Review: When We Were Sisters by Emilie Richards

Title: When We Were Sisters by Emilie Richards
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Length: 496 pages
Book Rating: A+ & A Recommended Read

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Love and loyalty made them sisters. Secrets could still destroy them.

As children in foster care, Cecilia and Robin vowed they would be the sisters each had never had. Now superstar singer-songwriter Cecilia lives life on the edge, but when Robin is nearly killed in an accident, Cecilia drops everything to be with her.

Robin set aside her career as a successful photojournalist to create the loving family she always yearned for. But gazing through a wide-angle lens at both past and future, she sees that her marriage is disintegrating. Her attorney husband is rarely home. She and the children need Kris’s love and attention, but does Kris need them?

When Cecilia asks Robin to be the still photographer for a documentary on foster care, Robin agrees, even though Kris will be forced to take charge for the months she’s away. She gambles that he’ll prove to them both that their children—and their marriage—are a priority in his life.

Cecilia herself needs more than time with her sister. A lifetime of lies has finally caught up with her. She wants a chance to tell the real story of their childhood and free herself from the nightmares that still haunt her.

As the documentary unfolds, memories will be tested and the meaning of family redefined, but the love two young girls forged into bonds of sisterhood will help them move forward as the women they were always meant to be.


When We Were Sisters by Emilie Richards is a heartrending, poignant and healing novel that highlights both the positive and negative aspects of the foster care system. This riveting story about two foster sisters, Robin Lenhart and Cecelia, is a sensitive and realistic depiction of a system that is oftentimes woefully overburdened and underfunded.  And most heartbreaking is the all too real fact that the children who end up in foster care through no fault of their own are the ones who pay the highest price when the system fails to adequately protect them.

Cecelia aka CeCe and Robin grew up together as foster children who are consider themselves sisters of the heart. As adults, their lives took them in very different directions but there is absolutely nothing that can destroy the bond they forged as kids.  While CeCe is a wildly famous and popular singer/songwriter, Robin put her career as a photojournalist on hold to stay at home with her two children, Nik and Pet.  Although still deeply in love with her lawyer husband Kris, Robin is slowly realizing that everyone she knows seems to be moving on with their lives while hers remains exactly the same.  After surviving a car accident that took the life of one of her best friends, Robin accepts CeCe’s offer to become the photographer for a documentary about foster care.  While it is a difficult yet cathartic journey for both women, will long held secrets and long forgotten memories destroy the lives they have worked so hard to build?

Robin has always found it difficult to give voice to her dissatisfaction but in the aftermath of the car accident, she is much more open and honest about her discontent.  She takes full responsibility for letting Kris take advantage of her but she is no longer willing to continue on their current path.  His long hours and heavy workload mean little time spent together as a family and Robin is tired of  allowing him to put his career first.  Kris is not at all happy about her decision to accompany CeCe but Robin refuses to change her mind and their once close marriage slowly begins to crumble under the weight of his anger and inability to see things from her perspective.

CeCe is a strong willed survivor who tackles life on her own terms.  She lets nothing and no one stand in her way as she sets about accomplishing her goals.  Although she has achieved success beyond her wildest dreams, CeCe is still haunted by the events of her childhood and she hopes that facing her past will finally put her demons to rest.  At long last ready to face her worst memories, CeCe jumps headlong into the foster care documentary but as she soon discovers, nothing can prepare them for the sheer terror awaiting them as they confront the horror they experienced at one of the hands of one of their foster families.

CeCe and Robin’s reasons for participating in the documentary are quite different yet this decision serves as a catalyst for change in both of their lives.  Robin’s marriage is in crisis but for the first time, she is finally putting her needs first despite her discomfort.  She is also taking an important step once she begins talking about her problems instead of keeping silent.  CeCe at long last reveals the darkest parts of herself and her past and although she continues to try to maintain an emotional distance from everyone but Robin, true healing does not begin until she takes a chance on love.

Despite its sometimes dark and gritty subject matter, When We Were Sisters is surprisingly uplifting and hopeful. While Robin and CeCe experienced traumatic life altering events, they also had positive experiences with foster parents and family members who truly loved them.  Emilie Richards presents a fair and balanced perspective of both the good and bad elements of the foster care system.  A beautifully rendered and impeccably researched story that has a realistic storyline that does not shy away from difficult or sensitive topics, this incredibly moving novel is an emotional and healing journey that will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.

1 Comment

Filed under Contemporary, Emilie Richards, Harlequin, Literary Fiction, Mira, Rated A+, Recommended Read, Review, When We Were Sisters

One Response to Review: When We Were Sisters by Emilie Richards

  1. Timitra

    Thanks for the review Kathy