Lauren K. Denton
Published April 3, 2018
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.Betsy and Ty Franklin run a dairy farm in Alabama, and although they enjoy their lives, having a child is one dream that has so far not worked out for them. In Nashville, Betsy's sister Jenna is a single mom to Addie and Walsh; her dream of pursuing photography has been on the backburner for years, until she is given the opportunity to attend an artists' retreat in Florida. Leaving her children with Betsy and Ty, Jenna heads to Florida.
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. - from Goodreads
The writing drew me into the story almost immediately. It's warm, inviting, and comforting. I felt transported to both the Franklin Dairy Farm and the Halcyon Art Retreat. I honestly got lost in the settings in this book, and that doesn't happen often.
At first I had reservations about Jenna; I thought maybe she would be kind of flaky, just taking off on a whim to try something new. But she wasn't; she really surprised me. Photography was something she really enjoyed and was good at, but it kind of fell by the wayside when she had her daughters. I appreciated that she wanted to do the art retreat not only for herself and her creativity, but for her daughters, to show them that she was going after her dreams and they could, too, someday. She wanted to see if she could build a better life for them, not just as a coffee shop manager, but by pursuing something she loved. Although it was heavy-handed at times, I thought there were some good insights about the struggles mothers, especially single mothers, face feeling like they have to choose between their children and their careers or other passions.
I liked Betsy, as well. Her life hasn't turned out quite the way she imagined, as the wife of a dairy farmer and facing a struggle with infertility. Her relationship with her sister has cooled a bit over the years, but she would still do anything for Jenna, even take in her children for several weeks as Jenna attends the retreat. I could really feel Betsy's struggles with her nieces - she loves them, but can she really take care of them? She questions what kind of mother she would be, while at the same time, it made her pine even more for children of her own. I loved that Ty was a calming force in her life, solid and steady, and didn't pressure her. My one quibble with Betsy is that I consistently had a picture of an older woman in my head, when in actuality she was only 30. I don't know why, she just felt older than her years.
I did think the pace of the book was a little slow, and sometimes felt repetitive, like the characters just kept experiencing the same things over and over. I also thought the author was a little heavy-handed in pushing forth some of the themes of the book, but it didn't really take away from my enjoyment of the story too much. I loved getting to know these characters and watching them grow and come together.