Mickey O’Neill finds himself in a jail cell having broken a court order to stay away from a man (who had it coming, by the way). Since his reputation has preceded him and the cops are less than polite to him, Mickey’s only concern is his little brother, Flynn, and where he is. Flynn has William’s Syndrome, a developmental disorder.
When Mickey is told he’s free to go, it turns out the father of his (maybe?) boyfriend, Dan, has arranged for Mickey to be let go. Nobody will tell him where Flynn is, so he manages to make his way to Dan’s place. There, he’s welcomed by Dan and his parents…and Flynn. It turns out, Dan’s parents are registered foster parents and the social workers allow them to take custody of the young boy.
Dan is so happy to have Mickey back with him. He’s realized he’s fallen in love with Mickey, and he wants to be with him (and Flynn) forever. He sees past Mickey’s tough exterior and knows he’s a smart and caring man. He’s happy their relationship seems to be growing, even if others are trying to warn him away.
The road to happiness isn’t easy, though. Issues with social workers, Mickey and Flynn’s drunken deadbeat father, Mickey’s friends, and the manager at the supermarket where Mickey and Dan work all seem to want to combine and sabotage their budding love and road to becoming a family. The question is whether the men are strong enough to work their way through the chaos and build a life they both have always wanted.
I’ll start by telling you I reviewed the first book in this series, Misdemeanor, back in June. I gave it 3.5 stars because I didn’t feel I connected with Dan and Mickey like I wanted. However, Hard Time gave me what I was missing, and I was so pleased.
The chemistry between Mickey and Dad grew exponentially between Misdemeanor and Hard Time. I think part of it is C.F. White growing as an author. It was obvious to me her style was smoother and more detailed in this book. There were points in the story that were quite depressing. Normally, I will skim that sort of thing, but there was definitely no skimming here. This wasn’t heartbreak for heartbreak’s sake. The reader needs to know the person Mickey used to be so they could believe in (and have hope for) the man he wants to be.
The same thing happens with Dan. He’s still managing the grocery store, but as he falls deeper for Mickey, he begins to think about building a better life. He becomes more confident and he’s no longer a doormat. He’s able to stand up to his loser of an ex-boyfriend and his boss (a mega jerk if I’ve ever seen one). He’s not afraid to show his love for Mickey and Flynn to his family and best friend, and his love and affection for Flynn becomes more obvious, especially in the wake of Mickey informing him that he and Flynn are a package deal. Flynn will always be there, way beyond his reaching adulthood.
A lot is going on is this story. I won’t call it overwhelming, but I will tell you to pay attention. You won’t want to miss anything. I will definitely recommend you read Misdemeanor before you attempt to read Hard Time. If you try to read this one as a stand alone, you will be completely lost. There are a lot of important details that you need to know and they will only enhance your reading experience. I’m not going to give any spoilers away, but I think I can let you in on certain things that help make Mickey and Dan who they are. Mickey was an underground fighter. His drunken father taught him that violence was the way to deal with everything. He and his friends were petty thieves who stole cars out of boredom. His mother died, leaving him and Flynn at the mercy of their father, and he took the abuse in order to keep Flynn safe from their father’s fists. Dan, as I mentioned before, is a bit of a doormat who’d been unlucky in relationships…especially his last one. He went to school to become a teacher, but he’s not sure if he wants to leave the security of his grocery store job. He’s comfortable there and isn’t necessarily ready to take chances.
When you put the two of them together, they’re…frustrating, difficult, but more than anything, they’re amazing. While I didn’t connect with them in Misdemeanor, I was completely caught up in them here. The love is deep and made my heart feel full and warm. The sex was incredible, and made…ahem…other parts warm. It was pretty explicit, but that didn’t feel out of place in this story. It was like they needed to cling to one another sexually to prove what they had was real. And it was.
The background characters are all important to the story. They’re written well and are pretty nicely fleshed out. A few were there for comic relief and others were there to make you angry. They enhanced the story, and not a single one was unnecessary.
Everything tied up neatly in the end. Some of the scenes were obvious (not a problem, though), and one of them made me cry big, fat, ugly tears, I thought it was perfect. So perfect, in fact, that when I read there is to be a third installment of the series, my first reaction was shock. Personally (seriously…personally, this is just me and my own thoughts), I don’t think a third is necessary. However, that does not mean I won’t read book three. I’m just not sure if it can get any better than Hard Time. I guess only time will tell.
I highly recommend this one, but please read book one first to get the full effect.