ARC Review: Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino

9 Aug 2016

Book Title: Swear on This Life
Author: Renee Carlino
Series: Standalone
Release Date: August 9th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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?

...if there's a real heaven here on earth, then there has to be a hell too. Jax and I learned that the hard way.

I can't count the number of emails and texts I received about Swear on this Life. I was promised an epic love story that'll tug at the heartstrings one page at a time. Renee Carlino definitely delivered spades...with this book! It's definitely her most heartfelt book yet!

The bulk of the story is a replay of Jase and Emiline's childhood. Growing up in rural Ohio- poor, the children of drug and alcohol addicted parents- every day was a struggle. For food. For nurturing. But never for love because they had each other. The long dirt road leading to their houses, Jase (aka Jax) and Emiline grew a bond of friendship and love that may just stand the test of time...maybe.

That's all I'm going to share as far as plot. Between that and the book blurb, I'd try to venture into this book rather blind. Let yourself take the trip down the long dirt road with these kids who grow into adults between the covers of this book. Their journey isn't without struggles, pain, and suffering but something they always had was each other...

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I couldn't put this book down. I was attached wholeheartedly via the author's gradual trickle-fed plot of their years growing up. We learn this via a novel Jase writes years later about their childhood. Why did he write their story? So Emiline could relive this pain? Maybe. Maybe not.

Swear on this Life, though virtually without with steam, is more heavy on heart. A good 70% of the book is rather Young Adult, I didn't miss the steam factor. In fact, it helped focus on their innocence and maturity- being forced to grow up in a world where not all children get three square meals a day or come home to a loving parent. They were all each other truly had and for that reason, the love story is that much more palpable.

This book is unlike anything else I've read. I loved the fresh plot, learning their love story via the novel our hero wrote for his long lost neighbor, friend and love...

Well done!

Advanced review copy received by Atria Books via Netgalley in 
exchange for an honest review.

Renee’s first friends were the imaginary kind and even though her characters haven’t gone away, thankfully the delusions have. She admits she’s a wildly hopeless romantic and she blames 80’s movies staring Molly Ringwald for that. 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 the next book, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.

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