Review: Hard Time by Cara McKenna

hard timeReviewed by Carrie

I really enjoy reading Cara McKenna’s brand of erotica.  Her characters are salt-of-the-earth type people with relatable issues.  It seems with each subsequent novel, McKenna tries to push her boundaries to see how far she can take her readers.  I was immediately intrigued to find out what path a convict and a librarian would take on their romance.  I’m glad I trusted the author because it turned out to be really emotionally palpable read.

It’s been five years since Annie Goodhouse left South Carolina and her physically abusive boyfriend to restart her life in Michigan.  After completing her master’s degree, Annie finds work as a librarian in the small rural town of Darren.  Annie doesn’t mind driving around in the bookmobile, but working the outreach program at the nearby prison has her in a state of panic.  This panic is ratcheted up even more when she connects with one of the inmates.

Eric Collier knows that his attraction to this woman is bad news but he can’t help himself.  He asks Annie for help writing a letter as an excuse to be closer to the only bright spot he’s had in his life for the past 5 years, if ever.  Eric can tell Annie is affected by his presence and though he knows better, he flirts with her.  One day, he asks for her help writing a love letter; only it turns out the letter is for Annie.  Eric decides to throw caution to the wind and tells her to wear something red if she wants another letter.  As if compelled by something inside her, Annie wears red the next time she sees him.  Each week, as Eric sees Annie wearing the color he requested, he gives his heart to her in letter and thus begins their clandestine affair.

Annie creates elaborate rituals for reading the letters, going so far as to spritz perfume, light candles and open a bottle of wine.  The letters provide Annie a safe way to engage in an emotional relationship; despite the inherent risk to both of them should they be discovered.  The letters allow Eric to let the emotions out that he probably wouldn’t (or couldn’t) in everyday life.  The letters bring together two people who wouldn’t have given each other the time of day in any other circumstance.

Then, Eric gets paroled and their relationship is thrust in the real world.  Annie has to confront that the man she’s been falling in love with is an ex-con who doesn’t regret the violent act that he committed, doesn’t have many prospects in life and will probably not be accepted by her highway patrolman father.  The reader watches Anne struggle reconciling the man from the letters with the man in front of her.

The emotions (and there are SO many feels) just jump right off the page.  The sexual tension is off the charts.  By the time Eric and Annie get around to finally doing the deed, I felt like I had run a mile.  McKenna has such a talent at writing flawed and realistic characters.  The ending was more of a HFN (happy for now) rather than an HEA, and though I would have appreciated an epilogue, it made sense.

I highly recommend this book for those looking for an unusual contemporary romance featuring genuine characters and filled to the brim with emotions and sexual tension.

Rating: A-

*ARC courtesy of Berkley/NAL (InterMix)

Click to purchase: Amazon

Hard Time
by Cara McKenna
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Intermix


  1. This sounds interesting. I’ve never read a romance before where one of the characters were in lock up. I will have to check this out and add it to my list.
    Kristin @ Book Sniffers Anonymous

    • I was skeptical at first, but McKenna just has a way of pulling together these unusual characters in such a believable way.

  2. Thank you for recommending this book. I loved it!

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