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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Before You Found Me

Narrator: Jeremy Carlisle Parker

High Bridge Recorded Books

ISBN: 9781728248721

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Publication Date: 08/01/2023

Format: Paperback

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

How far would you go to save a child who isn't even yours?

Before You Found Me explores the unlikely bond that develops between two abuse survivors and takes a deep dive into personal sacrifice, morality, and the healing powers of family—both blood and found——from the author of After We Were Stolen.

Rowan McNamara doesn't open the door to her new life—she's thrown through it. Following an explosive argument with her abusive fiancé, Rowan runs. With no family except for her estranged sister, Celia, Rowan takes refuge in an idyllic New England town.

There, she meets Gabriel, the eleven-year-old son of her neighbor, Lee. Lee is welcoming, friendly, and a little too helpful. But Gabriel is a mystery: withdrawn, often bruised, and only willing to speak to Rowan through his basement window. When she discovers that Lee has kept Gabriel imprisoned for the past three years, Rowan is desperate to save him. Fueled by outrage and empathy, she abducts Gabriel and flees to her childhood home in rural Oklahoma, determined to raise him as her own.

Together they battle nightmares, curious stares, and Celia's constant disapproval. But when Lee begins haunting more than their dreams, Rowan and Gabriel realize they stopped pretending to be a family a long time ago. Their bond is just as strong as blood, and they're willing to do anything to protect one another.

From Brooke Beyfuss comes a tender, deeply emotional novel exploring trauma and healing, love and family, and the impossible lengths we'll go to protect the ones we love, even at the expense of ourselves.

My Review

Brooke Beyfuss returns following her debut, After We Were Stolen with BEFORE YOU FOUND ME —a beautifully written, compelling and heart-stirring tale of hope, fear, survival, trauma, courage, healing, forgiveness, unconditional love, redemption, and the true meaning of family.

An unlikely bond between two abuse survivors as they create a family of love they made —unlike any they have known. I LOVED this book. Top Books of 2023!


Rowan McNamara, age 24 has not had an easy life with the death of her parents. She and her sister are separated from one group and foster home to another. She blames her sister Celia for continuing her education to be a nurse and leaving her.

Rowan runs after yet another round with her abusive and controlling fiancé, Ethan. She takes nothing, hospitalized days earlier with glass embedded in her back, on the receiving end of horrific physical and mental abuse over the past two years. He would kill her if she left. The scars on her back will remain with her for the rest of her life. She would never be the same from the trauma.

Rowan escapes to her friend Lelia's house while she is away in New England until her parent's home that she and her sister inherited is vacant back in Oklahoma. Rowan was fierce and protective, and Laine was gentle and calming. They had not seen one another in a few years since Ethan had severed all her relationships.

Behind its weathered picket fence, this house would be her temporary home, a haven until she could escape to Oklahoma. Little did she know how her life would change.

Next door to Liane's house lives a man named Lee Emerson. He seems friendly enough, offering to help her out. But behind closed doors, he is a monster. She knows about sociopaths, and they are not easy to trick.

She discovers the boy, Gabriel, age eleven, who has been beaten, tortured, and held captive in the basement. It has been three years since they moved into the home, and he has not been allowed to leave the confines of the dark, damp, cold basement with little food and beaten.

Lee, the father, hates him because years ago, his mother was killed in an accident while she walked her son to the bus stop, and the dad blames him for her death because he asked her to go along. Of course, it was not his fault. He was only a child, but his father has punished him daily since.

How will he ever escape?

He is afraid, and Roman wants to help him and brings him food through the window. She wants to go to the authorities to report this, but then she knows he will be placed in foster homes like she experienced, and that is not what she wants for him.

She visits him daily while his father is away. Her heart goes out to this little boy. She wants to protect him from evil. She knows she will leave soon and cannot leave this boy here. She devises a plan. She will kidnap him and worry about the rest later. The important thing is to get him to safety.

But they cannot leave at the same time. So she plans to leave so Lee will think she is gone, and then a few days later, she will come for him. She takes photos and videos for evidence and interviews Gabe so she will have documentation she did not have with her abusive situation.

However, when she returns, she is shocked. He has been beaten so badly that she has to carry him out and quickly grabs the things he needs, wrapping the blood-filled barbeque fork in plastic with the dad's fingerprints.

She is afraid to take him to a hospital, and they escape spending nights on the road in motels while she takes care of him. Finally, back home in Oklahoma, she has to confide in Celia since she is a nurse and hopes she will not turn them in.

From here on out, it is heart-pounding INTENSE suspense (the tornado was spine-chilling). Highly emotional, these two bond and are very protective of one another. In the process, Gabe brings Celia and Rowan closer together. Rowan and Gabe work together to overcome their trauma while worrying about the monsters who want to destroy them and facing them.

The author keeps you on the edge of your seat to see how this nightmare will unfold.

BEFORE YOU FOUND ME is a beautifully conceived and masterfully executed domestic suspense about good people doing their best to survive with an essential takeaway message. I loved Rowan and Gabe! A mix of coming-of-age, women's domestic, rural and small-town, literary, and a psychological suspense thriller.

The author is a master at uncovering the emotional depths of her characters and bringing them out the other side. These characters will linger long after the book ends.

These well-developed characters have suffered significant loss and fear on the road to happiness, and you will root for a satisfying conclusion. Thanks to the author who persevered and brought this story to life! I also appreciated her taking the time to give us a happy ending and unrushed. As the author mentions in her Author's Note, BEFORE YOU FOUND ME is, at its core, a love story.

An ideal book club selection and prime for the big or small screen.

AUDIOBOOK: I listened to the audiobook and the e-book, and the narrator, Jeremy Carlisle Parker delivered an outstanding performance and an engaging listening experience for all voices.

Triggers: Domestic violence, child abuse, abandonment, traumatic injury, death, grief, and emotional distress; however, they are balanced out with positives.

For fans of authors Catherine Ryan Hyde Just a Regular Boy (among others by this author), Heather Gudenkauf, Fredrik Backman, and Elizabeth Berg (my favs). Highly recommend and cannot wait to see what comes next from this multi-talented author! She has been added to my favorite author list.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and Highbridge Audio for a gifted ARC & ALC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: Aug 1, 2023

My Rating: 5 Stars +



"Can there ever be sympathy for a kidnapper―no matter how forceful her case? Don’t decide until you read Before You Found Me, Brooke Beyfuss’s complex, compelling new novel that dissects the tangled psychology of right and righteousness in a story of true love between two people estranged only by an accident of genetics."

― Jacquelyn Mitchard, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean

"Before You Found Me is a heartrending story of empathy and courage. Brooke Beyfuss does a brilliant job taking the reader on a harrowing journey of two strangers, both traumatized by abuse, who risk everything to help the other. Beautifully crafted, it was impossible not to be carried along as Rowan and Gabriel raced to stay ahead of the danger that was chasing them, opening their hearts, healing, and becoming a remarkable family along the way. An emotional page-turner I couldn’t put down."

― Suzanne Redfearn, #1 Amazon bestselling author of In an Instant

"I cried both happy and heartbroken tears through this story of love found in the strangest place and family bonds created out of tragedy.Before You Found Meby Brooke Beyfuss is utterly unique and moving, terrifying, funny, relatable, and life-affirming. An epic roller coaster, filled with unexpected twists and jaw-dropping cliff hangers, it will leave readers on an emotional high."

― Annie Ward, author of Beautiful Bad and The Lying Club

"With its strong characters, tender relationships, and smooth writing style, this page-turner . . . [has] plenty to discuss."

― Booklist

"Brooke Beyfuss has written a raw, real, poignant, and powerful story about healing and forgiveness, recovery and hope. I was immediately invested in Rowan’s story, and how she created a family for herself and the young boy Gabriel whom she meets. Brooke’s writing is deeply heartfelt without being sentimental; this is a beautiful, touching and hard-hitting story that is ultimately, wonderfully redemptive."

― Kate Hewitt, USA Today bestselling author of The Secrets We Keep

"Beyfuss has created a richly imagined story celebrating the healing power of love as young Rowan McNamara―herself an abuse survivor―fights to protect a young boy trapped in a similar circumstance. Before You Found Me is sure to appeal to book clubs and readers of standout family drama."

― Christine Nolfi, bestselling author of A Brighter Flame

"A powerhouse of a novel, a literary masterpiece shaped out of heartbreaking prose, a moving examination of trauma, sacrifice, and the true definition of family. Before You Found Megrips readers from page one and delivers on every front."

― Terah Shelton Harris, author of One Summer in Savannah

About the Author

Brooke Beyfuss is a freelance writer who lives in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey with her husband, daughter, and far, far too many pets. She graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in psychology and comparative literature, despite failing pre-calculus three times in a row. As a freelance writer, her audiences have run the gamut from holistic healers to adult entertainers. After We Were Stolen is her first novel.

Her second novel, BEFORE YOU FOUND ME, will be released August 01, 2023 by Sourcebooks Landmark and available for pre-order now. WEBSITE







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