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Publisher's Summary

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.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    124
  • 4 Stars
    63
  • 3 Stars
    31
  • 2 Stars
    21
  • 1 Stars
    17

Performance

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    111
  • 4 Stars
    46
  • 3 Stars
    26
  • 2 Stars
    15
  • 1 Stars
    22

Story

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    115
  • 4 Stars
    57
  • 3 Stars
    25
  • 2 Stars
    12
  • 1 Stars
    14
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Horrible Audio

Would you try another book from Deborah Smith and/or Suzy Harbulak?

I have read other Deborah Smith books and loved them... this book seemed a bit far fetched and predictable.

How could the performance have been better?

The audio was terrible. There so many voice-overs that it was distracting. The narrator's voice would have been better received had it not been for the poor audio quality.

2 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Drolls On and On and On and On...

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

well first, this is listed in romances... where's the romance? I'm over half way thru with listening to this book and I'm wondering where the attraction is. As another reviewer noted, there are to many stories as part of the book and the romance is overshadowed by everything else.

Would you ever listen to anything by Deborah Smith again?

Probably.

What does Suzy Harbulak bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I thought the narrator was fine. She does a good job with the various voices. It's a little annoying to hear the handicapped boy voice at times, but one has to understand that is how those type of children talk in the first place.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I haven't finished it yet, so I'll say that I only paid 4.95 for it, so it's not that huge of a loss.

Any additional comments?

I purchased this book because the story line was intriguing. There are many good reviews for it as well so that really helped in my decision, but I am quite surprised, I am totally bored by it. If this had been a book I had to actually read, I would never have finished it.

1 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Daphne
  • Pooler, GA, United States
  • 12-02-13

Weirdest audiobook I've ever heard.

Would you try another book from Deborah Smith and/or Suzy Harbulak?

Probably not. The story was very far fetched. The author covered too many themes at one time--destruction of the environment, special needs people, and veganism, to name a few. The plot was overshadowed.

What do you think your next listen will be?

I will probably choose a work by an author and narrator that have already proven their craft to me.

What didn’t you like about Suzy Harbulak’s performance?

The quality of the recording was awful. The voiceovers were innumerable and very distracting. At times, she sounded as if she were at the bottom of a barrel. Also, her Spanish pronunciation was very inaccurate. I will definitely make sure she is NOT the narrator in any future audiobook I purchase.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I only paid $4.95 for it.

1 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Many characters, so I listed them

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.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Could not get into it

Just could not get into to this book. The narrator doesn't give enough voice differences to know which character is speaking. Had to quit listening after an hour.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Middle of the road on this novel

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.

0 of 4 people found this review helpful