Title: Swear on This Life
Series: Standalone
Author: Renee Carlino
Release Date: August 9, 2016! 

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 one of those reviews where you just don't know where to start. There's so much right with this book. Honestly, I'm hungover. It's possibly the worst book hangover I've ever suffered from. I woke up this morning, after dreaming of these characters, achy and tired, but also content and I'll admit, a touch sad. Sad, because I had this desperate need to read this book again for the first time. Very few novels have done that to me. And I have to say that I had a visceral, full body reaction to Swear on This Life. 

This will probably sound insane, but I literally felt fevered by this novel within the first 30 pages. I couldn't get enough. I couldn't get the words in fast enough. And I inhaled them as if I needed them to survive. It was a physical, emotional, soulful reaction that I felt EVERYWHERE. I don't know how else to say it. It sounds dramatic. But this book affected me so deeply, so quickly, it because an instant addiction.

I needed to know these characters. Inside, outside, all around, I needed their story. I needed to LIVE it. And I could not, would not, do anything until I had read that last page. It became everything. My absolute everything. And I was consumed. Utterly, breathlessly, wholly devoured and completely smothered, by the intensity of the story.

It wasn't just PHENOMENAL.
It was more.
So much more than any one word could ever describe. Just powerful.

"It was about you... what I wrote. It was all about you." 

Renee Carlino is a new to me author in the sense that I've only read a little bit of her debut novel, but nothing else. When I went into Swear on This Life, I was intrigued by the cover and the buzz around the book. There was a lot of buzz. But at that point, I had only skimmed the blurb and I had no preconceived notions, no expectations. Like I said before, it took less than 30 pages for this book to take root inside me. The writing is extraordinary. The plot unique in a way that not only captures your attention, but holds it and demands it. It's the single most intoxicating reading experience I've ever had.

Renee essentially tells a story within another story. We meet Emiline, our heroine, who's an adjunct writing instructor struggling to write herself. She's in a long term relationship with her boyfriend Trevor, an ex football player. And things are overall okay for Emiline. She thinks she's happy but is frustrated by her inability to carve her own path, to write something she can get published. She feels as though everyone is miles ahead of her, getting things done, and she can't even figure out how to get a short story right.

Cara (Emi's roommate) ends up bringing home a book called All The Roads Between. It's a bestseller, garnering awards and accolades all over the darn place. Cara is freaking out over it. She insists that Emiline read the book. At first Emi is reluctant, but then she decides she needs a break, takes the story and begins to read. This was the first time I cried. The first of many times that I felt my heart bleed as it broke in two.

Emiline is destroyed as she realizes that the story she's reading is her own story. Her own STORY of a past she so desperately wants to forget with a boy she loved so very dearly. Jase was her first love, her first everything, her entire world. He was the one who got her through her most horrific days. And she hasn't heard from him in many, many years. Yet, here he is, The J. Colby, writing her story without her permission.

This book flashes between past and present. It's a riveting experience and utterly compelling. As Emiline reads Emerson and Jackson's story (the protagonist's in Jase's novel) her life is exposed, her past shown in the most vivid, heart breaking and raw way.

There is so much here, so many layers, upon layers to this story. It captures young love as it grows from a friendship into something so much deeper. It shows how that love can survive with an astonishing intensity and innocence even as its surrounded by the most dysfunctional of environments. It shows the beauty, the essence, the sincerity of a pure love. An untainted love. Utterly breathtaking. Reading about Jase and Emiline (Emerson and Jackson) as they traversed growing up, as they navigated the pitfalls of a bad hand that life gave them was devastating yet somehow beautiful too.

I'm in awe. Really. Love is such a crazy emotion. It's simple yet it's not, it's complex. Jase and Emiline's love was pure and inspiring and I'm barely hanging on as I think of them today, as I think of all that was written in this novel.

Swear on This Life is a second chance romance with a unique premise that stole the show. Exquisite and extraordinary, it's one of the most, if not THE most, powerful, heartfelt and gripping romances I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

I can't get over it.
I can't get past how magnificent it was.

Every word, every line, every sentence and paragraph, owned me with a fierceness I can't even explain. It literally stole a peace of my heart that I don't ever want to get back. Swear on This Life can have it, can have my ENTIRE heart it was so perfect. Honestly my FAVORITE read of 2016 hands down. MY ABSOLUTE TOP FAVORITE read of the year. And in my top FAV reads of ALL time. PHENOMENAL! 

Angie's Rating:

Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of romantic women's novels and new adult fiction. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two sons. 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.


  1. Can't wait to read this, love her books!!

  2. Great review!! I need to put this on my to read list asap!