ARC Review: ☆Hard Time☆ by Cara McKenna

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.

Review-DGR5 stars

And he told me about the things he wanted to do to me, the places he wanted to take me, if he could. The things about me that took his mind off his daily life, and roused his body in idle moments. And I wondered if he wasn’t a bank robber after all, the way he kept making off with my heart.

I fell in love with this book. I fell in love with the writing. I fell completely, head over heels in love with the hero. This book; no review I can write will ever do it justice. Cara McKenna is a genius, her stories will grab you by the heart and never let go. She doesn’t blow sunshine and rainbows up your ass. She gives you real characters, real emotion that is so well written, it’s almost palpable. Did I like this book? No. I fucking LOVED this book. I wish I could give it 6 stars. This is a story that will stay with me for a while with characters that I will never forget.

Annie Goodhouse is a good southern girl that hasn’t had the best of luck with men. She doesn’t have to be warned away from the bad boys, she experienced first hand what the feel of abuse at the hands of a man feels like, and she’s shut herself off. Annie is a librarian, and her new role takes her to work as an outreach librarian in the town’s medium security prison. And then everything changes when she meets him in a place where the worst of the bad boys are…

Eric, or inmate number 802267 as she first knows him, catches her eye right way. But it’s not his attitude, leering, or catcalling that snags her, because he doesn’t do any of those things.

That stare. That unreadable expression, an impossible mix of apathy and fascination, coldness and seduction.

Eric was not at all what I expected from reading the book’s blurb. He’s not some ultimate bad boy, an asshole, or a hard-ass. He’s simply a man that committed a crime, a crime that he would commit all over again if given the chance. But beneath that tough and muscled exterior there exists a soul of a gentle and romantic man. What first begins as a simple lesson in literacy begins to turn into something much deeper when he gives Annie the first letter.

His attention had become some strange, dark, private treat to brighten the toughest day of my week, and I’d come to crave it.

This book has some of the most amazingly written sexual tension I have ever read. The way that Miss McKenna portrays the angst, lust, and emotion that these 2 people share through simple letters was incredible. It almost felt like Eric was talking directly to me. His letters to Annie made me swoon at the same time it made me lust after him uncontrollably.

Annie was such an amazing heroine. She was strong, yet a little bit broken at the same time. She wasn’t mousy, or shy, or some wallflower. I think that’s what ultimately made this book so good for me, the fact that both characters had such an amazing balance of realness to them. You can feel how much Annie struggles with her feelings for Eric. She doesn’t know the full story of why he was put away and that scares her, but at the same time she finds herself falling for him more and more with each letter.

Were bad, violent crimes only done by bad, violent men? Could a man who was fundamentally bad make a woman feel the way Eric Collier had made me feel, all these weeks?

Eric stole my heart. He was so vulnerable and sweet, but without coming off as weak.

I want to be someone who deserves to be with somebody like you.

Cara McKenna give you two incredibly real characters that each struggle with their own incarceration. While Eric has been shut away in a prison cell for 5 years, Annie has shut herself off from feeling anything sexual after the abuse she suffered at the hands of her own ex. As the book progresses, you see them slowly grow closer together and their bond fully form. They’re both scared, they both have their weaknesses, but the connection between them is simply undeniable.

This book gives you everything; incredible characters, erotic love scenes, and an emotional gripping love story between 2 people who couldn’t be more different but yet fit together more.

The author doesn’t give you an ending that’s wrapped up in a perfect little bow, and I think I really loved that in this story. It was fitting. Anything else wouldn’t have been true to the characters or the plot. Is there a HEA? Yes, though it’s more of a HFN. It was extremely satisfying, and I have 0 complaints.

If you’re looking for an beautiful and erotic love story, that’s gorgeously written with characters that will stay in your heart for a long time to come, this book is simply a must read. Do not judge it by the cover or the blurb, it doesn’t do it nearly enough justice. I simply couldn’t recommend this book enough. Read it for yourself and see what all my gushing is about.


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