Book Review & Playlist: Nowhere but Here by Renee Carlino

A jaded Chicago reporter in her twenties unexpectedly finds love in Napa Valley when she’s assigned to spend a week with a famously reclusive genius in this rich and deeply satisfying contemporary romance by the USA TODAY bestselling author of Sweet Thing.

Kate Corbin has lost her spark. A year ago, she had a handsome boyfriend and a budding career as a reporter at a popular Chicago newspaper. But after the woman who raised her passed away, leaving her lost and alone, she fell into a rut—and never got out. Now she’s stuck writing fluff pieces about lipstick and wine, and feeling trapped in a relationship that’s going nowhere.

Trusting that the hungry, ace reporter is buried somewhere deep inside, Kate’s boss and mentor gives her the opportunity to jump-start her career. The assignment: spend a week interviewing R. J. Lawson, a famously reclusive tech genius who disappeared years ago but recently reemerged as the owner of a well-respected Napa Valley winery.

Kate jumps at the chance, but the trip begins in disaster, both personally and professionally. After alienating R.J., her only saving grace is Jamie, a charming vineyard hand who shows her the beauty of wine country—and stirs her aching heart. It doesn’t take long for Kate and Jamie to fall hard, and for Kate to rethink her life in the city. But the week ends with a heartbreaking journey back to Chicago that sends Kate reeling, wondering what went wrong in those four perfect days.

After Sweet Thing, I said that Renee Carlino reached out and touched my heart and soul. And you know what? She's done it again with Nowhere But Here, a story about finding love and what it takes to keep that love. She tells this story with beautifully complex characters, equally stunning locations that become characters of their own, and a journey so full of twists and turns that I wanted to laugh, swoon, and cry--multiple times.

Once again, Renee has created an independent, yet vulnerable, heroine who has been hardened by recent tragedy and loss. Kate Corbin is in desperate need of a work, life, and love. Kate needs change, and she quite literally crashes into her game-changer: Jamie. Jamie is the patient, passionate, and heart-gripping hero of this story. (If you thought Will Ryan was perfect, Renee really outdid herself with her newest leading man!) On assignment to solve the mystery of R.J. Lawson, journalist Kate got the mystery of Jamie instead.
"You've lost your spark, Kate. Don't come home until you find it. Bring back a great story."
Their impulsive, but deeply felt, romance begins after Kate's interview with R.J. goes awry, and it's left to his loyal staff members to introduce her to what the winery is all about. The food (!!!), the scenery, the grapes. Their methods, their passion. Kate is swept up in it all, and I was fully entranced by this "magical, friendly" place. In fact, I had been looking forward to this book because of its link to Napa, for two reasons: I grew up in the Bay Area, and I work in the culinary industry. Renee did not disappoint, with her gorgeous representations of each city, their distinct atmosphere, and their overall vibe. From Napa to San Francisco, every detail of every room and place came to life. Do you want to know where I sat while I read a pretty fantastic scene involving sailing and the Golden Gate Bridge?? I sat here, with this view. I sat there, and read for an afternoon, and it was kinda perfect. All that I needed was a glass of Pinot Noir and Jamie to feed me gourmet dishes and chocolates! ;)

Kate and Jamie had undeniable chemistry as they gravitated closer and closer to each other. As soon as she met him, Jamie was a stark difference from her last boyfriend. I easily swooned over his vibrant tattoos and smooth-talking ways! Then, I swooned even more as little pieces of Jamie came to light. He was quirky and charismatic. He showed off a number of skills, that he was well-educated and traveled the world on his own, and that he applied that wealth of knowledge to the many jobs he's responsible for. And, he does it all while living with diabetes! Bringing color and radiance to Kate's bland and lonely existence, Jamie is unique and interesting!
"That was nice," I said, still stunned.
"Nice?" he said in mock offense.
"Mind-blowing," he came back quickly.
"Exploding stars."
"Christmas morning."
"Chocolate lava cake."
"Potassium chlorate and gummy bears."
I squinted sharply. "What?"
"It's chemistry. Google it."
I adored their first, comical encounter, but I fell harder with every tender, intimate scene that followed. Even the more sensual moments still carried the weight of something more profound. As it turned out, they both understood what it meant to have a complicated history, and they connected as two lone souls with painful pasts. Her days at the winery reminded Kate how to feel, to connect, and to hope.
"I want to be with someone who intrigues me, who I can have fun with, who I can laugh with, but who will challenge me. I've been looking for the same thing most of us are looking for."

"What's that?"

"Someone to come home to."
Then, abruptly, Kate is in the dark again. Alone. Confused. Angry. I was gut-wrenched...but before I could recover...another twist! (I'll admit that I had a theory about this turn of events, but I wasn't expecting all of it!) And this twist was definitely big enough to make Kate question everything she knew and felt about Jamie. Those pieces of him that she saw in Napa finally came together like a puzzle. It was a sad down-spiral...Raw, and a little crazy, with a healthy dose of Pull your goddamn self together, woman!...Because, deep down, there was a part of her that wouldn't and couldn't let go of Jamie. Back home in Chicago, the people closest to Kate tried to convince her that she's capable of taking a chance again, and she even receives some unexpected, poignant reminders along the way.
"It isn't possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of is eternal."
Fate had a funny way of intervening, though. This time, it was a serious, "Whoa..." twist of fate. I actually had to put the book down, rub my hands down my face, and take a deep breath. Kate and Jamie were given a second chance, but it wasn't a pretty or easy road traveled.
He stepped toward me confidently, turned me to face him, and reached for my hand. He placed it over his heart and then pressed his other hand to my heart. "There's nowhere but here."
Finally, my thoroughly aching heart was going to receive its well-deserved remedy. I got to see their love grow. I got to see these two people take care of each other. A detail, that I initially brushed off as just endearing, finally hit me...Jamie's diabetes. Everything he dealt with throughout the story, like his "low", I've seen first-hand because my mother actually has diabetes. So, I do know one thing: it's not a condition that goes away or heals over time, and it requires constant care and attention. The message for Kate and Jamie was clear: Don't give up. These two people had suffered, on their own in the past, and together in the present, but they couldn't give up on their love. They needed to hold on and always take care of each other.

They were two solitary, wandering souls who found each other by chance, bonded, and made their "sparks" together. There was a part of himself that Jamie kept buried for a very long time, but Kate brought *it* back. There was something that Kate had always wanted and needed. Jamie helped her to see it, convinced her to fight for it.
"There used to be this hole, this void that I thought could never be filled, but it's healing and filling up...ever since I met you."
The way it all came together made my eyes water, soothed my heart, and lit my face up with the widest grin. That beautiful, utterly satisfying ending. It was the clarity at the end of the battle. 
If I hadn't lived in the fucking darkness, I never would have seen the light. Now I was finally facing that light, fearless, ready to walk into it and take my happiness.
Nowhere But Here was an emotional journey with the kind of message that buries deep into your bones and into your mind. The pain and the darkness are all worth it in the end when you're rewarded with real, all-encompassing love. Not everyone finds their person, their match...sometimes it's pure luck that they even if you've got it, hold on and be grateful for the wonderful thing that you have. Renee Carlino does this so well. She'll take you to such great heights (because that's romance!), drop you and hurt you (because, hey, that's life!), but then she'll leave your heart and soul feeling warm and fulfilled (because...that's love).



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Although it didn't have a constant presence like in Sweet Thing, music was still a fun part of Nowhere but Here. Each song set the mood perfectly. Here's a playlist of *songs mentioned in the novel and ones that I listened to after reading!

| Track 01*. "Heartbeats" by Jose Gonzalez |

| Track 02*. "Some Day My Prince Will Come" by Miles Davis |

| Track 03*. "Dragon" by The Amazing |

| Track 04*. "Tramp" by Otis Redding & Carla Thomas |

| Track 05*. "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding |

| Track 06. "(I Left My Heart) In San Francisco" by Tony Bennett |

Quick note: Not only is this dedicated to the city and its significance in the book, this is also dedicated to a quick scene when the San Francisco Giants are mentioned. As a huge baseball fan, I needed to put this song on the playlist. The Giants play it at AT&T Park after every win! ;)

| Track 07. "Sweet Home Chicago" by Eric Clapton |

| Track 08*. "I Got Mine" by The Black Keys |

| Track 09. "Only the Wine" by David Gray |

| Track 10. "Let It Be Me" by Ray LaMontagne |

| Track 11. "Like Real People Do" by Hozier |

| Track 12. "Dust to Dust" by The Civil Wars |

One last note: After I finished reading, I had Track 11 and 12 on repeat the most!


Renée Carlino 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 book, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.


| Sweet Thing | My Review |

| Sweet Little Thing | My Review |

| After Sweet Little Thing: Author Interview |

***ARC provided by author in exchange for honest review***