Hard Time by Cara McKenna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hot for Prisoner
Since Shawshank Redemption and the time I met hero Michael Scofield from the TV show Prison Break, I've been fascinated by prison stories. While this novel captured some of the thrill of a forbidden prison romance, Eric Collier is no Michael Scofield.
Annie Goodhouse is woman in her mid-twenties who recently moved from her hometown of Charleston to a town near Detroit. There are two reasons for her move: 1) a new job as a librarian in Michigan and 2) an ex-boyfriend who abused her in South Carolina.
"I'd needed a change of scenery. A place with snowy winters, where the men spoke in honest, sharp-edged Northern accents, incapable of glazing their empty promises in sweet Southern honey."
One day a week, librarian Annie teaches and mentors at a local prison. There she meets tall, handsome, and quiet inmate Eric. When she helps him with his learning disability, he practices how to write better by penning her the most beautiful love letters, like:
"I like to watch your mouth when you read from that book. I can't tell you what the story's even about but I've got your lips memorized. I shut my eyes sometimes and just listen to how you talk. 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. 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."
Isn't that so sweet and sexy?
This book had a fantastic beginning. I felt Annie's fear and excitement about helping the inmates, and I swooned over Eric's letters. But the rest of the story didn't enthrall me as much. The author did a great job with the authentic characterization of Eric, a simple man from an impoverished, dysfunctional background, but I just didn't find him very appealing. Perhaps I need a more intellectual hero to turn me on. The sex scenes seemed almost crude at points. This is all a very personal reaction to one character, and some readers may fall for Eric head over handcuffs.
I definitely did enjoy the growth of both Annie and Eric over the course of the story. And the writing was excellent, like this passage:
"His hand closed around mine, strong and possessive. The hand that'd done unspeakable things in the name of brotherly love. A hand capable of the tenderest acts of intimacy and affection. The hand that had penned the most breathtaking letters, for my eyes alone.
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Questions for Romance Readers
1. How much does your individual preference affect your enjoyment of the story?
2. How much erotica do you like in a story?
3. How much "dirty talk" do you like in romance novels?