I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my 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?

This book…I loved it. Renee Carlino has done it again given us a total gem. A sweet, heartfelt love story of a lifetime. The plot was so different, so unique and I loved the fresh feel of the story (or should I say stories?).  Ms. Carlino is a go-to author for me and she totally delivered once again.

I am normally not a fan of flashbacks, but in this case I couldn’t get enough. I somehow lost track of where the line between the fiction and the reality was…but I think that is what was supposed to happen. I was just supposed to feel, and feel I did.

We got to know Emiline in her youth and as an adult as the stories were told in her POV. She certainly had a lot to work through and did not have an easy life. She found her way out, but was still empty. It wasn’t until she reconnected with Jase that she truly began her journey of forgiveness and healing. I’m not sure I would have been as big of a person as Em, but I certainly admired her.

Jase…oh Jase. He had a lot to work through as well. His share of baggage was just as heavy as Em’s. I don’t know how he did it except that he was so strong. I got to know him as a child and knew he would always make something of himself. I wish he appeared more often in the later parts of the book because I don’t feel like I got to know him as an adult. He had a confidence about him, a really sexy confidence and I wanted more. His character was so genuine, so real…so many things and I just adored him.

The romance was epic, and this showed how true love always wins. I loved watching them go from childhood friends to more, and all the feels of falling in love. I’m not sure how Trevor fit in. He could have been left out of the story and it wouldn’t have changed anything. I’m not sure what his purpose was.

I loved this, but in the end I wanted more. I didn’t get enough of a connection between current Jase and Emiline. I didn’t get to see if they still had that physical and emotional attraction. We assumed they did, but I was missing that push and pull. The ending relationship was never as fleshed out and full as the one from their younger years. I think they took a leap of faith believing it would be, and honestly I would have loved more interaction to see if that really was the case. (Of course it was the case but I wanted to roll around in their love and enjoy it and we just didn’t get that).

Rec it? YES! If you are any kind of romantic this story will touch you and make your heart happy.

Happy reading!

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