From USA TODAY bestselling author Renée Carlino (Before We Were Strangers), a warm and witty novel about a struggling writer who must come to grips with her past, present, and future after she discovers that she’s the inspiration for a pseudonymously published bestselling novel.
When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J. Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.
Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.
That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.
The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?
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Swear On This Life
by Renee Carlino
August 9, 2016
Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino was one of my favorite contemporary romance reads for 2015-in the top two, I think. So I was excited to see this new book by her on Net Galley, and a no brainer that I would request it. I ended up being really glad I did. I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Emiline is an adjunct writing professor, one that is having a rough time of being able to write. She has a long term boyfriend of seven years, Trevor, and a best friend and roommate, Cara. Lately, her relationship with Trevor has been bland, after seven years there is no commitment, and they practically are just phoning it in. Cara hears about a bestselling book that is recommended to her, and reads it in one sitting. Raving about how good it is, she makes Emiline read it. Before the first page is done, Emi is in tears, by a few more pages, she breaks out the tequila. She is reading her childhood as told by her old best friend/first love of her life, Jase. It’s the story that she has been contemplating writing herself someday, and it makes her livid that he wrote it instead. Not only did he write it from her point of view, but he told all her secrets of a truly horrible childhood. Now famous, he is coming to town in just a couple of days for a book signing. Cara wants to go, Emiline not so much. She has never told her story to anyone, not even Cara or Trevor.
This is a book within a book type of read, and it really worked. We get just as much of what Jase has written,, as what is going on in the “now” part of the story. Both parts were fascinating to me. I am not going to tell their whole back story, but will say that they shared what would be a rough life for anyone, growing up in extreme poverty, with parents that have major parenting issues. This book also became a kind of odyssey book for Emi. She refuses to finish the book, just reads it here and there, and in the mean time, she decides to go back to where their childhood began. She faces up to all the horrible that was her life. Did she meet Jase again during this time? Of course, or this wouldn’t be a romance. For those that hate books with what could be considered cheating, don’t worry.
I absolutely adored this book! The whole thing from cover to cover. The characters about leapt off the page, as they became so real for me. The author has told a compelling story of what it’s like to live in horrible conditions, but it’s told in such a way that makes it a bit easier to take than a normal fictional story about poverty. And that’s because, through it all, Emi and Jase have each other. From their earliest childhood through most of their teen years, Jase does his best to take care of Emi, when no one else will. It was heartwarming, and at the same time heartbreaking, what these two have to go through. When the two ultimately fall in love in their teen years, it was a given. These two were everything to each other, best friends, playmates, lovers, and even each other’s parent.
I highly recommend this book to all adult romance readers. All. It is just that good of a book.
The review copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
About Renee Carlino
Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of contemporary women’s novels and new adult fiction. Her books have been featured in national publications, including USA TODAY, Huffington Post, Latina magazine, and Publisher’s Weekly. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she’s not at the beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate. Learn more at www.reneecarlino.com