Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
“Love is not good at chasing expectations. It thrives on acceptance.”
Jewel E. Ann’s Before Us is a poignant, heart-rending story about timing and soulmates. As I sit here trying to put this review together, the phrase “hits and misses” keeps running through my mind. Many of Jewel E. Ann’s (who I will refer to as JEA for the duration of this review) play with timing. Her characters oftentimes aren’t “meant to be” during a specific time and place, so she separates them and brings them back together when “the time is right.” But really she isn’t noting a “right” time; she’s simply challenging us to consider the options of life.
In Before Us, JEA challenges us to consider soulmates. Are we fated for one person for the rest of our lives? Or is it possible to love different people with the same gravity of love at different moments? In fact, she shows us this clearly in this book, and you don’t ever doubt the veracity of it. She is careful in her construction of this, though. Her choices about timing, I think, are why I adore her stories. She knows her readers and intentionally crafts a chronology that allows us to accept tropes such as cheating (that trope isn’t in this story) or her MMC marrying her FMC shortly after the death of his wife. She deftly highlights the difficulty of perception in an incredibly uncomfortable moment in the story. She doesn’t allow her characters to “get away” with their choices; JEA metes out consequences for them. So it creates this lovely balance between reality and fiction.
In Before Us, JEA challenges us with the idea of dreams. What is a dream? Can dreams change as life happens? Should one character usurp another character’s dreams? What about one character supposing they know the dreams of the other character better than they know it for themselves? I found Zach and Emersyn’s journey around this idea most frustrating but necessary. I wanted to scream at Zach to stop sacrificing and take for himself. The tension of his choices compelled me through the story, however.
I just want to stop right here. I have too many words to describe why readers should read Jewel E. Ann’s Before Us, and they seem insufficient. Emersyn’s story is the reality of our world. Young people are homeless and have to sacrifice for basic needs…and it’s all here in this book. Zach’s journey illustrates the grief process. How does one process the death of a loved one? Even more, how does one love someone who is terminally ill, having to make choices that feel devastating so they can find peace? It’s all here. All that is lovely and painful and life-affirming is in Before Us. Jewel E. Ann once again shows us why she is a beloved author in the world of romance through her beautiful storytelling in this book.
In love and romance,