Title: Wish You Were Here
Author: Renee Carlino
Release Date: August 15, 2017
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.
Renee Carlino serves up another unexpected romance with Wish You Were Here. A one-of-a-kind twist on the love triangle, Charlotte’s story is fairly low on drama and overall, incredibly hopeful. This book read quickly and I was undeniably intrigued by the premise of the story. Fast paced and filled with fascinating secondary characters, Wish You Were Here explored life, love, and family in a totally unique way. I appreciated the various relationships Renee Carlino explored throughout this book. In addition to Charlotte’s very different relationships with Adam and Seth, the author highlighted the heroine’s friendship with Helen along with her relationships with her brother and parents. Endearing, self-reflective, and just the right amount of funny, this novel was sweet, surprising, and utterly life-affirming.
“She still believed in fairy tales. And because of that, she would get hers.”
My biggest issue with this novel was the emotional development of the heroine. Written to be flighty and unfocused, Charlotte’s voice sometimes came across as unfeeling and disconnected. We were told how Charlotte felt instead of being made to experience the emotions through her dialogue, deportment, and inner musings. This narrative style kept me at arms length and I was never really able to feel for the character the way I so desperately wanted to. Charlotte just felt too inconsistent and by the end of the story, I still wasn’t convinced her feelings were authentic. I genuinely missed being wholly captivated by Renee Carlino’s words and felt as if this story lacked the kind of heart-wrenching emotional depth and perfectly fluid pacing I’ve come to expect from this author.
“Promise me this is the last moment in your life that you will let fear stop you from doing what you want.”
That’s not to say I didn’t love pieces of this book. I definitely enjoyed getting to know both Adam and Seth. I’m always happy to fall in love with the hero, but falling for two was even better. Renee Carlino did a great job developing these completely different personalities while still managing to make both men utterly swoon-worthy and worth rooting for. Admittedly, the storyline had its ups and downs for me, but the last thirty percent or so really hit its mark. The beautiful imagery and poetic prose that colored the conclusion of Charlotte’s story was much more reminiscent of Renee Carlino’s usual style and I found myself truly appreciating the novel for its raw and poignant plot. Other readers may connect better with Charlotte than I did, in which case Wish You Were Here will certainly enchant. Renee Carlino reminds readers to live, laugh, and fall in love with this decidedly intriguing read.
Renee Carlino is one of those authors that I jump at the opportunity to read whenever I see that she has a new release coming. When Wish You Were Here was announced, it sounded like one of those life-altering, beautiful journeys that I just knew I would need to experience. What I never could have guessed was that it would turn out to be such an emotional ride from the very first moment we meet the characters until the very last turn of the page. Carlino presented unique aspects to tropes that exist in the literary world, putting her very own style and flair into them, which I certainly appreciated. The storyline was intriguing, resulting in a fast-paced read that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from.
“That’s the reason for all the paintings. The world came to life around me. I could see people for who they were, not what they had. And when I was with you, I felt more alive than ever before.”
That being said, I have to admit that I was a little underwhelmed with Wish You Were Here, especially in comparison to other novels I have read from this incredible writer. The emotional depth and imagery that is typical to her style was almost lacking in Charlotte’s story, which left me craving more on several occasions. I was never able to fully connect to any of the characters, but especially to the heroine of the story. Given that the book is written solely from her point of view, I felt it was critical to feel an emotional pull toward her, and yet, I did not. She came across as flighty and indecisive, without a level of maturation and growth. Furthermore, Carlino typically excels at painting a picture to draw her readers in and bring the story to life, but I never became a part of the story and felt like an outsider looking in for most of it.
“I think when you’re done searching for some of the bigger answers, you can experience this sense of awe again, like everything is different, covered in a new coat of paint.”
Despite my inability to connect with the characters in Wish You Were Here, I loved Carlino’s take on the storyline and overall message of the book. She wrote from the heart, resulting in an emotional read that is sure to tug on heartstrings and leave readers wanting more at the end. Her ability to teach others to live life to the fullest and appreciate the things we have is admirable and so pertinent given the society that we are living in and status of the world today. I may have just finished the story, but I’m already anxious to see what message of love and hope Renee Carlino will spread next.
“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 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.”
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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