I received this book for free from the TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Hurricane Season by Lauren K. Denton
Published by Thomas Nelson on April 3, 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Country Life, Emotions & Feelings, Family, Southern
Source: TLC Book Tours
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From the author of the USA Today bestseller The Hideaway comes another story of families and mending the past.
Betsy and Ty Franklin, owners of Franklin Dairy Farm in southern Alabama, have decided to put life’s disappointments behind them. At least in theory. Ty manages their herd of dairy cows, while Betsy busies herself with the farm’s day-to-day operations and tries to forget the longing for motherhood set deep in her heart. But when Betsy’s free-spirited younger sister Jenna drops her young daughters off at the farm to attend a two-week art retreat in Florida, Betsy’s carefully constructed wall of self-protection begins to crumble.
As those two weeks stretch much farther into the hot Alabama summer, Betsy and Ty learn to navigate the new additions in their world and revel in a home that’s suddenly filled with the sound of laughter and life. Meanwhile, record heat promises to usher in the most active hurricane season in decades.
Four hundred miles away, Jenna is fighting her own battles. She’d once been free to travel and pursue a career in photography, but all that changed with the appearance of two pink lines on a plastic stick and a boyfriend who hit the road. At Halcyon art retreat, she finally has the time and energy to focus on her photography. As the summer continues, she wonders how her rediscovered passion can fit in with the life she’s made back home with her two children.
When Hurricane Ingrid aims her steady eye at the Alabama coast, Jenna must make a decision that could affect both her and her children’s futures, and Betsy and Ty find themselves protecting their beloved farm as well as their own hearts.
I really loved Lauren K. Denton’s first novel, The Hideaway, when I read it last year(my review here). Her debut was full of family ties and complexities, and a heaping of self-discovery, all a charming Southern setting. I went into her second novel, Hurricane Season, with high expectations and I was not let down. Following sisters Betsy and Jenna over the course of a hot Alabama and Florida summer, I really fell in love with the people and settings throughout the pages.
Betsy is married to dairy farmer Ty, approaching thirty, and childless. After struggling with starting a family, they’ve tried to be content taking care of the cows and their farm. She was always the good student, the dependable daughter to their type-A, judgemental scientist mother and symphony conductor father, and everything that Betsy did was to please her parents. Younger sister Jenna was always the wild child, preferring arts to science, and her decision to pursue photography was met with displeasure from her mother. So Jenna set off on her own after college–ultimately leading to two unplanned pregnancies with a musician boyfriend who was on the road more than at home. Now a manager at a coffee shop in Nashville, she’s trying her best to be a great mother to her five- and three-year-old daughters–and succeeding in most ways. But Jenna is feeling unfulfilled, and always wondered what her life would have been like if she hadn’t given up her dreams.
But all of that changes when Jenna gets a scholarship into a prestigious artist retreat in Florida for two weeks, and she has a very short time period to decide if she’ll go and who will watch her children. Luckily, her ever-dependable sister Betsy is up for the challenge of taking care of two rambunctious children that she’s only met a few times before. While Betsy’s husband Ty is happy to have the kids for a few weeks and show them the ropes of life on a dairy farm, he’s worried about what kind of toll this will take on his wife Betsy’s already fragile state after the infertility treatments didn’t work.
I really loved getting the rotating points of view of Betsy, Jenna, and Ty. You really get a complete picture of their thoughts and emotions, and how everyone else’s decisions impact them personally. While the story starts out a little slow as the groundwork is laid, Hurricane Season settles into a nice pace as Betsy and Ty get used to having the nieces around, and as Jenna learns what it’s like to be a photographer again and have new career potential. A slowly building tension as each tropical storm threatens to become a hurricane that can wipe away Ty and Betsy’s livelihoods adds a great layer of conflict and the unpredictable for the characters.
As Betsy struggles with parenting two children that aren’t her own (but she quickly wishes they were), Ty has to now split his time between the farm, looking out for two little ones who can get into a whole heap of trouble, as well as his wife’s mental well-being. Jenna’s journey leads her from guilt at leaving her children to focus on something for herself for a while, to happiness at finding her old self again, and to ultimately finding a way to make it all work. All of the characters go on such an emotional journey, and I was very invested in their stories.
I give Hurricane Season a five out of five. I really enjoyed this book. The characters were interesting and I connected with all of them on some level–particularly Ty and Betsy. The charming dairy farm was realistic, as well as the fears and duties that come along with being a dairy farmer. Having lived on a dairy farm while I went to graduate school for my PhD, this brought back some great memories of that time for me. The pacing was great throughout with perfect building tension, but the ending seemed a little rushed as well. I would have really liked to hear more about the girls’ MIA father, but that’s something that wasn’t covered much. Overall, I definitely recommend this to people who love southern settings and great family dynamics. Lauren K. Denton is definitely an author that is an auto-read for me.
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About Lauren K. Denton
Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren K. Denton now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books.
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