A Connecticut heiress learns she's adopted and travels to northern Florida "cracker" cattle ranch to find her birth parents. There she also finds unexpected romance with the ranch's owner.
©2007 Deborah Smith (P)2012 BelleBooks, Inc.
~~"HOPEFUL ROMANTIC" ~~ ( 5 = Excellent, 4 = Very Good, 3 = Good, 2 = Poor, 1 = Awful ) ~~ "Reviews Should Never Contain 'Spoilers' " ;-)
A Gentle Rain is an incredibly touching and emotional story. It's the kind of story that really hits home if you have ever had a family member (or close friend) that have been mentally and/or physically handicapped. The love that permeates within these characters feels so genuine and tender. It reminds you of what's important in life and never take loved ones for granted.
My only negative about this audible listen is the sound quality. It has many overdubs that can be a bit distracting but in no way takes away from the story.
This book is more than a romance so don't miss out on this beautiful story!
I would definitely listen to this book again. It's full of life experiences, love, devotion. The best part of the book is the lesson of life.
The story of life. I learned from this book and will apply it to my life.
Joey. Oh who am I kidding? I loved each and every character.
I laughed, smiled, cried, related.
This is a must listen!
I LOVE to listen to audiobooks - the Audible ap is by far the best thing that's ever happend to my iPhone.
... of discovering yourself in the place you least expected to. I did enjoy this book - it's the story of a girl who deposits herself into a life that she is completely unfamiliar with and discovers that she is right where she needs to be.
Narrator was good.
This story could have been excellent, but the narration was not good. I had some trouble telling if the speaker was a male or female. I had to wait to get the context to figure out who was talking. Too bad, because the story was good and I would have enjoyed it a lot more with a different reader.
I read so I can write
The story is not very deep but is enjoyable. It is well written. The narrator is a little dramatic and her accents are more Georgia than Florida. All in all it makes for a pleasant listen. It's worth a credit.
I had a hard time getting into this book for a couple of reasons. The narrator had a difficult job with so many characters, both male and female, and many of them were mentally challenged or handicapped in some form. I think she did a fairly decent job, considering the challenges she was up against. The story line was a good one - a ridiculously rich heiress, Kara, who was raised by a couple whose sole purpose was to preserve the rainforests of the world, finds out she was adopted soon after the death of her parents. She heads down to Florida incognito to find her mentally handicapped adoptive parents and get to know them without telling them who she really is (an heiress and their biological daughter). They're living on a ranch in northern Florida owned by a man whose brother has Down's Syndrome and has several other mentally handicapped individuals working there. I found the two main individuals in the story to be unrealistically altruistic, particularly Kara. She's a vegan and imposes her eating habits on the occupants of the ranch as well as the reader. I'm on the fence about whether to recommend this book or not. It wasn't one of my favorites, but it was entertaining enough that I didn't once consider abandoning it.
3.5 happy stars for this heartwarming and sometimes amusing piece. It's fairly predictable, but I chuckled several times. This author also wrote A Place to Call Home, which has been compared to The Sweet Gum Tree. I liked a Place to Call Home a little more than this book, in some ways.
Only 2 stars for the audio narration by Suzy Harbulak. The story is told in 1st person, shifting frequently, abruptly, and within chapters from Ben's POV to Kara's. In the narration, there is no pause and no clear change in inflection to indicate a perspective shift, but in the book, the POV shifts are formatted in bold font, labeled either Ben or Kara. After a while, I learned how to listen closely for the POV shifts, but the narrator made it very difficult. She talks fast and everything sounds much the same. I suggest re-narrating this book, with Julia Whelan.
This story is set in contemporary North-Central Florida, at The Thocco Ranch. At his ranch, Ben Thocco employs adults with Down's Syndrome, autism, etc.
If you like your romances to include only a few fade-out sex scenes, with a solid sense of place (descriptive setting) and a strong feeling of community spirit in the secondary characters, this might be for you. Much of the tension comes from a somewhat understandable deception underlying most of the book, and from Ben's fears for his dying brother, Joey. The lead characters should have talked openly about Joey's prognosis, but Ben, born to Seminole Indian traditions, felt speaking the words aloud would lend them power. I think he was in denial, too. So, okay.
Be warned, the writing feels a bit pretentious, like Smith was trying just a smidge too hard. There are metaphors and similes (some don't make sense to me), many Southern-isms, and brief discourses on the flora, fauna, and history of Florida: her discovery, her pirates, and her famous "cracker horses" (descended from a Spanish breed).
Because I read this book, I was moved to google images of "cracker horses" and "saw palmetto" (knee-high plant with deadly sharp blades and nasty thorns). So, I learned something.
Character List, No Spoilers
There are many characters. In audio version, the narrator does not give her characters distinct voices. She also speaks fast, so it's hard to keep track of people. From my own notes, below is my character list. No plot spoilers!
Kara Whittenbrooke, age 32, is a wealthy Connecticut heiress who gew up on a Brazilian land preserve and studied library science at Yale. Like her beloved parents (Elizabeth and Charles) she speaks many languages and cares deeply about the environment. A vegan, she's skilled at gourmet cooking and also plays the harp. She stuttered as a child and was called Porky. After her parents die, she discovers that she was adopted.
Sedge and Malcolm: Assisted by Sedge (an aristocratic old family retainer) and his legal assistant Malcolm, Kara goes incognito as Karen Johnson to find her biological parents, Mac Tolbert and his life-long friend and lover, Lily.
Uncle William, her father's brother, is Senator Whittenbrooke.
Ben Thocco, age 38, owns the Thocco Ranch in North-Central Florida. A former champion wrestler, he takes care of his younger brother Joey, dying of heart failure and unable to get a transplant cuz he has Down's Syndrome. At his ranch, Ben employs about seven people with special needs. He keeps a love shack hidden away on his spread, where four rotating lovers take turns adoring him. (yup. Every Saturday night).
Mac and Lily are Kara's biological parents. They work at Thocco Ranch and are mentally impaired due to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Shaken Baby Syndrome. Mac's family is wealthy, but he is left out in the cold, thanks to the despicable Glen Tolbert, Mac's brother. Lily is Ben's housekeeper. She does all the ranch laundry and loves daisies (I could see where the daisies were going). Mac stutters, is shy, and utterly devoted to Lily. He's a big strong ranch hand. His love for Lily made me smile. It feels good. Lily returned all his love, too.
Glen Tolbert is Mac's older brother. He plays the role of antagonist, abusing his role as Mac's legal guardian. A nasty piece of work, but rich and influential.
Lula & Miriam are sisters with some nursing training, hired to care for Joey. Older, 60ish. Lula sleeps w Cheech or BigFoot, alternatively, saying "their heads may not work right, but everythig else is just fine" ( ew!). The sisters were mermaids at Weeki Wachi Theme Park outside Tampa. (I've been there recently and seen the mermaid show. No alligator, unfortunately).
Cheech, a Cuban cowboy, always with camera. Only eats ranch chow. Makes optimum horse feed, according to the text, but we never see him do it, not even for the prized gray mare. I think he has Down's Syndrome, like Joey.
Big Foot won some prize in the Special Olympics. He's a gentle giant with Down's who works for Ben.
Possum is a small autistic man who hides from the terrors of society by retreating to small spaces (under the table, in a box, etc.). He is good at calming the animals, according to the text, but he never does any calming in the story that I know of, and certainly not with the main animal character, a horse.
Roy & Dale are married. We are told they have a special healing touch with young animals, but I never saw that happen in the story. They have Spinal Bifuda and dress like Roy Rogers & Dale Evans. Dale just loves her Jesus.
Joey's dog is Rhubarb. The cat's name escapes me. Something like Grub. There is also Gator.
The key animal character is a severely abused but still young gray mare, a cracker horse with a scarred face. She plays a big role in the story, and eventually goes by the name Estrela. Kara speaks Portuguese to calm the horse.
TJ (or was it JT?) Jackson is a rich developer, the typical fat-cat antagonist, rude, racist, entitled, just like his daughter Tammi-Jo. Tammi-Jo is just plain ugly, in the Southern dialect referring to her nature -- her language and behavior. She is a champion barrel-racer (but Karen is gonna give her a run for her money). The main antagonists in the plot are these two Jacksons and Glen Tolbert, Mac's brother.
Phil is Ben's friend. His past is murky. Formerly, an undercover op? Maybe a mercenary. He owns the Roadkill Bar and Grill.
Cap LaRoi (real name is Arn Leroy) likes playing pirate games with all his wealth. Some vivid scenes at his Texas Hold-Em Tournament, complete with naked dancing girls and a $50k prize. Funny, too.
I absolutely loved this book. It is such a touching, realistic story. I really enjoyed it - well worth the credit!
Yes I would definitely listen again. As a matter of fact I plan to listen again, something I rarely do.
Can't decide. Ben. Perhaps Cara. Or perhaps Lily. Ben because he cared so much about other people and he sacrificed so much to help others. Cara because she was so good and kind. Lily because she never forgot her baby.
Very unusual story. Full of love. A romance yet with no detailed sex scenes.
What a Lovely book. it is well worth hearing it again and again.A touching and sweet book. I look forward to more from Deborah Smith in the future.
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