Swear On This Life by Renee Carlino

Book Review




3 stars

Plot: 7/10

Setting: 7/10

Writing style: 6/10

Character building: 5/10

Enjoyment: 7/10

Overall: 6/10

My Opinionated Review


Intriguing and emotional-heavy story but disappointing characterisation

Swear on this Life is a gripping and emotional story with a wonderful premise but flawed execution. This book made me feel, and cry, and root for the characters so much. It was a beautiful and heart-wrenching love story that would be worth my highest rating if not for quite a few disappointing outcomes. Nevertheless, despite the negative aspects, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

The book is about Emi, a struggling writer that does not seem to be able to get published, stuck in a passionless relationship with her ex-athlete boyfriend of 7 years, and having trouble dealing with her traumatic past. So when she starts reading a new bestseller by a mysterious writer J. Colby, she is shocked to find the book to be about her. This brings a lot of painful memories, tears, and anger towards the author – her first love who she has not seen for 12 years.

This book really has many wonderful aspects. First, the premise of the story. I thought it was brilliant. The reader gets to read the book inside the book, transferring them to Emi’s painful past and the wonderful friendship between her and her childhood best friend and first love, Jace. The reader also gets to experience the present timeline, seeing Emi as a grown-up woman trying to deal with her feeling towards her story that is put into words, and her anger and longing towards the writer who cannot be anyone other than her best friend who has been MIA for 12 years ago. This dual timeline gives the story mystery, especially since the reader is introduced to the past through a work of fiction, that is sometimes just an interpretation of one perspective and not necessarily what actually happened.

I really felt the connection between the main characters. These two had a tough and cruel childhood, they took care of each other and loved each other when no one else did. I felt every single thing that Emi felt while reading her story, and it was heart-breaking but truly wonderful at times. Moreover, it was exciting to see how these two people will react when finally coming face to face after years of silence. It was delightful to see the two different journeys that the main characters took, both hopeful and emotional. It really made me feel.

However, I have to acknowledge the problems with this book. It is my second book by Renee Carlino, and I am again faced with the same problem as I was when reading When We Were Strangers. I liked one timeline but found the other one a bit boring. In this book, the fictional novel was really well-crafted and emotional. Characters made silly choices and mistakes, but considering their traumatic experiences and a young age, it was understandable. However, they did not seem to change one bit during the 12 years they spend apart, I saw zero character development, they acted childish and immature, and most of the time I just did not understand their behaviour at all. The long awaited moments seemed anti-climactic and unreasonable, without much emotion. The characters’ portrayals and their actions failed to have any coherence. Especially with so much build-up and emotional trauma, the present story came out flat. The ending was an utter disappointment, and I can just say that I expected much more.

I feel like if I have read this book a few years ago, I would have appreciated it more. But when you read a lot, it becomes very easy to distinguish well-executed books from poorly-executed ones. It is sad that this story must fall into the latter category as it showed signs of potential. In no way it is a bad book, since I found it extremely difficult to put down, plus it did make me cry. I am actually angered to see such an interesting premise and a long build-up be flushed down the toilet.

All in all, I did like this book. I cried, and I laughed. But some of the characters’ actions were really out of character, and some decisions did not make sense. Plus, the dialogues were really boring. It is disappointing to see good premise being poorly executed, yet I still think it is a compelling and decent contemporary romance, better that a lot of similar books that I’ve read. So if anticlimactic endings and characters acting like teenagers when they are in their late twenties do not bother you, then this book really will be a wonderful read.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Do you think it is a great contemporary romance, or do you have examples of the better ones? I eagerly await your thoughts.

Book Playlist

  1. David Gray – Flame turns blue
  2. Counting Crows – Round Here
  3. John Paul White – Ghost in this house
  4. Sara Bareilles – Breathe again
  5. Wilco – True love will find you in the end




4 thoughts on “Swear On This Life by Renee Carlino

  1. This sounds really interesting. I would like to read this just to see if I get the same feeling. It’s great to see other people’s opinions and I do enjoy reading books that really make you feel

    Liked by 1 person

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