04/18/2012 05:43 pm ET Updated Jun 18, 2012

Thunder and Rain Is a Modern Day Western

Charles Martin has been steadily building a devoted audience for his books. With each new novel that is published he adds new fans, and the number of his followers is at an all time high. His new novel, Thunder and Rain, should add even more readers to the Martin fan base.

Thunder and Rain is a rare type of novel in that it is a modern day western. Weren't expecting that, were you? The hero of the story, Tyler Steele, is cut out of the mold which brought us John Wayne and/or James Arness. Steele is a retired Texas Ranger who cannot turn down a person in distress. So it is no surprise he rushes to the aid of a woman named Samantha and her daughter Hope when their car breaks down on the Interstate.

Steele, also known as "Cowboy," has a life filled with a bunch of problems. He is separated from his wife Andi, who is now in rehab. Before she entered that facility she went on a money spending spree that has left him wondering if he can pay his debts. He also is concerned that his young son Brodie won't cope well with having his mother out of the picture. Then there are the people he has sent to prison, who have sworn revenge against him as soon as they are released.

Still Steele decides he has to help Sam and Hope, so he takes them home to Texas with him where he helps Sam find a job and a new home for her and Hope. As Steele helps Sam get her life back, romantic feelings rise up between them. This complicates things because Steele feels a great loyalty to his wife, even after all she has done to him and Brodie.

All of the characters Martin introduces the reader to in this book are fascinating people. Even the minor characters are people you would like to know more about. As for Steele, Brodie, Sam, Hope and Andi -- well, you feel you have known them for a long time.

There is a beauty to Martin's writing that enhances all aspects of this story. It is a book told in the first person from Steele's viewpoint, so you get to know all of his inner thoughts. He is a man readers will like and enjoy. There is a nobility about him as well as a strange Don Quixote complex.

Some have compared Martin's books to those of Nicholas Sparks. Both are romantic writers and both set up strong moral traits in their lead characters. Martin's books are not as overtly romantic as Sparks' and he provides more depth to his stories. Both, however, write books that are destined to be made into movies.

The strength of Thunder and Rain lies in the strong will of Tyler Steele. He is a hero who is meant to be admired. And he is a hero who deserves any and all admiration he receives. The creation of the characters and the depth with which they are presented makes you satisfied with any way Martin ends the book. If Steele ends up with Andi so be it, and if he ends up with Sam well, so be it again. All you want is for Steele to be happy. That is the mark of a well written story.

You may have not yet discovered the talent of Charles Martin. Discover it with Thunder and Rain.

Thunder and Rain is published by Center Street. It contains 357 pages and sells for $21.99.

Jackie K Cooper