Review: After the Rain by Renee Carlino

My Thoughts

A gripping, emotional romance you won’t be able to put down.
One of my favorites this year!

5stars

Synopsis

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Sweet Thing and Nowhere But Here comes a deeply emotional contemporary romance about the second chances waiting beyond the shattered dreams of youth.

Under the bright arena lights of a rodeo show, young Avelina Belo falls for a handsome cowboy with a larger-than-life personality. After a whirlwind courtship, she happily moves away from her family in northern California and settles into married life with her cowboy on a seven-thousand-acre cattle ranch in Montana. One freak accident later, Avelina’s hopes for the future come to an end.

Nate Myers graduated from UCLA medical school at the top of his class, ready to follow in the footsteps of his father, a superstar cardiothoracic surgeon. Six years later, Nate’s career is being ruined by a malpractice suit. Questioning himself for the first time, he retreats to a Montana cattle ranch to visit his uncle and gain perspective. There, he meets a beautiful young woman named Avelina who teaches him more than he ever knew about matters of the heart.

My Review

Pain. Grief. Love. Hope. Broken hearts. Mending hearts. Wide open spaces and pasts that cage in.

Renee Carlino explores this all in her latest emotionally gripping release, After the Rain. I loved every moment of reading it, from the very first page. Renee’s prowess at compelling storytelling is impressive, once again reminding me of her ability to pull me into her stories, each with their own unique edge, each utterly romantic and each entirely consuming. This is a beautiful story of second chances… about fate, choices and events that happen beyond our control.

“… he took what was left of my heart, ending any semblance of life inside of me. At nineteen, I became cold and hard and looked forward to the end of my bleak existence.”

Avelina (Ava) Belo had a bright future in front of her, especially after meeting and falling for a confident, good-looking cowboy like Jake McCrea. Just three months after meeting, they tied the knot and moved to Montana to work together at a cattle ranch. Life was good, full of love and possibility… until an accident shatters their future into a million pieces. Ava goes from newlywed to widow and shuts down. For the next five years.

“When you lose faith in love, you lose a sense of who you are.”

In alternating point-of-view chapters, we meet Nate Myers. A man who strives to be the best cardiothorasic surgeon there is… better than the best, in fact, since the best out there is his own father. He’s thrown himself into medicine, learned the discipline since he was a child, so when he graduates at the top of his class, his future is defined by his drive to succeed. In fact, he’s had time for nothing else. For him, life is defined by the edge of a scalpel. But one day and in a split second, he loses a patient and is consumed by guilt. Alone and despondent, his future turns nebulous and he begins to question everything.

“Had my career taken such a hold of me that I had lost sight of why I wanted to be a heart surgeon in the first place: to help people live their lives more fully?”

So Nate’s father sends him to his Uncle Dale on a Montana ranch. The same ranch where Ava continues to exist as a shell, lost in her grief, in her anger, in her solitude. Nate is mesmerized by her. By this beautiful young girl who is paralyzed by her past. Slowly, moment by moment, Nate helps Ava find laughter, brief moments of respite from her own darkness. Before too long, Nate finds himself caring for her. She’s been the first person he’s cared for and desired in a way that holds his attention. His eyes are suddenly open to living.

“There’s something about her. I feel like I breathe deeper around her. Everything seems  a little brighter.”

The story takes many a turn as we see two people trying to find hope and love in each other’s arms. It’s not easy though, especially for Ava, whose heart is beyond broken. It’s mangled and in pieces and afraid of loving and losing all over again.

Ava’s character is fascinating and intriguing. At such a young age she harbors so many complex, dueling emotions. She’s sad. She’s guilt-ridden. She’s angry. She’s scared. She’s given life and love her all, and not only has she lost those she’s loved, but she’s also lost her sense of self. Who she is. Who she wants to be.

“I was learning that being alive means knowing the threat of dying is there but facing your mortality and moving through it anyway.”

Nate must also work through figuring out what his life is all about. It’s not all about that operating table, it’s about the life he leads when he’s away from the hospital… about the man he wants to be. Could Ava factor into his focused, driven life?

If you love a well-written emotional book full of romance and heartache, look no further than this novel. It was so well crafted, so gripping, I really couldn’t put it down. Renee has become an autobuy author for me and I cannot wait to see more from her. I loved this book, and I’m betting you guys will too. Don’t miss this one.

“Forever is only now.”

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Review: Nowhere But Here by Renee Carlino

My Thoughts

A perfect, heartfelt romance.
Nowhere But Here is a love story filled with goodness and heart, sexiness and sweetness. It left me grinning widely and feeling warmly.

5stars

Synopsis

nowhere but hereA Chicago reporter in her mid-twenties unexpectedly finds love in Napa Valley when she’s assigned to spend a week with a famously reclusive genius.

Kate Corbin has lost her spark. From the outside, her life seems charmed. She has a handsome, long-term boyfriend and a budding journalism career at a popular Chicago newspaper. But in reality, her relationship is going nowhere, and she’s quickly losing motivation for what she once believed was her dream job. When her boyfriend dumps her unceremoniously, Kate loses all hope of finding love.

With no living family and few friends, Kate confides in her boss. Trusting that the hungry, ace reporter is buried somewhere deep inside, he gives Kate the opportunity to jumpstart her career. The assignment: to interview the famously reclusive R.J. Lawson, a wealthy tech genius who disappeared years ago but recently reemerged as a Napa Valley vintner. The week takes an unexpected turn, however, when Lawson refuses to divulge any information. Desperate for a lead, Kate turns to Jamie, a vineyard hand who shows her the romance of wine country—and stirs her aching heart. But his connection to Lawson is ambiguous, and when Jamie disappears before the end of the week, Kate is left to investigate another story: the truth behind the man who stole her heart.

My Review

“There’s nowhere but here. Nothing else matters.”

I loved so many things about this novel. It felt like a true romance. The kind that sweeps you off your feet and leaves your heart full and happy. I’ve been reading too many books where the characters are so deeply flawed and impossibly broken that it felt refreshing to immerse myself in a story where the characters were simply falling in love. Yes, their past had not been hearts and rainbows, but their story truly centered around the romance. The love. The fateful encounter that would change the course of their lives. I devoured the book in one sitting and it left me grinning widely and feeling a wonderful sense of fullness at the story’s full-circle end.

“There’s no one to take care of me, no matter how many people surround me. I’m all I’ve got.”

Kate Corbin has been feeling a little lost lately. Shaken by a recent death, she leans on her boyfriend to fill the gaping sense of loss inside. Nonetheless, every time she needs him even in the smallest way, he seems to be so absorbed by his own life that there’s simply no room for her. Kate, however, clings to him because he’s someone in her life that hasn’t left her. That claims to love her. She’s floating through life looking to fill that hole inside, looking for inspiration, for something more to spark life once again. Her writing is suffering too. So when her boss gives her an assignment that can change everything around, she hops on a plane to Napa Valley in hopes of scoring the interview of a lifetime with a reclusive genius-turned-vintner, and just maybe, something more to set her on the right path.

“You’ve lost your spark, Kate. Don’t come home until you find it.”

But as with all good intentions, her stay in Napa begins with a crash. Literally. She plows her rental car into a pickup driven by a beautiful man, a worker, at the winery. And then, her interview with R.J. Lawson goes horribly wrong. He turns out to be a complete ass. On the plus side, the estate is breathtaking… every detail re-engineered to be sustainable, enjoyable and unforgettable. She experiences the innovative allure of the winery next to Jamie, the man whom she surreptitiously crashed into. Jamie turns out to be this amazing person… hardworking, deep, smart and entirely unsettling. Every look and every gaze they exchange is charged with an unexpected chemistry. But with a boyfriend at home, she’s determined to behave. Yet his words and actions show the kind of caring she hasn’t seen in a long time. The kind that begins to fill that hole inside.

“Just being your friend is going to be hard, but I’ll try. It’s just that… I like you. You’re witty and sweet, and you happen to be the most  infinitely beautiful woman I’ve ever met.”

When Kate’s boyfriend dumps her over the phone, however, suddenly her time at the vineyard… her time with Jamie, is full of possibilities. She’s scared to take the leap… to surrender to what she’s grown to feel so quickly… to be once again tossed aside by somebody else. Surrounded by beauty, wine, food and Jamie, she gives in to the experience that feels so intrinsically right.

“Food is like love, you know?… We need it to stay alive… And wine is like poetry.”

Jamie is a man with a huge heart, who works hard, who cares deeply. He’s so taken by Kate and so quickly, the thought of losing her seems unbearable. And when they both give in to their feelings, everything in his life shines brightly next to this direct, witty, beautiful woman…

“You were the light coming toward me as I stood in the darkness.”

… until everything comes crashing down one night. And in a snap, Kate is back to a life that now seems emptier than ever, while Jamie is nowhere to be found. Everything unravels as secrets are exposed and a different kind of heartache consumes.

“Who would want me? I was a shell of a person, plain and simple, not worth coming home to.”

This story really evoked so many emotions in just the right balance. There was romance and hope and angst and sadness. I absolutely loved the setting that gave way to so many memorable experiences for these characters. Renee Carlino gives us a full-circle kind of novel that is already one of my favorites of the year. Bookended by a wonderful epilogue that had me smiling so so big, this was just a book that delivered in all the ways that count. I highly recommend you grab this book for it’s refreshingly romantic story line.

“There is nowhere else in the world I would rather be than by your side. Nowhere but here do I feel as whole and most genuinely me.”

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Review: Sweet Little Thing (#1.5, Sweet Thing) by Renee Carlino

My Thoughts

A fast-paced novella that was sexy, sweet, witty and fun to read!

Synopsis

Sweet Little ThingEver wonder what happened after the final pages of Sweet Thing? 

From his candid and sometimes neurotic point of view, Will tells all in this musical and sexy follow-up novella to Renée Carlino’s USA Today Bestseller.

Life is pure bliss for Mia and Will. They have a puppy, a loft in Brooklyn, and a new music studio on the rise. It seems things couldn’t get any better for this talented couple when life decides to throw them a sweet little curve ball. 

They quickly learn that things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes happily ever after is one giant leap of faith away.
With the help of good music, good friends, and one eccentric old lady, they overcome a few of life’s little bumps to find the sweetest thing of all.

My Review

“There are moments in life that you know you’ll never forget, even while it’s happening.”

This was such a sweet and witty novella that had me reminiscing about that intangible chemistry of Will and Mia. Together they are funny and perfectly in synch. Even their disagreements somehow fit together. Their connection is stronger than ever as they put a tumultuous year behind them and work to build their happily ever after . They are planning their wedding and working on their studio and basically enjoy the normalcy of every day life. This novella is really about them building their future and going through the natural bumps one goes through when settling into their own version of forever bliss.

“I watched her intently. All the sounds around me went away. It was quiet, but I could hear something. I strained to listen to the sound I’ve heard so many times before when I’m in Mia’s presence. It’s quiet, but if I tune everything else out, I can hear it. It’s the divine sound of my soul. It’s the sound I hear when I know everything is right in my world.”

I loved seeing how much Will loved her, as well as seeing Mia so comfortable and self-assured. As we know, she didn’t always make the best decisions in Sweet Thing, but seeing her with Will now, it’s as things should be. There is so much humor and music in their lives … it’s that musical alchemy … that connection they have that keeps them happy and together.

“I saw, like a film reel flashing in front of me, the last year of my life. I watched the heartache and the happiness and the moments of unrelenting bliss when we were in each other’s arms. I thought about every mundane moment that makes up that gray area of a person’s life… All my gray moments with Mia were colored in… I looked forward to the rest of my life, even if the rest of my life consisted of the humdrum day-in, day-out bullshit, it didn’t matter because Mia turned the most unremarkable moments into moments I cherished.”

Fans of Sweet Thing will enjoy jumping back in with Will and Mia, seeing as they tackle life and everything it throws at them as they conquer it all together. In Love. Happy.

“We have everything we need right here between us.”

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Purchase Links

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sweet thing cover Sweet Little Thing

About The Author

reneeRenee’s first friends were the imaginary kind and even though her characters haven’t gone away, thankfully the delusions have. She admits she’s a wildly hopeless romantic and she blames 80’s movies staring Molly Ringwald for that. 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 the next book, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.

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Review: Sweet Thing by Renee Carlino

My Thoughts

Sweet, heartfelt and completely captivating.
A lovely romance that began with happenstance, but was destined to be real.  An incredible debut novel by Renee Carlino!

4halfstars

Synopsis

sweet thing coverMia Kelly is a twenty-five-year-old walking Gap ad who thinks she has life figured out when her father’s sudden death uproots her from slow-paced Ann Arbor to New York City’s bustling East Village. There she discovers her father’s spirit for life and the legacy he left behind with the help of an old café, a few eccentric friends, and one charming musician.

Will Ryan is good-looking, poetic, spontaneous, and on the brink of fame when he meets Mia, his new landlord, muse, and personal heartbreaker.

A story of self-discovery and friendship, Sweet Thing shines light on the power of loving and letting go.

 

My Review

I had this book filed to read for awhile and when I had the opportunity to squeeze a book in, I couldn’t resist. Something about the synopsis continued to call to me and I’m so very glad I read it because I LOVED it! Surprisingly, this is Renee’s debut novel because she writes like a pro with words flowing effortlessly and beautifully, totally hooking me from the beginning. There was something intangibly real and special about this book, which kept me reading until I finished it. The only aspect I struggled with is that Mia, made some awful choices that I couldn’t understand. Because… WILL… he’s well, ahhhhmazing. I fell hard for Will Ryan and I assure you, that you will too.

25-year-old Mia Kelly moves from Ann Arbor to New York after her father’s death. On the plane, she meets gorgeous musician Will Ryan and they connect over their love of music (Will plays guitar and Mia plays the piano). Their time together is short-lived, however, when they go their separate ways at the airport. Once in New York, Mia takes over running her father’s business, a coffee house named Kell’s. With her father’s loss, she feels more lost than ever … caught between following in her dad’s free-spiritedness and fully embracing the musician’s life style or being practical-minded like her mother and pursuing a career in business.

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Soon, destiny interferes and bringing Mia and Will together again just as Mia is looking for a roommate. Will moves in and their friendship grows, their connection strengthens and their attraction escalates. But Mia ignores the intensifying feelings… Will is just like her father and that scares her. Will’s love of music runs deep and he’s amazingly talented. But Mia is stubborn, determined to stick with her plan of finding a stable guy with a practical job. It was killing me to see her push Will away. Their connection is so special and Will is just absolutely incredible. He’s crazy-talented, kind, thoughtful, passionate, sensitive and everything any girl would want, but Mia continues to deny what is happening between them.

There’s no denying, however, that Mia is falling for Will. Her insecurities fuel her bad decisions and she’s convinced that she’ll end up in a relationship like her divorced parents. As word of Will’s talent spreads and record deals hit the table, she’s terrified he’ll leave her.

“My real fear was that I would fall in love with Will or that I already had and then he would just leave me alone, broken and pathetic.”

Their relationship grows slowly, cautiously, but in such a real way. Will is so persistent, constantly trying to be with Mia. So many times, in efforts to protect herself and appease her fears, she is mean and deceiving. I couldn’t believe how she hurt him continuously when he was so amazing to her, always.

Thankfully, however, this story has a wonderful, full-circle, happy ending. And there are so many elements I loved about this book. I loved the circle of friends that cared so much about each other… I loved the way music weaved heavily through the story line… and I loved the quiet way the love between Mia and Will grew. It all felt real, intimate and special. Mia and Will were two kindred spirits that were meant to be together, and together, they are “mystical alchemy.”

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Ultimately, this story is about Mia letting go of her insecurities, her preconceptions and allowing herself to be who she was meant to be, with the person she’s meant to be with. It’s a wonderful, romantic read that I highly recommend you pick up. It’s one of my favorite stories of the year.

SWEET_THINGPIC3

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Check out the playlist for Sweet Thing on Spotify! Click below to listen in!

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About The Author

reneeRenee’s first friends were the imaginary kind and even though her characters haven’t gone away, thankfully the delusions have. She admits she’s a wildly hopeless romantic and she blames 80’s movies staring Molly Ringwald for that. 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 the next book, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.

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