by Lily Baines
Publication: September 28, 2021
Series: Riviera View #1
**I received an e-copy of the book through the author. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
Past and present collide as Luke and Libby accidentally meet again after fifteen years. Separately, they recall the stolen moments that eventually changed the trajectory of their friendship, transforming them from best friends into part of one another’s past. The chance meeting forces Libby to confront feelings she thought were resolved long ago, while Luke finally realizes what he left behind when he left Riviera View.
I can’t entirely explain how much I enjoyed this book, how it tugged at my emotions within the first few pages of Libby and Luke meeting again. (For the record, some parts were even more poignant and heartbreaking the second time around. Yup, I reread it already.) The book made me uncomfortable in a way only second chance romances can. My heart was at war with itself, fighting between my predisposition towards a happy ending but also wanting to prolong Luke’s suffering. It’s a slow burn romance that spoke to me on many levels as the pangs of unrequited love fulfilled their threats, inducing heartache and tears.
I immediately connected with Liberty because of her life experiences. She’s a strong individual who conquered multiple barriers to become the woman she is now. As a social worker, she’s a champion for other people. I admired her and found her completely relatable. She appears at peace with her life, yet, tones of unfulfillment and longing permeate her chapters. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was happy.
Luke, on the other hand, didn’t make my heart flutter as much as he infuriated me; thus derailing some of my excitement over their reunion. It’s not until he sees Libby that he begins to recognize why he’s returned home. In all the time he’s been gone, he’s never thought about her, and he failed to let her know he was back. Luke’s change of heart was too sudden, and I was unconvinced of his feelings (or maybe I refused to be convinced). And yes, I am bitter about it for Libby. This was my main source of discontent with the story, but it wasn’t enough to override how much I enjoyed the book.
Libby and Luke are often in their minds assessing their feelings and the situations they find themselves in rather than talking to each other. Their lack of communication eventually led to a misunderstanding, but it did not frustrate me because it made sense here. They’re no longer close friends, and their history makes it difficult to share their feelings. I was also more forgiving because I was completely immersed in the feelings the story ignited–I was too busy feeling. Liberty’s pain felt like it was my own, and I reveled in Luke’s belated heartache.
There’s also ample opportunity for the story to go astray, especially due to Libby’s and Luke’s line of work, but Baines never falls into this trap. There is no unnecessary angst. Everything that happens has a purpose, moving the story along and setting up encounters between Luke and Libby to help reestablish their connection. I never felt like my feelings were manipulated with unnecessary twists. The focus stays on our central couple and their individual attempts to reconcile their feelings toward each other. I loved how the tension just kept building, finally coming to a head in the third act. It was a third act I liked.
Although this is Luke and Libby’s romance, there are several secondary characters with fleshed-out backstories that contributed to a well-rounded story. Libby’s Aunt Sarah is one character I particularly liked. She doesn’t apologize for being herself and could care less about what people think of her. Some of my favorite moments are those between Libby and Aunt Sarah. Due to their respective situations with love, they understand each other in ways others might not. Their talk of the French Riveria was what ultimately broke me.
If you’re expecting a fast-paced novel with a couple that races towards the sunset, this isn’t the book. The pace is slow, contemplative even, and filled with inner monologues and unreciprocated feelings that will splay your heart like it did mine. If you’re looking for an emotional friends-to-lovers second chance romance, You Didn’t Love Me Then is the perfect choice.
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