I am so thankful that I got this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program as I'm pretty sure that I would never have picked it up otherwise. And boy, I really would have missed out on something special.
The characters in A Gentle Rain are so interesting and very well crafted. Kara Whittenbrook is an heiress to a fortune built by her environmentalist parents. She discovers after her parents are killed that she was really adopted. This realization sends her on a mission to find her birth parents who she learns are mentally retarded. They are living and working on the northern Florida ranch of Ben Thocco. Ben is an equally fascinating character. He is part Seminole, takes care of his younger brother who has Downs Syndrome, and is a former luchadore and telenovela start. He and Kara meet in the most amazing way and it's pretty much love at first sight (even though they both fight it). Ben brings Kara back to his ranch where she meets her parents along with the other differently-abled ranch hands. Kara struggles with the decision to reveal her identity to her birth parents while she stays at the ranch where she earns the love and admiration of this eclectic family. The plot is engaging and a variety of "villains" keeps the story moving along. The third major character in the novel is Florida. The author paints a nuanced and seductive picture of a little known part of Florida that is wild and beautiful, populated with the exotic and the mundane. This is the old kitschy Florida predating Disney World.
I really enjoy books where the author completely immerses the reader in a culture and a place and is so well done that you feel as if you've been there. Deborah Smith accomplishes all of that and more in A Gentle Rain. I highly recommend this book.