Review: Hard Time by Cara McKenna


Title: Hard Time
Author: Cara McKenna
Date of publication: 15 April 2014
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Erotica 

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Tumblr / Goodreads

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / iTunesKobo

My rating: 4 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.


This is my third book by Cara McKenna and to describe it I'm borrowing the definition given to her books by another reviewer - smart erotica, adding romance, since this one was all about romance plus great sexual chemistry.

It's easy to turn the main premise of this story of a love affair between a librarian and prisoner into a cliched version of a shy, sexually repressed woman and a bold, domineering, aggressive prisoner. I'm glad to say that it's nothing like this.

It's a complex story of love, lust and what it means to be with someone, to accept them for who they are and to share freely all your dreams and desires.

Ms McKenna creates a beautiful love story, a passionate romance, a realistic novel exploring issues such as abuse, violence and possibility of change.

I'm not a big fan of stories told via letters, but the love/lust letters between Annie and Eric were something else - so passionate, so open and honest, they reveal how two strangers can get to know more about each other than anyone else knows about them all through the exchange of words on paper without any physical contact.

The unique positions of Annie and Eric make their romance a curious mix of impossible love and unrequited passion allowing them both to be completely uninhibited and to indulge in their deepest secrets and fantasies.

Around the middle of the story reality came crashing in and things changed dramatically. Annie and Eric were given a chance too act on their attraction but at the same time they were faced with a whole new set of issues. After one abusive relationship year ago, Annie had great difficulties accepting the violence in Eric. He was always gentle and caring with her, responsive to her wishes, yet his repentance about the violent act that led him to jail and his determination to resort to violence again if necessary put a strain on their relationship.

This is where my issues with the plot come out. I feel like they went in circles in their disputes, Annie was appalled at the violence Eric was capable of, he was adamant in not sharing the reasons behind his behaviour. They went on and on without anyone of them changing their position.

I didn't particularly like the plotline with Eric's family. The issue with his sister was far too easily resolved. I also felt the ending was lacking. I would have also loved to see her family's reaction to him. It would have been nice to see Annie and Eric actually trying to work things out as a couple - they have so many obstacles to overcome.

The love scenes were hot, hot, hot. They completely unraveled me with their honesty, openness. He was adoringly shy, always trying to please her, deriving his pleasure from hers, in a way he was the perfect lover. Annie was adventurous, excited to explore, to try new things, rediscovering passion and pleasure.

Ms McKenna has created amazing characters - he was a delightful combination of shy and considerate, a perfect gentleman, yet ready to do violence for the person he loves/cares about - he had a strong sense of loyalty, justice. His writing disability, his care for his plants came in sharp contrast with his readiness to resort to violence for his loved ones. 

Annie was quite interesting, as well - she was strong enough to get away from an abusive relationship, strong enough to cope with the prisoners, she trusted Eric despite her fear of violence, she was willing to face his family, her family, to stand by him. 

Overall this book explores some complex issues in the lives of realistic characters involved in a true romance with great sexual chemistry. Despite some issues I had with the plot, it's another winner for Ms McKenna which I can recommend.My reviews of some of other books by Cara McKenna:

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