Book Review, Contemporary, Gallery Books, NetGalley, Romance, Scarred heroine

Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton


Alice and Alfie are strangers. But they sleep next to each other every night.

Alfie Mack has been in hospital for months recovering from an accident. A new face on the ward is about as exciting as life gets for him right now, so when someone moves into the bed next to him he’s eager to make friends. But it quickly becomes clear that seeing his neighbour’s face won’t happen any time soon.

Alice Gunnersley has been badly burned and can’t even look at herself yet, let alone allow anyone else to see her. She keeps the curtain around her bed firmly closed, but it doesn’t stop Alfie trying to get to know her. And gradually, as he slowly brings Alice out of her shell, might there even be potential for more?


Who is the girl hidden behind the curtain?

An amputee and a burn victim meet in a hospital through a hospital curtain. No eyes on each other just getting to know each other through snarky comments, conversation, and confessions. Be prepared for a love story beyond all others. It’s one of my favs of 2021.

Alice has been holding her guilt for twenty years, and as result, pushed others away to become a lonely workaholic. She hasn’t even been in love. Then the accident that burned 40% of her body including her face places her in a rehabilitation ward with people she didn’t want to see her. She’s a coward. But the patient next to her, Alfie, sees her. Not her face, but he sees her anguish and loneliness. He sees her courage and strength. If only she could see that, too.

Alfie is a bit of a superhero in my eyes. The man can cheer up the most miserable and grumpy character. His humor and way with words give me warm fuzzies. Take Alice for instance. She was not speaking at first until Alfie annoyed her to the point of pretty much telling him to bugger off. And what a wonderful teacher he would be. His positive attitude and crusade to make people happy are a plus in my book. But Alfie has nightmares that take him back to his accident and he opens up for the first time with Alice. You see, Alice sees through Alfie’s bullshit mask of happiness and cheer. She sees the vulnerable man beneath who just needs to let go of his guilt and live again.

Hurricane Sarah, Alice’s relentless best friend is a force to be reckoned with and I absolutely adore her. After giving Alfie her immediate approval, she assigns him the task of keeping Alice “well-fed, entertained, and completely and utterly adored”. And being a man who takes his jobs seriously, he is up for the task.

The patients in the ward who became family and the kind and awesome Nurse Angles (Mother A) are such an important addition to this story with their humor and heartfelt advice.

I love, love, love this story. The characters are fantastic and the uniqueness of the plot not only has dark humor and friendship, but it reflects the seriousness of moving on with a life-changing injury. I laughed, I cried, and I rooted for these two wonderful people to realize their worth and their love for each other.

I had a lot of favorite quotes in this book, but by far this one was the best for me:

Our scars are simply the marks of our stories. They show we’ve lived a great life, and most of all that we have survived it. Don’t hide your story away in the shadows.

I recommend this beautifully written love story for those hopeless romantics who can’t do without broken scarred heroines and kind and honorable heroes. For me, I find these books insightful and emotionally draining, but they all work out in the end. And the ending? It may frustrate others, but I believe it’s fitting since Alice and Alfie have a whole new story in the making.

Thank you to Ms. Houghton and Gallery Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.


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Emily HoughtonEmily Houghton is an ex digital specialist and full-time creative writer. She graduated from the University of Bristol in 2012 with a degree in Biological Sciences and set off to London to take the corporate world by storm. After 8 years working in Digital Product Emily decided to take a 5-month sabbatical to travel around India, Sri Lanka, and Bali. It was during this time that her life changed completely and her first book BEFORE I SAW YOU was born.

Within the space of a few months, the book was completed and it sold in over 10 countries including the US, Germany, Spain, and Brazil. Emily soon realised that she wasn’t going to be able to slot back into the life she left and she made the decision to follow her dreams and leave the corporate world behind to write and create full time.

Along side writing, Emily is passionate about mental health and wellbeing. She is a trained yoga (200hr Vinyasa Flow & Hatha) and spin teacher and loves nothing more than supporting and motivating others to reach their goals. She is also totally and utterly obsessed with dogs!

Follow Emily on her website, Twitter, and Instagram.