Wish You Were Here
By Renee Carlino
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.
“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.”
I think I may have found a new Renee Carlino favorite! Wish You Were Here has all of the elements of a great romance, although I would probably classify this story as a mixture of contemporary romance and women’s fiction.
Our protagonist is Charlotte Martin. She’s drifting in a sea of limbo – jumping from career to career but never feeling satisfied by any of her choices. Dating different men but never finding the passion to commit. Instead, Charlotte chooses to play it safe alongside her lifelong best friend, Helen.
Charlotte and Helen are wandering home from a bar one night when they run across Adam, who is standing in the middle of the sidewalk and looking very lost. He seems a bit confused, so Charlotte and Helen decide to help him with directions. Adam is handsome and kind, charismatic and extremely endearing. And because there is such an ease about him, Adam makes it easy for Charlotte to do something spontaneous. She hangs out with Adam all night long.
What they share that night feels promising to Charlotte, but the next morning Adam is very different, and she sees that she was wrong. During the coming months, Charlotte realizes she’s having trouble moving on from her encounter with Adam. Even as she considers dating Seth, her feelings for Adam continue to nag at her. Charlotte is forced to conclude that she fell in love with Adam, and she recognizes that she needs closure.
Carlino’s characters are interesting, and her protagonist in this novel, Charlotte, undergoes extensive character growth. Wish You Were Here has clever dialogue with laugh-out-loud humor in all of the right places. The descriptive writing is also outstanding. For example, Carlino transformed a visual of a famous landmark into an experience of the senses. That scene in the book truly impressed me.
Perhaps the best feature of Wish You Were Here is the focus on selfless, pure love – the kind of love that only makes your heart sing. A novel with two love interests can be a hard sell, but please don’t let that hold you back from reading this story. I promise that the manner in which Renee Carlino wrote this novel is pure class. There was never a point that this story felt like a true love triangle.
Wish You Were Here triggered many of my emotions ranging from joy to tears, but after crying those tears, Carlino pieced my heart back together. As I take a final look back at Wish You Were Here, I realize how truly special this story is. I highly recommend reading this 6-star novel! It’s one of my favorite this year!
Wow! Renee Carlino astounded me and left me emotionally floored in a very good way. It took a lot of ugly tears and emotional hiccups along the way but the end result was so worth the emotional journey. The epilogue validated every single reason I believe in love.
I can honestly say that I suffered a very serious book hangover for days after reading this book.
The first chapter introduces the reader to Charlotte, a twenty seven year old woman still struggling to find her niche in life. She’s had as many bad jobs as she’s had bad relationships. She’s educated and has tried many different types of jobs. Nothing seems to stick. She’s still working a crappy waitress job with crappy uniforms, crappy tips, and a crappier boss. She’s become perpetually stuck in life. Even though her life is less than stellar, she is eternally optimistic and is still searching for the right fit. She’s constantly comparing her non achievements in life to her over achieving, younger brother who’s on the road to success. Her parents are bewildered by her life choices. Her best friend, who is also perpetually stuck in her twenties, is her biggest cheerleader and lifetime roommate in their crappy apartment. One bad breakup ( the BFF) leads to a night that changes the course of her life. She meets a random stranger on the street and immediately makes a connection that leads to the most unusual but very memorable one night stand.
An adventurous one night stand that is filled with spontaneity, maple donuts, and forgotten Chinese food leads to a confusing and somewhat degrading walk of shame the next morning. Charlotte can’t seem to forget the night she spent with Adam, the vivacious artist with a thirst for life. His spontaneity and pure joy marked her soul.
Months later, she’s finally ready to move on when she meets a sexy baseball player, Seth, on an online dating site. What begins as a fun flirtation starts developing into a real relationship that has potential of being the very thing she’s been searching for. Everything is perfect until it’s not. There’s something holding her back and that something is her one night stand with Adam. From that point on everything begins to change and spiral out of control. Her best friend is moving on in life and grasping the adulting concept. Her successful baby brother has become her new life coach and roommate. Seth has made it to the major leagues and wants her along for the ride. The problem is that Charlotte is still stuck in her life. Maybe she needs to go back to the beginning or back to the one night that still haunts her thoughts. She needs some kind of closure from the disastrous one night stand that muddled her direction in life. The answers aren’t what she was expecting nor are they black and white. Adam’s life is anything but carefree and spontaneous. He’s a different man than the one she met on the street. Now that she has the answers, the choices are hers to make. Does she let go of Seth, the man who offers her everything she’s looking for in life or does she take the risk and follow Adam on a spontaneous adventure that has no guarantees of a future?
Choices are never easy and many times they aren’t right or wrong. They are merely stepping stones in the journey of life. The most important thing is accepting that choice and letting it become part of life’s compass. Eventually it will lead Charlotte to the place she was meant to be.
I’m usually not a fan of love triangle themed romances but this novel was an unusual triangle that had all the “feels” from every angle. I loved both men equally and swooned over them both. What I loved most is how they both loved Charlotte. They both loved her unconditionally, without measure, or expectations. They accepted her as she was. They both encouraged her to become something better for herself rather than for them. They wanted her to have everything she deserved in life. Most of all, they wanted her to know she was loved no matter what happened in her life. They both gave her pure unconditional love.
I’m choking up with tears as I write this review. Thinking about all that Charlotte experienced, the pain, joy, and rebirth, was phenomenal. This novel gave Charlotte the potential to experience all of the possibilites offered in life. I think we all strive to experience the pure love Charlotte received.
Wish You Were Here by Renee Carlino is more than a romance novel, it is an amazing reading adventure. It has become one of my all time favorite books.
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