Review: Hard Time by Cara McKenna

Posted July 25, 2014 by Sophia Rose in Reviews / 10 Comments

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Hard Time by Cara McKenna
Hard Time

One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Intermix
Released on April 15, 2014
Pages: 310
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

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Okay, I chose to venture into something different with this read. I’ve read a few ‘prison’ romances, but usually after the guy was out or escaped or something. This was the first one I picked up when the guy is still doing his time. Call it curiosity or what have you, but I grabbed it up and settled in. For the first half when it is indeed a real prison romance, I was totally into the story and you couldn’t have pried me away even though I saw hints from girlfriend that warned me she was going to disappoint me. And sure enough, she did so the latter half of the story making it not as engaging and tougher to read. And the ending? Well lets just say that I needed a bit more after all that this gal put me through. It had closure to a certain extent, but I still had questions. I think this is a standalone, but I’m not for sure so maybe I just need to be patient for the rest of the story.

The story opens with Anne, who is a librarian in a small rundown town, taking over as the librarian who goes out to the prison once a week to run literacy related classes and be a traveling librarian for the inmates. She has sort of lived in limbo for five years, much like some of the prisoners, due to walking away from an abusive relationship down south where she grew up. This is when she encounters the prisoner who lights her up inside and the strong attraction terrifies her.

They start up a lusty relationship through forbidden letter writing. Anne is in her element. She considers what she is doing safe since Eric is locked away. They both get carried away sharing desires and tiny little snippets about themselves. But then Eric gets an early parole…

Anne panics to know that things have just gotten real. Eric lets her decide about everything including whether to walk away. He’s understanding even though he makes it clear that for him, all they shared hadn’t been a fantasy; it had been real and he was committed. She dithers for a time and then decides to take it slow. However, she is consumed with the fact that Eric isn’t remorseful for his actions and refuses to give her the details that she feels she is entitled to. She knows it was in defense of his sister, but she seems to need more. In the meantime, events come full circle and push Annie hard to think through what they have, what she can live with and what she can’t live without.

I enjoyed how the author put together the general plot. This is no fairy tale and for that I’m glad. The reader and Annie are hit with reality and that’s the only way I could have connected with a story involving a prisoner and this situation. Annie’s early fear and caution made perfect sense and I was glad to see her exhibit that sort of caution. After all, he is a convicted felon and he could totally be playing her. So self-preservation? Good and smart.

Eric is a well-written multi-faceted character with flaws and strengths. Eric did what he was jailed for and he came from a rough background. He really is going for change in his life, but he is honest and unremorseful. It’s a theme of vigilante justice and how people feel about it. I was entranced by these aspects. He’s a different sort of lover in that he very much wants to love on and please Annie. He can get passionate- oh great sexual drought can he, but he’s not arrogant and alpha really. I found him refreshing in that way and unexpected since I would have assumed a guy who came through prison would have been edgier.

What I wasn’t entranced with was Annie after like I was with Annie before the parole. She saw the rough side of a man when he abused her and tries to tell herself that she doesn’t see every man that way and tries to tell herself a lot of other high-minded things. She’s big on seeing what she wants to see while not reconciling these hamster wheel thoughts with her gut and heart. This story is told first person from her side of things and knowing deep down that she didn’t believe half of what motivated her just left me frustrated and disgusted with her. Tinkle or get off the potty, lady, and quit jerking the poor guy around. She was so fixated on him taking the law into his own hands. I would have respect for someone if that’s a hang up because yeah, vigilantism can get out of control and off track fast, but if that’s how you feel then end it already. Ugh! Move the heck on, already. But instead, the second half of this story is her not moving on and yet holding onto Eric in a sort of emotion torture. It bogged the story down and left me just begging for it to end. Well, she does end up coming to some decisions so I don’t want to paint her all bad, but it took a heck of a long time so be patient I guess is the best advice with her.

So in the end, this book comes out likeable to average out how I loved the first half and struggled through the second. I still feel it’s a great read for those who want to see what a prisoner romance is like and hey, maybe Annie won’t be such a stick in the craw to others. I like the author’s writing so I’ll definitely check out more of what she’s got.

My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for an honest review.



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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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  • interesting. I have to say I’ve never…never read a story while a dude was still in prison. Too bad the second half of the book lasped. Ugh, cannot stand females that hold onto stuff…#irritating.

    • It was fascinating. Two of my uncles and a cousin have been/are prison guards so I know a bit about it and I could tell the author did her homework. Yeah, she really got on my nerves the way she kept holding his crime against him even after he served his time and had been honest about his motivations (guy he beat up did something awful to his sister).

  • I love her books Sophia. I’ve not read this one yet but Willing Victim and After Hours were fantastic. Her endings are usually a bit open ended even though they aren’t carried on in later books. Seems to be her style at least. That stinks about the heroine. That is frustrating as all get out when that happens. The prison romance is pretty dang unique for sure. I’m like you only ones where they’ve been in previously or spend just a little time during the story but not taken up together while locked up. Well. There was that Eve Langlais one recently but that was under cover so not quite the same. lol

    • Okay, that’s good to know that its her style to leave things open since I have another book by her that I’m reading soon. It just felt like there needed more time in the resolve since most of the book was a conflicted romance- caused by the heroine’s hang-ups, but still I just wanted more time with them when things were calm. LOL, Eve Langlais is definitely not the same. The romance while he was still a convict was a total draw for me.

      • Yep it seems to be. Just leaving it a little opened ended but still a hfn feel. She has a new one coming out in Aug I think that’s part of an actual series and in that one it wasn’t that way at all. Felt closed and finished nicely. It’s through Penguin.

        • I think that’s the one I’ve got if its a MC romance.

          • Kinda? He’s a biker but not really MC I don’t think I’d put it as.

            • Okay, I didn’t read the blurb closely so just assumed. The book I have is called Lay It Down.

              • Yep that’s it 🙂 It was really good but they’re just guys that like to bike from what I remember. Not an organized MC like the current trendy ones.

                • Cool! That has definite appeal too. I look forward to it.