Swear on This Life

Swear on This Life

4.4 15
by Renee Carlino

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Goodreads Best Romance of August

Redbook.com’s “20 Books by Women You Must ReadThis Fall”

Popsugar’s “21 Fiction Reads to Add to Your Fall Reading List”

Bustle’s “11 New Romance Books Perfect for Summer Beach Reading”

Brit+Co’s “16 Must-Read Adult


Goodreads Best Romance of August

Redbook.com’s “20 Books by Women You Must ReadThis Fall”

Popsugar’s “21 Fiction Reads to Add to Your Fall Reading List”

Bustle’s “11 New Romance Books Perfect for Summer Beach Reading”

Brit+Co’s “16 Must-Read Adult Books Out in August”

Sunset magazine’s “Bookmark this: Your ultimate summer reading list”

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?

Editorial Reviews

Colleen Hoover
Praise for Swear on This Life:

Swear on This Life is Renée Carlino at her finest. Raw, real and gripping; I read it in one sitting.”
“[Readers] will find themselves simply smitten by both the novel in front of them and the story within the story. Romance readers and women’s fiction fans should snap up this charming love story.”
Bustle.com (11 New Romance Books Perfect for Summer Beach Reading)
“Mysterious and compelling, Swear on this Life is the epic love story your summer needs.”
Aestas Book Blog
“Easily one of the very best reading experiences I’ve had all year. I absolutely loved every word and highly recommend it to everyone!”
Harlequin Junkie (Top Pick)
“I know we’re only a little more than halfway through 2016 but I’m proclaiming Swear on This Life to be a Top Pick of the Year. It has to be, thanks to the incredible storytelling ability of Renee Carlino.”
Angie & Jessica's Dreamy Reads (#1 Favorite Read of 2016)
“The single most intoxicating reading experience I've ever had.”
Redbook Magazine
"This bestselling author knows how to deliver a literary punch, and Swear on this Life is her strongest yet.”

"This bestselling author knows how to deliver a literary punch, and Swear on this Life is her strongest yet.”
“Mysterious and compelling, Swear on this Life is the epic love story your summer needs.”
Shelf Awareness
“Mesmerizing. A story of love and redemption, Renee Carlino's novel is a perfect reason for staying up too late to read.”
Heroes and Heartbreakers
“Holy schnikes, this book...I love the juxtaposition of the story within a story, and I’m addicted to Emi and Jase’s ill-fated love.”
Natasha is a Book Junkie
“Renée Carlino is an author whose stories always make the heart grow tenfold, but with this book she brought mine to the point of bursting…[I] cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone seeking an exquisitely-written second-chance romance that will leave you lost in thought for days to come.”
5 stars Vilma’s Book Blog
“A beautifully-written second-chance romance that stays with you long after you’re done.”
4.5 coffee cups Book Baristas
“Carlino's writing will transport you.”
Shh Mom’s Reading
“Renee Carlino continues to astound me with her unforgettable and unique stories that touch readers’ hearts, and I am a FOREVER fan.”
The Reading Date
“Compelling and unique…If you enjoy second chance romances, emotional reads, and books by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Colleen Hoover (and Renee Carlino!) don’t miss Swear on This Life.”
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Praise for Before We Were Strangers

Before We Were Strangers is as steamy as it is sweet. With two characters who are meant to be but just can't get the timing right, Renée Carlino has mastered the missed connection. I found myself rooting for Matt and Grace at every turn and aching to crawl into the book to go back to the ’90s to join them. Evocative, tender, and satisfying, Carlino has outdone herself."

Tracey Garvis-Graves
“Powerful and poignant, Before We Were Strangers captures the magic and heartache of first love. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.”
Jay Crownover
“I loved every single thing about this book! Nostalgia, first love, the echo of heartbreak, the rocky road to where you were always meant to be—this book has everything and then some. You can’t help but be transported.”
Kim Holden
“Sometimes we need a reminder that love is worth fighting for. Before We Were Strangers is a beautiful, real, heartfelt reminder.”
Kim Jones
“I felt like I found a piece of my soul in this book. I've highlighted so many lines to use as a reference for daily inspiration. I was that moved.”
Vilma's Book Blog
"Compelling and evocative. Matt and Grace’s story will pull at your heartstrings while reminding you that true love can conquer the most difficult challenges. This is Renée Carlino’s best, most poignant work to date."
Maryse's Book Blog
“Exquisitely written… I highly recommend this if you’re in the mood for a really great, heartfelt journey, loaded [with] angst and healing, all in the name of true love.”
Book Baristas
“One of the most romantic, heartfelt, and consuming books I've ever read. To say that I'm in love with it would feel like the biggest understatement, ever… I'm blessed, so insanely lucky, to have found a story that I finished reading with tears in my eyes and a more beautiful outlook on life, love, and believing in second chances.”
Shh Moms Reading
“This is Renée Carlino’s BEST. WORK. YET. This book broke my heart and built it up all over again and is complete and utter perfection. Just read it…. My words won’t do it justice. This is most definitely one of my favorites of 2015 and a book that I will never ever forget <3.”
Holly's Red Hot Reviews
Before We Were Strangers is an extraordinarily superb second chance, friends-to-lovers combination that you won’t be able to put down, or forget. It’s also one that needs to be owned in multiple formats.”
Lost in Literature
“[T]his is an author to watch… This book was the perfect combination of a swoony romance filled with laughs, touching heartfelt moments, and even a few tears. Such an emotional read that gave me the warm and fuzzy feelings I was hoping for. A perfect summer romance that you will fall into headfirst and come out grinning from ear to ear, and possibly even wiping away a few tears.”
Three Girls & A Book Obsession
“This book is sweet, emotional, sad, heartbreaking, at times overwhelming, but most importantly it is an uplifting love story! ...I not only highly recommend this book, but can’t wait to dive into other books by Renée.”
Nestled in a Book
“A dazzling and heartbreaking story of missed connections and the possibility of a second chance at love. Epic, emotional, and stunningly beautiful… It’s easily my favorite book this year and one of my all-time favorites.”
Eclectic Bookworms
“Mesmerizing. Intoxicating. Heartbreaking. Before We Were Strangers was everything I love about reading. I was completely enthralled by Grace and Matt’s story that I was unaware of everything that was going on around me… This story will stay with me forever… This is one I could reread every year.”
Schmexy Girl Book Blog
“It’s truly unputdownable once you start it. Renée Carlino gave us a story we won’t forget. We loved everything about it. Incredible, heart pounding, beautiful—pure perfection.”
A Bookish Escape
Before We Were Strangers was a stunningly beautiful story. I would go so far as to say that it is in my top favorite second chance at romance stories… 5 Serendipitous, Sweet Passionate Love, Soulmates Forever Filled Stars!"
Nose Stuck in a Book
“Heartbreakingly beautiful and wistfully poetic, Before We Were Strangers is the type of book that will immediately capture your attention and won’t relinquish its hold until the very end… [R]efreshingly real, hopelessly romantic, and uplifting in a way that had me smiling nonstop throughout the final chapters. It's rare for a book to have such a deep emotional effect on me that 6 stars is the only possible rating to give Before We Were Strangers.”
Blushing Babes are Up All Night
“This lady knows how to write pure romance and infinite love. She writes about seemingly real people with realistic plots. No fluff, no bull! Before We Were Strangers was sheer perfection! It is a timeless and epic love story… This book has it all. DO NOT MISS THIS ONE! Fabulous job Renée. You are one of the great ones! Keep going…”
The Book Enthusiast
Before We Were Strangers is no doubt the best contemporary romance book I’ve read this year… What I loved? EVERYTHING… [E]very component of this book is perfect.”
The Romance Reviews
“This book blew me away… I was so enthralled with this touching heartwrenching story, and the incredibly well developed characters... This was my first read by Renée Carlino. Now I can't wait to go back and explore some of her backlist titles!”
Read This Hear That
“With Renée Carlino’s highly anticipated fifth release, I’d say she has finally found her writer’s groove: she knows what’s up and how to bring it… What sets Carlino and Before We Were Strangers apart from all the other romance novels, in this incredibly fast-moving market, is her ability to set the tone and bring the stage to life… No doubt, Before We Were Strangers will satisfy any voracious romance reader. This novel is writing at its best, and then some.”
My Little Library Book Blog
“I've read and really enjoyed all of Renée Carlino's previous books. Before We Were Strangers is her best work yet! I loved everything about this book—the unique storyline, the writing style, the characters, the emotion. It is absolutely brilliant…one of my favorite books of the year!”
A Book Whore's Obsession
“I read this pretty much in one sitting. This book was equal parts beautiful and heartbreaking… This will be on my top books of the year. It was just so damn beautiful.”
The Book Geek
Before We Were Strangers is easily one of my favorite books of 2015… Renée Carlino’s writing is effortless, and the story is engrossing and intensely poignant… This book is so skillfully crafted it can be considered both a New Adult and an Adult Contemporary novel. It’s a friends-to-lovers story as well as a second chance romance… This is the first book I’ve read by Renée Carlino, but it certainly won’t be my last.”
The Reader's Den
“[B]eautiful and heartbreaking… Before We Were Strangers was a book I’m thoroughly happy that I picked up; it spans a one of a kind, beautiful relationship that readers won’t want to miss out on.”
FMR Book Grind
"Sweet, beautiful, and emotional. This book will have your heart experiencing things to new heights. 4.5 stars.”
Must Read Books or Die
“I'm in love with these pages and the brain of Renee Carlino and I cannot wait to read what she does next."
Library Journal
Imagine picking up a novel that everyone is reading and talking about and quickly realizing that it is your own life story. That happens to Emiline, an adjunct writing instructor in San Diego, who is struggling with her writing career and personal life. She knows that the author, J. Colby, must be Jase, the childhood best friend whom she has not seen or heard from in over a decade. Emi and Jase bonded as children growing up in dysfunctional families at the end of a dirt road in rural Ohio. They helped each other survive and eventually fell in love. Emi cannot understand how Jase would exploit their past in this way and especially why he would tell the story from her point of view. Meanwhile, she must deal with knowing that she has never been able to commit wholeheartedly to her boyfriend or to her writing. This is a novel within a novel, in which chapters from Jase's book serve as flashbacks to the past. It all leads to a dramatic reunion. VERDICT Romance fans will find this heartfelt story of resilience and first love hard to put down.—Catherine Coyne, Mansfield P.L., MA
Kirkus Reviews
Carlino's sixth novel is a twofer: a book within a book—a fascinating mix of past and present, childhood and adulthood—that takes us back and forth in time and leaves us at the edge of the future.Emiline and Trevor are in a stale but stable relationship when Emi's roommate gives her a copy of the latest bestseller. As she reads the much-acclaimed debut novel, Emi realizes with shock that it's about her hardscrabble childhood, with details so accurate that she knows immediately it was written by Jason, her first love, whom she hasn't seen in over 10 years, "who had once been [her] everything...[her] first." Painful memories surface and vie with the hurt and anger she feels toward him for dropping out of her life and stealing the story that's hers to tell and, worse, writing it as if she were the narrator. The chapters alternate between Emi's current life and her childhood, with the most compelling parts of the book being the retelling of her youth. The grown-up Emi proves a little obtuse and more naïve than expected given her introspective nature as a child; however, it's clear that the pain of Jason's abandonment has clouded her vision. She struggles to reconcile the past and present and her feelings for her two loves. Readers may feel the urge to say, "Emi, seriously! Finish reading the book!" She stalls, taking forever to reach the last chapter, where, of course, it all falls into perspective. Still, there are twists and turns that will keep readers guessing. Carlino fans will love this one, and so will readers who have not yet made her acquaintance. The tale is engaging and paced to keep the pages turning long after the lights should be out.

Product Details

Atria Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.20(w) x 5.30(h) x 0.90(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Swear on This Life

1. He Found Me

In class we say That’s too on the nose when someone has written a story or a scene where exactly what you think should happen does happen. Or when the events are too perfect or precise. But in real life we have a hard time recognizing serendipitous moments because we’re not making the story up as we go along. It’s not a lie—it’s really happening to us, and we have no idea how it will end. Some of us will look back on our lives and recall events that were a bit too perfect, but until you know the whole story, it’s impossible to see the universe at work, or even admit that there is something bigger than us, making sure everything that should happen does happen. If you can surrender to the idea that there might be a plan, instead of reducing every magical moment to a coincidence, then love will find you. He found me.

“WOW, THE SEAGULLS are going crazy. I think there’s a tsunami headed this way,” I said, staring out the window of my second-story apartment as I watched the marine layer thicken over La Jolla Cove. The fog was moving fast toward my building as the storm clouds swirled in the distance.

Trevor laughed. “Such a San Diegan, overreacting to the weather.” He was sitting on the floor with his back against the overpriced leather couch that my aunts Cyndi and Sharon had bought for me when I first moved in.

“Do you think we need sandbags?”

“No, you’re being crazy,” he said.

“Crazy or cautious?”

“More like neurotic. It’s drizzling. California is still technically in a drought.”

I noticed that Trevor had put down the short story I had written so he could continue playing Angry Birds on his phone.

“Trevor . . .” I warned.

“Emiline . . .” he teased back without looking up.

I plopped onto his lap and threw my arms around his neck. “I really want you to read it.”

“I did. I read it fast.”

“What’s it about, then?”

“It’s about a girl who discovers an ancient formula for cold fusion.”

“So you got the gist. But did you actually like it?”

“Emi . . .” He paused. His eyes darted around the room. When he focused on me again, I saw pity in his face. “I liked it a lot,” he said.

“But . . . ?”

“I think you should write what you know. You’re a good writer, but this”—he held up the paper—“seems a little silly.”

“Silly? Why?” I could feel anger boiling over inside of me. Trevor was honest—it was one of the reasons I liked him—but sometimes he was blunt to the point of belittling.

“For one, it’s unrealistic.”

“It’s science fiction,” I shot back.

“It needs more character development.” He shrugged as if his statement were obvious.

“Trevor, please don’t start spewing that Writing 101 crap at me. I get enough of that in the program. I want to practice what I preach. I’m constantly telling the undergrads to forget the rules and write intuitively. Now I’m asking you for realistic feedback, from a reader’s point of view, not an instructor’s.”

“I’m trying to. I thought that’s what I was doing. You know how hard it is for me to critique your work. You can’t handle it. I didn’t connect with the characters, so I wasn’t interested in reading the rest of the story. So there. I’m just being honest.”

“There’s a nice way to be honest,” I muttered.

“I still finished the story, and now I’m trying to help you, but you’re not being receptive to it. Just tell me what you want me to say.”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “Are you serious right now?”

“Yes.” He got up abruptly and I toppled over onto the floor.

“You’re not a reader. I shouldn’t have asked you to read it. Are we actually fighting over this?”

“We’re always fighting over this,” he said. “And I resent you for saying that I’m not a reader, as if I’m some kind of illiterate Neanderthal.”

I had been dating Trevor since our senior year at Berkeley, so I knew exactly where this insecurity was coming from. Seven years—that’s a long time in anyone’s book. When we met, he was a superstar quarterback destined for the NFL, and I was a bookworm trying to be a wordsmith. He was Tom Brady handsome, and for so long I wondered why he was into me at all. Yet for some reason, in the beginning, it just felt right. We got along beautifully, and our relationship went on like a fairy tale—until he injured his throwing arm in the last game of the season. His professional football career was over before it even began.

He graduated unglamorously and then took an assistant offensive coaching job at San Diego State so he could be closer to me while I worked on my MFA at UC San Diego. It was a major show of dedication, but I couldn’t help but feel like a little light had gone off inside of him. He was there in San Diego with me, but sometimes I felt like he wanted to be somewhere else.

The dynamics of any long-term relationship tend to shift in subtle ways, but for us, the change was more abrupt: the moment he got injured, I wasn’t the nerdy bookworm infatuated with the star quarterback anymore. And while that never bothered me, it definitely bothered him. Even after he followed me to San Diego, we continued to live separately, and neither one of us pressed the issue, even after I finished my MFA. I told myself I was waiting for him to make the move, to own the decision, but honestly I didn’t know if I wanted to move in with him either.

So I kept living with my roommate, Cara, a fellow graduate from the UCSD writing program. She was saving money and teaching a couple of writing courses while she worked on her first novel, and I was trying to do the same. Her longtime boyfriend, Henry, was a surgical resident in New York, and she planned to move at the end of the school year to be with him. I knew I had to figure something out by then, but arguments like this made me think Trevor and I still weren’t ready to take the next step.

“I’m going for a run,” I said to Trevor as I hurried toward my bedroom to get dressed.

“What? One minute you’re worried about a tsunami and the next you want to go for a run? What the hell?” He followed behind me. “Emi, you’re going to have to deal with your shit at some point.”

“My shit? What about your shit?” I said flatly as I sat on the floor, tying my shoes. I wasn’t even looking at him. I got up and tried to move past him to leave the room. I might have been carrying around some baggage, but so was Trevor.

“You have to stop running every time I want to have a bigger conversation with you.”

“Later,” I said.

“No, now,” he said firmly.

I shimmied between his body and my bedroom door and headed toward the kitchen. I busied myself filling up a water bottle.

“We’ve been together since we were twenty, Emi.”

“Jesus, I just asked you to read a fucking story.”

“It’s not about the story.”

“What is it about, then?” I asked sharply.

He looked frustrated and defeated, which was rare for him. I felt a twinge of guilt and softened.

“Trevor, I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m having a hard time with my writing right now. I don’t want to be an adjunct creative writing professor forever. Do you get that?”

“You’re already a writer, Emi.” He seemed sincere, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear.

“All of the other adjuncts have been published in some right, except for me.”

“Cara’s been published?”

“Twice,” I said under my breath.

He hesitated before continuing. “You want to know what I think? It’s not a lack of talent, Emi. I just don’t think you’re writing what you know. Why don’t you try writing about yourself? Explore everything you went through when you were a kid?”

I felt myself getting mad again. He knew my childhood was off-limits. “I don’t want to talk about it, and besides, you’re totally missing the point.”

Pulling my hoodie up over my hair, I pushed the door open and jogged down the stairs toward the walkway as the rain pelted my face. I heard Trevor slam the door and jog down the steps behind me. I stopped on the sidewalk, turned, and looked up at him. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going home,” he said.


“We still need to talk.”

I nodded. “Later.” He turned on his heel and walked away. I stood for a moment before turning in the opposite direction . . . and then I was running.

I was convinced that the years of therapy my aunt Cyndi and her partner, Sharon, had paid for guaranteed my past would always be just that. Still, I knew in the back of my mind that I hadn’t quite dealt with what happened on that long dirt road in Ohio, all those years before I came to live with Cyndi and Sharon. I was guarded and withdrawn, hiding in my relationship with Trevor, in my job as an adjunct professor, in my writing. I knew all of this, but I wasn’t sure how to get out of the rut.

After a few miles, I found myself jogging through the parking lot at UCSD, getting thoroughly soaked by massive raindrops.

“Emi!” I heard Cara call from behind me. “Wait up!”

I turned and tightened the strings on my hoodie. “Hurry, I’m getting drenched!”

Cara’s straight blonde hair clung to her cheeks, making her look even thinner than she was, as she jogged toward me. She was the opposite of me—tall, lanky, with light hair and light eyes. I had frizzy, dark hair that flew everywhere, all the time.

We took cover beneath the overhang of the building that housed the creative writing department. “Jeez, Emi, your hair.” Cara tried unsuccessfully to pat it down as we walked into the building and shook the water off our clothes. Before I could retort, we caught sight of Professor James as he was locking up his office.

“Professor!” Cara called.

He fit every possible stereotype of a college professor. He was plump, had a thick beard, and always dressed in herringbone or argyle. It was easy to imagine a pipe dangling from the side of his mouth as he talked.

“Do you have those notes on my story for me?” Cara asked.

“As a matter of fact, I do.” He shuffled through his distressed leather briefcase and handed Cara a stack of papers. “I’ve written them in the margins.”

Cara craved constructive criticism, but I never found the professor’s notes all that helpful, even when I was in the program. After I graduated, I stopped letting him read my work.

As she scanned his marginalia, Professor James looked me over. “What are you working on, Emiline?”

“Just doing scene exercises.” I looked away, avoiding his stare.

“I didn’t mean with your students. I meant with your personal projects.”

I thought idly that the only personal project I wanted to work on was plucking my eyebrows and shaving my legs. “Oh, just some short stories.”

“If you ever want some feedback, feel free to drop your work off in my office.”

I shifted uncomfortably. “Thanks, I’ll consider it.”

I glanced at Cara’s story and noticed, in bold red writing, at the top of the page, the note BRILLIANT!!

Professor James nodded good-bye and walked away. I turned to Cara. “Two exclamation points? He’s never said anything that nice about my work.”

Cara frowned. “You know what I think about that, Emi.”

“Oh man, here we go.”

“I know you don’t like to hear it, but it’s true. Maybe you’re writing about the wrong stuff.”

First Trevor, now Cara? “I’m really good at baking—does that mean I should be a baker?”

“You know that’s not what I mean,” she said.

“I know.” I looked down at my thrashed Nikes. “I’m just tired of missing the mark on these short stories. Trevor basically panned my last one.” I looked up and nodded toward the end of the hall. “Come on, let’s walk.”

We headed toward the staff room to check our mailboxes in silence.

“Maybe you could work on a memoir? Even if you don’t finish it, you might figure out what you want to explore in your short fiction. Something that’s more personal to you?”

“No, thanks,” I said, hoping that my tone conveyed how much I wanted her to drop it. She seemed to have gotten the hint and abruptly changed the subject.

“So, have you heard of this new writer that everyone’s talking about? J. Colby?”

I shuffled through papers from my staff mailbox, tossing the junk mail in the trash. “No, who’s that?”

“Columbia grad. He’s around our age. I can’t believe he’s already published. Everyone’s raving about his novel.”

“Good for him,” I said bitterly.

“Well, I’m going to read it, see what it’s all about,” she said as she jammed a sheaf of mail into her tote bag. “It’s called All the Roads Between. Don’t you love that title?”

“It’s all right, I guess. Kind of reminds me of The Bridges of Madison County or something.” I turned to her. “Okay, well, I’m done here. I’m gonna head home. You coming with?”

“I’ll see you back there—just have to run a few errands. But, hey, you know what we should do since it’s so rainy out? We should stay in, get takeout, watch trash TV, and drink until we pass out. That’ll cheer you up, right?”

“I guess. Yeah . . . that sounds good. Great, actually. Let’s do it.” Never mind that I’d told Trevor I’d watch football with him and talk. What I needed was a night in with my best friend. “I’ll pick up the wine, you get the Chinese?”

“Deal. See you at home.”

THE SUN WAS going down behind the storm clouds as I sat on the window ledge and watched the waves crash against the rocks of the cove. I thought about the story I could write. I knew I had more than pages’ worth of material. I had books’ worth. I just didn’t know if I could ever put the words to paper.

Cara came barreling through the door with a Barnes and Noble bag.

“They have Chinese food at Barnes and Noble now?” I joked.

“Our date is off! I went and got that book we were talking about, read twenty pages in the store, and could not put it down. I have to know what happens. Emiline, I’m in love with this author. I’m going to find him and make him marry me.”

“How will Henry feel about that?” I teased.

She threw the bag on the counter and poured herself a glass of wine as I watched her from the window ledge. “He’ll understand,” she said, giggling.

“So you’re bailing on me to read in your room?”

“You know how I am when I get into a book. I can’t be stopped.”

I understood exactly how she felt—I was the same way. “Fine, you’re off the hook. But you owe me.”

“Maybe Trevor can swing by with Chinese?”

I laughed. “You’re ditching me but you want my boyfriend to bring us food?”

She leaned over the couch and smiled. “Are you mad?”

“No, I’m kidding. Go, read, enjoy!”

An hour later, when Trevor showed up with Chinese, Cara came out, got a plate, and darted back into her room.

“What’s her deal?” he asked.

“She’s really into her new book.”

“Well, I guess it gives us time to talk.” We sat down side by side at the breakfast bar, opening cartons silently, waiting for someone to go first.

After a few bites, I put my chopsticks down. “You want to talk? Fine? Why don’t you ever tell me you love me?”

“I’ve told you I love you before,” he said, astonished. “And this isn’t what I wanted to talk about.”

“Well, I do. You have said it but you don’t say it often. Don’t you feel like you can say it to me?”

“You never say it to me either.”

Fair point. “I don’t think we even know what it means,” I said through a mouthful of sesame chicken.

“Whatever it is you’re going through has nothing to do with me,” he said. Trevor had this way of shifting responsibility away from himself in every argument. It drove me crazy.

“People are in relationships so they can share things with each other.”

“This, coming from you? Emi, after seven years, I still barely know you. I only know what you share with me, which doesn’t include anything from your past.”

I could feel myself getting defensive. “Since we’re playing the blame game, you haven’t made much of an effort to get to know me, or to commit to me in any real way.”

Trevor’s face fell, and I could tell I’d struck a nerve.

“Are you serious? You keep saying you don’t know where you’ll end up a year from now. What does that even mean? How do you think that makes me feel?”

“Then why are you here?” I asked, simply. I didn’t want to sound callous, but I could tell that I’d gone too far. That I was cutting him too deep.

“I moved down here for you, Emi. I built my life around our relationship.” He got up from his stool. “We’re not kids anymore. I can’t deal with your fickle shit and listen to you say I won’t make a commitment to you. You’re the one who won’t commit to me.”

I felt all kinds of retorts bubbling inside of me. The only job offer you got was at San Diego State. You didn’t move here for me. I’m just the girl you’re passing time with. We both know it. Why else would you have a hard time saying I love you? Why else can’t I see our future?

I got up and headed toward my room, and Trevor followed right behind me. I turned around to face him and rested my hand on the door for a moment as he waited silently in the doorway. And then I pulled him toward me and kissed him, pressing my body against his. I didn’t want to talk anymore.

THE NEXT MORNING, as I drank coffee at the breakfast bar, Cara came skipping by. “What’s eating you?” she asked. I didn’t know how she could tell these things just by looking at the back of my head, but she could intuit moods like no one else. She poured herself a mug of coffee and leaned against the counter, facing me, waiting for my response.


“Trevor eating you?” She smirked.

“Not in a good way, pervert.” I rolled my eyes.

“Are you guys fighting again? Sounds like you made up last night.”

“We’re always fighting. Even when we’re making up.”

She straightened, as if something had just occurred to her, and then rushed off. “I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.”

When she came back into the kitchen, she set a book down in front of me. I glanced at the jacket. All the Roads Between. “You’re finished already?” I asked.

“Stayed up all night. I loved it. You said I owed you one for bailing on you last night, and this is my repayment. I think you could use the escape.”

“Oh yeah?” I ran my hand over the cover. It was a faint image of two kids holding hands on a road. There was something familiar about the scene, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“Maybe you can escape your own slightly flawed love story for a bit and get lost in something more satisfying—even if it is fiction.”

I sighed and picked it up. Maybe she was right. I grabbed my mug of coffee with my other hand and headed toward my bedroom. “Thanks, Care Bear,” I called back.


Once inside, I plopped down on my bed and cracked open the book to the first page. From the moment I read the second line in the first paragraph, my heart rate tripled. Instantly, I was sweating. By the end of the first page, I was almost hysterical.

Meet the Author

Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and the bestselling author of Sweet Thing, Nowhere But Here, After the Rain, Before We Were Strangers, and Swear on This Life. She grew up in Southern California and lives in the San Diego area with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. To learn more, visit ReneeCarlino.com.

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Swear on This Life 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Ava-Victoria 3 days ago
If you only pick up one book for the rest of 2016, pick up this one. My goodness, Renee has once again written such an amazing book. I went into this book blind, I didn't read the synopsis before because it's Renee, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into and my goodness did I get such a BRILLIANT story out of this book. READ THIS BOOK!!! You will not be disappointed.
Lisa_RisqueAffair 7 days ago
My gawd. I don't even know what to say. This novel was beyond unique. It was heart wrenching and angsty and just... everything. It's essentially a book within a book, which at first I was on the fence about. But in the end it worked so well, I'm shocked something like this hasn't been done more often. Essentially, Emiline is a struggling writer. She is told that she should write what she knows. That is until she picks up a best selling book and starts reading. She discovers that the story.... is her story. All the dark details are uncovered which means that the author with a pen name could only be her best friend growing up. But why is the story told from her point of view? And what did he hope to accomplish by bringing up her painful past? I honestly had a hard time putting this one down. I've never read a book like this one. Since you are able to read the book of Emiline's life within 'Swear on This Life', you'd think there would be too much going on. But there isn't. It's all balanced perfectly. Emiline and Jace grew up in poverty, but her home life was a nightmare. The bond that Em and Jace have is the kind that people strive to have. It starts as friendship and blooms into a love that survives even the toughest of tests. This one will give you the feels and just make you speechless. It will, quite honestly, blow you away. I was given an advance copy courtesy of the publisher via netgalley.
bookbruin 13 days ago
I was really intrigued by the premise of this book and am a complete sucker for second chance romances. The book hooked me right from the start, but although I really did enjoy Swear on This Life, there were a few things that didn't quite work for me. SPOILERS I liked how the past and present were woven together and revealed through the chapters of J. Colby's book, All the Roads Between, but I felt like more time should have focused on the present and who Emi and Jase are now as adults. Even with their strong emotional past connection, 12 years is a long time to be out of someone's life. People change. People grow up. I wish we could have seen them reconnect and rediscover each other as adults, instead of just jumping to the "will they finally get their happily ever after?" Jase's cocky and arrogant behavior and Emi just going through the motions with Trevor made it hard to root for them at times. They were still likeable characters, but when I finished the book, I still didn't really know much about either of them and they both seemed immature for people who were supposed to be almost 30. I also don't understand why Jase waited so long to contact Emi. I get that they both needed time to heal, forgive, and move forward, but seriously, 12 years?! As much as I wanted to love Jase's swoony lines, like never loving anyone because they weren't Emi, the discussion of all the other women he's been with right before saying these things just didn't sit well with me. I felt that there was an unnecessary amount of focus on his experiences, like kissing and the number of sexual partners, while Emi came across more as an innocent Mary Sue. And where to begin with Trevor? It all (the marriage proposals, the secret drug addiction, the spark with his rehab therapist, etc) felt so contrived. I understand that people often stay in relationships because they're comfortable and easy, but the whole "I'm feeling challenged, so I'm going to fight for you now" fell flat. Plus, Emi really should have broken things off with him before kissing Jase again, especially since she knew there was no future with Trevor. The big reveal at the end of Jase's/J. Colby's book was drawn out way too long. I wanted to scream at Emi several times to just finish the damn thing, but she kept putting it off. There was so much build up that the reveal didn't feel as dramatic since it seemed pretty obvious what was going to be written there. Don't get me wrong. Renee Carlino writes beautifully and I devoured this book. I couldn't put it down (ahem, children may have eaten cereal for dinner) and stayed up into the wee hours finishing it. I felt emotionally connected to the main characters and my heart broke for them when life and circumstances dealt them the hand it did. I love the romantic notion of not fighting fate and there being a bigger plan. I can't wait to read more from Renee! "If you can surrender to the idea that there might be a plan, instead of reducing every magical moment to a coincidence, then love will find you."
Anonymous 23 days ago
I loved this book. Great story. Ioved the characters. Wish it had more of an ending with themas grown aduts together, but it was great. Love renee carlino.
KateUnger 4 months ago
Swear on This Life contains a book within a book. And as often happens for me with this type of novel, I enjoyed the fictional book better than the actual book. That is, I wish Carlino had just written the story she had her character write. Emiline, a struggling author and adjunct professor, has watched everyone around her get published, but she is still struggling to find her voice. Her roommate gives her the latest craze novel, and though she is reluctant to read someone else’s successful piece of fiction, Emi gives it a shot. She recognizes the story as that of her own childhood, and she is not happy that her first love has exploited her in such an awful way. I found Emi to be a very poorly developed character. She is closed off, so that makes her a hard character to get to know, but I just did not enjoy reading her chapters. When she dove into the J. Colby’s novel, which is included as full chapters (probably totaling more pages than the “real” story of Emi), I couldn’t stop reading. Emerson and Jackson grow up extremely neglected. Her father is an abusive alcoholic and his mother is a drug addict. They learn to rely on each other and begin a romance as they get older. The events of one awful night end up tearing them apart. I felt for these characters right away. They were much more developed and Em’s voice was engaging. Granted, I love me some YA, so maybe that’s the reason I connected more with Em than with Emi. There’s drama with Emi and J. Colby, and I liked that story line, but, while I loved Carlino’s Before We Were Strangers, this book just didn’t have the same magic. It’s good, but not great. http://opinionatedbooklover.com/review-swear-on-this-life-renee-carlino/
Anonymous 5 months ago
I saw this on a recommended page. Bought it on a whim. I could not put this book down. I read it in a day. I'm actually sad that I read it that fast because now it's over.
Lisa-LostInLiterature 5 months ago
Anonymous 5 months ago
Holly 6 months ago
Swear On This Life is the story of two people finding each other again through the power of a story! When a bestselling debut novel from a mysterious J. Colby turns up in the hands of Emiline's room-mate Cara, Emiline is forced to read it while discovering something inside the book that she never thought she would she ever again. While dealing with a boyfriend who has issues and with a stalled career, this book makes her go back to her past and deal with issues that has haunted her. It all leads to an ending in the book that makes Emiline realize who and where she needs to be and for a chance at true happiness!! OMG, this book will make you stay up way later than you plan on and it will have you thinking about it during the time that you are away from it! I absolutely loved how there was a story within a story and how it all intertwined with each other that made it a perfect read! I so don't want to give away what happens with the characters but the way it all ended, was just icing on the cake for two people that were destined to be with each other from the beginning!! Thank You to Renee Carlino for writing a book that made me a fan of yours from now on!!! I received this book from the BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge 2016!
ShopeSS 6 months ago
Renée Carlino is a one click author for me as her books always blow me away. This continued with Swear on This Life. The story was told in such a unique way; Emiline reading J. Colby's book and the reader finding out about her past as she reads chapters of the book. At times I had to put the book down because it was so emotional to read what Jase and Emi had to go through as children. My heart would break for these two children that were forced to grow up too quickly. To me, this isn't like your typical romance. Yes, romance is an overall huge part of the story but I felt like it was more Jase pushing fate and pushing Emi to come to terms with her past. Emi needed to come to terms with her past and I think until she found this book, she was struggling with how to do that. This was probably my favorite part of the book. Well that and I just loved Jase's character and how every time he was pushing Emi to read between the lines. Pick this book up because you can't go wrong with anything that Renée Carlino writes.
xorubituesdays 6 months ago
DNF @ 41% Let me start of by saying that I really tried to like this book! I was only about 10% in when I realized it wasn't doing anything for me, but I pushed myself to keep reading in hopes that it just had a rough start. At 41% was when I finally decided to put it down for good. This book is separated into two different timelines. We get the past from reading the best selling novel All the Roads Between written by Jase and we get the present in which Emiline is reading this novel. The past seemed extremely drawn out and we got loads of details that we could have done without. It was meant to be a best selling novel, however I didn't think it read as such. I constantly caught myself wanting to speed read through the past just to get to the present. As for the present, Emiline seemed very immature and I couldn't wrap my head around her current relationship. In conclusion, I didn't feel like the target audience for either timeline and I failed to connect with any of the characters. However, if you like a New Adult book with a YA feel then this book might be right up your alley! **I was sent this ARC from Atria Books through NetGalley in return of an honest review.**
Maria-SmokinHotReads 6 months ago
The synopsis had me hooked. Emiline's life is stagnant and when her roommate forces her to read a book, she reluctantly does it, only to find that it is her life. From there, she goes though a medley of emotions when she realizes that the book was written by her childhood friend and first love. And the book is written in a way that you will feel everything Emiline feels. You start on this journey with the characters and you don't want to put the book in because it sucks you in. 4.5 stars. I loved the way the author presented the story and the story line grips and pulls you in before you even start reading. If you want to see how this story unfolds, you will need to read the book because there is too much to put in a short review, and I don't want to give too much away. But I can promise that you won't regret one clicking today.
sugarpine721 6 months ago
I have no words! This story was totally captivating. I was glued to the pages and couldn't put it down. It was a totally unique, beautifully written, heart-wrenching, second-change story. You will be thinking of this story long after you finish. The ending was...just too much...I wanted more!!!! I loved every minute! A top favorite of 2016!
MCOABW 6 months ago
Swear on This Life is sure to be an EPIC read of 2016; at least a top 5 contender. I could not put it down. From the first line to the very last this book consumed me. I devoured every single word. Readers will be captivated by this beautifully creative and unforgettable journey. You will hang on to every word eagerly awaiting the outcome…tearful and hopeful. Honestly every time I read a Renée Carlino book she manages to capture my attention and completely own it. This book was no different, but this may have been her absolute best work to date. Emiline, now an adult living in San Diego has struggled to come to grips with her past, but when she picks up a new bestseller she realizes how eerily similar the story of Emerson and Jackson seem to mirror her own upbringing with Jase, her best friend and first love. Written in her perspective Emiline is pissed that Jase would have the audacity to write her own story, but she can’t put it down. Em has been struggling to face what she’s been through and has never really opened up to anyone about her past, but as she reads Jase’s novel it forces her to start chasing some of those demons, but not before she finds and confronts Jase for what he’s done. Cleverly crafted, raw, and intense. This book is all-consuming. It will grab hold of you and nothing else in the world will exist. Five stars for this emotionally addictive ride.
TanyaAtkinson 6 months ago
Sometimes you pick up a book and just instantly click with it. If asked, you may not even be able to explain why. Is it the characters? The story? The writing? Chances are it’s not just one thing (or even all those things) because some books just have that indescribable something that speaks to you. It doesn’t happen often for me but it sure happened with Swear on This Life. Swear on This Life is a love story - a love story between a boy and a girl that withstood poverty, abuse, neglect and separation. Emiline and Jase formed a bond that started as friendship and developed into a love and understanding that they were sure would see them past their current circumstances. But Life was far from kind to these two. Emiline’s present and her past unfold in parallel. Carlino’s choice to share Emiline’s past via a fictional novel was brilliant and worked so well – a story within a story. I felt as though I were reading right along with Emiline – she reliving her past, me experiencing it with such heartache for her childhood. In present-day, Emiline is dissatisfied; a frustrated writer in an uncomplicated relationship going nowhere. When she learns of a new book sensation, one that recounts her own childhood albeit with characters named Emerson and Jax, she knows the writer can be no one other than Jase. She is appalled by his cruelty at profiting from her story and is left questioning why he would do such a thing. Determined to confront Jase, just as she is confronting her own past on the page, Emiline begins to finally deal with the demons from her childhood. I loved the connection between Jase and Em. They had such an incredible bond – not just two kids who were thrown together by circumstance, but two people who found love at an early age and who were truly meant to be. While their situation often seemed hopeless, there was still always a sense of hope with their plans for “one day.” It was impossible not to fall in love with them and hope desperately for a happy ending. I think it’s safe to say that I was completely enamored of Swear on This Life. I loved Carlino’s writing style, I was captivated by the story, and I was smitten with Emiline and Jase. Swear on This Life instantly became one of my favorites of 2016 and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Do yourself a favor and read this remarkable story.