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.
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Source: E-ARC provided by InterMix publishing via Netgalley for an honest review
Release date: April 15th, 2014
Preamble: Ok – so I apologize in advance for this hot mess of a rambling review. For some reason my brain couldn’t wrap itself around anything coherent for this book. It made me feel things. Anger, wtf-ery, swoonage, and compassion.
I once pondered new ways to rate books and came up with the OMG – MEH – WTF rating system but never ended up using it. It seemed like a good way to compose and breakdown my thoughts for this book though so I dusted it off and here we go…
I sound like a broken record in my reviews when I talk about McKenna but I will follow her anywhere. Whether it's to the apartment of a agoraphobic Parisian male prostitute (Curio), to the cabin of a hermit in the Scottish Highlands with hardcore fetishes (Unbound) or to love found in the dark halls of a Psychiatric Hospital (After Hours) and now to Cousins Correctional Facility where an outreach librarian named Annie finds love through letters exchanged with convicted felon, Eric.
She writes about characters we typically don't read about. The people who are on the fringe of society, or at least feel that way. What's beautiful about McKenna's writing is that they are never exploited but portrayed in an honest, complex way. They are you and me, your friends, your family with real jobs and real day to day struggles.
The romance and HEA's don't come easy. The characters are flawed. The sex is hot but with a purpose.
While Annie and Eric's relationship starts by exchanging letters it is no less intimate as they bare their souls and fantasies. When the possibility of a real relationship presents itself after Eric's early parole, Annie isn't so sure of her feelings anymore. She's shared her darkest desires knowing she was safe from it ever actually becoming reality.
The sex in Hard Time fascinated me. Annie came from an abusive relationship but finds herself drawn to Eric because of the potential for violence. She fears intimacy with any man, yet she's attracted to this man with a violent past. He makes her want to confront and overcome those fears and learn to open her heart again. This isn’t about a weird violence kink or anything so don’t worry about that. Annie is trying to say this scares me but I want to face those fears and trust that Eric won’t hurt me.
Eric is someone convicted of a violent crime. He doesn't sugarcoat it or make excuses but he's not just a felon. In fact he's a really good guy who happened to do one bad thing. He wasn't at all what I expected. I was thinking hardcore alpha a**hole type but he's was gentle and romantic, a man loyal to his family. Vanilla, sexually in McKenna's world of kink. In fact he’s adamant about not hurting Annie even when she pushes for more.
I usually avoid erotica because dominance/submission are not things I like to read about but every book I've ever read by Cara McKenna is about CONSENT and an exchange of power - not domination. I don't care how far she pushes the envelope - it's ALWAYS consensual and handled with respect. Always. And that's an important distinction to me.
This was one of the rare books by this author that I thought the sex slightly overtook the plot. It's important to the character's growth - especially Annie. It’s so important that she learns to make herself vulnerable to a man that she perceives could hurt her. Most of McKenna's books take place in a very claustrophobic world where non stop sex works. She expanded the outside world more in After Hours, so somehow the constant return to sex distracted more than enhanced the story for me.
So….I may be a repressed violent person but I didn't think Eric's crime was so awful. I mean yeah - it is awful but the reasons behind it made perfect sense to me. Dumb maybe to throw your life away, but understandable. I never felt he was as hardcore as the summary suggested.
Final thoughts: Minor quibbles though. After Hours really had me running a full gamut of feelings. It's an unconventional romance to say the least and things don't get easier when Eric gets out. I was all over the place regarding the character's actions. I was mad, happy, confused…but ultimately satisfied. Questioning after reading a book is good IMO. Annie and Eric had to work for it but they were an amazing couple to read about.
Are you still here?? Just checking. Thank you for reading if you made it this far lol
I highly recommend any book by this author if you want dark, intelligent erotica with heart.