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Now, those of you who know me, know how much I thoroughly love Dorothy Koomson’s books. And those of you who have read her, also know that she doesn’t really do shiny happy clappy books. The Woman He Loved Before is no different.

Here’s the blurb from Dorothy’s website:

she’s out of his life, but is she out of his heart?

Libby has a nice life with a great job, a gorgeous husband and a big home by the sea. But she’s becoming more unsure of Jack’s feelings for her – and if he is over the mysterious death of Eve, his first wife.

When fate intervenes in their relationship, Libby decides to find out all she can about the man she hastily married and the seemingly perfect Eve.

Eventually Libby stumbles across some startling truths about Eve. As she begins to unearth more and more devastating secrets, Libby becomes frightened that she too will end up like the first woman Jack loved. . .

What I love about Koomson’s books are how easy she makes it for me to turn to page after page, even when I’m dreading the direction in which her book may be going. I loved the twists and turns of TWHLB, and although there was a sense that something fairly heinous was going to be revealed at the end, I still wanted to keep reading.

This excerpt from the first page of the book really sets the stall out for the rest of The Woman He Loved Before:

28th February 2003
Are you her? Are you the one he’s with now? Is that
why you’ve come looking for me?
If you aren’t reading this letter fifty or sixty years from
now then it’s likely that I’m dead. Probably murdered.
Please don’t be upset by that, it probably won’t have
been too much of a surprise to me – not with the life I
have lived. But if you have these diaries because you
came looking for me, and you were clever enough to think
like me and find them, or even if you came across them
by accident, please, please can I ask you a favour?
Please will you burn them without reading them? Please?
I do not want anyone else to know these things. I wrote
them for me. I know I should probably burn them
myself, but it’d feel like suicide, killing a part of myself.
And, in everything I’ve done, everything I’ve gone through,
I would not kill myself so I can’t destroy these diaries.
Maybe you can.
I say ‘maybe’ because if you’re with him then you’ll
want to know about him, you’ll want to know if he
really is dangerous and if he was the one to murder me,
so, while I don’t want you to, I can’t blame you for reading on.

So at this point the reader (me) is left wondering if the dreaded secret that Eve (the ex-wife) is going to eventually reveal is that it was her husband who probably killed her.

Anyway, I’m hooked so I read on until the end.

What I Liked

I like that Koomson did this thing where she tells the story from both Eve and Libby’s pov, even though we know that Eve is dead. We also have Jack’s POV at some points in the book, however she seemed to keep his thoughts deliberately vague, which helped hide the mystery of Eve’s past till near to the end of the book. Eve’s POV is mostly told from a bunch of diaries she’d kept whilst alive, that Libby accidentally finds one day.

I liked Libby and I mostly liked Jack. I liked Libby because even after her accident, she seemed a lot more together and with-it than Eve had ever been throughout the book. She felt like a whole person, whereas Eve was broken in so many places, it was hard to know where to start and fix the person she had been.
I liked Jack, because I felt that as the book went on, he developed as a person, and his character went through an amazing shift. When we first meet him in the book, he’s a cocky, arrogant arsehole, who needed a good kicking, but by the time the book ends, he’s unrecognisable as the bloke who thought the world owed him a living.

Koomson, an excellent storyteller, expertly penned a tale that left this reader wanting to learn more and more about what Eve had been through, and what the big secret was. As it happens, I figured out the secret a while before it was revealed to me in the book, however it still left me shaken and angry both at her, and for her. Those contradictory feelings are an example of what Koomson can do with words on a page.

What Made Me Want To Stab Myself In The Eye

I wanted some light to compliment the dark, and at no point did Koomson provide this in TWHLB. It would have been great to crack a smile during the reading of this book, but at no time did I feel that I could muster anything other than dark despair for Eve and her plight. I usually loathe and love in equal measures, books that have an air of fatalism about them, but this book even made The Ice-Cream Girls read like a Pollyanna story. I can’t lie, at no point did I feel that everything was going to be ok in the end. Although, having read enough of Koomson’s books to know that she doesn’t always give me the ending I want, I was fairly prepared to be devastated.

I confess, I spent the majority of this book feeling angry at Eve for not taking control of her life. Of course I understand that it’s easier said than done, but I just felt that she let far too many people walk all over her, and she ultimately paid the price for that. Her penchant for taking people at face value also set my teeth on edge on more than one occasion.

Eve’s lack of control over her life made for a great roller-coaster ride, but I think it would anger a lot of readers, even whilst they understood that she wasn’t always to blame.

Overall Verdict

Like all the other Koomson books, I adored The Woman He Loved Before. Those of you who love the fluffy will hate this book like Victoria Beckham hates complex carbohydrates, but those of you who don’t mind stepping into the slightly murkier world of women’s fiction, will probably appreciate Koomson’s efforts. The in-betweeners will simply worry about whether Jack and Libby will get their happy-ever-after, or whether their relationship will end up going to the dogs. Of course I can’t tell you either way, however I guarantee that once you pick this book up, you wont want to put it down.

My colour rating for this book has to be BLACK = Brilliantly dark and fantastically written.

You can learn more about Dorothy Koomson here, read an excerpt here, buy the book from the UK here, and from the U.S here
Happy reading!


  • Anon 76
    July 16
    5:28 am

    It’s no secret you are a huge DK fan. I’ve never read her, but with this review you finally snagged me. I love dark, complicated, gritty writing.

    Now a question: Should I get my toes wet with this book, or is there another you think I should try first?


  • I’m torn. I have loved every Koomson book I’ve read, except for The Ice Cream girls. I thought it was excellently written, but it made me feel like crap. This one sounds like it might be a similar experience.


  • @Anon76 I’d start with Her Best Friend’s Girl, but I guess it depends on whether you like to cry or not:)

    Either way, if gritty is what you like, this book would be a good place to start.

    @Rosario Hey you! Long time no see! If The Ice-Cream Girls made you feel bad, this probably will too, but I think as long as you’re prepared for the worst, you should be fine. Ice-cream Girls was a bit of a departure from her other books, which is probably why it came as such a shock.


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