Thursday, March 12, 2009

Deborah Smith warms up the South with "A Gentle Rain"

A month or so ago I was approached by Belle Books Publishing to review some of the books the company was putting out. I was so flattered to be asked to be a reviewer I announced it right here. Well my friends and fellow readers below is my first review:

To be honest I wasn’t sure about the books that were sent to me for review. They appeared to be, on first glance, primarily slice of southern life type stories. I wasn’t sure I was going to actually enjoy the books Ms. Smith sent me but like I said earlier I was so excited to be asked I was going to give them an honest try and a real review. Thank God I picked up “A Gentle Rain” by Deborah Smith. Yes, it was definitely set in the south. Yes, it was a slice of life story. It was also a really satisfying love story. Please note I didn’t say romance novel, I said love story. This bears repeating because Ms. Smith takes a simple premise of the little guy overcoming the odds and fills it with wonderful characters, funny scenarios and love in all its curious and special forms.

The story takes place in Florida in an area near Jacksonville. I live in South Florida and visit the north of Florida once or twice a year and while I love the live oaks dripping with Spanish moss I have never been a big fan of the scrub prairies. Ms. Smith’s description of mysterious springs, exotic flowers and rugged ranchers has made me want to revisit the area with all new eyes.
The main characters, Kara and Ben have both been orphans. Unknown to her, Kara was taken from her parents when she was an infant and raised by incredibly wealthy people with too good to be true connections. (If there is something about the book I didn’t like it was being hit over the head with how connected Kara is. Her uncle is a Senator; she has cousins in the royal family, the Kennedy’s and the Churchill’s. She had me at billionaire.) Ben’s parents died before he was 16 leaving him to care for his mentally challenged brother who also has a severe heart condition. Young Ben is poor and is forced to leave the country to keep his brother with him. I think I know what you are thinking. This scenario is too far-fetched to be believable, such extremes in conditions how the heck could these two come together let alone even meet. AAAahhh, that is the great thing about fiction. Anything can happen and if you are good you can make it believable. For the most part Deborah Smith is that good.

Fast forward to adulthood. Kara’s adoptive parents who were environmental activists die in a plane crash. Going through their belongings to be packed up she comes across documents of her adoption and her world is turned upside down. She turns to her family counselor; Sedge Trevelyan to tell her what happened and help her track down her birth parents. He tries to dissuade her from this but in the end tells her he will get the information. Her birth parents are still alive living on a ranch in North Florida. She decides to meet them and discover why they gave her up and who she really is.

Ben has returned from Mexico with his brother having earned enough money as a Mexican Novella star to return to the states and fulfill his cowboy father’s dream of owning a piece of land. He purchases a ranch outside Jacksonville to raise Cracker horses. (Note: Cracker horses are a real breed of wild horse in Florida. Cool, huh!) He is no where near rich but he is doing ok. Over the years he has taken on a crew to work on the ranch. All of his hands have special talents when it comes to the animals. Cheech has a real knack for keeping all the 4-legged creatures healthy. Bigfoot is a gentle giant and can lift a 200 pound calf like it was a kitten. Lula and Miriam work in the ranch house doing bookkeeping and are both registered nurses so they take care of the staff. Possum is a cow whisperer. He can get a panicky cow to fall asleep on his shoulder. Roy and Dale are a married couple. Roy handles all the foaling on the ranch. Mac and Lily are a couple too but unmarried. They are general help and no chore is too big or small for them to do together. There is something else interesting about all these ranch hands. They all have a disability of some sort. Because of his brother Ben knows even the challenged have talents and are valuable.
What happens when a rich girl hooks up with a hard working blue collar guy? Often in romance novels the rich girl is a bit spoiled and gets a taste of the real world and once humbled falls crazy in love with the rough but loving poor guy, right? Not in this story. Kara is a very self sufficient kind of woman. She had to be since travelling to remote jungles of Brazil and Africa with her parents required her to learn good survival skills. Even though Ben falls for her immediately their romance takes the summer to bloom. Kara discovers these people and this place need her. She can do the one thing she has always long to do and make real difference in someone’s life. Not just by throwing money at the problem but by getting her hands dirty and personally getting involved. Ben discovers he doesn’t have to be alone if he doesn’t want to be. He can have the whole dream like his dad had always wanted.
This story is filled with great scenes, good chuckles and warm feelings. Take it to the beach, cruise, ski chalet or on your sofa and enjoy.
Other books by Deborah Smith:

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