Sunday, April 13, 2014


Hard TimeGenre: Erotic Romance
Publisher: Intermix
Publication Date: 4/15/14
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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 HoursHard 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.

An inmate is not particularly my idea of a romance hero. I've never romanticized convicts or truly bad men or found the idea to be appealing, at all. But if there's one thing I know about McKenna's writing, it's that she can take any premise that I might find potentially squicky, and completely change my mind. And no, she does not romanticize the fact that Eric Collier is in prison, he doesn't claim to be an innocent or regretful, though I don't fault him for the reason he's there. Over time, you begin to realize how Eric's upbringing plays into his ideals of love and family, and how hard that is to let go of. This man is an intense and intriguing character. It's very nice to be surprised by someone who's hard on the outside, but who also holds a romantic and sweetly passionate, unselfish nature.

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.

Favorite Quotes:

  "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."

Purchase Links

About the author
Cara McKennaCara McKenna writes smart erotica—sexy stories with depth. A little dark, a little funny, always emotional. She also writes red-hot romance under the name Meg Maguire. Her wonderful publishers are Ellora's Cave, Harlequin Blaze, Loose-Id, Penguin / Intermix, and Samhain. She loves writing sexy, character-driven stories about strong-willed men and women who keep each other on their toes, and bring one another to their knees.

Cara was a 2010 Golden Heart finalist, a 2012 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award nominee, and a 2012 Golden Leaf finalist.

Cara is represented by Laura Bradford, of the Bradford Literary Agency.

Before becoming a purveyor of red-hot romance and smart erotica, Cara was a record store bitch, a lousy barista, a decent designer, and an overly enthusiastic penguin handler.

Cara now writes full-time and lives north of Boston with her bearded husband. When she's not trapped in her own head she can usually be found in the kitchen, the coffee shop, or jogging around the nearest duck-filled pond. She is a very proud member of the Romance Writers of America® and her local New England Chapter.



  1. Oh love her books. I so wish I had time to read this one soon. Gah! She really does write some interesting ones :)

    herding cats & burning soup.

  2. LOLS! Based on the nose, mouth and jaw is this the guy who's on the cover of The Liberator by Victoria Scott? :D HA! Well, there's a prison guy getting it on in Believe by Erin McCarthy too so I don't really mind. It all depends on the guy what he did to get himself in prison. I'm glad that this book doesn't romanticize the convict theme, but I am glad that it gives a mature look on the whole things. I'm so happy that you enjoyed this book, Andrea! :)

  3. This book is definitely different to a lot of the erotic books I've seen around lately, and I'm glad that you didn't have any issues with the relationship between these two characters. I do love my books filled with beautiful prose, so may have to give this book a go soon! Lovely review Andrea! :)

  4. I was bothered by the premise some even though I loved it anyway. I bought into Annie and Eric but the how it happened in general felt wrong - not so much for them but for women who do that with much angrier guys.

    Having said that my opinions kept changing throughout the book - and I love when that happens. I felt like McKenna challenged me and my perceptions.

  5. I am not only for a truly "bad guy" hero either, I do not see the appeal with those so I am glad you mentioned that it works here and clearly there is more to the story. Great review Andrea.

  6. I'm with you, Andrea. While I do sometimes read books with killers, I know exactly what I'm getting into and I refuse to fall for them. It's just not as appealing. The only book I've read where I've liked the killer was J.A Redmerski's Killing Sarai, but in that one everyone is a killer. I don't understand when authors romanticize killers as well, so I typically tend to shy away from these books.

    I'm glad to hear that this is different. I'm so curious as to why the guy is in prison in the first place. I definitely need to check this book out. It sounds like the perfect book to read in between YA novels.

    Great review, Andrea!

  7. Is this the one you told me about that I wanted to read? Great review babe, can't wait to read it too!!!

  8. I would read this because I love being pushed out of my comfort zone when it comes to contemporary romance reads. I read something similar to this, a convict who fell in love with an art dealer. It was great at first but it wasn't executed well. Maybe this will give me the fix I sorely missed from that read.

  9. I am glad I read your review, I passed this up for review from the synopsis I mean prisoner? Now you have me added it and curious..LOL

  10. Your review is fantastic! I am really excited to read this book now - I have it from Netgalley and need to pick it up asap. I've never read a book by this author but your rave reviews have me convinced!

  11. Sounds like a book that would expand my reading borders, but the behind bars part is somethign I have never relaly thought about but wonderful to hear she delievered a thoughtful story

  12. Inmates need love too! lol. I wasn't turned off by it, because it's pretty obvious from the synopsis that there is good reason, ya know? I haven't read anything by this author yet, so I need to get on that!

  13. that wouldn't bother me at all, especially if it's done right and believable. I love the sound of this one mm

  14. I love stories that make me think. Also the fact that this one delivered on sexy times, an interesting story, and beautiful prose, has me very eager to read it! I love the depth and thoughtfulness that goes into your reviews!!!

  15. I agree with the whole not a fan of true bad guys. I can see where someone would get that idea about this one. Trust you pal. Adding to my TBR pile.

  16. I have this book as well, Andrea and I can't wait to read it after your glowing review! I'm actually reading a book where the hero just got released from prison and I'm loving it so I'm not as hesitant here. Wonderful review! :)


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