You know when you’re looking at someone and you can’t help but smile at how oblivious they are to their own charm? That’s what was happening to me, and it was making me feel…happy. Euphoric. Something indescribable. It was like we already knew each other, like we had met in a previous life. Memories that didn’t exist began exploding in my mind like fireworks.
Charlotte has spent her twenties adrift, searching for a spark to jump-start her life and give her a sense of purpose. She’s had as many jobs as she’s had bad relationships, and now she’s feeling especially lost in her less-than-glamorous gig at a pie-and-fry joint in Los Angeles, where the uniforms are bad and the tips are even worse.
Then she collides—literally—with Adam, an intriguing, handsome, and mysterious painter. Their serendipitous meeting on the street turns into a whirlwind one-night stand that has Charlotte feeling enchanted by Adam’s spontaneity and joy for life. There’s promise in both his words and actions, but in the harsh light of morning, Adam’s tune changes, leaving Charlotte to wonder if her notorious bad luck with men is really just her own bad judgment.
Months later, a new relationship with Seth, a charming baseball player, is turning into something more meaningful, but Charlotte’s still having trouble moving past her one enthralling night with Adam. Why? When she searches for answers, she finds the situation with Adam is far more complicated than she ever imagined. Faced with the decision to write a new story with Seth or finish the one started with Adam, Charlotte embarks on a life-altering journey, one that takes her across the world and back again, bringing a lifetime’s worth of pain, joy, and wisdom.
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★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Reviewed by Rachel
“… everything is reduced to feelings and emotions and actions that don’t need explanation or justification…..”
I’ve been a fan of Renee Carlino since I fell in love with her book covers however when I picked up a copy of Before We Were Strangers in my local store and took a chance it was then I fell in love with her words. I read the blurb and was sold; it sounded like my kind of read. The style of her writing just sucked me in and kept me captive until the very last page. It was then that I bought all her other books and never looked back. Renee fast became of my all-time favourite authors. So when I was offered to a chance to read her latest book, Wish You Were Here, it was a no-brainer! I didn’t even read the synopsis as I just know she will never let me down. However, what I didn’t anticipate was what an emotional roller coaster she would take me on. Never before have her stories hit me like this one. The storyline in this read took me on a very personal journey and at times I did have to put my Kindle down and gather my thoughts and take a few deep breaths, oh and also go grab a pile of tissues! My tears just wouldn’t stop and even now writing this review I’m tearing up.
“I realised that right now is all that matters for everyone….”
The beginning of the story starts at a gentle enough pace when you are introduced to Charlotte and her bestie, Helen. They are living and working together at local restaurant and enjoying their freedom after college. Charlotte has no idea what to do with her life and has had a series of disastrous relationships with the opposite sex. You could say she’s in a rut and needs to take a chance on life but she plays things safe. But, one night she takes a leap of faith with a guy she’s just met. They both experience an all-consuming instant attraction and what transpires is nothing short of life changing.
“Everything I did in the past was safe.”
Adam is spontaneous and a total whirlwind and this makes Charlotte feel brave, which inspires her to move out of comfort zone. He’s recently moved into the neighbourhood after leaving his high powered law career. Their night together is surreal and the stuff of fantasies but there is something she cannot figure out about him but pushes this to the back of her mind because she totally mesmerised. I think at this point in the story something felt off but like Charlotte I couldn’t pin it down. After their night together ends quite abruptly Charlotte puts it down to a one night stand and moves on but as that night has such a profound effect on her thoughts of Adam are never far from her mind.
“Do you believe in soul mates, Charlotte?”
“I think so.”
“Do you know what I think?”
“I think we have soul mates but I think we can have more than one ….”
I’ve written quite a reviews in my time but never found them hard until this one. I’m a lover of sharing quotes as I think they add something special to your thoughts and feelings of a book but this time I’ve been very careful as so many I love give the plot away and I believe you must go in blind!
The secondary characters in this read fitted in very well and were very extremely well developed. Yes, this story is an emotional one and thought provoking albeit, humour was evident and at times brought much needed levity at just the right moments. I especially loved the way her relationship with her brother, Charles (Chucky), developed and changed for the better. At first I didn’t like, Charles, nevertheless in the end I loved him.
“ Love is an inside secret joke. Only the two of you have to understand it.”
This book is written entirely from Charlotte’s point of view and at times this did niggle me as I was itching to get into the minds of the other characters but when I finished I realised it would have been a mistake. The reason for this was this was Charlotte’s story. Never before has the saying, it’s not about the destination but all about the journey and this book is shining example of that. This author has delivered a heart breaking, emotional but bittersweet read and one that will stay with me for some time. If you are already a fan of Ms. Carlino’s work then you’ll adore it however, if you have yet to read her work then get ready as she will spoil you rotten!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Reviewed by Sharon Thérèse
Goodness me, never did I expect this standalone to put me through such a soul-crushing wringer! Firstly, I’d chosen to ignore the blurb so I had no idea what I was letting myself in for and secondly, this is the first book I’ve read by Ms Carlino and oh boy, to say I’m impressed with her writing would be putting it mildly! It is everything and so much more than I could have ever possibly wished for. And how could I not mention the cover or the title! Simply stunning; and these four words written in such an outstanding font are perfectly apt for this book. Nonetheless, a quarter of the way in and my feeling were all over the place. I wasn’t sure where the author was leading me and even felt a tad let down as one of the male protagonists who’d left his stamp engraved in my head, did something difficult to fathom. Soon I’d discover it was early days! The beauty of the plot is it overflows with surprises; some of them were unforeseen, a few lifted my heart and others left me plain devastated. But as I read on, I got so involved in all the characters that I had no option but to do an all-nighter. I knew if I’d put the book down, I wouldn’t have slept a wink seeing as the angst was gnawing at me. Result–I closed the book or better said, my Kindle, at six in the morning puffy-eyed, exhausted, elated–my emotions running riot.
Getting to know Charlotte was a delightfully humbling experience. Her approaching life head on convinced me that destiny really does exist, that fate is in our own hands and we can control it as did she. Not only was my faith in humanity revived by her actions, but her story is a torrent of empathy and love which took me on a captivating journey. A fleeting encounter, a shared intimacy in this young woman’s life whose heart is bigger than anyone close to her realises–mind you, before long I discovered her charity has no limits, inspires her to make a life-altering decision. The author nailed Charlotte’s character in such a way that I felt like I knew her and would be honoured to have her as my friend! I couldn’t help but suffer with this unpretentious gal on a level which was beyond realistic. In my mind’s eye, I saw her struggling with her feelings and when she tries to be logical, that very logic plays her an unfair hand she never questions. Yes, parts of the book are so heart-stirring, I found myself sobbing into my pillow, so it might not be a bad idea to have a man-sized hanky or three at hand!
I truly loved watching Charlotte come into her own; become a person with strong convictions, step out of her comfort zone and stick to her guns. Olé to the author for making me feel like a fly on the wall! However, before this happened there were times when I feared for her sanity because even though she knew how she felt about certain characters, little niggling signs confuse her, yet are impossible to forget. One thing is for sure, her bestie was always rooting for her. Hmm, Helen and Charlotte are like chalk and cheese which to my way of thinking, is the reason they get on very well together. Seeing as this read is extremely intense, I lapped up their laugh-out-loud moments, and Charlotte’s brother and parents got a chuckle and a half out of me, too!
A hundred and eighty degree turn in the story and I was elated. Oops, false hopes! The horizon held a twist, no… a storm of emotions which I was little prepared for and quite simply, my heart broke. Note that I haven’t mentioned who the male protagonists are. What I can say without letting on is they are both adorable and one of them has an admirable sense of humour. This isn’t a triangle and for those of you who are concerned about cheating, you can breathe deeply. It’s pure, it’s thick with passion, love and sensitivity and will incite an eruption of feelings in even the most hardened readers. For lovers of this genre; be adventurous and go in blind because I know you won’t regret it–I certainly didn’t! Now I’ve found Ms Carlino, I’m anxious to read more of her works. BRAVO!
“You’re making love sound tragic,” I said.
“No”—he shook his head—“I wouldn’t want it any other way. Tell me about us. What do we like to do?”
“Paint and sail and eat and drink. Just simple things.” “Don’t forget about sex,” he said.
“Yeah, lots of sex. Before the children were born we
“We were practically naked every second of the day.”
“I like that.”
“When they got older, we’d sneak away for weekends and leave them at my mom’s.”
“What are they like? Our children.”
“Happy. That’s all we wished for. We put our love first and it just spilled over into them and now they’re happy.”
Tears sprang from my eyes and ran down my cheeks. Isn’t that what we all hope for when it comes to our children?
His tone suddenly changed. “That’s beautiful, Char- lotte.” It was like he was waking up from the dream. I didn’t want to go back to reality yet, but I knew these fantasies were just to help Adam get his mind off things.
“I can imagine a long life with you,” he said. “I can imagine what a great wife you’d be.”
I pulled my hand out of his. “The story is about you and me.” He didn’t say anything; he just nodded and then continued to stare out the window. I bent and kissed the top of his head again, and whispered, “It’s about us. Don’t take that away from me.”
Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of contemporary women’s novels and new adult fiction. Her books have been featured in national publications, including USA TODAY, Huffington Post, Latina magazine, and Publisher’s Weekly. 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. Learn more at www.reneecarlino.com