published: 4th February 2021
Nora O’Malley is a lot of things. A sister. An ex. A secret girlfriend. Kind of crooked, but reformed… somewhat.
Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up her mother’s protege. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.
For five years she’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:
#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’ve all been inseparable for months, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.
#2: The morning after, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised together. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly.
Because #3: right after they get in the bank, two guys start robbing it.
But they have no idea who they’re really holding hostage.
The robbers are trouble. Nora’s something else entirely.
Galley provided by publisher
CWs: child abuse, domestic abuse, violence, threats of rape, implied torture, implied child sexual abuse
Tess Sharpe is the author of probably two of my favourite thrillers: Far From You and Barbed Wire Heart. So, it comes as no surprise that I loved The Girls I’ve Been just as much. The book covers darker topics than Far From You did, closer to Barbed Wire Heart in terms of tone, and it does so with respect and grace. I might even go so far as to say it’s probably my favourite of Tess Sharpe’s books so far.
The plot switches between the present day — and the events of an attempted bank robbery — and various times in Nora’s past. We slowly get to uncover everything that has led up to this point in Nora’s life.
I think hands down what I loved most about this book was the found family at the centre of it. Nora doesn’t trust easily, but those she does trust she does so unconditionally, and is incredibly loyal to them. And Sharpe is so good at making that clear through Nora’s actions. Everything in this book screams Nora’s love of Wes and Ivy and Lee. It’s the kind of relationship that will make you want there to be, oh maybe 500 more pages. I can guarantee you that you won’t want to put this book down for many reasons, and this is a key one.
But there’s also the plot. Tess Sharpe is expert at slowly building up the tension, and that’s the second reason you won’t be able to put this book down. You’ll be so driven to find out exactly what is happening and why, and whether Wes, Nora and Ivy escape, that you’ll finish the book in a single sitting.
Which, really, makes it the best kind of book. Characters you will love and root for, a fast-moving plot that you won’t want to even blink while reading in case you miss something, and overall just a highly satisfying story.
All of which to say: in two weeks’ time, I really hope you’ll pick this one up.