Wish You Were Here by Renée Carlino: Review + Excerpt

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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M Y    T H O U G H T S

Renée Carlino has become one of those rare authors that I know I'm going to read whatever she writes - and be emotionally impacted by it. She has a gift for writing stories that I slip into seamlessly and become fully immersed in the lives of characters that feel like they could be my friends, my sisters, my family. Wish You Were Here was no exception.

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 hed met in a previous life. Memories that didn't exist began exploding in my mind like fireworks.

Charlotte is coasting through life with a series of failed careers and failed relationships behind her. A chance meeting with Adam leads to a one-night stand and an intense connection. However, the morning after brings another side of Adam and Charlotte is left questioning how all they shared the previous night could have vanished so quickly. Six months later Charlotte is still shaken by her encounter with Adam and even a tentative new relationship with a seemingly great guy cannot shake her conviction that her story with Adam is still unfinished.

When I opened the door, he was standing on the other side with his shoulders slumped. He looked dejected. He raised his gaze from the floor to my eyes. "Hi," he said, his voice low.
"What's wrong? You were excited about donuts thirty seconds ago."
"I'm still excited about donuts. I just got sad thinking that this night will eventually have to end." 

There's little I can say plot-wise without giving away much of the story and it's best to experience Wish You Were Here without too much information - just let the story unfold. So instead let's talk characters. Carlino did her usual magic and created a main character so flawed and so human and it was impossible not to feel her uncertainty and lack of direction. Admittedly, the two main male characters at times fell into the too-good-to-be-true category but I loved them both so much that I couldn't hold it against them (or Carlino). Every interaction was filled with such heart and emotion and humor, often making me smile through tears. There were times when I was frustrated with Charlotte, wondering if she was being deliberately obtuse, but watching as she changed and truly came into her own made it all worthwhile. Yes, it could be argued that there is insta-love (or at least an insta-connection), but it was impossible not to fall under the romantic spell that Carlino cast. I was swept away by the sparks that were flying, by the grand gestures, by the quiet moments. Somehow, Carlino took the trope, added her signature mixture of realism and emotion, and made it work.

As long as there is love in this world, we will be a part of it.

Wish You Were Here puts a spotlight on not only romantic relationships but those with friends and family as well. As the story progresses, it was satisfying to see Charlotte's relationships with her best friend, her parents and her brother change and evolve as she herself changed.  Her relationship with her brother was a real highlight and their banter rang so true. Anyone with a sibling will understand and appreciate the love-hate relationship, the rivalry, the inside jokes, and the way the relationship (hopefully) evolves into something even stronger and deeper in adulthood.

Love is a wordless secret; it's an inside joke. Only the two of you have to understand it.

Wish You Were Here is about having the courage to choose love no matter what the cost. It's about soul mates and second chances. It's about growing up, finding direction, and living in the moment. Ultimately, Wish You Were Here is the perfect novel for those who are in love with love. 

“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, Charlotte.” 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


  1. I am starting this one next and am so excited! I love the way it sounds but excited to see where it takes me. Great review!

  2. I totally agree with you about this book. This was my first Carlino, but it definitely won't be my last.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. I can highly recommend Before We Were Strangers, Nicole. I loved that one so much!

  3. Ah this books sounds absolutely amazing!! I love everything you've mentioned, it seems like something I'll LOVE.
    Amazing review, Tanya, and thanks for sharing the excerpt :) Really great post.

    Amy @ A Magical World Of Words

    1. Thanks Amy! I just love Renee Carlino and I just *click* with her books. :)

  4. I really want to read this. I read two Carlino books and they were good, but I am seeing raves about this. Great review!

    1. Yes, yes, you definitely should! Not my absolute favorite by Carlino but I still loved it. I find it impossible not to love her characters.