My rating: 5 of 5 stars
5 Caro & West stars!
It's one of those 'difficult to read and even more difficult to rate' books. My usual M.O. for books that have this type plot device would be to DNF it so fast or get ragey about it. My friends know this about me and I have stepped on my soapbox on more than one occasion. But once in a while it works and it adds another layer to the story. It doesn't make for an easy read but once the rage is over, you get that nice little HEA at the end, it makes everything worth it.
"All the songs are love songs, and this one is ours."
Harder picks up 3 months after Deeper ended. West is in Silt and Caroline is in Putnam. For all intents and purposes, they were over. Caroline and West was no more. I think this is an important thing to remember, at least for me, in light of happens at 20% in the book.
When West's biological father died, Caroline decided to be there for West even though West doesn't want her anywhere near Silt. When they saw each other, everything was different. West wasn't the same guy Caro fell in love with. He was basically a stranger: bitter, angry and desperate.
Caroline did the best she could to be there for him but West was having none of it. And in what could be the cruelest and most boneheaded move ever, West set out to destroy Caroline's hope for him the only way he knows how: (view spoiler)[He went down on his former cougar client while Caro witnessed it all. Correction. He made sure Caro witnessed it all. (hide spoiler)]
I'm not going to lie. Many who loved Deeper will probably hate this book because of what West did. I hated what West did. Hated it. I cried when it happened. I raged at Robin York for taking this story in this direction. I couldn't fathom why Caroline didn't rage at him or kicked in the balls. It was tough. I didn't want to continue but I did. And if I may be honest, it was touch and go for me until at about 59% or so when West and Caroline started talking.
It was then that Robin York painstakingly laid bare every motivation, both right and wrong, of each character, West especially. While Deeper was focused on Caroline's fight against those who wronged her, Harder was very much about West's fight for survival. In this book, the reader gets to see his home life (shitty), his mother (deplorable human being) and Frankie (his only joy) in Silt.
"I knew as soon as you came through the door, I'd ruin it. There wasn't any way not to ruin it, and it made me so fucking angry, so that's what you ended up seeing when you did come outside. How angry I was at the world for making me and you impossible."
I still didn't like what he did but I understood his character more. I felt that Ms. York did a good job of showing me, the reader, how wrong West was in his thinking. She really did. At the same time, she used what happened there as a catalyst for Caro and West's relationship to finally move along.
And when they finally did get their act together, it was absolutely beautiful to read. Add to that Ms. York's majestic writing and it was just smooth-sailing from then on.
I love her. Caroline Piasecki.
I always will.
Another thing which I loved about this is how Caroline's story finally came full circle. Did she get her vengeance on Nate? No. But what she got out of it was even better. I just loved how that part of the story was resolved. I was a little afraid this would get swept under the rug. And frankly, after what happened in the first 20%, I thought this book was going to be about West "winning Caroline back" and the "revenge porn" element to the story would fall by the wayside. It didn't. In fact, it couldn't have gone better. I felt that Caroline's decision was fitting and it really worked for me.
I also loved that Frankie, West's sister, was a prominent figure in this story. It was heartbreaking to read about her childhood and how West essentially raised her. Her presence in the book also gave added insight into West's character. A big part of his motivation was Frankie and this book afforded the reader a glimpse into their heartbreaking relationship. His whole family really and the place he came from added layers to his character.
In the end, I really did end up loving this book despite its imperfect characters. Great writing has a lot to do with it, of course. But most of all, I loved these characters so much. I hated them and loved them at the same time. I don't exactly know why. Maybe because they were written as honestly flawed people, which made their struggles all the more relatable to me. I dunno. But I loved it.
Definitely one of the best I've read, so far, this year.
*An ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
*Quotes used in this review are from the ARC and could differ from the published copy.