Wednesday, June 4, 2014

SUSAN - BOOK REVIEW: "Harder" by Robin York


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.


Robin York (NA pen name for one of my favorite contemporary romance writers, Ruthie Knox) pretty much kicked my ass with her book “Deeper”. It was so highly emotional for me that not only did I cry, I sobbed…body-wracking, tense, heart-aching wails. And my face was puffy for days. Her characters Caroline and West (oh, my dear dear West) got to me so deeply and impacted me greatly. I almost LOST my shit at the ending until I found out there was a sequel. And I waited for the rest of their story. But, admittedly, I was afraid.

Thing is, though I love this author, these books are almost too…real…and in your face for me. Not the stories themselves…I can usually handle that. But the TRUTHS she tells in her words, the lessons the characters learn (hard, hard lessons), and I feel like I’ve gone through the ringer, or through 12 rounds with a therapist. I need these words. But they’re sometimes hard.

For the first 22% of Harder I did not stop crying even once. I cried so much that I had to stop reading because my head hurt and my eyes were almost swollen shut. I wasn’t sure if my heart could take it. Yes, I’m known to be a wimp. But there was something so…fragile and hopeless about how I was reading this book. So, I stopped, took a break, had something to eat, watched some tv. And then dove back in.

The remainder of the book was much less angsty in story, but so much more…much much more…in words that had their way with me.  You see, for all that Caroline and West had gone through, apart, together, apart, trying to find their way back together…Robin York was strengthening and shaping them and refining them and I felt it physically, emotionally, mentally.

Finding a way to go beyond surviving, but instead thriving…West’s lesson. My lesson.

Finding a way to be your own and true self, stronger, birthed by fired and trials, to make choices that feel right for you and not just what others expect…Caroline’s lesson. My lesson.

So yes, there’s a love story here. And you’ll root for Caroline and West all throughout. But you’ll root for Caroline.  And you’ll root for West. And then you’ll root for them together. And that’s what makes this book special.  There’s just so much to be gathered here.

The story itself, though powerful, kinda took a backseat for me to the message. And so I was less engaged with what was happening with Frankie or Krishna or Bridget or Caroline’s dad or anyone else. And I think that’s ok. 

IN A NUTSHELL: It’s a powerful book.  Both Deeper and Harder are must reads for NA fans.

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