Friday, April 11, 2008

A Gentle Rain by Deborah Smith

Linda asked me to comment on this book, but I could not limit my reaction to just a few words…

Title: A Gentle Rain
Author: Deborah Smith

Type: Per the spine label, Romance.

Copyright: 2007

Why: If memory serves, there was blogger buzz one or two years back for Smith’s The Crossroads Café. I added it to my TBR list, made a mental note of the author and ultimately picked up another of her titles first. That book was Sweet Hush and, looking back over the blog, it looks like I never got around to reviewing it. A shame, since it was a fab read. As was The Crossroads Café (reviewed by Linda).

A Gentle Rain is Smith’s 2007 release. It went on my list prior to its release date, but I’ve just now gotten to it. In the future, I’ll try to remember the punch Smith packs and pick up her new releases sooner. Like the day of.

Comments: In a review awhile back, I mentioned being unable to remember anything else about a book but its characters. Voice, pace, plot—all were so entwined with characterization that I couldn’t separate any one thing out. Same here. A Gentle Rain was simply time spent in the company of extraordinary characters.

Written in first person, narrated alternately by Karen and Ben, this book put me ‘there’, in the scene, with seamless ease. Through that narration, Smith slows reader heartbeat, soothes and cajoles us into the gentle, simple life found at Thocco Ranch. Masterfully, we are immersed in not only the story’s details, but also its sensations. And despite the weighty issues—social and emotional—and the Florida heat, the sensation is not an oppressive one. There is a simplicity both lived and acknowledged in this story. We experience it firsthand in the patient love Ben and Karen show Thocco’s mentally handicapped ranch hands. And again and again in the actions and words of those ranch hands, related to the reader through Smith’s affected narrators. It’s magic—that weave of spirit, condition, and manner that carries the reader along through the story. You feel it, experience it—rather than watch.

Smith’s voice and her first person narratives give us very rich characters in Karen and Ben. Humor and quirks abound. These two will give you a bellyache for the laughs. They also serve as wonderful examples of the power of personality. It shines in both, pulling us deep, well beyond appearance and even motivation. Both are a joy to know, flaws and all.

The ranch hands? Real, just very, very real. Like Karen and Ben, you’ll find yourself cheering for them, while all along it is they who are building up your own character. These folks, and the crazy ass horse they adopt, carry the story with a power that matches that of Karen and Ben. Within them all, there is humor and loss, balanced beautifully against a penchant for simply living and a reminder to appreciate all of it. Just as Linda said, it is meant to be savored. I lost count of the number of times I paused to reflect on the profound or ride the endorphin wave after each belly laugh.

Fabulous read.


  1. Great Big Grin. LOL I knew you'd love it and your review really does it justice.

  2. I read and loved both Sweet Hush and Crossroads Cafe but haven't got around to reading this one even though it's been on my list for quite a while. Characterization is one of Smith's strong suits and from your description I think I would love this book so I better move this up my list. Thanks.

  3. Hi Linda and Renee - sorry for the delayed response!

    Of the first two, I liked Sweet Hush best - something about that hero resonated with me. A Gentle Rain, I have to say, was the best so far.

    Thinking I'd better take a minute and look at Smith's backlist.

  4. OK, I usually just lurk, but she's a favorite. I discovered Deborah Smith about 10 or 12 years ago. "A Place to Call Home" was the 1st of hers that I read. That was all it took. "On Bear Mountain" and "When Venus Fell" and "The Stone Flower Garden" were all beautifully written, and they touch you, make you want to actually believe that love can overcome everything else.

    Just had to make you glom her... :)


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