Robin York is the pen name for contemporary romance writer Ruthie Knox. I love, love, love Knox’s contemporary romances because she so adeptly manages to inject the real messiness that is life into her stories. Her characters are so rich and multi-dimensional, it’s nearly impossible not to relate to them on some level. When the opportunity to review her foray into New Adult came, I happily accepted trusting that I would get a great story. I wasn’t wrong.
What happens when you wake up to find your personal explicit photos splashed across the internet for all to see? Caroline Piasecki, good girl daughter of a judge, was a driven 19 year old college student with her eye on a life in politics when life as she knew it came to a grinding halt. One fall morning she’s alerted by a friend to click on a link only to find several X-rated photos of her that were taken by her ex-boyfriend with her name and hometown tagged. Caroline always assumed it was her ex-boyfriend, Nate, trying to get revenge for her breaking up with him but she figured she couldn’t do much other than dedicating all of her focus to getting each and every picture on the internet taken down. She comes to find out that is easier said than done.
As bad as the photos were, it was the accompanying vulgar and demeaning comments calling her a slut, whore and worse are what plague her day and night. It feels like every person she comes across looks at her with knowing disapproval and shame is her permanent shroud. Caroline’s new goal is to just disappear and hopefully, in time, everyone will forget. She is unmoored and lost as she watches her dreams of clerking for judges and getting in to a top law firm slowly drift away. Trying to keep bad dreams at bay, Caroline spends her nights driving around town and eventually parking in front of the bakery to secretly watch the man who was always off limits to a good girl.
West Leavitt knows all about the crap life hands out. He describes himself like a weed that grows through the cracks of cement. Leaving behind a little sister he dearly loves with a mother he barely trusts, West is at that school to get an education so he can become a doctor and take care of his family. He’s hustler willing to do whatever he needs to do to make that happen – sell drugs, trade meaningless sex for a leg up, wait tables and work overnights in a bakery. When he meets Caroline the first day of school, West knows that a girl like her would derail all of his plans so he purposefully smarts off to her father who, in turn, forbids Caroline to befriend West. After Caroline approaches him in the library (btw, HOT!) to warn him off getting into it with Nate on her behalf and then seeing her skulking about the bakery, West can’t keep away.
West invites Caroline in the bakery while he works making bread for the morning and thus begins their friendship. In the quiet of the bakery, with their hands working the dough, they talk – sometimes about nothing, sometimes about school or friends. Their conversations have a meandering way about them as they try to navigate around each other and their undeniable chemistry. West helps Caroline work through her issues with the revenge porn, her aspirations for the future and builds up her self-confidence all the while keeping her shut out of his life.
It made my heart ache how desperately West wants Caroline; how much he needs some love for himself in a world that weighs heavily on him. Every time he was just about to take a step towards her, something in his life reminded him that he was there for a purpose and there wasn’t any room for something as frivolous as love. When issues at home come to a head, West gives in to every feeling he has ever had for Caroline.
Caroline finally decides to kick some ass and get her life back too. In every way she’s a typical young adult, having to suddenly figure out the bad shit that life throws at you, and not knowing how to handle it. Caroline’s underlying strength is the thing that keeps her moving and not drowning. She discovers herself not because of a boy, but with the help of a solid support system (yay for friends Bridget, Krishna and Quinn) which includes West.
Much like life, the ending will leave you gutted, tearful and a little hopeful. Ms. York’s writing just sucks the reader in until its 2am and you finish the book with tears in your eyes knowing you have to wait till July to find out how it all ends.
*ARC Provided by Bantam
Click to purchase: Amazon
by Robin York
Release Date: January 28, 2014
*ARC courtesy of Random House/Bantam