I HATE this book. Not the storyline because it's actually rather interesting, but the CHARACTERS. As other reviewers have already stated, it's incredible how Mary Connealy managed to highlight all of these characters flaws while completely ignoring any good points they might have. The character development is limited to stubbornness on the part of both the hero and heroine. He thinks she's stubborn, she thinks he's stubborn. She thinks he's stupid, he thinks she's stupid. Well, guess what, they're both right!
I don't mind flawed characters in Christian fiction. What I mind are those supposed spunky heroines who don't have a lick of good sense and run off into danger at the drop of a hat paying no never-mind whatsoever to their sweetheart's words of advice. That's what I hate and that's what describes uppity Miss Julia Gilliland. The thing is, I believe the author intended us to like Julia. Because she's really a sweet person deep down and cares about others and puts them first. No, she's a bossy brat whose first thought over anything else is geology and fossils, even over her family, the man she supposedly loves, and his family. Even over her own safety! There's a word for her that I'm too polite to mention, but I'm sure you know what it is.
And don't get me started on the supposed hero of this mixed-up historic romance, the dashing and moronic Rafe Kincaid. I disliked him already when he started bossing around a woman he had no right to boss around. He's often thinking about how desperate he is to marry her, and my main question is "Why?!" Just because she's pretty and you've never seen a woman other than your mother? Geez! And when he started throwing out thoughts on "wives obey your husbands" and how much fun it was going to be to teach that to Julia, well, my patience with him just snapped. There's a flip-side to that verse, buster, the one that says "husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church." This jerk expects her to obey him and offer nothing in return. I don't have enough fingers to count how many times he kissed her to shut her up because he didn't like what she was saying! How the heck is that the action of a romantic hero? She may not be in the right, but neither is he.
They'll be one heck of a married couple once the smoulder cools down and they can't stand each other.
I know what you're going to say. To each his own, and obviously some people like this book because it's gotten some positive reviews. However, putting aside my annoyance with the lead characters, Mary Connealy's prose is just bad. I've heard she's an excellent author so I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt that this book is merely a weak link in her genius. But all Julia's eyes do are flash when she's angry, joyful, fearful, excited, dangerous, threatening, etc. And her wild red hair. It's better to not describe your character's physical appearance at all than limit the descriptive to flashing eyes and wild red hair. It's the same with another character, always, always described his wild blue eyes glinting in the sun or in the shadow or in the firelight or in the moonlight or off the freakin' cave wall. All his eyes do is glint! The author forgot that she had already had Rafe answer Julia's question about whether he could draw because Julia asks him the same question a few chapters later. She ends one chapter in Julia's voice with thoughts on her being dragged off by a madman and starts the next chapter with Rafe in fear because his love has been "dragged off by a madman." Wow, who knew their minds were so totally in sync.
The only reason, and it's a slim one, that I'm giving this book 2 stars instead of 1 is because I like the secondary characters of Ethan and Audra. Ethan can be a pain, but at least he's not a demanding, overprotective, bossy jerk like his brother. And Audra is gentile and naturally kind, two traits that are glaringly lacking in Julia. Maybe this means the 2nd book will be better since it's about Ethan, but it may take me awhile, months even, to reach the point where I even want to pick up another one of this author's books. And that's a sorry thing for me to say about anyone because I can forgive bad writing most of the time, but not when it's joined with horrible main characters.