successful business, and professed love for her also.  She knew she had found the love of her life.

Hannah called Mark’s assistant at his office when she failed to hear from him. Neesha, his assistant, was surprised to hear from Hannah. She thought Mark had taken her to Rome for a romantic holiday. The first red flag!

When Mark finally called, he explained that he had missed his flight because of heavy traffic, and had lost his cell phone. He then decided that he might as well stay in New York a few more days to tie up some loose ends rather than having to return again in a few weeks. Hannah was just glad to hear that he was all right; his story was believable.

At home, she tried to resist the temptation to snoop the way her mother always did when her father was not at home. She did not want to fall into that trap. But then, she needed some answers, and he would never know that she snooped. Looking through his papers, everything seemed to be in order. However, her own bank account had been stripped clean; she had not noticed that before. Thus began a spiraling downward which had nowhere to go.

The revelations that followed were circumstances that Hannah should have been aware of before she entered into a marriage with Mark. She was thrust into a gamut of emotions - fear, mistrust, loss of confidence, sleeplessness, denial, terror, and grief.

Yes, Mark had a lot of explaining to do. When he was confronted by Hannah, he told her facts that he had never talked about before. Somehow, it all seemed believable. The reader is left wondering whether they would live happily ever after or whether there was more bad news to come.

Although the story does have its flaws, it manages to keep the reader on edge until the last moment. The suspense is harrowing; and conversely, it is strangely fun. The setting is English; the author is English although she now lives in Brooklyn.  An American reader must be adept at translating English idioms which are peppered throughout, such as: stone, jumper, petrol, pub, lift, half-eleven, pyjamas, among others

I enjoyed this novel and hope to read more of Lucie Whitehouse’s writings. She has also published two other novels, “The House at Midnight,” and “The Bed I Made.”

Before We Met: A Novel
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(price as of Aug 27, 2014)