|In this all-new novel from the author of Unbound, a woman with a rocky past finds romance in the last place she’d ever expect...
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.
Annie Goodhouse is understandably nervous on her first day working at Cousins Correctional Facility. She’ll be there once a week as an outreach librarian holding various classes that range from teaching the inmates how to read, to moderating a story hour and discussion to helping them with computer access. One her first day she meets Eric Collier, an inmate who she can’t stop thinking about. When Eric starts sneaking her love letters and Annie starts to write him back, they have a sweet romance through words before ever being able to touch each other. Both Annie and Eric have issues from their past that they need to deal with and move past. For Annie, she was in an abusive relationship and for the past 5 years has let her sexual side go into hibernation. For Eric, he’s serving 5-10 years for beating a man, an act that he’s not sorry about but he’s close to parole and the real test for these two will be if they can find a way to be together when it’s not just words and letters between them.
I got caught up in this unusual love story right from the start. It’s not often I fall in love with an inmate who’s in prison for an act he actually committed (I’ve read many books where the hero is wrongly accused, not so here). Of course there’s more to that story which involved Eric protecting his sister, but that act of violence is something that takes Annie a long time to be ok with in her head. She knows that Eric is good man, but the fact that he would do the same thing all over again bothers her so much. It’s one of many things that they have to work through in order to make this relationship work.
So much stood out to me, but to have basically the first half of the book and the first part of their romance take place through letters, sometimes sweet but mostly very sexy letters, it was an interesting introduction to both characters, especially for Annie. Through the letters, she was able to start to open up again, feel things she had walled off for years and it gave her a sense of freedom. It was also very endearing that she would treat the night that she got a new letter like a date, getting her glass of wine and even dressing up a little for her big letter reading. Eric is just delicious, his letter are oh-so-naughty and I couldn’t quite believe that I found myself wanting this inmate to get out of prison already so he could go get his woman!
But once he’s out, the real test comes and it takes a long time for Annie to even want to see him in the “real world.” I appreciated the time passage of their romance, this is often times a pet peeve of mine with not enough time passing for the relationship to make sense. Here, time needed to go by and it does for me to believe that this romance was building and believable.
While having a steamy romance and sweet love letters certainly made this a captivating read, what I’ll remember most is what Annie brought to Eric’s life. She saw how he put everyone else before him, it’s what landed him in prison in the first place and she’s his difference maker. She gets him to start thinking about his life and taking a step back so he’s not putting himself out there so much. Annie wants him with her, period and she worries that he doesn’t value his future as much as she does. It’s an interesting back and forth they have and it takes Eric quite a while for Annie’s words and wants about this topic to sink in.
The way he kissed was as raw and dirty as any sex I’d ever had, and I ached to feel his mouth all over my body.
This is book with a hero and heroine who needed each other badly. Annie gives Eric hope during the most depressing, dark time of his life in prison and Eric awakens something in Annie that she thought was gone for good. I fell into this story right from Eric’s first letter to Annie and theirs is a romance that I won’t soon be forgetting. For a little different take on a sexy love story, Hard Time is a must read.
Release Date: April 15, 2014
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*eARC provided by publisher for review*