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.
“Would’ve been worth anything they took from me, just to hear you say my name.”
Before I begin this review, I’d like to say MAJOR BOOK HANGOVER. No joke, I am suffering so much. I have been in a bit of a slump recently, all the book seems to be the same and then BANG Hard Time came along and I was in deep. Hook, Line, Sinker. It’s been weeks since I finished this book and it’s still all I can think about (it’s taken me this long to write a bloody review!) About Eric, about his letters, about Annie and their forbidden romance. Seriously, why hasn’t a movie been made around this topic? LIKE REALLY? I’d be there opening night, front row.
Hard Time is the first book I have picked up and read by Cara McKenna. The topic had me intrigued – a librarian who works in a Correctional Facility once a week and becomes entangled in a forbidden romance with an inmate through letters. Sexy letters at that. I’ve never read anything like this before and Cara really does make you think about if this was your life, you were in Annie’s situation. We all love a bad boy, you know it, but then would you indulge in this ‘fantasy’? Would you reply to his letters and just, for a slight moment, feel towards him, believe him and not be freaked or scared because we know he’s locked away and cant do anything, cant come near you apart from that brief encounter every week? It’s enough to actually think it through and decide if you would play on it or not. And as weird as it seems, I would, because you get to know Eric through his letters and you see him each week; granted there is a police officer in the room too, but its enough to not feel scared for those few hours each week.
It’s taken me so long to write this, because I had no idea how to formulate a review. When I read this book, I spammed my Twitter and Facebook about Hard Time and now it comes to it, its so hard to write a review on a book that took me by storm, but I will try my best. You already know the premise but there is so much more to it. What happens when he gets released? What are in his letters? Does Annie stay away from him or get with him when he’s out of prison? I actually wish this was the book I had written.
I need to begin with Eric. Although a convict, he was like unlike any other inside. He kept to himself but he had authority in the way he came across. He was the strong, silent type who stayed out of trouble but respected why he was inside; what he did. He was the brooding type but you could tell Annie had a massive effect on him and he wanted help from her, which I adored from him. He wasn;t afriad to ask for help and Annie, unconsciously, was the fire he needed to better himself inside with his literacy and writing. Thus beginning the letters he would send to her. The letters are the way into his body, his heart, his soul. He bares all; the romance, the sexual feelings he had towards Annie but also little titbits about himself, revealing himself to her. I was like a dog on heat awaiting the next letters from him, much like Annie was and I was obsessed with knowing what he was going to say next, what he was going to tell her to do, what he wanted to do to her. The way he began and ended the letters made me sigh. For a convict, someone whom, in a way, you would feel scared of, I felt nothing like that. I just wanted him in my bed. But as I said, it felt safe because he wasn’t outside the prison and it was like a ‘fantasy’.
But when he was released, he was the same, if not more timid around Annie. You can imagine her reaction when he was out and he stayed away. He was scared of seeing her, scared of bumping into her. The feelings he had for her were so strong, but he respected her decision. It was all on her terms and I loved that about him. Not all convicts are the same and Eric was definitely not a bad guy. He dud what he did to protect his sister and I understood that when you find out what happened. I saw a passionate guy, a guy who would do anything for the ones he love, Annie included and I saw a guy who was sweet and considerate and worked bloody hard after prison to make a better life for himself. The love he eluded, the passion for his hobbies made my heart sing and I knew that I would totally snatch Eric up if I was Annie because despite spending five years in prison, he was nothing the sort of a convict and he just wanted his life back, he wanted Annie and he wanted to live the rest of his life with her.
Annie was a timid character too. She hasn’t been with a guy in five years, not since her college boyfriend thought to be abusive towards her, which is how she ended up in a small town. Annie is polite, she’s sweet and really, keeps to herself. She doesnt really know anyone in the town and is scared when she begins to visit the prison. She has to be strong though, not show weakness because that is how the prisoners will intimate her and that is what she does. She stands up strong. But then helllllo fitty! She spots Eric and something awakes inside her. Something that has been dormant for five years.
I liked her as she felt real. You could feel her feelings, her emotions and how awaken she felt by each letter she received. During her life throwing colours at her, she came out of her shell, made friends in the pub downstairs and she become stronger. She clung to the weekly letters much as I did and they made her feel great, made HER FEEL again. I was so happy it was Eric doing this to Annie. I loved the forbidden factor as much as she did. But then she finds out Eric is coming out and the fantasy is smashed up. She bounces back and forth about the letters, what they have shared and it shares the crap out of her. You know she feels something for Eric but you know that she was only doing this too because he was behind bars; she struggles with her feelings. I understood her reasons for what happened when Eric got out. How she was scared of bumping into him but after a while she couldnt stay away. She needed him just like he needed her.
I also loved that she could get mouthy, put her point across and be angry, at Eric, at his situation, at his sister too. I enjoyed this part of her. She wasn’t a push over and knew what she wanted, what she didn’t like and told it as it was. She was also a little bit protective over Eric. I truly enjoyed the realism of this character. Of her being shy to growing into a fully blossomed woman with the help of Eric.
When Eric and Annie are finally together, holy hell, you can feel the thick, sexual tension between they sizzling. It is just as strong in person as it is on paper and you know that when they sleep together it is going to be amazing. And reading it, it was. God, you will feel all hot and bothered and hot damn, mixed with the things on the paper and their chemistry together, inside and out of the bedroom, there was nothing that could stop it being utter rubbish sex. No way in hell. Not with those two.
There were two things that irked me and one was the ending. It did end rather abruptly and I would love to know what happened next between them but other than that, i’m not going to drop a star because of the ending. And two; I wanted Eric to meet Annie’s parents. You will understand why when you read it. Other than that, I loved this book and everything inside it.
Seriously, give this book a read. Its sexy, its heartfelt and dangerous 😉 Cara McKenna has made me want to read every single one of her books now, and that is actually what I will be doing! But first, I think a re-read is in order!
(Hard Time is out in the US, and it WAS out in the UK until it got taken down because it got snatched up. It will be back up in November so GET IT THEN!!!)