Publication Date: 4/15/14
Rating: 5 stars
Rating: 5 stars
In this all-new novel from the author of Unbound, a woman with a rocky past finds romance in the last place she’d ever expect...
Annie Goodhouse doesn’t need to be warned about bad boys; good sense and an abusive ex have given her plenty of reasons to play it safe. But when she steps into her new role as outreach librarian for Cousins Correctional Facility, no amount of good sense can keep her mind—or eyes—off inmate Eric Collier.
Eric doesn’t claim to be innocent of the crime that landed him in prison. In fact, he’d do it again if that’s what it took to keep his family safe. Loyalty and force are what he knows. But meeting Annie makes him want to know more.
When Eric begins courting Annie through letters, they embark on a reckless, secret romance—a forbidden fantasy that neither imagines could ever be real…until early parole for Eric changes everything, and forces them both to face a past they can’t forget, and a desire they can’t deny.
Due to some comments I received about Hard Time I feel it's verrry important to say this at the get-go: If you are worried about reading this book due to the hero being in prison and becoming involved with the librarian, don't be. I'm not going to explain why because I believe that will lessen some of the intensity that comes from reading blind, but trust me when I say it works. I get the hesitation. I don't like books with true bad guy heroes. Books with "heroes" involved in sex trafficking, kidnapping, etc., do not appeal to me in the slightest. If I had any hesitation in this, I would state that outright. Honestly, if this was any author other than McKenna, I would be worried too.
I wanted to read Hard Time for the same reason I want to read all of Cara McKenna's books. It seemed sexy and twisty, with a hero who might seem to defy romantic notions in some ways. This story initially revolves around a forbidden relationship, one that is in ways unethical. Though the seemingly salaciousness is attractive, the forbidden is not what appealed to me. What drew me in is what always pulls me to McKenna's books. It was the fact that I knew once I got beyond the initial hook, McKenna will deliver a delicious, thoughtful, meaty (minds out of the gutter, pervs) story that would challenge my perceptions and leave me with a lot to think about. Also, the most excellent sexy times. There's always that.
Hard Time is set in the same depressed Michigan town as After Hours, and though the facility Erin and Kelly (from After Hours)work at is mentioned as well as a bar, we do not get a cameo. I will say that I truly believe that if you enjoyed After Hours, Hard Time should be an excellent fit. It's interesting to me that despite the fact the setting is pretty dismal and I would not want to live in Darren, I did find comfort in revisiting the setting.
Hard Time is told through the perspective of Annie Goodhouse, a newly-hired librarian who works at Cousins Correctional Facility one day per week. Her job is to help the inmates with literacy and develop writing skills. Annie is understandably worried by the setting, but determined to do a good job and treat the inmates with dignity. One inmate catches her attention that very first day. His intensity and size is intimidating but honestly non-threatening. Over the next few visits, Annie and the man- Eric Collier -make a connection. And again, I don't want to explain the logistics or whys and hows, it just works. Believe me. What is especially interesting, other than the obvious, is how Annie's past with an abusive boyfriend plays into the relationship. How can someone who left her abuser want to be with a man who may be violent? It gived you a lot to think about as the story progresses, and it is thoroughly examined.
Hard Time places a strong, strong emphasis of these two falling for one another for the right reasons. Like, I didn't believe it was only because it was all they had available, though it might've seemed that way at first. Eric wasn't an obsessed, horny prisoner and Annie wasn't a desperate woman looking for action. It just happened that they met in this situation. I fully believed that these two would have found one another, somehow, anywhere.
Hard Time was so easy to fall into, as always McKenna has a immensely beautiful style with prose that forces me to slow down and enjoy because I don't want to miss one single word. You might come to this book for the twisty set-up, but you will stay for the surprising and gorgeous love story.
"Sometimes, when I see you...Sometimes I can't even listen to what you're saying, All I can do is watch your mouth, I watch your lips and I think about kissing you, when I'm alone at night. Though I'm never really alone here. But I imagine I am--alone with just you. I think about your mouth, and about kissing you. And other things."
...other things, my hands echoed. My neck was hot--hot like sunburn. My cheeks stung. My loose clothes bound me.
"Sometimes I watch your hands," he went on. Watching my hands. "I watch your hands and imagine them...on me."
Nearly whispering now, he said, "Would've been worth anything they took from me, just to hear you say my name."
"....But if you let me, next time I'll be everything you need, I swear."
"You already are," I whispered. "Whatever you are, that's what I want."
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