ARC Review: Hard Time by Cara McKenna

So when I read the blurb for Hard Time I was…

That shock and awe factor is what draws me to Cara McKenna’s books. Her characters and stories aren’t the same old tropes we’ve seen over and over again in Romancelandia.  Hard Time does not veer away from that formula…or lack of formula as it were.

We have Eric and Annie who meet when Annie comes to work as an outreach librarian at the prison where Eric is an inmate.  They start a forbidden romance through writing letters to one another detailing their sexual fantasies. We learn a lot about these two through their letters to one another.  Eric’s letters…

We learn that Eric isn’t a hard core alph-hole that I expected he’d be.  Eric is actually the quintessential good guy who did a bad thing which lands him in prison.  Annie is drawn to Eric – against her better judgement – Eric has a 10 year bid to complete, so why not! That all changes one day when Eric informs Annie in a letter that he’s getting early parole and would like to continue their relationship in the “real world”. Understandably, Annie is scared and conflicted. This is the first time she’s felt alive in 5 years since she left her hometown and an abusive ex-boyfriend, but…

“That’s what his crime had been, in his own words. 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 is very clear and honest about what he wants so he lets Annie define what they are and how far things will go as she works through her conflicts. For the most part, their romance is angst-free until the reason Eric was put away comes back to town.  I loved how protective Annie is of Eric. Eric’s only flaw is that he is so selfless regarding those he loves.

“I get that you don’t value your own neck the way I wish you did, so I’m not asking you to understand, or to do it for your own good. I’m asking you to do it for me. I  need you with me. Safe. And free. I don’t need to feel avenged. I only need your body next to mine when I fall asleep.”

One problem I had with Hard Time is that Eric and Annie’s relationship outside the letters and prison, continues to exist in a vacuum. The only people who know how Annie and Eric met is Eric’s mother and sister. Annie acknowledges that she needs to tell her family, but it’s something that will happen in the future; thus, off page. That leads to my other issue – which is the same problem that I have with all Cara Mckenna’s stories that I’ve read. Eric and Annie talk about the future they envision down the line, but readers are left to imagine and hope that it happens because there’s never an epilogue to wrap things up.

*ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

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