When Venus Fell

( 7 )


Home is wherever the heart leads....

The ties that bind us—to our families, to our pasts—are at the heart of this deeply engrossing story.  

Venus Arinelli saw her future as a concert pianist shattered when her father's life ended in disgrace.  Now Venus plays in cocktail lounges, sporting her survival skills like a suit of armor.  When a stranger emerges from her parents' ...

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When Venus Fell

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Home is wherever the heart leads....

The ties that bind us—to our families, to our pasts—are at the heart of this deeply engrossing story.  

Venus Arinelli saw her future as a concert pianist shattered when her father's life ended in disgrace.  Now Venus plays in cocktail lounges, sporting her survival skills like a suit of armor.  When a stranger emerges from her parents' long-ago past with an offer too good to refuse, Venus' suspicions flare up.

But Gib Cameron has a special mission.  He represents the Camerons of Tennessee—a family as rooted in American history and Southern soil as Venus' is notorious and fly-by-night.  Yet the Camerons, survivors of tragedy, need Venus for reasons that have to do with honor and loyalty and an almost mystical bond to their shared past.  And Gib, as hard-eyed a skeptic as Venus herself, has to persuade her to come to their mountain home.

Humor, sexiness, pathos, and surprises are all part of Deborah Smith's unique storytelling magic.  When Venus Fell will entrance readers with its tale of Venus's reluctant journey to Tennessee, where two well-guarded hearts, afraid to trust again, will find they've come home.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An enchanting story."

"Smith unspools wacky and wonderful lore."

"Plan a day off if you pick up a Deborah Smith novel; they are as addicting as chocolate."
The Advocate, Baton Rouge

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Louisiana bohemian Venus Arinelli and Tennessee aristocrat Gib Cameron, the protagonists of this well-meaning but strained romance, come from very different, but equally tragic, backgrounds. Venus had her dreams of a career as a classical pianist dashed by scandal when her Japanese-Italian, nightclub-owner father died in prison, having been accused of murdering a federal judge. Gib became a member of the Secret Service after an IRA bomb killed his parents on vacation in England. Yet the families forged a bond when Venus's parents were married at the Cameron family inn in 1968, its first year of operation. Thirty years later, Giba man who represents everything that tough Venus hatesshows up, with a big surprise and a desperate proposition, at the bar where Venus and her dotty sister, Ella, are performing as lounge musicians. It seems Mr. Arinelli left his daughters $100,000, possibly dirty money, in the Camerons' hands. Gib will turn the money over to them, no questions asked, if they return to the inn and, by their presence, help him persuade his relatives not to sell. Smith A Place to Call Home comes on like Kaye Gibbons with humor; her tale of redemption and learning to trust again is by turns sad, funny and touching. But given the blithe improbability of the setup, Gib's earnest flag-waving and Venus's spitfire anti-establishment views do little to endear us to either character. July
Library Journal
Ranked high on Bantam's summer list, this novel tells the story of a former piano prodigy forced by family tragedy to play pop music on the bar circuit, who has a last chance at redemption.
Journal Constitution Atlanta
"Bittersweet" -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Chicago Tribune
Publishers Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
A thick, goopy southern stew from veteran romancer Smith (A Place To Call Home, 1997, etc.), this time involving a touchy pianist, her dreamy sister, and a man fatefully intertwined with them both. Venus Arinelli holds a major grudge against the world: Ever since her left-wing father was accused of a political crime he didn't commit'and died in prison—Venus has been struggling to escape the scrutiny of the FBI while she and sister Ella eke out a meager existence as nightclub performers. Enter Gib Cameron, ex-Marine and Secret Service agent, who has come to persuade the Arinelli sisters to return to his family's historic Tennessee inn. Thirty years earlier, Venus's parents were the first customers at Cameron Hall: They married there, and Venus was conceived on their wedding night. The tattered wedding picture of Venus's parents is the only remnant of her pampered life as a Louisiana quasi-princess. At first she refuses Gib's invitation'she despises his superpatriotic air'but then he reveals that he has money for her, left by her father. Once the sisters are in Tennessee, Ella succumbs to the hospitality heaped on them, while Venus keeps a cool distance from the sexy but brooding Gib. Meanwhile, the Camerons have their own troubles: When Gib and his brother Simon went to the sawmill to cut lumber for replacing the chapel floor, an argument led to a hideous accident—Simon was sawed in two by the blade and Gib's right hand was cruelly maimed. Thus Cameron Hall closed while the family grieved. Cousin Emory now wants to turn it into a resort, while Gib hopes to reopen it as it once was. And all believe that Venus and Ella are the key to the future.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553562798
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 641,703
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.86 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Smith is the author of such well-loved novels as A Place to Call Home, Blue Willow, and Miracle. She lives in Georgia.

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Read an Excerpt

By the time Gib Cameron found us, my sister and I were failed southern belles who could no longer count on the kindness of strangers.  We lived like gypsies.  Home was a forgotten memory.  Like lost birds, we had migrated to a cold climate.  Our distant connection to Gib and his family was all we had left of an innocent and proud past.  

"Pride and self-respect are earned, not given by birth," Pop always told us when we were growing up amid the gothic gentility of New Orleans.  "Nothing else matters." He had had more pride beaten into him than any man deserved, and it nearly destroyed us.

Ella had developed a chronic case of what would have been called the fancies in more polite eras, and I was well on my way to becoming what would have been deemed a pinched-heart hellion.  In more polite eras, of course.

Purists might insist my sister and I were never southern belles to begin with.  Pedigree alone should have disqualified us.  Our steel-magnolia family tree included one Japanese grandmother and one grandmother of Swedish extraction, who was a truck-stop floozy.  Our father was a California-bred Italian-Asian American, not to mention a Communist.  He spent his childhood in a California internment camp during World War II.  His Japanese mother—my grandmother Akiko—died there, and Pop swore he'd hate the United States government for the rest of his life.  

So maybe my sister and I were doomed from the start.  

When I was a child my piano tutors told stories about the Phantom Alligator Lady of Bayou Caveaux.  Rumor had it she was a failed concert pianist, though when I was a little girl none of my tutors would admit she existed except in self-serving piano-tutor mythology.  

They claimed folks glimpsed her around one of the concrete-walled, rusty-roofed little houses off a swampy back road a few miles outside New Orleans.  She had doomed her career, her youth, her very soul because she let worldly distractions steal her art.  Thus she turned into a crazy, bitter old failure who lured children into her home and forced them to play an untuned upright until they died, mind you—and then she carried their bodies outside and fed them to her alligators.  I guess you could say she was the ultimate music critic.  

I not only believed in the Alligator Lady, I carried the fear of her into adulthood.  I heard her whispering encouragement in the back of my mind like a ten-cent harmonica gone sharp.

I pictured myself growing old and mean, peering spitefully out my windows at strangers while I eked out a living, teaching piano lessons to nose-picking ten-year-olds who deserved no better audience than my asthmatic pet toy poodle—which I would name Dog, or Poodle, because my mind would be gone by then.  And while my students practiced I'd drink iced tea mixed with gin as I apathetically watched the poodle hoist his tiny hind leg and pee on dusty scrapbooks filled with clippings that proved I'd been a child piano prodigy, once upon a time.

And those clippings might have been all that was worth telling about Venus Arinelli.  Or about any Arinelli, I guess.  We were culturally jumbled but southern clear through by the grace of a god who obviously knows where odd people will best fit in.  Yet everyone is made up of parts and pieces of their family's music.  The saddest thing is to forget where our songs end and our parents' begin, because each of us plays the next note for them.  

Before Gib Cameron found me, I was sinking into silence.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2013

    Great story.

    I thought this was a great story. I highly recommend it, you can' t go wrong with this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2000

    I 'fell' in love with this book

    It's rare to find a book with such original, poly-dimensional, and textured characters, who live and breathe beside you as you flip the pages. Unlike many authors, Smith didn't rely on action-packed sequences to keep her story running; she chose small events with slightly quirky twists that taken together gently tug on and snare the reader's attention and heart. Fabulous.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2000

    A Good Book

    I thought this was a good book, and I enjoyed reading it. It wasn't one that tore at my heart, but was just an easy read. I wanted to know the ending, and I admired the older sister, and wondered what I would doin a similar situation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 1999

    A Great Book!

    When Venus fell is an awesome book that you should read. It is basically about a girl, when her father dies, is left with her sister Ella. Together, they have to conquer life in an unusual way. A long lost friend named Gib Cameron, which neither sister thought existed anymore, shows up and tells them there is more than a million dollars!! This book was intriguing story and a very good book that you should read!! You will love it!

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    Posted October 30, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2015

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

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