Hard Time by Cara McKenna
Genre: Contemporary/Young Adult
Steam Level: In all honesty, this one was too hot for me in a few places - and I'm not a prude
I wanted to love this book. I really, really wanted to love this book and I’m sad to say I didn’t. I liked it, but alas, I didn’t love it. And it would have been easy if not for a couple of things.
This is the story of Annie Goodhouse and Eric Collier. Annie is a librarian in the state of Michigan, a state hit very hard by the recession. One of the duties of her job is a once a week visit to the local prison to help write letters, teach classes, help with computer stuff, that kind of thing. The rules are very strict in as to prisoner/non prisoner relations and the chance of any kind of relationship developing is unlikely, but this is a romance, so of course one does. Right from her first visit she can’t help but notice one prisoner in particular, Collier is his last name. He soon writes her a very intimate letter and she replies by letter as any kind of touching or one on one conversation is out of the question. Thus begins a secret relationship. Annie had gotten out of an abusive relationship a number of years previously and as a result, was pretty frozen inside. And Eric Collier, as the prisoner turns out to be, helps, with his passionate letters, unfreeze her. She figures he is ‘safe’ as he’s going to be locked up for the next 20 years. There notes to each other are very tender and sexy. Eric keeps telling her if she wants to keep things going to wear a certain colour and he will know she wants to. He is very respectful of her and I really appreciated that.
But unbeknownst to Annie, Eric has been working on getting an early parole and when he lets her know that he is being released very shortly, she freaks. He had been convicted of a brutal assault and has no remorse. He was defending his sister and feels he was justified in what he did. He’s not a violent guy by nature; in fact he comes across as very gentle.
When he is first released she doesn’t want to see him, what was fantasy before is now becoming real. But the pull between them is so powerful, she very reluctantly agrees after a time and their attraction to one another is off the charts. Both have been celibate for five years and they more than make up for it.
So, sounds like a delicious storyline and I really liked both characters. I liked Eric a lot. A LOT. So why didn’t I love this story when in theory I should have? First off, it’s told in the first person. I have been reading a lot of first person books lately and amazingly, really enjoying them. Some have been keepers that I know I’ll be reading again. But in those ones, at some point the POV switches to the hero. And it doesn’t in this book at all. I REALLY would have liked part of the book to take place in Eric’s head as I found him to be a very interesting and most excellent hero. It just seemed that we were missing something that really could have made the story more rounded.
There was a scene towards the latter part of the book that I wish I could just wash out of my memory. As I said earlier, except for that one controlled act of violence, Eric is a gentle and even tempered kind of guy, almost a beta type hero. But Annie almost forces him to perform an act of a sexual nature that he was very reluctant to do. I found it bordered on cruel of her to expect him to do it; to the point it made me angry almost. She was testing him for some reason and I saw no point in it whatsoever. But because he loves her and wants to please her, he goes along with it. And I just found it degrading and vile and not at all romantic.
We are never actually told why Eric committed the attack. We know that the person who attacked him was his sister’s ex-boyfriend. We can kind of guess, but it never comes out exactly. I thought this was a major point that was dropped and it shouldn’t have been. I mean the hero was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison. The reader wants to know why. But he won’t tell Annie as he figures it’s his sister’s story. And since we don’t get in his head at all, we don’t know.
And last, now this was an odd one for me *laughing* there was too much sex. Now I love a good love scene but I confess I started to drone out and skim and kind of wishing for more interaction between Eric and Annie on a less, shall we say, physical nature.
So overall I liked this book, loved Eric, liked Annie for the most part except for the one scene, but was disappointed that I didn’t love it. It would have been so easy.
Grade: 4 out of 5