Rainwater

( 352 )

Overview

The year is 1934. With the country in the stranglehold of drought and economic depression, Ella Barron runs her Texas boardinghouse with an efficiency that ensures her life will be kept in balance. She also cares for her ten-year-old son, Solly, a sweet but challenging child whose misunderstood behavior finds Ella on the receiving end of pity, derision, and suspicion. David Rainwater arrives at the house looking for lodging but Ella senses that admitting him will bring about unsettling changes. However, times are...
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Rainwater

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Overview

The year is 1934. With the country in the stranglehold of drought and economic depression, Ella Barron runs her Texas boardinghouse with an efficiency that ensures her life will be kept in balance. She also cares for her ten-year-old son, Solly, a sweet but challenging child whose misunderstood behavior finds Ella on the receiving end of pity, derision, and suspicion. David Rainwater arrives at the house looking for lodging but Ella senses that admitting him will bring about unsettling changes. However, times are hard, so Mr. Rainwater moves in - and impacts her life in ways Ella could never have foreseen.

The changes are echoed by the turbulence beyond the house walls. Friends and neighbors now face financial ruin and in an effort to save their families from homelessness and hunger, are forced to make heart rending choices. The climate of desperation creates a fertile atmosphere for racial tensions and social unrest. Conrad Ellis -- privileged and spoiled and Ella's nemesis since childhood -- steps into this arena of teeming hostility to exact his vengeance and demonstrate the extent of his blind hatred and unlimited cruelty. He and his gang of hoodlums come to embody the rule of law, and no one in Gilead, Texas, is safe. Particularly Ella and Solly.

In this hotbed of uncertainty, Ella finds Mr. Rainwater a calming presence. Slowly, she begins to rely on his soft-spokenness, his restraint, and the steely resolve of his convictions. And on the hottest, most violent night of the summer, those principles will be put to the ultimate test.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A warm, nostalgic detour from the suspense queen's comfort zone...satisfying." — People magazine (three stars out of four)

"Bestseller Brown (Smash Cut) brings Depression-era Texas to vivid life in this poignant short novel.... Brown skillfully charts the progress of Ella and David's quiet romance, while a contemporary frame adds a neat twist to this heartwarming but never cloying historical." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Brown, a master of contemporary romantic suspense, makes a huge genre leap.... Many will be irresistibly drawn in by this mesmerizing little fable." — Booklist

"Brown demonstrates her incredible breadth of talent and versatility with this touching tearjerker. A quiet, tender story." — Romantic Times Book Reviews

"(A) masterful tale. This beautifully written period piece [is] a parable perfect to showcase Sandra Brown s newly displayed brilliance as a skilled lyricist as well as storyteller." — Providence Journal-Bulletin (Rhode Island)

"Author Sandra Brown has the golden touch.... Rainwater has a deeply personal feel to it, and there's a careful, loving tone that caries through in its simplicity.... A beautiful little tale with an engaging, timeless feel that's as comfortable as warm apple pie. Here's hoping Brown writes in this style again." — Deseret News (Salt Lake City)

Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Brown (Smash Cut) brings Depression-era Texas to vivid life in this poignant short novel. At the recommendation of Dr. Murdy Kincaid, Ella Barron, a hardworking woman whose husband deserted her, accepts David Rainwater, a relative of the doctor's, as a lodger at the boarding house she runs in the small town of Gilead, Tex. As the local community contends with a government program to shoot livestock and the opposition of racist Conrad Ellis, a greedy meatpacker, to poor families butchering the meat, Ella grows closer to David. Meanwhile, David becomes a special guardian angel to Solly, Ella's nine-year-old autistic son. Dr. Kincaid has gently suggested Ella put Solly in an institution, but she refuses to do so. Brown skillfully charts the progress of Ella and David's quiet romance, while a contemporary frame adds a neat twist to this heartwarming but never cloying historical. (Nov.)
Library Journal
An antiques store owner's explanation of why he won't sell his beloved pocket watch to a yuppie couple is the basis of prolific author Brown's (Smashcut) attempt to entertain readers with a sentimental story just in time for Christmas. Actually, it's a pretty darn good attempt. In 1934 Texas, Ella runs a small boardinghouse while coping with a difficult ten-year-old son. New boarder David Raintree shows a special interest in Ella's son. Raintree is handsome, charming, kind, and sensitive and has some serious health issues of his own. It's a foregone conclusion that he and Ella will become lovers. Some racial overtones are thrown in when a young black minister comes to town, and the story reaches a somber and violent conclusion. VERDICT Predictable but pleasant. Fans of Brown's romantic suspense thrillers will be surprised, as this book resembles a Richard Paul Evans or Emily Grayson novel. But multiple copies will be essential, as author recognition alone will spark interest.—Margaret Hanes, Warren Civic Ctr. Lib., MI
Kirkus Reviews
Megaseller Brown (Smash Cut, 2009, etc.) tries her hand at historical fiction in this slight tale of a Depression-era landlady and her mysterious boarder. Gilead, Texas-1934, population 5,000, if you don't count the unfortunates inhabiting the shantytown on the city limits-is reeling from the ravages of the crash and the drought, but Ella Barron's boarding house is an enclave of efficient domesticity. With the help of her black maid Margaret, Ella serves three squares a day, handles arduous Monday washdays and keeps an impeccable house for her tenants, a travelling salesman and two spinsters. Her husband skipped town some time ago, and Ella's ten-year-old son Solly is given to strange compulsions and fits that their family physician, Dr. Kincaid, can't diagnose. (Autism-spectrum disorders were then unknown.) Into Ella's regimented life comes Mr. Rainwater, Kincaid's cancer-stricken distant cousin. A prosperous former cotton broker, lanky, handsome Rainwater has decided to spend his final weeks at Ella's boardinghouse. Despite his moribund condition and bouts of severe pain, he is a quixotic social activist. Drought-impoverished cattle farmers are being forced to sell their starving herds to a government program that dispatches the cattle on site, burying the emaciated carcasses in huge ditches. When ranchers allow Shantytown residents to scavenge the ditches for meat, a gang led by town bully Conrad Ellis, whose family meatpacking business is threatened, terrorizes scavengers and ranchers alike. Conrad is only temporarily deterred by the group resistance organized by Rainwater; an eventual showdown between the two is as inevitable as the romance between Ella and Rainwater, who moves herby seeing the savant in Solly where others see only idiocy. Despite Brown's earnest dramatization of the era's horrors, including racial prejudice, lynching, homelessness and hunger, the novel never achieves the pathos she aims for. Her characters are simply too wooden, her Depression too much like a sepia-tinted souvenir photo. Mediocre, but with the author's track record and a pre-Christmas release, how can it fail?
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439192924
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 11/23/2010
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 131,181
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 11.54 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown is the author of fifty-seven New York Times bestsellers, including Smoke Screen. Brown began her writing career in 1981 and since then has published over seventy novels, most of which remain in print. As of 1990, when Mirror Image made the New York Times bestseller list, each subsequent novel, including reprints of earlier books, have become Times bestsellers. Sandra and her husband, Michael Brown, live in Arlington, Texas.

Biography

In 1979, Sandra Brown lost her job at a television program and decided to give writing a try. She bought an armful of romance novels and writing books, set up a typewriter on a card table and wrote her first novel. Harlequin passed but Dell bit, and Brown was off and writing, publishing her works under an assortment of pseudonyms.

From such modest beginnings, Brown has evolved into multimillion publishing empire of one, the CEO of her own literary brand; she towers over the landscape of romantic fiction. Brown has used her growing clout to insist her publishers drop the bosom-and-biceps covers and has added more intricate subplots, suspense, and even unhappy endings to her work. The result: A near-constant presence on The New York Times bestsellers list. In 1992, she had three on the list at the same time, joining that exclusive club of Stephen King, Tom Clancy, J. K. Rowling, and Danielle Steel.

Her work in the mainstream realm has taken her readers into The White House, where the president's newborn dies mysteriously; the oil fields and bedrooms of a Dallas-like family dynasty; and the sexual complications surrounding an investigation into an evangelist's murder. Such inventions have made her a distinct presence in a crowded genre.

"Brown is perhaps best known now for her longer novels of romantic suspense. The basic outline for these stories has passionate love, lust, and violence playing out against a background of unraveling secrets and skeletons jumping out of family closets," wrote Barbara E. Kemp in the book Twentieth-Century Romance & Historical Writers . Kemp also praises Brown's sharp dialogue and richly detailed characters. "However, her greatest key to success is probably that she invites her readers into a fantasy world of passion, intrigue, and danger," she wrote. "They too can face the moral and emotional dilemmas of the heroine, safe in the knowledge that justice and love will prevail."

Critics give her points for nimble storytelling but are cooler to her "serviceable prose," in the words of one Publishers Weekly reviewer. Still, when writing a crack page-turner, the plot's the thing. A 1992 New York Times review placed Brown among a group of a writers "who have mastered the art of the slow tease."

Staggeringly prolific, Brown found her writing pace ground to a halt when she was given a different assignment. A magazine had asked her for an autobiographical piece, and it took her months to complete. Her life in the suburbs, though personally fulfilling, was nonetheless blander than fiction. That may be why she dives into her fiction writing with such workhorse gusto. "I love being the bad guy," she told Publishers Weekly in 1995, "simply because I was always so responsible, so predictable growing up. I made straight A's and never got into any trouble, and I still impose those standards on myself. So writing is my chance to escape and become the sleaziest, scummiest role."

When she started writing, her goal was always to break out of the parameters of romance. After about 45 romances, the woman who counts Tennessee Williams and Taylor Caldwell among her influences told The New York Times that felt she had reached a plateau. In fact, she doesn't even look at her books as romances anymore. "I think of my books now as suspense novels, usually with a love story incorporated," she said. "They're absolutely a lot harder to write than romances. They take more plotting and real character development. Each book is a stretch for me, and I try something interesting each time that males will like as well as women."

Good To Know

  • "I hate to exercise and only do so because I absolutely must."

  • "I love to eat and my favorite foods are all bad for the body. Fried chicken and gravy, TexMex, red meat (hey, I'm from Texas!). My only saving grace is that I'm not that fond of sweets. Salty is my thing. Chocolate cake and ice cream I can skip. But a bag of Fritos. . ."

  • "It takes me a long time to go to sleep, usually because I read in bed and hate to put down the book. But when I do nod off, I'm a champion sleeper. I can easily do eight or nine hours a night."

  • "My worst "thing" is mean-spirited people. People who deliberately belittle or embarrass someone really irk me. The people I admire most are the ones who find something good about even the most undesirable individual. That was a quality my mother had, the one I hope most to emulate."

  • "I have a fear of gravity. Recently my whole family went to Belize. We had several adventures. We tubed a river through miles of cave, wearing head lamps so we'd have illumination. No problem. I scaled Mayan ruins. I rode horseback (on a monster named Al Capone) through the rain forest. No problem. But I couldn't zip line. Even though my five-year-old grandsons did it with glee, I just couldn't make that leap."

  • "I and my husband are huge fans of Jeopardy! We never miss it if we can help it. Does that make us complete dorks?"

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      1. Also Known As:
        Laura Jordan, Rachel Ryan and Erin St. Claire
      2. Hometown:
        Arlington, TX
      1. Date of Birth:
        March 12, 1948
      2. Place of Birth:
        Waco, Texas
      1. Education:
        Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Texas Christian University, 2008
      2. Website:

    Read an Excerpt

    Prologue

    "By any chance, is your pocket watch for sale?"

    The old man raised his head. The woman asking about his watch was leaning across the glass display case separating them. Inside the case were snuffboxes, hatpins, razors with bone handles, saltcellars with their dainty sterling silver spoons, and various pieces of jewelry recently acquired at an estate sale.

    But the woman's focus was on his watch.

    He guessed the woman and her husband to be in their midforties. To them the gold timepiece probably looked dapper and quaint, Rockwellian. The couple were dressed in the preppy fashion of country club members. Both were trim and tanned, and they looked good together, as though they had come as a set, the man as handsome as his wife was attractive.

    They had arrived in a sleek SUV, which looked out of place on the dusty gravel parking lot in front of the antiques store. In the half hour they'd been there, several items in his inventory had attracted their interest. The things they had decided to purchase were of good quality. As their appearances indicated, they had discriminating taste.

    The old man had been listing the items on a sales receipt when his customer posed the question about his pocket watch. He laid a protective hand over it where it rested against his vest and smiled. "No, ma'am. I couldn't part with my watch."

    She had the confidence of a pretty woman who was accustomed to beguiling people with her smile. "Not for any price? You don't see pocket watches like that these days. The new ones look...well, new. Shininess makes them appear phony and cheap, doesn't it? A patina, like that on yours, gives it character."

    Her husband, who'd been browsing the bookshelves, joined them at the counter. Like his wife, he leaned across the display case to better inspect the watch's workmanship. "Twenty-four-karat gold?"

    "I would imagine so, although I've never had it appraised."

    "I'd take it without having it appraised," the man said.

    "I wouldn't consider selling it. Sorry." The shopkeeper bent over the case and continued to painstakingly write up their purchases. Some days the arthritis in his knuckles made handwriting difficult, but what place did a computer have in an antiques store? Besides, he distrusted them.

    He did the arithmetic the old-fashioned way, carrying over the two and arriving at his total. "With tax, it comes to three hundred sixty-seven dollars and forty-one cents."

    "Sounds fair enough." The man pinched a credit card out of a small alligator wallet and slid it across the top of the case. "Add two bottles of Evian, please." He went to the sleek refrigerated cabinet with a glass door. It had no place in an antiques store, either, but thirsty browsers stayed to browse longer if drinks were available, so the refrigerator was the shopkeeper's one small concession to modernity.

    "On the house," he told his customer. "Help yourself."

    "That's awfully nice of you."

    "I can afford it," he told them with a smile. "This is my biggest single sale of the weekend."

    The man took two bottles of water from the refrigerator and passed one to his wife, then signed the credit card receipt. "Do you get a lot of traffic off the interstate?"

    The store owner nodded. "People who're in no particular hurry to get where they're going."

    "We noticed your billboard," the woman said. "It caught our attention, and, on the spur of the moment, we decided to take the exit."

    "The rental on that billboard is expensive as all get-out. I'm glad to know it's working." He began carefully wrapping their purchases in sheets of tissue paper.

    The man took a look around the shop, glanced out at the parking lot, which was empty except for his own gas guzzler, and asked, somewhat doubtfully, "Do you do a good business?"

    "Fair to middling. The store's more a hobby than anything. It keeps me active, keeps my mind sharp. Gives me something to do in my retirement."

    "What line of work were you in?"

    "Textiles."

    "Were antiques always an interest?" the woman asked.

    "No," he admitted sheepishly. "Like most things in life, this" — he raised his hands to indicate the shop — "came about unexpectedly."

    The lady pulled forward a tall stool and sat down. "It sounds like there's a story."

    The old man smiled, welcoming her interest and the opportunity to chat. "The furnishings from my mother's house had been in storage for years. When I retired and had time to sort through everything, I realized I didn't have any use for most of the stuff, but I thought other people might. So I started selling off china and doodads. Gradual like, at weekend flea markets and such. I wasn't all that ambitious, but, as it turned out, I was a pretty good merchant.

    "Soon friends and acquaintances began bringing me items to sell on consignment. Almost before I knew it, I'd run out of space in the garage and had to rent this building."

    He shook his head, chuckling. "I just sort of fell into becoming an antiques dealer. But I like it." He grinned at them. "Keeps me occupied, keeps me in spending money, and I get to meet nice folks like y'all. Where's your home?" They told him they were from Tulsa and had been to San

    Antonio for a long golf weekend with friends. "We're not on a deadline to get home, so when we saw your sign, we decided to stop and take a look. We're furnishing our lake house with antiques and rustics."

    "I'm glad you stopped." He passed the woman a business card with the shop's logo on it. "If you change your mind about that Spode tureen you spent so much time considering, call me. I ship."

    "I just might." She ran her finger over the name embossed on the card as she read it aloud. "Solly's. That's an unusual name. First or last?"

    "First. Short for Solomon, after the wise king in the Old Testament." He smiled ruefully. "I've often wondered if my mother had second thoughts about that choice."

    "That's twice you've mentioned your mother." The woman's smile was warmer, even prettier, when she wasn't using it to try to finagle her way. "You must have been very close to her. I mean, I assume she's no longer living."

    "She died in the late sixties." He reflected on how long ago that must sound to this couple. They would have been babies. "Mother and I were very close. I miss her to this day. She was a lovely woman."

    "Is Gilead your home?"

    "I was born here, in a big yellow house that had belonged to my maternal grandparents."

    "Do you have a family?"

    "My wife passed on eight years ago. I have two children, a boy and a girl. Both live in Austin. Between them, they've given me six grandchildren, the oldest of which is about to get married."

    "We have two sons," the woman said. "Both are students at Oklahoma State."

    "Children are a joy."

    The woman laughed. "As well as a challenge."

    Her husband had been following their conversation while examining the selections in the bookcase. "These are first editions."

    "All signed and in excellent condition," the shopkeeper said. "I picked them up at an estate sale not long ago."

    "Impressive collection." The man ran his finger along the row of book spines. "Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. A Steinbeck. Norman Mailer. Thomas Wolfe." He turned to the merchant and grinned. "I should have left my credit card out."

    "I also take cash."

    The customer laughed. "I'll bet you do."

    His wife added, "For everything except your pocket watch."

    The old man slipped the fob through the buttonhole on his vest and cupped the watch in his palm. It hadn't lost a second since he'd last wound it. Time had yellowed the white face, but the slight discoloration gave it a richer look. The black hands were as thin as the filaments of a spider's web. The long hand had a sharp arrow point. "I wouldn't take anything for it, ma'am."

    Softly she said, "It's invaluable to you."

    "In the strictest sense."

    "How old is it?" the man asked.

    "I don't know for certain," replied the shopkeeper, "but its age isn't what makes it meaningful to me." He turned it facedown and extended his hand to them so they could read the inscription on the back of the gold case.

    "August eleventh, 1934," the woman read aloud. Then looking back at him, she asked, "What does it commemorate? An anniversary? Birthday? Something exceptional?"

    "Exceptional?" The old man smiled. "Not particularly. Just very special." Copyright © 2009 by Sandra Brown Management Ltd.

    One

    When Ella Barron woke up that morning, she didn't expect it to be a momentous day.

    Her sleep hadn't been interrupted by a subconscious premonition. There had been no change in the weather, no sudden shift in the atmosphere, no unusual sound to startle her awake.

    As on most mornings, sleep released her gradually a half hour before daylight. She yawned and stretched, her feet seeking cool spots between the sheets. But catching another forty winks was out of the question. To indulge in such a luxury would never have crossed her mind. She had responsibilities, chores that couldn't be shirked or even postponed. She lay in bed only long enough to remember what day of the week it was. Wash day.

    She quickly made her bed, then checked on Solly, who was still deep in slumber.

    She dressed with customary efficiency. With no time for vanity, she hastily twisted her long hair into a bun on the back of her head and secured it with pins, then left her bedroom and made her way to the kitchen, moving quietly so as not to awaken the others in the house.

    This was the only time of day when the kitchen was quiet and cool. As the day progressed, heat was produced by the cookstove. Heat seeped in from outside through the screened door and the window above the sink. Even Ella's own energy acted as a generator.

    Proportionately with the thermometer, the noise level rose, so that by suppertime, the kitchen, which was the heart of the house, took on a pulsating life of its own and didn't settle into cool repose until Ella extinguished the overhead light for the final time, most often hours after her boarders had retired.

    This morning, she didn't pause to enjoy either the relative coolness or the silence. Having put on her apron, she lit the oven, put the coffee on to brew, then mixed the biscuit dough. Margaret arrived right on time, and after removing her hat and hanging it on the peg inside the door, and gratefully taking a tin cup of sweetened coffee from Ella, she went back outside to fill the washing machine with water for the first load of laundry.

    The prospect of buying an electric-powered washing machine was so remote that Ella didn't even dream about it. For her foreseeable future she must continue using the one with the hand-crank wringer that had been her mother's. Suds and rinse water from the tub were drained into a ditch that ran alongside the shed where the washer was housed.

    On a summer day like today, the washing shed became stifling by midmorning. But wet laundry seemed heavier when one's hands were raw and numb from cold during the winter months. In any season, laundry days were dreaded. By nightfall her back would be aching.

    Solly, still in his pajamas, wandered into the kitchen while she was frying bacon.

    Breakfast was served at eight.

    By nine o'clock everyone had been fed, the dishes washed, dried, and put away. Ella set a pot of mustard greens on the stove to simmer all day, cooked a pan of Faultless starch, then, taking Solly with her, went outside to hang up the first basket of laundry that Margaret had washed, rinsed, and wrung out.

    It was almost eleven o'clock when she went inside to check on things in the kitchen. While she was adding a little more salt to the greens, someone pulled the bell at her front door. As she walked along the dim center hall, she dried her hands on her apron and glanced at herself in the wall mirror. Her face was flushed and damp from the heat, and her heavy bun had defied the pins and slipped down onto her nape, but she continued to the door without stopping to primp.

    On the other side of the threshold, squinting at her through the screened door, was Dr. Kincaid. "Morning, Mrs. Barron." His white straw hat had a natty red cloth band, striated with generations of sweat stains. He removed it and held it against his chest in a rather courtly manner.

    She was surprised to see the doctor on her porch, but still nothing signaled her that this would be an extraordinary day.

    Dr. Kincaid's office was in the center of town on Hill Street, but he also made house calls, usually to deliver a baby, sometimes to keep a contagious patient from spreading his infection through Gilead, their town of two thousand.

    Ella herself had summoned the doctor to the house a couple of years ago when one of her boarders fell out of his bed during the middle of the night. Mr. Blackwell, an elderly gentleman who fortunately had been more embarrassed than injured, protested even as Dr. Kincaid agreed with Ella that he probably should be thoroughly examined just as a precaution. Mr. Blackwell no longer lived with her. Shortly after that incident, his family had moved him to a home for the elderly in Waco. Mr. Blackwell had futilely protested his involuntary relocation, too.

    Had one of her boarders sent for the doctor today? Little in the house escaped Ella's notice, but she'd been outside most of the morning, so it was possible that one of the sisters had used the telephone without her knowledge.

    "Good morning, Dr. Kincaid. Did one of the Dunnes send for you?"

    "No. I'm not here on a sick call."

    "Then what can I do for you?"

    "Is this a bad time?"

    She thought of the clothes piled into baskets and ready to be starched, but the starch needed a while longer to cool. "Not at all. Come in." She reached up to unlatch the screened door and pushed it open.

    Dr. Kincaid turned to his right and made a come-forward motion with his hat. Ella was unaware of the other man's presence until he stepped around the large fern at the side of the front door and into her range of vision.

    Her first impression of him was how tall and lean he was. One could almost say he looked underfed. He was dressed in a black suit with a white shirt and black necktie, and was holding a black felt fedora. She thought his clothes looked severe and out of season for such a hot morning, especially compared to Dr. Kincaid's seersucker suit and white hat with the red band.

    The doctor made the introduction. "Mrs. Barron, this is Mr. Rainwater."

    He inclined his head. "Ma'am."

    "Mr. Rainwater."

    She moved aside and indicated for them to come inside. Dr. Kincaid allowed the other man to go in ahead of him. A few steps into the foyer, he stopped to let his eyes adjust to the relative darkness. Then he took in his surroundings as he idly threaded the brim of his hat through long, slender fingers.

    "In here, please." Ella stepped around her two guests and motioned them into the formal parlor. "Have a seat."

    "We thought we heard the doorbell."

    The chirping voice brought Ella around. The Misses Dunne, Violet and Pearl, were standing on the bottom stair. In their pastel print dresses and old-fashioned shoes, they were virtually interchangeable. Each had a nimbus of white hair. Their veined, spotted hands clutched matching handkerchiefs, daintily hemmed and hand-embroidered by their mother, they'd told Ella.

    With unabashed curiosity, the two were looking beyond Ella to catch a glimpse of the visitors. Having callers was an event.

    "Is that Dr. Kincaid?" asked Pearl, the more inquisitive of the two. "Hello, Dr. Kincaid," she called.

    "Good morning, Miss Pearl."

    "Who's that with you?"

    Miss Violet frowned at her sister with reproof. "We were coming down to play gin rummy until lunch," she whispered to Ella. "Will we disturb?"

    "Not at all."

    Ella asked them to use the informal parlor and led them to it. When they were situated at the card table, she said, "Please excuse us, ladies," and pulled together the heavy oak pocket doors that divided the large room in half. She rejoined the two men in the formal side, which overlooked the front porch. Despite her invitation for them to sit down, they had remained standing.

    Dr. Kincaid was fanning himself with his hat. Ella switched on the fan on the table in the corner, directed the stream of air toward him, then motioned the men toward a pair of wingback chairs. "Please."

    They sat when she did.

    This being summer, and wash day, she hadn't put on stockings that morning. Embarrassed by her bare legs, she crossed her ankles and pulled her feet beneath the chair. "Would you like some lemonade? Or tea?"

    "That sounds awfully good, Mrs. Barron, but I'm afraid I have to pass," the doctor said. "I've got patients to see at the clinic."

    She looked at Mr. Rainwater.

    "No thank you," he said.

    Returning to the kitchen would have given her an opportunity to remove her apron, which had a damp patch where she'd dried her hands, and to pin her bun more securely. But since her guests had declined the offer of a drink, she was stuck looking untidy for the remainder of their visit, the purpose of which hadn't yet been stated. She wondered what Solly was up to and how long this unexpected meeting was going to take. She hoped Mr. Rainwater wasn't a salesman. She didn't have time to sit through his pitch, only to say no to whatever it was he was peddling.

    The smell of simmering mustard greens was strong, even here in the front parlor. The doctor withdrew a large white handkerchief from his coat pocket and used it to blot sweat from his balding head. A yellow jacket flew into the window screen and continued angrily to try to go through it. The hum of the electric fan seemed as loud as a buzz saw.

    She was relieved when Dr. Kincaid cleared his throat and said, "I heard you lost a boarder."

    "That's right. Mrs. Morton went to live with an ailing sister. Somewhere in eastern Louisiana, I believe."

    "Quite a piece from here," he remarked.

    "Her nephew came to escort her on the train."

    "Nice for her, I'm sure. Have you had anyone speak for her room?"

    "She only left the day before yesterday. I haven't had time to advertise."

    "Well then, that's good, that's good," the doctor said and began fanning himself enthusiastically, as though in celebration of something.

    Discerning now the purpose for their call, she looked at Mr. Rainwater. He sat leaning slightly forward with both feet on the floor. His black shoes were shined, she noticed. His thick, dark hair was smoothed back off his face, but one strand, as straight and shiny as a satin ribbon, had defiantly flopped over his broad forehead. His cheekbones were pronounced, his eyebrows as sleek and black as crows' wings. He had startling blue eyes, and they were steady on her.

    "Are you interested in lodging, Mr. Rainwater?"

    "Yes. I need a place to stay."

    "I haven't had a chance to give the vacant room a thorough cleaning, but as soon as it's ready, I'd be happy to show it to you."

    "I'm not particular." He smiled, showing teeth that were very white, although slightly crooked on the top. "I'll take the room as is."

    "Oh, I'm afraid I couldn't let you have it now," she said quickly. "Not until I've aired the bedding, scrubbed everything, polished the floor. I have very high standards."

    "For boarders or cleanliness?"

    "For both."

    "Which is why I've brought him to you," the doctor said hastily. "I told Mr. Rainwater that you keep an immaculate house and run a tight ship. To say nothing of the excellent meals your boarders enjoy. He desires a place that's well maintained. A peaceful and quiet house."

    Just then, from the direction of the kitchen, came a terrible racket followed by a bloodcurdling scream. Copyright © 2009 by Sandra Brown Management Ltd.

    Read More Show Less

    Interviews & Essays

    Dear Reader,

    I'm also pleased to share with you a new novel which has been a labor of love. It's touched me as no other story of my career has.

    RAINWATER is based on a true story told to me by my late father who grew up during the Great Depression. One of his most vivid childhood memories was of a showdown between his father and armed federal agents who arrived at Grandpa's dairy farm demanding he pour out surplus milk rather than give it away to people in need...and in the ravaged cotton and cattle country of central Texas, there were many in need.

    In my grandfather's opinion, the government program, designed to create a greater demand for milk and thereby drive up the price, was flawed if not downright lunatic, especially when the babies of so many friends, neighbors, and, indeed, perfect strangers, were going hungry. He refused to comply with the mandate and, backed by a few gun-toting relatives, ordered the agents off his property. The agents retreated without a shot being fired, and Grandpa continued giving away the surplus milk he couldn't sell.

    This story fired my imagination, stayed with me, and eventually provided the background for RAINWATER. I hadn't planned to write an additional book. I didn't have time. But this story wouldn't let me rest. So after delivering the manuscript for SMOKE SCREEN in the spring of 2008, I gave myself two months to draft a story that was vitally different from my thrillers; a total departure from anything I'd written before. In short, I took a career gamble.

    Throughout the year, whenever I had a spare week or two, I revisited RAINWATER because once I began committing it to paper, I was captivated by Rainwaterhimself, by Ella and Solly, by all the people who inhabited their tiny sphere. I missed their company when I wasn't in their midst. I became completely immersed in their strife and joys. Never did I work on RAINWATER, nor even think of it, that I wasn't brought to the point of tears.

    From the day I conceived it, I felt this story was special, that although it takes place almost eighty years ago, its conflicts are timely today; its themes are timeless. My hope is that you, my loyal fans, and ultimately readers who aren't acquainted with my suspense novels will find this one as engaging, compelling, poignant, and meaningful as I have.

    Sandra Brown
    Read More Show Less

    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 4
    ( 352 )
    Rating Distribution

    5 Star

    (162)

    4 Star

    (78)

    3 Star

    (53)

    2 Star

    (32)

    1 Star

    (27)

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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 353 Customer Reviews
    • Posted February 4, 2010

      I Also Recommend:

      COMPELLING JOURNEY!

      This is a story within a story with lots of challenges, from terminal illness to broken-heartedness, to autism, to poverty to disappointment to tragedy to courage to sacrifice to courage and all kinds of love. Brown did her research. She had the jargon down for the 1930's on and the way people thought back then, chilling racism, bigotry and such. Wonderful read! Other books I LOVED are THE HELP, EXPLOSION IN PARIS, SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME

      16 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 30, 2010

      I Also Recommend:

      Starts right away catching your interest. Quirky characters and fascinating story line which will leave you with smiles, perhaps some tears, but you find the ending surprisingly sweet. America was made by strong people such as these.

      Depression time in America. A young lady finds herself running a boarding house to makes ends meet when her worthless husband leaves. To complicate matters, she has a little boy with autisim. The side story of the civil rights issue raises its head, becomes a major problem in the little town. But a stranger comes to town, needing a place to stay while he dies. The local doctor, who is the only one to know the circumstances of David Rainwater, takes him to the boarding house. And this mysterious man bonds with the little boy, brings him out of his shell. And of course the friendship story which nearly becomes a love story can almost make you ache inside. This is a story that you will just enjoy reading, finding out that you like the people, care about the ending, wish Sandra Brown would write more like this. Actually, when I picked up the book, it was a mistake ... I read (and love) everything by Sandra Dalles, didn't notice it was "Brown" not "Dallas." When I went to get more by Sandra Brown, I found that most of her writing is not at all like this book. Bummer. I would love to put this on my permanent shelf of favorites, but I gave it away to someone who was in town at the moment. And I just knew she would love the story as much as I did. Very good read. (If you love this one, you'll also love Sandra Dallas and Lisa Wingate.)

      16 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 1, 2010

      I Also Recommend:

      Will inspire and tug at your heart strings

      RAINWATER was a gift for my birthday and even though I was busy with Christmas preparations I couldn't wait to get started on it. This one will inspire you and tug at your heart strings. It's bittersweet, but a feel-good read, heartwarming, and touching. It's set in 1934 Texas, the era of racial conflicts, depression, the down-trodden, and always the frustrating, unfair evil, that we have in every era. This is all about the fight for survival. "Hope" is the magic word that keeps the fight alive. Wonderful story!

      10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 23, 2010

      Enjoyed every word

      Sandra Brown is simply a very gifted writer. Nothing else needs to be said. Buy this one, read it, love it, that's all.

      7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted April 24, 2010

      I Also Recommend:

      HEART-WARMING AND BITTERSWEET

      I am an avid Sandra Brown fan. I own and have read most of her books. All I can say is that this is unlike any book she has ever written but I love it. It is a heartwarming, bittersweet story that will make you believe in the wonders of love in all aspects. The fascinating characters in 1934 Texas
      Come together in a way the reader might not expect. This is a wonderful, touching story, set during the depression giving the reader an accurate look at small town America, suffering through not only tough times financially but racially and what being a good neighbor and a good friend can bring you. Brown is an exceptional storyteller and a master with her dialogue. Her characters are very real and three dimensional, with their heartbreaking, yet hopeful story. Any lover of great literary fiction with a historical background will fall in love with Sandra Brown's "Rainwater". A must read! I recommend!

      5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 31, 2010

      Page Turner!!

      This is my first read Sandra Brown book. Rainwater is a perfect interpretation of the "best of love" and the "worst of hate". The characters are so vivid and alive! Great book! Looking forward to reading more from Sandra Brown.

      5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted November 30, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      I Also Recommend:

      An Unexpected Pleasure

      Rainwater is not what you'd expect from Sandra Brown in terms of genre, but it is what you'd expect in terms of context. Ms. Brown hits all the marks with this wonderful, touching story.
      Set during the depression she gives us an accurate look at small town America, suffering through not only tough times financially but racially and what being a good neighbor and good friend can bring you from those who don't share your views. She is an exceptional storyteller and a wizard with her dialogue that will have you feeling the dust settle in your lungs from the drought or see the despair of the citizens loosing everything they have and just trying to survive day to day. She re-created and brought to life for me the stories my Grandmother told me of the hardships of the people who lived through the great depression. Her characters are very real, three dimensional, heartbreaking and yet hopeful. The main characters of Solly, Ella and David Rainwater are amazing and will stay with you long after the final page has been turned.
      Any lover of great literary fiction will fall in love with Sandra Brown's Rainwater. Be prepared to be wowed by this incredible story, wonderful characters and amazing dialogue. It'll take you back and make you glad of how far we've come and yet make you hunger for the simpler times. A must read and a definite Best Seller.

      5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted March 16, 2010

      I Also Recommend:

      Wow! Sandra Brown should write more of these!

      I LOVED THIS BOOK! Totally different from her usual fare, this book takes you to a boarding house during the depression. The characters are wonderful and realistic. The story is compelling. I wanted this book to go on and on. The landlady is a women who has run into hard times and must run this boarding house for a living. She has a black helper who is as much a friend as an employee. They can both teach us how to give back to the community even with the little that they have. The "new boarder" is the type of man you want your daughter to date even with his "difficulty". When I finished ths book, I just sat for a moment and petted it. It touched me that much. I hope that Mrs. Brown writes more of these kinds of books.

      4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 20, 2010

      more from this reviewer

      Heartwarming to read

      This was simply a wonderful story to read. I wanted to hug Sandra Brown when I finished it. Not many stories are this moving. I couldn't wait to get my own copy to keep and to tell people about it. Thank you so much.
      This will make a lovely gift for someone special.

      4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted December 16, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      Exceptional story of 1934 Texas, poor and racial tempers flaring

      Rainwater is a much different style of book than we are used to from Sandra Brown. We are used to crime, mystery, and detective, stories interlaced with love. Rainwater is a terrific book that takes us into a world about which Sandra Brown has wanted to write for years. I loved reading and thoroughly enjoying the story, the characters, and the actions of 1934 Texas with racial problems running high, education running low, and much inter-action between all the players. There is a romantic side of Rainwater also that brings some of the people together that the reader might not expect.

      Ella Barron runs a boardinghouse out of necessity to exist but she enjoys her routines and especially enjoys her seemingly mentally challenged son, Solly. Dr. Kincaid brought Mr. Rainwater to Ella requesting that she allow him to become a boarder. It so happened that a room was available so she took Mr. Rainwater in to join her other boarders all of who got along quite well. When Mr. Rainwater saw the things Solly was doing, he stepped in with Ella's approval and they discovered that Solly could do some amazing things with dominos, tooth picks, cards, and eventually more. He worked with Solly a lot.

      The racial relations of the time combined with shantytown where all the poor downtrodden lived, white and black, were an explosive issue with several in town continually bothering and outright hurting these people and any property they might have. The lack of rain and feed caused the cattle to starve. The federal government ruled that animals in that condition had to be killed and they were not allowed to be used for food, which was so much needed by the poor. When the town "bullies" came to drive the cattle into a deeply dug ditch, killed, and covered with lye so they could not be used for food, many battles and hard feelings ensued. Mr. Rainwater, even though in bad health, joined in the battle to save the cattle and allow them to be used for food.

      This describes the book pattern well and should entice you to purchase it and when you do don't expect to be able to put it down before finishing it. Thanks Sandra Brown. I could read more of this type stories from you. Yes, I enjoy all your other books as I think I have read all of them.

      4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted September 30, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      Sandra Brown is at her best with this heart-wrenching one sitting Americana

      In 1934 in Gilead, Texas, after her husband deserted Ella Barron and their son Solly, she supports them by running a boardinghouse. Her ten year old child has issues that make him different and requires much attention from Ella. Although she is tired from all she must do to keep the place running and her son safe Ella believes it is worth it for her Solly.

      Ella agrees to take in a new boarder David Rainwater based on a recommendation from a friend she trusts. The quiet newcomer surprises her as he is more than just kind to Solly; he spends quality time with her son. Ella reluctantly becomes attracted to him and he is falling in love with his landlady and her child. However, when racial hatred led by affluent Conrad Ellis leads to violence aimed at Ella and Solly, David risks his life to protect those facing brutality.

      This is a deep Great Depression Era Texas thriller as poverty ignores race, ethnic background and gender, but people don't. Racism turns brutally ugly as Ellis and his followers are the law. Ella is a courageous individual while Solly steals hearts as the townsfolk see him as either pitiful or demonized, making him a perfect helpless target of Ellis. David will surprise readers as Solly gives him the inspiration to risk his life. Sandra Brown is at her best with this heart-wrenching one sitting Americana.

      Harriet Klausner

      4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Posted January 4, 2010

      I Also Recommend:

      Sandra Brown Lover

      I am an avid Sandra Brown fan. I own and have read all her books; even the hard to find books first published in the 80's at various used bookstores around Arizona. All I can say is that this is unlike any book she has ever written and I love it. It's a heartwarming, bittersweet story that will make you believe in the wonders of love for the opposite sex and for a child.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 1, 2010

      more from this reviewer

      Sandra Brown has outdone herself. Great Book

      I have read all her mystery novels and really like her as a writer. But this was a book you just sat down and enjoyed the read of a real nice story. Would recommend this book to anyone. Sandra Brown is a great writer.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 12, 2010

      Hated to have it end.

      I loved Rainwater. I hated for the story to be over. It made me cry.

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted December 27, 2009

      Wonderful Read

      So different from the typical Sandra Brown novel. This one reminded me
      of Dorothy Garlock's series of 1940's novels. I didn't want this one
      to end. Beautiful heartwarming story.

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted November 28, 2009

      Touching & Beautiful

      I read this in two days; could not put it down. It's the first I've read of Sandra Brown, but I'll be looking for her other books now. Very touching, sad but not too sad. It's a beautiful story with an amazing twist at the end. I don't like books that depress or upset me, and this book did neither, but it still managed to touch my heart. It's a terrific read; don't miss out on it. It's not a book I'll be forgetting about any time soon.

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted November 15, 2009

      Touching story, grabs you and you won't put it down.

      I could almost feel the dry heat of the drought and the tension in the little town as I read. Through the book I kept hoping that something would get through to Solly. It's written on the lines of "The Notebook" and other Sparks books, also made me think of "Bridges of Madison County."
      I didn't want the story to end!

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted September 30, 2010

      Wonderfully written!

      For anyone who appreciates "light" historical fiction (not too heavy on the history), this is a wonderful book. It's a total departure for Sandra Brown, and what an amazing success it is! The chacters are beautifully developed, the plot moves along exceptionally well, and the dialogue is appropriate and believeable. I couldn't put it down!

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted July 13, 2010

      Loved this book!

      My mother in law suggested this one to me saying it was different from what Sandra Brown usually writes. I loved this book! All I could think about the last hour of work was how I couldn't wait to get home and read more. I read somewhere that Sandra Brown wrote this in between writing two larger novels. I hope she writes something similar to it in the future.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted April 12, 2010

      I've enjoyed every Brown book I have read so I tried this one thinking no way it could be bad and....

      I really love reading Sandra Brown. I have enjoyed every book I have read from her. So I picked this one up thinking I couldnt go wrong. I was right! I loved this book. I was so different from her other books and I enjoyed it very much. It was a quick read and I truly enjoyed the story.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 353 Customer Reviews

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