Monday, April 24, 2023

Book Review: When We Were Friends


By Sara Steven

They were best friends. Sisters of the heart. Partners in crime. Until they got caught…

Five years ago, Frannie Willets committed grand larceny to help her best friend, Lexi Maddox, escape an awful situation. Now paroled and prospectless, Frannie needs to disappear from her dead-end life. To do so, she’ll need her share of the stolen money that Lexi has been hiding all these years. But Lexi has other plans.

By all appearances, Lexi is thriving, but in truth, nothing in her life is going according to plan. She can’t carry a pregnancy to term, her sweet stepdaughter hates her, and even the family’s new rescue dog knows she’s a failure. Lexi’s only path to happiness is making amends with the friend she dearly misses. But the only thing Frannie wants from Lexi is cash.

Out of desperation, Lexi offers Frannie all the money, with one catch: Frannie must stick around for one month. Stranded in their suffocating small town, Frannie gets tangled up in Lexi’s issues, her mother’s questionable dating life, a lonely kid’s desperate attempts to find friends, and a high-school crush’s fantasies about what could have been. Suddenly, leaving doesn’t look as easy as it once did. But when an old enemy surfaces, Frannie realizes her staying endangers everyone she loves. And even though she might have found her heart’s true home, there’s no guarantee she can keep it. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

One of the aspects I appreciated most about When We Were Friends had been how well the characters are fleshed out. Frannie’s behaviorisms and mannerisms very much reflect that of someone who had gone to prison for a while, trying to acclimate back into a world where she has a say in her own life. Lexi very much represents a woman who is hiding from her secrets, pasting on a happy smile while she creates an orderly environment in order to control the narrative. But as with most things, Frannie and Lexi discover that neither of them can escape the past, and both for very different reasons.

The story takes place in the here and now, with flashbacks to the past that helps the reader to better understand what happened, and why Frannie did what she did for her best friend. Initially, I questioned what that could even be. No one chooses to take the fall, particularly when it means going to prison. But what transpires more than makes up for that, and we begin to really see the relationship dynamic between the two friends and the significance of that. 

I always kind of knew Frannie’s history with crime would come back to haunt her. Despite her paying her dues, there is unfinished business that needs to be settled, and when her own family gets roped into the mess, she has no other choice but to do the most she can to protect those she loves. It’s funny because Frannie puts a lot of walls up, in order to protect her heart, yet despite herself, she is fiercely loyal and would do anything (obviously) to protect the people important to her. What she needs to learn is that she is deserving of that same sentiment. She carries a lot of baggage from her former life behind bars and doesn’t think she’s worth the fight. 

I loved the progression of the story for Frannie, along with the unexpected friendships and relationships she forms with others. While the ending could have been a bit more pumped up, given the circumstances, I liked the conclusion, given the fact that the main theme behind Frannie’s story is friendship and family, and love. In her hour of need, she discovers just how far people are willing to go to protect her, enabling her to change her mind and see things in a different way. There are eye-opening changes for Lexi, too. It was a well-earned five-star experience!

Thanks to Red Adept Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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