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.
Praise for Harder
“York’s beautiful prose and vivid descriptions enhance the realism and impact of Caroline and West’s story. Deeper and Harder are sensual and profoundly moving. The books are told in first-person from both Caroline’s and West’s POVs, and I sat on the emotional roller coaster right beside them as West learns to hold tight to Caroline and embrace life to the fullest. . . . They are books I will cherish.”—Lea Franczak, USA Today
“[York] again brings exquisite writing to contemporary New Adult romance with Harder, the sequel to her much-acclaimed Deeper. . . . As with all this author’s work, the prose itself is on a higher plane than readers of New Adult have come to expect. With searing metaphor and visceral descriptions of love and all its attendant pains, Harder will be loved by many . . . and talked about by everyone.”—New York Journal of Books
“Part two of Caroline and West’s story will really evoke emotions from readers, once they get past the steam factor included in this powerful novel.”—RT Book Reviews
“Bursting with chemistry, emotion, and heart, Caroline and West’s story will take your breath away!”—Katy Evans, New York Times bestselling author of the REAL series
“Robin York writes exceptionally real characters in achingly real situations. Harder had a hold on my heart and didn’t let go until the very end.”—New York Times bestselling author Cora Carmack
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
When I had to say goodbye at the airport, I thought, This is the last time.
The last time you get to kiss her. The last time you get to touch her.
This is the last time you’re ever going to see her face.
And then, after I turned and left, That was it. It’s over.
I guess I went to the gate. I must have boarded a plane. Someone sat next to me, but I don’t remember if it was a man or a woman, what they looked like. What I do remember is thinking everything would have to get easier from that point forward, because nothing could be harder than walking away from Caroline.
It almost makes me laugh now, if you can call it laughter when it comes with the salt-copper taste of blood at the top of your throat. If it’s still a smile when you have to swallow and swallow around it, unable to get rid of the bitter flavor of your mistakes.
I went home to Silt thinking I was heading into some kind of Wild West showdown. I’d call my dad out onto the public street at high noon and we’d draw our pistols. I’d fire straight and true and take him down, and then . . . well, that was the part I had to avoid thinking about. That was the part where the screen starts to go dark, the edges drawing in around a black-bordered circle that shrinks until it’s the size of a quarter, a nickel, a pinhole, nothing.
Nothing. That was where I would live after I drove my dad out of my life once and for all. Inside that blackness where the pinhole used to be, where the light had disappeared from, I’d pitch a tent, pull a blanket around me, and endure.
I was the sheriff, right? And he was the bad guy. But after I took him down, my reward would be an eternity of nothing I wanted. Maybe a gold star to pin on my shirt.
I was so sure I was the fucking sheriff, it almost makes me laugh, because what happened when I got home was that everything sucked in a completely different way from how I thought it would.
I did the impossible and walked away from Caroline.
After that, everything in my life that was hard got harder.
When West’s ringtone starts playing in my darkened bedroom, it slips into my subconscious, and I have one of those last-second-before-you-wake-up dreams that’s pure sensation—his skin warm against me everywhere, his weight and smell, the muscles in his thighs against the backs of mine, his hand sliding down my stomach. All of that, slow and melting and West, until the song finally manages to pierce through the haze of my sleep and pinch me awake.
I fight my way from under the sheet, turned on and pissed off because I know how this goes. The rock in my stomach, the day ahead during which I’ll try and fail to shake that flood of sense-memory.
I’m going to have to live through it, and then I’m going to lose it, every good memory I have of West, again, when what I want is to drop back into that dream and live there instead.
It sucks. It sucks, and I’m so distracted by the suckage that I’m picking up the phone and swiping at the screen with my thumb before I completely register what’s going on.
West’s ringtone. West is calling me.
West is calling me at one a.m. when I haven’t heard from him in two and a half months.
If he’s drunk-dialing me, I’m going to fly to Oregon and kick him in the nuts.
That’s what I’m thinking when I put the phone to my ear—but it’s not how I feel. I wish it were. I wish I could say Hello? and hear West say Hey, and not feel . . . I don’t even know. Plugged in. Lit up. Juiced.
I stand in my dark bedroom, aware in every centimeter of my skin that he’s breathing on the other end of the phone, somewhere on the far side of the country.
I have too many memories that start this way. Too many conversations where I told myself I wouldn’t and then I did.
I have this enormous burden of longing and pain, so heavy I can hear it in my voice when I snap, “What do you want?”
“My dad’s dead.”
My head clears in an instant, my attention sharpening to a point.
“He got shot,” West says, “and it’s . . . it’s a fucking mess, Caro. I know this is—I shouldn’t ask you. I can’t ask you, but I just need to tell you because I can’t fucking—” A crackling whooshing noise interrupts him, the kind of interference that fills your whole head with white sound. I just stand there, waiting for his voice to come back.
I’m pushing the phone so hard against my ear, my breath shallow and fast, aware with the kind of clarity I’ve only found in moments of crisis that it doesn’t even matter. Whatever he says next. It doesn’t matter.
The thing I never understood before West was that there are some people who, when it comes to them, reason and logic are never going to be in charge.
He left me. He hurt me.
But I stand there in the dark, holding the phone, and I know that in a few hours I’ll be on a plane.
I emerge from baggage claim in Eugene to the sight of West leaning against a dirty black truck. The first thing I think is, He cut his hair.
The second thing I think is, Maybe he did it for her.
If there is a her. I’ve never been able to accept that there is, despite what West said.
If she exists, she’s not here. I am.
West looks scary. Stubble covers his scalp, a dark shadow that throws the shapes of his face into relief: jawline, cheekbones, eye sockets, protruding brow, jutting chin, scowling mouth.
The muscles in his crossed arms belong to a brawler.
The West who left me in Des Moines more than four months ago was a guy, sometimes a boy, but this person who’s waiting for me is a big, hard, mean-looking man, and when he glances in my direction, I freeze. Mid-step. I’m wearing a white cardigan over a new green top that cost too much. Designer jeans. Impractical flats. Ridiculous clothes for August, because it’s always cold when you’re flying.
I wanted to look nice, but I got it wrong. I got everything wrong, and yet I think nothing I’ve done is as wrong as whatever is wrong with him.
He straightens and steps forward. I start moving again. I have to.
“Hey,” I say when we meet a few feet from his truck. I try on a smile. “You made it.”
He doesn’t smile in return. “So did you.”
“Sorry you had to pick me up.”
I’d texted right before I boarded the first flight to tell him I was coming. I didn’t want to give him a chance to say no, so I just gave him my flight number and announced when I’d get in.
When the plane landed in Minneapolis, I had three texts and a voice mail from him, all of them variations on the theme of Turn your ass around and go home.
I waited until I was boarding for Portland to text him again. I’ll get a rental car.
Walking off the jet bridge, I got his reply. I’ll pick you up.
Since that was the outcome I’d been angling for, I said, Okay.
It doesn’t feel okay, though. Not even close.
West wears cargo shorts and a red polo with a landscaping company’s logo. He’s tan—a deep, even, golden brown—and he smells strongly of something I don’t recognize, fresh and resinous as the inside of our cedar closet after my dad sanded it down. “Did you come from work?” I ask.
“Yeah. I had to take off early.”
“Sorry. You should’ve let me rent a car.”
West reaches out his hand. For an instant I think he’s going to pull me into his body, and something like a collision happens inside my torso—half of me slamming on the brakes, the other half flying forward to crash into my restraint.
His fingers knock mine off the handle of my suitcase, and the next thing I know he’s heading for the truck with it.
I stand frozen, gawping at him.
Get your act together, Caroline. You can’t freak out every time he moves in your direction.
He opens the passenger-side door to stow my bag in the back of the cab. The truck is huge, the front right side violently crumpled. I hope he wasn’t driving when that happened.
By the time he emerges, I’m comparing the musculature of his back to what his shoulders felt like under my hands the last time I saw him. The shape of his calves is the same. He’s West, and he’s not-West.
He steps aside to let me in. I have to climb up to the seat. The sweltering cab smells of stale tobacco. I leave my sweater on. Even though I’m too hot, I feel weird about any form of disrobing.
I turn to grab the door handle and discover him still there, blocking me with his body.
That’s when I figure it out. It’s not his hair or his tan or his muscles that make him seem different: it’s his eyes. His expression is civil, but his eyes look like he wants to rip the world open and tear out its entrails.
“You need to eat?” he asks.
I don’t think the simmering cynical hatred I hear in his voice is directed at me. I’m pretty sure it’s directed at everything. But it sends a shiver of apprehension through me, because I’ve never heard West sound like that before.
“No, I’m good. I had dinner in Portland.”
“It’s almost three hours back to Silt.”
“I’m good,” I repeat.
He’s staring at me. I press my lips together to keep from apologizing. Sorry I came when you called me. Sorry I needed a ride from the airport. Sorry I’m here, sorry you don’t love me anymore, sorry your abusive asshole dad is dead.
My own father didn’t want me to come. At all. I had to quit my job a few weeks early and hand over almost everything I’d earned as a dental receptionist this summer to pay for the plane ticket—a move Dad called “boneheaded.”
He doesn’t trust West, and worse, he doesn’t trust me when it comes to West. Which means we argue whenever the subject comes up. We fought like cats and dogs at breakfast this morning when Dad realized he wasn’t going to be able to talk me out of this.
To make matters worse, we’re close to being ready to file the petition in my civil suit against Nate, my ex-boyfriend, for infringing my privacy and inflicting emotional distress. Dad wants me close at hand so we can read through the complaint together four thousand more times.
He’s a judge by profession, a single parent of three daughters, and a fretful micromanager by nature. Which makes him, in this situation, kind of unbearable.
I reminded him that poring endlessly over documents is what he paid our lawyer a zillion-dollar retainer for, but Dad says this is a learning experience for me. If I want to be a lawyer myself, I ought to pay attention.
I am paying attention.
I’m trying, at least. It got hard to pay attention right around the time West told me he was seeing someone else.
When he called me last night, all other thoughts flew out of my head.
The upcoming trial is important. Keeping my employment commitments is important. But West is more important. I’m not going to abandon him when he needs me.
“You don’t have to make a big fuss,” I say. “I’m just here to help.”
Without another word, he slams the door and gets behind the wheel, and we’re on our way.
I thought Eugene was a city, but after we leave the airport we’re instantly in the middle of nowhere, and that’s where we stay. It’s so green, it makes me thirsty.
West turns right, heading toward the mountains.
It’s nearly seven, so we won’t get to Silt until ten. I don’t know where I’m staying tonight.
I’m going to be sitting in this truck with West in the dark.
I take off my sweater. West fiddles with the air conditioner, reaches across me to redirect a vent, and suddenly it’s blasting in my face. My sweat-clammy skin goes cold, goose bumps and instantaneous hard nipples.
He turns the fan down.
“You’re doing landscaping?” I ask.
“Do you like it?”
The look he gives me reminds me of my sister Janelle’s cat. Janelle used to squirt it between the eyes with a water gun to keep it from jumping on her countertops, and it would glare back at her with exactly that expression of incredulous disdain.
“Sorry,” I say.
Then I try to count up how many times I’ve apologized since I walked out of the airport.
Too many. I’m letting him get to me when I promised myself on the plane I wouldn’t let anything get to me. This is a convoluted situation. Someone’s dead, guns are involved, West was torn up enough to call me—my job is to be unflappable. I’m not going to get mad at him or act heartbroken. I’m not going to moon around or cry or throw myself on him in a fit of lust. I’ll just be here, on his side.
I’ll do that because I promised him I would when he left Iowa. I made him swear to call me, and I told him he could count on me to be his friend.
He called. Here I am.
After marinating in tobacco-scented silence for a while, I find myself scanning West all over again, looking for similarities instead of differences. His ears are still too small. The scar hasn’t vanished from his eyebrow, and the other one tilts up same as always. His mouth is the same.
Always, for me, it was his mouth.
The scent coming off him is like a hot day in the deep woods—like a fresh-cut Christmas tree—but it’s not quite either of those. On the seat between us, there’s a pair of work gloves he must have tossed there. I want to pick them up, put them on, wiggle my fingers around. Instead, I look at his thigh. His faded shorts, speckled with minuscule pieces of clinging bark. His kneecap.
I look at his arm from the curve of his shoulder to the banded edge of his sleeve where the polo shirt cuts across his biceps. He doesn’t have a tan line. He must work with his shirt off, and the thought is more than I know what to do with.
The last time I saw him, we were kissing at the airport, holding each other, saying goodbye. Even though I know everything’s different now, it doesn’t entirely feel different. It’s cruel that it’s possible for him to have told me what he did and for me to still be sitting here, soaking him up.
I’m not over him. I’ve tried to reason myself into it, but I’m learning reason doesn’t have anything to do with love, and West has always made me softer than I wanted to be, weaker than was good for me.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Just what i needed to hear. Great love story, even better inspiration for those struggling to find their way.
This is a new author to me. Really loved both books in the series. I am checking into other books by this author.
These books were beautifully written. They have so much wisdom about love and life, I really recommend them to others.
Amazing! Great book about a realistic relationship and how to thrive!!
I loved this book....the author makes the characters believable and you'll find yourself rooting for them too....
Loved this and the first book would def recommend.
I loved her writing style.. and the story is just so real and amazing!! You fall in love with this love story!!!
I read a lot of stories in the same genre that this (and Deeper) are in, and this is one of the best stories that I have ever read. I was taken on as much of an emotional roller coaster as West and Caroline, as they embarked on figuring out what their relationship is, etc. This book is darker than the first (Harder), and despite what West did...I, like Caro, couldn't find it in me to be angry at him. West is a complex character, but you will find yourself rooting for him, for Frankie, for things to be good for these two. It's written in a slightly different manner than Deeper, so I want to put that out there. It is, however, greatly written and I highly recommend.
In alot of the reviews it was said how terribly awful West was in HARDER.To him that had to be that way to finalize the relation-ship,so that being the reason,I was able to still love him beneth all of that,UNTIL--the act that made my stomach turn.The way it was done would,no doubt,make me never ever want to see his face again!!DISGUSTING would be the word.All of that aside,I would absolutly,highly recomend reading both books for sure.You won't be sorry.
Awesome Book 2!!!!! Highly Recommend!!!!"! West and Caroline do have their HEA!!!!!!
I'm still in love with these characters, OMG. I loved the journey they took in Harder (Caroline & West, #2). Such a beautiful story! So lost in the beginning and just, living/thriving at the end. I would love to have more of this couple and Frankie.
I loved the sequel, another great read. Easy, fun follow-up to Deeper. Definitley recommend this book. 223 pgs
My review was posted prematurely thanks to my cat walking over my Nook. But as i was saying... i read a LOT but have yet to see another writer bring words to life like Robin does. You feel it right down to your bones. The plot the characters the angst the romance and the HOT sex are all there. I adored this story as i did Deeper and will be anxiously awaiting more stories from this brillant writer. I am super picky about my romances and this story fulfilled my every desire. If you love romance with VERY descriptive emotions and love scenes plus an interesting plot you just have to read this.
Kept my interest peaked through entire book,couldn't wait to start part two!
I highly recommend you read Deeper before you read this book. If you have read Deeper than I highly recommend you read this! This is the continuing story of West and Caroline from Deeper. Another emotional ride, but so worth it! ENJOY!
It wasn't what I expected, and it sure as heck wasn't an easy read, but...wow. This was one emotional read. I honestly don't know how many times this one had me tearing up--with sympathy, with frustration, in anger--I went the gamut here. Caro and West went through the wringer to get to their HEA, that's for sure. West was really, really hard to like for a good chunk of the book--eventually we see inside his head and get a clue about what was going on in there, and whoa. It's a good thing I didn't have any else pressing this weekend to do, because I didn't want to stop reading, even when I wasn't a fan of what was going on! A few favorite lines: "The only person who's allowed to define how you feel about anything is you." (Caro) "Don't put yourself in between the life you've got and the one you want." (West) "I guess we expect the turning points in out lives to be plastered in flags and warning signs when, in fact, most of the times our lives change when we're not paying attention. We blow past the markers without even seeing them, and then we come to the end of some path and find there's no label for it at all." (Caro) "It doesn't take anything special to fight back against the world and all the ways it wants to box you in, hold you down, limit you, and keep you from thriving. You just have to know what it is you want to accomplish. You have to know who you want to be with and what you'll give up to get them. You have to let yourself want what you want as hard as you can, as deep as that goes, even if it scares the f*ck out of you." (Caro) Robin York did an amazing job with this one--can't wait to see what she does next! Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A- I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Excellent book. The book is very well written, believable characters, beautiful story. I'm hoping the author will write a third book in this series, so we can see how Caroline and West begin their lives after college, and learn how Frankie begins to live her life.
I enjoyed this book. I read it in 3 days.
As you probably know, DEEPER ended not on a cliffhanger, but at a spot that had me putting a sling on my heart. It took 9 days for it to recover enough to remove said sling. The heartache was that strong. The thing is, I sincerely feel like West and Caroline had to be in that particular position. Love can only survive if both parties are whole and "whole" is NOT a word I would use to describe my boyfriend, West. This version of West is a lot tougher than the version of West I fell in love with in DEEPER. I've always known that that side of him exists, I was just used to seeing him fight it a lot harder. Caro is giving West the space he needs, but she also wants to be with him as we deals with all the THINGS that come when that one thing happens. (Spoiler-free = frequent use of the word thing(s). Sorry.) West does one helluva job in pushing her away and back to Iowa. Seriously. Be prepared to wretch from the sickness that his behavior will make you feel. You'll spend a good portion of reading time convinced that West & Caro won't and SHOULDN'T be together. The dark days portrayed in the first half of this portion of the story eventually give way to a little ray of hope. And THAT is what HARDER is about, in my opinion. Is forgiveness earned or is it simply given? Can you break the cycle of unhealthy lifestyles you were born into? Do you have to break it alone or is it okay to get help? Basically, it goes in a direction that makes me want to write *another* love letter to Robin York. While so many new adult books embrace the angst, not many of them tackle the issues behind the angst. For that, I applaud York. And also for West's abs. I applaud that, too.
Five Stars! New Adult/Erotic Romance Released: 07/01/14 ABOUT THE BOOK: 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. MY REVIEW: wow...just, wow. I'm in love with Ms Knox, so when I heard she was writing New Adult, I knew it'd rock my world. Tell you what...I wasn't wrong. You can't read this as a standalone book, but the first book of this series is even better than this one and that's saying something. The conflict in this book is truly gripping (no pun intended). Here you have two very wounded souls who are from different sides of the track and when they get together, at first they try to fight where things are going, then, it just explodes. I have to say, there was a point in this book that I wanted to toss it against the wall. You'll read the scene and think the same thing most likely, but I get why it was done. It didn't make me like the hero that much for a bit, but in the end, he redeemed himself and all was well. Without a doubt, this will be a book I'll be talking about for a while and one I'd recommend for years. Ms. Knox/York has a way with words that grips the reader and refuses to let up. You'll fall in love along with the characters and you'll enjoy it every step of the way.