Renee Carlino has been on my list of authors I’ve been wanting to read for a some time now and I even have an honest to goodness paperback copy of Before We Were Strangers on my bookshelf as a visual reminder that I do want to read her, but life and such always gets in the way. So when the opportunity to read an ARC by Renee Carlino came up I jumped since I tend to put them first and have a deadline on when I need to read them by. And while I got sucked into both storylines and couldn’t wait to see how everything turned out, I found myself having issues with both Emi and Jase and am still debating over whether or not I liked them.
I know it may seem odd that I could be so invested in the book and the journey that the characters take and yet have issues with the main characters, but that’s what happened here. From the very beginning I had issues with Emi because she often acted like a petulant child when she didn’t hear what she wanted and would run away from issues, literally and figuratively, instead of pulling on her big girl panties and facing things head on. She’d rather do the ostrich thing and hide her head in the sand than deal. And even after finding out what she lived through as a child and teenager I still couldn’t get myself to go past simple empathy for her. I was happy that she finally got over the ‘poor me’ thing she had going on, but dear lord it took forever and a bloody day.
Jase, well...I wish we’d had more time with adult/real life Jase. I give him props with the way he got Emi’s attention and helped/forced her to work through her issues ~ talk about being creative, but at the same time I wished he had manned up and confronted her head on from the start. I’m all for sneaky, but the mixed signals he was throwing out made my head spin instead of having me swoon.
The romance in this book is a bit tricky. The book in a book romance was sweet and very YA, which I have no problem with. I enjoyed watching as Jax and Em become friends and then realize that they love each other. The New Adult side of it is where it becomes a little more fuzzy for me. I will say straight up that I have no issue with love triangles or cheating, I know many people do but I’m not one of them, but the triangle here just pissed me off because there really was no love on one side of the triangle. Em and Trevor were just stuck in a rut and I kept waiting for one of them to finally break it off because it was just painful. Em and Jase..well...they had the book, All the Roads Between, that was the explanation, apology and hope for a future. There is a part of me that wishes there had been more explanations given, but at the same time it would have just dragged things out more than they already had been.
I know that you’re reading this review and scratching your head going...so she liked this book? And yes, I know it’s all kinds of ranty, but I actually did. I really liked journey the story took me on even if I didn’t necessarily care for the characters because it brought out all the feels in me. I loved the whole book in a book concept and how it was a mix of Emi’s and Jase’s POV’s of what they went through as children. I was at the edge of seat wondering if this would be the moment that Emi, or Trevor, finally grew a pair and truly acknowledged that what they had wasn’t a forever kind of love. And I snarled at Emi for not only taking so damn long to finish the book, but for being so damn narrow minded to not understand that there was so much more going on with book and that it wasn’t all about her.
This was just one of those books where I enjoyed the writing and the pacing of the story, even if the characters drove me crazy. It brought out all the feels, no matter if the majority were not of the happy, happy, joy, joy swoon variety and kept me turning the page to find out what would happen next. It has also confirmed that having Ms.Carlino on my list of authors I’ve been wanting to read was the right decision and will be working on a way to work her other books higher into the rotation and into the to be read sooner than later pile.
~ ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ~
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?
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, two sons, and their sweet dog June. 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.