My very first Diana Palmer book. To be honest the thing that compelled me to give this a 4 star was because I could not put this down. It's not the greatest CR I've read, the writing was very rough and the dialogue was awkward in some parts but it was enjoyable and the characters had heart.
I really liked the hero Rourke Kilpatrick, the brooding cynical DA who falls for sweet warm-hearted Becky Cullen. It was nice seeing two people coming from opposites sides of the spectrum fall for each other. Rourke was a very charming character and did I mention he's half Irish and half Native American? I like. And I got such a kick out of the fact that this was written and set in 1990. How the characters would marvel over things that are no longer considered new and modern today (automatic car, fancy suits, cigars). And I have to say the sex scenes were pretty steamy I wasn't expecting that given the conservative writing and conservative heroine. Although I did think the steam factor suffered a bit because of the awkward stilted writing and it showed (in one scene it really wasn't clear if the couple ever um...finished :/). I got the feeling the author wasn't comfortable getting too descriptive or just didn't want to voice the hero actually coming to a climax, I don't know. lol
I think the heroine Becky had a lot of heart, she's a hard working young woman who's struggling to take care of her family and their run down farm. I appreciated the fact that she was raised with rather conservative beliefs and was a very honest person, I understood where she was coming from in that respect. But bless her heart, I wanted to slap some sense into her in a good portion of the book. She tested my patience with her stubborn pride and seeing things only in black and white, no in between. The whole misunderstanding/'betrayal' between her and Rourke ruined my enjoyment of the story in the second half, it took up a lot of room in this story for me. It dragged on forever with both of them going in circles. And I didn't agree with her accusation that Rourke betrayed her. a) He was doing his job. Are you really going to hold that against him? b) He actually never did betray her. In order to protect Clay's younger brother he took the fall himself and let her think he was the bad guy and even admitted to having ulterior motives at the beginning (which he never acted on by the way) and apologized for it more than once. So a good portion of the book she fights tooth and nail against giving him a second chance, she snarls and snaps at anyone who dares to give Rourke the benefit of the doubt and paints him as some evil lecher who seduced her into sleeping with him. She's angry and hurt, I get it. I just found her reactions & attitude to some things unreasonable and closed-minded. And of course she would quickly get embarrassed and flustered by any talk of sex and be so ashamed. I understood her guilt on the sex part, but she veered into martyr territory a few times, it just got really tiring. Her pride and stubborn headedness really got to me. She couldn't even bring herself to ask for help when clearly her and her poor as dirt family needed it. Come on! Use your common sense and leave your pride at the door. And her constantly trying to keep Rourke out of their unborn baby's life with her 'it's my
baby!' taunts did not win any points with me, that was a low blow and too vindictive.
And I have to say I do wish the author didn’t stress how conservative Becky was only because of how naïve she came across sometimes. Extreme in some cases that it was a little unbelievable. Her complete obliviousness and flummoxed reaction to her teenage brother Clay not bringing his girlfriend over to their house. She seemed incredibly relieved when it was advised that it was just teenage hormones and she believed it was because of her going to Church and his brother didn't want to offend her. Oh dear girl.... seriously?? Another was her discomfort and disbelief over using condoms to practice safe sex. The "I don't understand' deer-in-the-headlights reaction to preventing pregnancy was just..really??
Her reaction gave me pause because even for a young woman with zero experience and no female guidance in her young adult life, this was the early 90's, AIDS & STDs at a complete high rise, she even mentioned learning about sex-ed at school but seemed to have no clue about preventing pregnancy. It just didn’t add up. It’s like this poor girl had no teenage life of her own and lived in a cave in the stone age. She's a self-proclaimed dinosaur and it painfully showed. Things like this just came off very archaic & not modern. Unless you are living in an isolated convent or from the regency era there is no way you can convince me a young woman in her 20's doesn't understand or know how to prevent pregnancy. And it’s ironic because the term 'modern' and ‘liberated’ were used quite often in this book, something the heroine was quite scared to be titled as. And I can understand why considering her rural upbringing and morals which is fine but in some cases the author really needed to make it more realistic. If this was an earlier era it would make more sense but for the 90s it just didn't.
And something that also stood out and made me cringe was Becky's decrepit old prideful grandfather having issues with black people. His racism in this was handled like no big deal and nothing out of the ordinary and it made me cringe and surprised me. This is the 90s and I really don't care what state or city the story is taking place in, if you want to address prejudices, racism and extremely old world beliefs then don't approach it so high handedly and make it come across as something that is 'accepted'. This had me scratching my head and was uncomfortable to say the least.
As for the writing, that was the biggest negative for me. For one, the dialogue in this seemed very dated: “you’re figure is enchanting”
, “escaped being ravished…” “plain little spinster” “he was aching like mad”
. It's a contemporary American backdrop, it just didn’t seem to fit, especially in rural and city life Atlanta.
And a big part of the issue with the writing & glaring distraction was the author’s tendency of using excessive exclamation marks (!!) in the dialogue. I didn’t understand why Palmer thought it necessary to have it littered everywhere in her writing. I found this bizarre writing choice incredibly distracting and EXTREMELY annoying. It just made the dialogue sound very juvenile and awkward. In inner dialogues, arguments, intimate moments and even sex scenes. Having the hero randomly blurting out “I want you Becky!”
or my favorite: “Say my name!” he said huskily
just ruins the moment and takes you out of the scene. That honestly was the WTF? moment for me that started to ruin the book for me. They started popping up everywhere in the writing and I just couldn't get into the story or take the characters seriously anymore because of it. Just stands out like a sore thumb and it doesn’t translate well. A person can't exclaim or shout something if they are whispering or an inch close to another person's face Mrs. Palmer. I felt this book really needed a good editor to brush through it. And having a character constantly 'rage' or 'wail' when they are talking isn't very attractive (i.e: "I didn't know!," she wailed
). The character comes off whiny and petulant instead of distressed.
If it wasn't for the shaky writing, it made for an interesting read overall. The characters made up for the issues I had. I liked the drug-ring side story with Rourke working hard to catch the teenage drug dealers that involved Clay. And the sexual tension and chemistry between Rourke and Becky was rather enthralling.