[662]: Swear on this Life by Renèe Carlino

23492533 Atria Books
August 9th, 2016
E-ARC via Net Galley
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


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?


Renèe Carlino is a recent discovery for me. Last year, Before We Were Strangers was on my list of 2015 Favorites. I’ve decided then that I need to read every book this woman has ever written and will ever write. Much like Coleen Hoover’s books, her stories are novelties. They appeal to those who still hasn’t seen what it is that makes NA novels so popular.

Much like her 2015 release, Swear On This Life is also about second chances and how difficult it is to move from a first love. Years may pass, but the feeling never really goes away. It’s buried underneath all the relationships that have worked and failed over the years. All it takes is one meeting or sometimes even a memory for it to come back from the dead with a vengeance.

In Jace and Emiline’s case, it was a book that brought all the feelings back. And it only took reading the first page for Emiline to realize that her childhood friend and first love authored the book. Emiline didn’t have a very good life as a child and as a teenager. Her mother abandoned her in the care of her abusive, drunk father. Although Jace didn’t start off as a friend, he eventually proclaimed himself as Emiline’s lone protector. Their history was sweet and difficult at times but that’s what’s great about this story. It was romance years in the making. Their connection wasn’t something that’s easily severed. In the end, I understood why Jace wrote the book and it’s not because he saw the opportunity to make money, but it was a way for him to help Emiline face her demons.

I didn’t enjoy the way Emiline strung Trevor (her boyfriend) along, though. I thought she wasn’t fair to him and that she treated him badly. Granted that there was very little love between them but it still didn’t give her the pass to treat him unkindly. Emiline was the type of character that’s difficult to like at times. She was blasè and aloof; cold and unpredictable. She had a hard time dealing with the old Jace and the present Jace. She  was also very quick to give up on her hopes and dreams.

In the end, this book was every bit as addictive as Before We Were Strangers. This is a bit more emotionally heavy that will make readers consider the brevity of Emiline’s reactions and Jace’s intentions. One of the marks of an author’s talent is their ability to successfully write a story within the story. They have to be able to provide readers two distinctive tones to differentiate the actual book versus the one embedded inside. Ms. Carlino did exactly that and I could tell that she didn’t take the easy way out. She made sure her readers would know the difference.

  • Yes! I love that you described their love as just being buried! It was just like that! I’m glad you liked this one… Trevor was a bit of a pain, and I could see that she truly wasn’t into him. I was happy to see it all wrap up though…

  • Jazmen

    A friend of mine read this and pretty much hated it. So interesting to say a differing opinion. I’m a little on the fence about it. Leaning more towards not reading this, but thanks for this review–gives me something to think about.

  • I haven’t even read Before We Were Strangers even though it is so high up on my TBR. I haven’t heard a negative thing about that book yet! I just can’t believe another book by this author is out yet. It sounds perfectly addicting as well 😀

  • Adriana C

    It sounds my type of book, so I just add it to my wishlist. thanks for your review Joy.

  • I’m not a fan about books about books/authors…like November 9. Except for Georgina Kincaid, the love interest is an author but that isn’t a factor in the story so maybe that’s why it doesn’t bother me. I read 2 books by this author and I HATED the MC’s. I don’t think her books are for me but I know a lot of readers love her books.

  • Lovely review sweetie 😀 So glad you liked this one a lot. <3 Yay 🙂 It do seem cute. But gaaaah. That thing about her stringing along her boyfriend. SO NOT OKAY. I would totally hate that too : Not for me, lol. Thank you for sharing Joy 🙂

  • I just put Before We Were Strangers on my TTT list for this week – looks like I’ll have another Carlino book to add to my TBR!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  • You have SOLD me on this one. I’m off to see when it will be available at my local library!

  • I haven’t had much luck with stories within stories before, like Afterworlds and Fangirl, but I think I’ve been reading the wrong ones. I don’t think Emiline and I would get along too well though. Wonderful review Joy, so glad you enjoyed it <3

  • Never read her, but, maybe I should

  • I haven’t seen this novel or this author around but Swear on this Life seems right up my alley! I love second chance romances, especially in the NA or adult category. Will definitely check it out if I ever see it in stores.

  • Glad you enjoyed it! I was not a fan of Before We Were Strangers (but I’m a black sheep with popular books sometimes), but I am curious about this one.

  • I have to admit the story within the story (successfully done) is what really draws me to this one. I also love second chance romances so that appeals as well!

  • Melliane

    I really want to try this author! It’s great to see it was an addictive one again!

  • I’ve seen this one popping up a lot and never gave it another glance until now. Great review!

  • shootingstarsmag

    I recently finished this one and really liked it too! It was my first by the author, but I thought it was really well done.

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.blogspot.com

  • I’m glad to see you enjoyed this one. I can’t seem to get into this authors books, which is a bummer.

  • Rowena

    Great review, this book is going on my to be bought list. I’ve been seeing it everywhere and have been curious about it. Your review has tipped the scale. I’m in!

  • kindlemom1

    I love that the author didn’t take the easy way out, even if that meant it wasn’t always easy for the reader (or her characters) as well. Wonderful review!

  • Great to hear it was an addicting read and she pulled off the story within a story

  • Jenny @ Supernatural Snark

    Did you end up liking Emiline in the end Joy? Or was she difficult for you all the way through? The story itself sounds outstanding, I love the premise, but I’m not sure how I’ll feel about Emiline. If she shows some growth throughout and ends on a high note, I’ll be good to go I think:)

  • I’m glad to hear this was another hit for you from the author, Joy. I wasn’t a big fan of Before We Were Strangers (the writing didn’t work for me) and even though this sounded great from the summary, I don’t know if I want to pick it up yet. Although, to be honest, I think I’d struggle quite a bit with Emiline from your description of her. I especially don’t appreciate the way she treats her boyfriend.

  • To be honest, it’s been so long since I read this(months)and wrote my review that I don’t remember that much about Emiline’s personality quirks. I know I remember not liking her boyfriend and I actually wanted her to break up with him. Of course it’s probably because of how much I wanted to see what happens for Emiline, if anything, after he’s out of the picture. I loved the whole thing as I did, Before We Were Strangers. Glad you liked it too!