Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Group: Adult
Publication Date: April 15th 2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Source: Purchased from Amazon
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.
I've been sitting on my thoughts for this book for a while now. When I finished hard Time I didn't really know what to say about it but for some reason the characters and the story just started to bubble up in my mind today. I guess you could call that a slow simmering inferno the way the story has burned into my memory. I have a thing for blue collar hard working guys and after a friend of mine excitedly told me about Hard Time and reading the synopsis I was more than happy to get to it.
Annie Goodhouse has a new job in a new city. That would excite most people but Annie's new job comes with great concern because she's working in a state prison. She's tasked with not only being the prison's librarian but also helping the inmates with small tasks such as practicing job searches online and helping them fill out applications everyday skills they will need when they get out. While there she meets an intriguing inmate she only knows as his number at first. With the strict prison instructions of how to dress, how to act and no contact with the inmates it's hard to believe she catches his eye but once she has his attention the two begin a torrid affair unbeknownst to anyone else.
Hard Time is a book that made me want to go out on the side of the road and molest the guys picking up trash. Eric Collier is a man I would give my left tit for in all honesty. Yes the prisoner formally known as 802267 has a name and it rolls off the tongue like butter! On top of being a sexy ass prisoner Eric was reserved. He wasn't the kind of guy that outwardly showed his emotions but expresses himself in words when he starts writing erotic letters to Annie. I think I fell in love with him fully with his first letter. There was something in his words that felt like a deep caress with every word dripping with sexual intensity that had me panting through each one. Eric landed himself in the slammer for beating the piss out of a guy who offended his sister in some way that is left up to the reader to interpret what actually happened. With Annie escaping an abusive ex boyfriend before starting at the prison you wouldn't think these two would make an ideal pairing. Being the smart girl Annie is she does have some hesitation going into this situation but her thinking it would be OK because Eric wouldn't be getting out any time soon was foolhardy at best because when he is up for parole the dynamic the two shared in letters is suddenly not so forbidden on the outside.
I have to say that Annie and Eric had an amazing connection that bled through with every encounter they had. It was almost like reading about two separate couples because how they were while in the prison was completely different than how they were outside. Annie was a ballsy woman with strength and courage that saw her leaving an abusive man and making a fresh start in a completely new area not knowing anyone there. You have to admire that kind of willpower and women who find their independence always amaze me. Eric was a wonderful and compassionate guy who in my opinion didn't deserve to be locked up for what he did but in the eyes of the law you can't protest. Eric was a hard worker and just a well rounded guy who knew how to treat a woman and the gentle way in which he cared for Annie was incredibly swoon worthy. After he gets out Annie gets scared and stays away from him letting her thoughts control her actions and not listening to her heart. After all the erotic plans they made for the moment he could be with her I was pissed off at her for shunning him like that. Poor Eric had been in prison for ten years with no female contact and my heart and panties melted for him. What killed me more was the way he described how much being with her meant to him. I think I may have spontaneously orgasmed during that scene. *Le sigh*
McKenna did an excellent job of capturing the despondent feel of prison life and even though Hard Time was told from Annie's pov I fell like I got a good handle on Eric's character through his letters and their interaction. Granted I still would have liked a pov from him because he was such an amazing guy that I wanted to crawl inside his skin and sublet space, I still enjoyed myself. I loved getting to see Annie interact with the other inmates and the banter between guys. The author captured everything authentically from the sights and smells to the environment filled with too much testosterone and how that would feel being the only source of estrogen because you know those female guards be like "Carpet Muncher, Table for one". I was so engrossed in this story and the unique portrayal of prisoners that I wanted to do some outreach on the inside myself. With my genitals. While reading this book I was tweeting some of the quotes and had several people agree with me that there aren't enough books about blue collar prisoners with big hearts and intense sexual chemistry. Hard Time wasn't like any book I've read before and I really enjoyed how everything worked between the characters and the realistic things they had to overcome to be in a relationship. There was no sugar coated happily ever after but a true account of how a situation like this would go. I wasn't blown away by the way it ended but the more I have thought about it the more it resonated with something in me as being real and it felt right. Much like the characters and their quiet intensity the feeling Hard Time left me with was much the same. It just sort of snuck up me when I least expected it. Needless to say I was satisfied immensely with the way things wrapped up and look forward to more from this author.
His voice was deep and resonant, and it required no volume to command my attention. He spoke with a tone that was threat, coercion , seduction, lament. All at once. Kindle Loc. 430
Nearly whispering now, he said, “Would’ve been worth anything they took from me, just to hear you say my name.” I went all warm and stupid at that, too hazy to say anything. Kindle Loc. 951
I’m not the nicest guy but I’m not an asshole either. I’d try real hard to be whatever you wanted. Kindle Loc. 1017
I need your hands on me, it’s been so long since I’ve been touched in any kind of nice way. I’d want you to touch my cock real slow so I could memorize every second of it. And when I first slide inside you, looking down at you in the candle light, your hair down and spread across those big pillows . . . I’d make that moment last a hundred years. Kindle Loc. 1350
About The Author:
Cara 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, Samhain, and Signet Eclipse. 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 (writing as Meg) was a 2010 Golden Heart finalist, a 2011 and 2013 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.