Review – Swear on This Life, by Renee Carlino


Swear on This Life, by Renee Carlino


Length: 320 Pages
Released August 9, 2016
Genre: Romance / Contemporary
Blurb via GoodReads:

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 book pulled me in from page one. I read it in a day, cried three or four times, and felt a little empty inside when I ran out of pages to read. I faltered a bit when deciding whether to rate this four or five stars; I’m not a big romance reader, so maybe the four-star rating is unfair. What matters is that this is a very good book.

Carlino has captured that intensity of first loves: that teenage frenzy that scoops you up and tells you nothing could ever feel as right as this. For Emiline and Jase, this is intensified several times over by their years of childhood friendship and their collective trauma brought on by abusive and neglectful parents; they are one another’s only solace in life. Then their worlds get turned upside-down, and through events I won’t spoil here, they lose touch for 12 years.


When Emiline finds Jase’s book and realizes that he’s put her childhood on display for the world to see, her first response is a sense of betrayal. How could he? As she reads further, she is forced to confront all of the events Jase has written about which she had tucked away in the dark recesses of her mind: losing her first love, her father’s alcoholism and abuse, her absentee mother, and more.

Swear on This Life alternates between Emiline’s story, primarily her reactions to Jase’s book, and excerpts from the book itself. Carlino explores the artistic liberties which Jase has taken with Emiline’s childhood, allowing Emiline to set the record straight for the reader. This book is part coming of age, part romance, and completely lovely.