Top Ten Reasons to read Hard Time by Cara McKenna


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.

10. When the book starts, our hero Eric Collier (prisoner #802267) has been in prison for five years. If this isn’t reason enough to read this book, you have come to the wrong post.

I knew who it was without even raising my eyes. Broad shoulders and slim hips, long legs. Overgrown dark hair. Eyes hot enough to singe.


Why was I even so freaked out? 802267 looked no more or less threatening than any of the other men, so it had to be intuition…Except he put me on alert one level deeper than mere fear. Made me feel warm and unnerved and restless in a way I didn’t trust at all. A way I wasn’t used to. A hunger I hadn’t been dogged by in years.

9. Our heroine, Annie Goodhouse is a  librarian. People! A prison inmate/librarian romance book! She teaches classes once a week at the prison. Her last boyfriend years ago was abusive, so when she falls into lust with a prisoner, she can’t believe she is falling for another bad boy. (but she can’t help herself)

8. During Annie’s lunch breaks she starts watching Eric work out in the prison exercise yard. 

He stripped his shirt, tossing it in a ball on the dry, brown grass.

And he was beautiful.

His body shocked the very breath out of me. Tan and strong and fucking cut.

Of course he is. What else is there to do? His powerful shoulders tapered to a trim waist, every inch of him looking carved and honed and dangerous, a tall, strong, frame wrapped elegantly in muscle and skin. I felt things I thought I’d only ever dreamt, it had been so long. Hunger, between my legs,. Urgency heating every ounce of my coursing blood. He dropped to bang out a couple dozen push-ups, and Lord help me, I imagined my body beneath his pumping one.

7. I’m not going to tell you what Eric did to get himself into prison (you find out in the book, but I think it’s better for the suspense if you don’t know the reason). Eric has a hard time reading. I believe he dropped out of school in the tenth grade. He has a form of dyslexia called dysgraphia, where it’s hard for him to remember how to write letters. So he dictates a letter to Annie. She thinks he is writing home to a sweetheart (but pssssst – the letter is actually for her *falls down dead*)

 “Go on,” I said.

“I missed you since your last visit.” He watched my hand as he spoke, as his words took shape, drawn by my fingers with an ease he’d likely never know, himself. The act felt strangely, intensely intimate.

[…] “I miss you every minute we’re apart. And I watch the clock every morning when I think I might be seeing you again.” He paused, waiting until my hand did the same. “I miss how you smell. Like spring and grass. There’s not much grass here. I miss your face . . . And the way you smile sometimes. I want to make you smile like that.”

I ignored my jealousy, that hot snake twisting in my belly as I imagined such things. “Okay.”

“I miss your voice. The way you talk.”

I like the way you talk. Where you from?

The snake slowed. Changed direction, coiling low. “I wish I could see you, away from here.” He put his forearms on the desk, leaning closer, speaking even more quietly. “I wish we could be together . . . in ways I haven’t been with a woman in five years. Sometimes, when I see you . . . Sometimes I can’t even listen to what you’re saying. All I can do is watch your mouth

6. Annie gives Eric an old word processor to practice typing. He practices by writing her dirty love letters. There are many in this book, and I loved every one of them.

I’ve never been with a southern girl but it’s like every word you say comes out rolled in sugar. I think about kissing you like I said. Real deep and slow with our eyes closed. Maybe feel your hands on my chest or my back. As I hold your face or your hair. As I got to see if you taste like sugar to match how you sound.

I grabbed my glass off the table, took a deep taste and let the wine coat my mouth.

There’s other ways I think about your mouth and about holding your face and hair, too. I think you can guess what I mean.

“Oh mercy.”

I’d be real gentle, though. Tender. I promise. It’s just that I’ve felt nothing but my own hand for so long. I’d kill to know how your mouth felt. Warm and wet.

5. He gives her instructions on what to wear depending upon if she wants to continue receiving dirty letters from him or not. He really is a gentleman.

“I’ve got stuff to say. To you.” He tapped the paper, his voice barely a whisper. “If you want to hear more, next week, you wear red.”

“Wear red?”

“You show up next week wearing red, I’ll know what I’ve got to say is okay by you. You wear any other color, I won’t ever bother you again. Not about typing or anything else. I won’t be angry or anything. But if you wanna hear, wear red.”

Any guesses on what color she wears her next visit?

4. He is then released from prison. You know what this means, right? INTENSE KISSES. *ahem* intense kisses.

I rubbed our noses together, but his hands firmed, keeping me from coming any closer. 

“Kiss me,” I murmured, the words thins with desperation.

“I only get to do it once, for the first time.”

“I’m going to die if you don’t.”

3. INTENSE SEX (I can’t help but yell, y’all)

“I want your hand on me.” He moved his own low, circling the root with his thumb and first finger, presenting himself. “Touch me.”

His skin was hot. So was mine, and there was friction, even just between my fingertips and his bare shaft. I wrapped my hand around him, wanting us both to see how thick he was in my small fist, how dark and flushed against my pale fingers. How right that must look, after all those years stuck servicing himself.

Soft, searing skin glided along that rock-hard core with my strokes. He dropped his face, nuzzling my neck, kissing and nipping. “Say you like it.”

I tightened my grip, made the pulls long and luxurious. “I do. Even more than I’d imagined I would.” I heard him swallow. “Am I as big as you’d hoped?”

“Bigger. And harder.”

2. And then there is this scene….

He stroked my hair lovingly, then the hand I’d put on his hip. “Now suck me.”

I took him in my mouth once more, so much easier on my knees.

“Nice and hard. Good…Goddamn, I think you like that, sometimes.”

I told him with my mouth, I fucking love it.

“Yeah. Fuck. Do it like you want, baby.”

1.  There is a lot more that happens in this book. Once Eric is out, the reason he went to prison the first time resurfaces and together with Annie, he has to fight through all of his issues – or he’ll likely return to prison. There is a lot of grief and angst over it all. I do think this book ends quite abruptly. I would have loved to explore this couple another hundred pages. But overall, I had a great time reading this book. It’s different, and sexy, and I love that Cara McKenna explores with protagonists that aren’t rich and that have more real, grittier lives. I’d give this one a B+.

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  1. says



    I so loved her quickie novella that came out today (Her Best Laid Plans). It was my first time reading McKenna, but now I’m anxious to read her other full length novels. Thanks for the great recommendation! :)


  2. Helyce says

    I started this today when I woke up. Mandi girl, I’m I’m glad I remembered you were hanging out with the family, or I’d be burning up your phone with questions and comment!

  3. says

    Easily one of my favorites from this author. Her heroines still bug me but this book was a total WINNN for me. Want more like this!!!!

  4. Pallavi says

    Jaysus, but she writes such gritty heroes.. Kelly, Shane, Flynn… Oddly enough, her books as Meg Maguire – I can take or leave, but when she writes as Cara Mckenna – I can’t get enough.

  5. says

    I started reading this last night before I went to bed and it was so freaking good. I was more than a little annoyed I had stop so I could get some sleep. And during my whole lesson plan today (I teach writing at a local college) all I could think about was getting back to this book. Until a spider ran across my desk, then I *might* have screamed a little; but that’s another story. The point I’m trying to make is that the last thing I wanted to do or think about was teaching deductive reasoning, logic and syllogisms. What I wanted to do was dismiss class and sit in a corner and read. I haven’t been this into a book in a longgggg time.

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