Last year Cara McKenna gave us After Hours, a book set in a psychiatric hospital and now she brings us Hard Time, a book set in prison. I wonder what it says about me that I was very excited to read both books?
Hard Time is about librarian Annie Goodhouse. The latest addition to her job is to be outreach librarian for Cousins Correctional Facility. Her first walk through the prison and one man immediately stands out.
He was big. Tall frame, wide shoulders-but not burly. Unlike many of the inmates, his head wasn’t shaved. His near-black hair was due for a cut in fact, curling under his ears. Dark brows, dark stubble, dark lashes and eyes. And he was handsome. So handsome it broke your heart.
He watched me. But not the way the others did.
The connection between Annie and Eric is immediate but there is no way for them to act on it. Annie is a good girl and can’t believe she would even consider someone like Eric, however, there is more to Eric than meets the eye and while he is in prison, he is there because of his fierce loyalty to his family and he doesn’t regret the actions that caused his incarceration. He takes a chance and sends Annie a letter asking her if she wants more to wear a certain color the next week. Annie is torn but feels compelled to wear the color and learn more about Eric and what he wants.
I follow Cara McKenna on Twitter and I remember her comments about this book while she was writing it. I remember her mentioning something about letters that Eric would write and how dirty they were. She wasn’t kidding. For me, the letters were the best part of this book. They were a way for Eric to express his feelings without having to do it in a face to face manner. Granted he didn’t have the option of face to face so we will never know if he would have done it that way however, he is a man so I can’t see him putting himself out there like that.
Eric’s letters to Annie are a dream and a fantasy rolled into one. They are everything every woman wants to hear a man say about them. They were sweet, blazing hot, sappy and a fabulous way for him to just lay it all out there. The big question was how would those letters translate to real life once he was out of prison? Would he be that same person? That same loving, expressive man who wanted nothing but to worship the woman he was falling for? Lucky us that we get to find out the answer about halfway through the book.
“Tell me. Tell me to.”
My God, this man. This violent ex-con, bigger and rougher than just about anyone he might pass on the street, and yet….Tell me to. Mine to command. So eager to please. “Let me see it, Eric. Let me see you lose control.”
For the first half of the book the main conflict is Eric being in prison and how him and Annie will carry on a relationship which is not much of a conflict. I knew there had to be more and once Eric is out we see what that more is. The reader knows part of the reason Eric is in prison but he maintained that it was not his story to tell so he never came out to Annie will full details. When Eric is released the conflict that put him where he was rears its head again and he is faced with the possibility of a repeat scenario.
Annie is distraught by the fact that Eric willing puts himself back into the same situation in order to protect a family member and this puts a strain on their relationship. I struggled with this part of the book because while I could sympathize with Eric’s loyalty to his sister, I didn’t like her and I wanted him to fall on the side of Annie. I know that is not a logical thing; that he would pick Annie’s side after only knowing her for a short time but I felt of everyone in the book she was the only one who had his best interests at heart. There were times where I thought even he wasn’t looking out for himself.
Overall, this was exactly what I have come to expect from Ms. McKenna. Hard Time has gripping, emotional sections paired with some serious sexy times. I will read McKenna’s books for the sexy times alone. She has a way with the dirty. Heh. Thankfully she also has a way of combining that dirtiness with a sweet love story that will make readers finish the book with a happy sigh. Fans of McKenna will be happy with her latest offering even if you start the book scratching your head over the prison setting. Just remind yourself what she did with the psychiatric hospital. Final grade- B
Jesus, I was humping a pillow in my childhood bedroom. This man really did make me sixteen again.