Review: Swear On This Life by Renee Carlino

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4 stars

This is a beautifully written, emotional story that completely captivated me. It’s a second-chance-romance with the stories of the past and present wound together in a unique way to create a really special read that held me enthralled from start to finish.

“There once was a boy and girl…”

Emiline is a budding writer. She lectures on writing at the local College but she’s struggling to find her voice and write a story of her own. As inspiration, her roommate begs her to read the best-selling book that she recently devoured and that is taking the country by storm. Emiline finally makes a start on it, but when she begins she recognises the story as that of her tragic childhood and her relationship with her long-estranged best friend and first love, Jase.

Em’s childhood was very difficult. Abandoned by her mother and left in the care of her alcoholic father, she lived in near poverty up an almost-deserted country lane in a small town. Her only friend was her neighbour, Jase, who lived in similarly difficult circumstances, and as the two of them developed a childhood friendship they became each other’s entire worlds.

“You’re holding my whole world together, Em.”

They leaned on each other for everything. They supported and protected each other, they played, they talked, and they shared everything, and eventually they fell in soul-deep love, promising each other forever.

“I love you, Emiline. I loved you before I even knew what it meant.”
“I love you too, Jase…I’ll love you forever.”
“Swear to me.”
“I swear I want this.”
He was staring right into my eyes. “Swear that you love me and trust me,” he said.
I knew the feeling like my own name. “Jase…” I swallowed and then tears filled my eyes. “I swear to god on your life and my own that I love you and trust you.”
And that I’ll love you forever.

The story of their past is beautifully told through the pages of Jase’s book. It intermingles with the story set in the present day where we know that they haven’t seen each other for years, so the whole book builds to reach the point where we find out what drove them apart. They were so, so perfect for each other. What could have shattered that?

“There was nothing we could do; we were just a couple of powerless, poor kids, so desperate to find a way to be together.”
“We had nothing at the time … but somehow it felt like we had everything.”

And as Em reads Jase’s words, she is forced to confront her past in a way she has never done before. Recalling old memories and reliving old hurts, she starts to question everything about her life, realising that she has never dealt with everything that she went through – especially the loss of Jase. And as she begins to process it all, she realises that she can’t move forward until she confronts the man who destroyed her heart so long ago, and who took liberties with her past and shared it with the world.

Wow, this is a beautifully written story. I loved the story of Emiline and Jase’s past, it was beautifully descriptive, sweet, funny and absolutely heart-wrenching. They were so beautiful together and my heart was racing as I tried to figure out how it all went wrong. Their history unfolds beautifully alongside Emiline’s present as she works through her anger, hurt and confusion, and I loved the way the book was structured, and thought it was paced perfectly.

“Our story is great. Maybe not all the other shit, but the story of us is perfect, Em.”

Having said that though, there were parts of this book that I felt a bit frustrated with – firstly with Em and some of her behaviour in the present, and then with the slow, almost passive reconnection between her and Jase. I’m still processing it all to be honest. While reading I thought that they seemed very blasé about the whole thing and though I initially felt the chemistry between them, as the story progressed it kind of felt underwhelming. But then there was one shining moment of second-chance-romance gold, a moment that was intense and romantic that made me catch my breath, and it’s one of those moments that flips your perception on what you’re reading, and it hits you sort of like an ‘aha’ moment. The significance of it didn’t hit me until after I’d finished the book and had a chance to sit on it for a bit, and though I can appreciate the way it all unfolded now that I’ve had the chance to reflect on it, I still wanted more for them. Granted, I’m a romantic sap of the highest order – I want the passion and intensity, I want a couple to fight for their happy ending, and I just didn’t get that feeling about them. Am I asking too much? Maybe. But after all that they had been through, I felt that they deserved something special.

But I loved the book. The writing was absolutely stellar and I devoured every word.

It’s like reading a good book. The kind where you don’t want to skip pages to see what happens at the end. Each moment is a story in itself.

That ^^^. It was exactly that, and I loved it.

4 stars.


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