Published by Atria Books on August 9th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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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?
This is the third book I’ve read by Renée Carlino, and I must say she knows how to weave an intriguing tale. In Swear on This Life, she has created a unique story that is engrossing as well as thought-provoking.
Everything about Emiline indicates that her life is stagnant. She’s a fledgling writer with an uninspiring career as an associate writing professor. While all her peers seem to be enjoying success as published authors, Emi is frustrated that she hasn’t managed to live up to her potential. She’s also stuck in a lackluster seven-year relationship with her boyfriend.
When Emiline picks up the latest bestseller, she immediately realizes the work of “fiction” details her very private, very painful past. Although written under a pseudonym, the author is clearly her childhood best friend/love of her life, Jason, with whom she’s had no contact for twelve years. With past and present colliding, Emi is forced to confront her demons and her long-lost love.
The story is told in an intriguing way with Emi’s past being revealed in pieces as she reads each chapter of the book. The details of her upbringing with Jase are riveting and emotional. The fierceness of their love is deep, and while their circumstances may be bleak, they are always painted with a brush of optimism.
“I love you, Emiline. I loved you before I even knew what it meant.”
I loved their connection and was moved by their struggles. Although both characters are inspiring, I just couldn’t get past Jason writing the book without Emiline’s permission and profiting from its success. The story is told entirely from Emi’s point of view, and I think I would have benefitted from some of Jase’s perspective. His character remained a bit of an enigma to me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing important details.
The quality of Renée Carlino’s writing is superb, and she has created a wonderfully complex plot filled with multi-faceted characters. I was, however, left with too many unsettled questions and emotions to feel completely satisfied. Nonetheless, Swear on This Life is a gripping story of sacrifice, forgiveness, love, and second chances. I definitely recommend it!
Recommended for fans of:
Second chance romance
Friends to lovers
Stories within stories
**ARC received in exchange for an honest review.**