Double Review & Giveaway: DEEPER and HARDER by Robin York

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Whoa…another double review! Since I think that Robin York’s Deeper (Book 1) and Harder (Book 2) should be read together and, better yet, back-to-back, a double review seemed highly appropriate for these books. Read on to see my thoughts and an awesome giveaway…

Deeper cover

Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Length: 402 pages
Genre: New Adult
Series: Caroline & West, Book 1
Publisher: Bantam (Random House)
Source & Format: Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley; digital
 
Official Summary
When Caroline Piasecki’s ex-boyfriend posts their sex pictures on the Internet, it destroys her reputation as a nice college girl. Suddenly her once-promising future doesn’t look so bright. Caroline tries to make the pictures disappear, hoping time will bury her shame. Then a guy she barely knows rises to her defense and punches her ex to the ground.
 
West Leavitt is the last person Caroline needs in her life. Everyone knows he’s shady. Still, Caroline is drawn to his confidence and swagger—even after promising her dad she’ll keep her distance. On late, sleepless nights, Caroline starts wandering into the bakery where West works.
 
They hang out, they talk, they listen. Though Caroline and West tell each other they’re “just friends,” their feelings intensify until it becomes impossible to pretend. The more complicated her relationship with West gets, the harder Caroline has to struggle to discover what she wants for herself—and the easier it becomes to find the courage she needs to fight back against the people who would judge her.
 
When all seems lost, sometimes the only place to go is deeper.
 
 

Emily‘s Review

I read Deeper without having a clue what it was about. I have a tendency to stalk our “blog library” and read things willy-nilly (yes, like a complete book-glutton). There often isn’t cover art with the advance reading copies or uncorrected proofs we receive for review, so I wasn’t sure what genre it even was, let alone who wrote it. That said, I didn’t get very far into Deeper (like less than 1%) when I realized it was probably not going to be a “happy/feel good” read. I came to an abrupt standstill. Should I keep reading? Was I up for it? I’ll confess, there are times I just can’t handle drama or angst and give up on certain books when my mood isn’t right.

For some reason, I stayed the course despite the fact that Robin York (who is really our beloved Ruthie Knox in disguise!) tackles a super, well, ICKY topic in Deeper – one that I, as a mother of a daughter, don’t want to really think about. The heroine, Caroline, is betrayed by a prior boyfriend who posts their sex photos all over the Internet. Serious YUCK, right? Revenge porn. I naïvely didn’t realize this was a thing and didn’t really want to know it was.

But the book isn’t just about the emotional turmoil that Caroline goes through when facing the ramifications of these photos and what happens when you think everyone you know has seen you naked. There is also a quirky romance between Caroline and West, who had lived in her dorm and who she has always had a fascination for. The romance is also not trite or fluffy but is full of its own drama and angst. Seriously, nothing is easy in this book, but I am über-grateful I was up to the “challenge” of reading it. Let me tell you why…

First, the writing. Seriously, only Ruthie Knox (yes, yes, and Robin York, I guess) can write so dang well. Her writing really resonated with me, so poignant and lovely, and I found myself bookmarking excerpts that really worked for me, letting me feel how the characters feel. Like these:

When I first met West, it was move-in day for first year students, and it was hot. Iowa hot, which means in the mid-nineties with 98 percent humidity. The best thing to do under those conditions is to lie on a couch in someone’s cold basement and watch TV while eating Cadbury eggs.
 

And:

We looked at each other. Probably not for ten entire minutes, but that’s how it felt. Like an indecently long time spent staring at his face, when I almost never allowed myself more than a glance. A day of watching his mouth twitch. His nostrils flare. His too-pale blue-green eyes lit up with mischief.
 
 

Another reason I am glad I read Deeper? Yes, it is the icky topic itself and the way it was handled. The way it was tackled, in a way that only Ruthie, er…Robin can do it, felt real. Caroline and West and their complicated relationship seemed complex and real too.

The final reason (for the purpose of this review, anyway) that I am so glad I decided to keep reading Deeper was my love for Caroline and West. I didn’t love Caroline at first. She was a little too perfect and preppy for me, but as she works her way through her issues and navigates a much different life than she had envisioned for herself, she grew on me. And West – sigh! – he was another wounded, flawed hero who I just wanted to totally protect and love.

Bottom Line

Yes, Deeper is about revenge porn, and yes, that is icky, but Robin York (have I mentioned she is really Ruthie Knox, people??) tackles this issue with such a beautiful story. This is not a high-school-angsty New Adult read. If you want to read a deeper, darker topic, with a complicated love story and some steamy Sexy Time, give Deeper a try!

Rating: A

Buy Digital:  Kindle  |  Nook
 
Buy Print:  Amazon  |  B&N 
 
 
 

Harder cover

Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Length: 352 pages
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Series: Caroline & West, Book 2
Publisher: Bantam (Random House)
Source & Format: Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley; digital
 
Official Summary
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.
 
 

Emily‘s Review

I think I would have died if I couldn’t keep reading about Caroline and West after finishing Deeper. Obviously not literally, but I seriously had to know what happened next. While Deeper doesn’t end on a total cliffhanger, it kind of does. Thank goodness we had Harder in the blog library and I could read them back-to-back to find out how their story ends. I don’t want to give up too much, but suffice it to say (as the official summary does), in Deeper, West and Caroline fell in love (amidst a lot of crap Caroline was going through) and then West had to leave. Harder is about what happens next.

While Deeper was mainly focused on Caroline’s issues, Harder shows all of West’s stuff. I knew from the first book that he had some baggage of his own, but sheesh! I didn’t realize just how much. West is both stronger and more screwed up than I had realized. His family life is a mess, and after he calls Caroline to come to his hometown because he needs her, he then proceeds to act in a way completely different than I wanted or expected.

While I loved discovering the next chapter for Caroline and West, and the things I had loved about Deeper all still rang true, I was a tad bit let down with how West seemed to change. I don’t love when heroes get TOO emotional or needy and West bordered on that a little for me in Harder. I didn’t want him to be the one needing taking care of. I know, I know…I am a total bitch. I am! I want the heroes to grin and bear it. Not a nice sentiment, but it’s one I had once or twice while reading Harder. I guess I like my heros flawed but only when they are more stoic and reserved about it, not when they don’t really know what to do about it. There were a few times I just wanted West to suck it up and deal!

Despite the twinges of issues I had with West, Robin York’s writing still rocked. She is so dang awesome! I think I’d read her if she wrote ingredient lists on cereal boxes. The topics in Harder were still pretty dark but, again, were approached in a way that was respectful and made me want to keep reading. I felt for West’s various family members in many different ways. York has a way of making no one an absolute hero or victim and that truly makes her characters feel real and human.

Did I mention the Sexy Time in my prior review? Well, there is some. And by that, I mean lots. So while the topics in these books can be difficult, there are also times where you can, well, relax and focus on other things. :)

Bottom Line

If you read Deeper, you need to read Harder. Done. End of story. You will need to read to the end to feel truly satisfied with how Caroline and West’s “ending” is written.

Rating: B

Wine/Beverage Pairing: One of the things Caroline does while trying to reinvent herself in Deeper and Harder is to join an all-women rugby team. So it seems appropriate to pair this with beer, which seems to be a common beverage for the rugby folks. :)

Buy Digital:  Kindle  |  Nook
 
Buy Print:  Amazon  |  B&N
  

 

Caroline & West Series Giveaway

The lovely folks at Bantam Books have generously offered to give away a 2-book print copy set of Deeper and Harder to THREE lucky Kindles & Wine commenters (U.S. residents only).

To enter for your chance to win, you must:

  1. Be a follower of our blog (click HERE to subscribe), AND…
  2. Hit the comments and tell me: Who is your favorite author who writes another genre under a pseudonym? What is it about their writing you like best?

Please note: All entrants must review and adhere to our official giveaway policy. This contest will close on Sunday, October 26, 2014 at 11:59 PM (CDT) and the three winners will be notified via email on Monday, October 27.