Harder (Caroline & West #2) by Robin York

I’ve been sitting on this review for a few weeks. And yes, I breezed through the book again to refresh my memory on some key points I knew I wanted to include in the review but was waaaaaaay to hungover from the book to actually write anything down right away. That’s how I roll when I read Robin York. Perpetual book hangover.

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In Robin York’s provocative new novel, two young ex-lovers find themselves together again in the shadow of tragedy—and an intense, undeniable attraction. 

Caroline still dreams about West. His warm skin, his taut muscles, his hand sliding down her stomach. Then she wakes up and she’s back to reality: West is gone. And before he left, he broke her heart.

Then, out of the blue, West calls in crisis. A tragedy has hit his family—a family that’s already a fractured mess. Caroline knows what she has to do. Without discussion, without stopping to think, she’s on a plane, flying to his side to support him in any way he needs.

They’re together again, but things are totally different. West looks edgy, angry at the world. Caroline doesn’t fit in. She should be back in Iowa, finalizing her civil suit against the ex-boyfriend who posted their explicit pictures on a revenge porn website. But here she is. Deeply into West, wrapped up in him, in love with him. Still.

They fought the odds once. Losing each other was hard. But finding their way back to each other couldn’t be harder.

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 “Before we crashed and burned, though, I liked the person I was with West. He made me vulnerable, but he helped me be stronger, too.”

When West left at the end of Deeper, I was crushed. I was. I honestly thought that things will work out with the whole Nathan mess, and Caro’s lawsuit will work itself out and all will be good in the world.

And then I remembered it’s Robin York we’re talking about here, and while she’ll get us to the good parts, we have to suffer a little more during the journey. So ok, I held strong.

And then Harder started with West being out of touch with Caro for months, and I was… WHATTT? And then the story truly began.

When tragedy hits, West finally contacts Caroline. She drops everything, including pursuing her lawsuit (along with her father) and rushes to his side. Only West doesn’t really want that (or is it just him telling himself that?!) and pushes her away, dumps her as his sister’s babysitter of a sort, and keeps trying to fight his feelings. Caroline on her part gets a front row seat to West’s life.

West’s actions in this book, in my eyes, were on the verge of unforgivable. It all made me sick to my stomach, and crushed my soul. It’s quite astonishing how an individual’s sense of self worth reflects in their actions. This book (and Deeper, too) carries that feeling through the words incredibly well.

Caroline is one of the strongest female characters I’ve read probably ever. She’s determined and smart, she’s strong in her place in life thanks to West’s help to her in Deeper, and she loves fiercely without being a pushover.

I can’t ruin her. That’s what she means.
I can fuck up, but I can’t ruin her.
My hands are trembling. I forgot that she does this. Sees right into me and picks me right the fuck apart.
Maybe this is what I’ve been afraid of. That she’d pick me into pieces, and there won’t be anything left of me when she does.

This quote nailed just about everything important in this book. West’s fragility of mind, Caroline’s strength, and both their love for each other.

“We go deep and then deeper, falling, spinning. When he’s with me, I’m never lost.”

See? And these lines are supported by the sweetest most telling lines about their relationship:

He takes me by the hips and lifts me off him. “I better order. You want chicken fried rice and an egg roll?”
“Yep. And an orgasm.” He sits up quick and kisses me hard. By the time he’s done, I’m breathless. “Make that two orgasms.”

I will always love Robin York’s books. Having read everything York wrote under her adult pen name, Ruthie Knox, I can count on her to nail it with deeply emotional and complex relationships. There’s a reason that whenever I’m asked to recommend a romance writer, her name pops first.

Pick up Deeper if you haven’t still, and get ready for Harder coming July 1st. If you read them back to back, I can’t promise the heart clenching angst will be any less pronounced, but it definitely will not last as long as it did for me.

Most recommended New Adult in 2014.

My rating: 5

*Thank you to Random House/Bantam, Robin York and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Robin York grew up at a college, went to college, signed on for some more college, and then married a university professor. She still isn’t sure why it didn’t occur to her to write New Adult sooner. Writing as Ruthie Knox, she is a USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary romance, including RITA-finalists About Last Night andRoom at the Inn. She moonlights as a mother, makes killer salted caramels, and sorts out thorny plot problems while running, hiking, or riding her bike.

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