Lauren K. Denton published her debut novel, “The Hideaway,” only last year, in 2017. “Hideaway” tells the story of Sara Jenkins, a woman enjoying her life in New Orleans running a successful antique shop. Her grandmother dies and leaves her, in the will, The Hideaway, a bed-and-breakfast in Sweet Bay, Alabama.
There are complications, of course. The place needs renovating and a bunch of grandma’s friends, senior citizens all, are living there. Sara sets to work, makes new friends among the old people, meets a charming contractor and finds, in the attic, a box with information on her grandmother’s secret life. Conflict arises when a greedy developer wants to seize The Hideaway.
That first book was a bestseller, and now, only one year later, Lauren Denton, raised in Mobile and a resident of Homewood, Alabama, has published “Hurricane Season.”
This novel, again a gentle relationship story by, about and for women, without violence or explicit sexuality, opens in Nashville.
Jenna, the single mother of two girls, Addie and Walsh, 5 and 3, still has “long blonde hair and killer legs.” Jenna is a shift manager at Full Cup Coffee, earning a living to take care of her little family.
Then she gets the opportunity to spend a few weeks at The Halcyon Art Retreat in central Florida, near the Gulf, to improve her now-dormant skills as a photographer.
Jenna cannot resist. She leaves her two girls with her sister Betsy on a dairy farm in Baldwin County and heads to Halcyon.
Betsy and her husband, Ty, an Auburn aggie graduate, are a solid, loving couple who very much want children of their own, but so far are unsuccessful. The world of milk cows is already a perpetual reminder of reproduction and maternity for Betsy, and two lively, attractive children around all the time will only add to her emotional difficulties, reminding her of what she craves but does not have. Betsy loves her nieces but feels she is being taken advantage of.
The kids soon come to love the farm life: the cows, milking, the cats, the barn, the hen house. It is a paradise for children.
Betsy and Jenna, the somewhat wilder sister, had been exceptionally close partly because their mother, a star cancer researcher at UAB, was cool and distant, as was their father, the conductor of the Birmingham Symphony. Both have, as they say, “issues” with the mother-daughter relationship.
And Jenna is conflicted, of course, over whether she should risk everything to pursue her career in photography or play it safe at the coffee shop.
Stress mounts. Ty, an extraordinarily patient man, as dairy farmers usually are, becomes irritable partly in reaction to Betsy’s increasing unhappiness.
They have been “trying,” as the saying goes, and now they have quit trying, even quit communicating.
The few men in this novel, minor characters, are all, refreshingly, pretty decent guys. Jenna has an admirer back at the coffee shop, and at Halcyon, her mentor, the famous photographer Gregory Galloway, behaves well. The reader expected him to come on like Harvey Weinstein, power imbalance and all that, but he does not, nor does Jenna fall for him. Her romantic relationships are not the focus of this book.
It is Betsy and Jenna who must regain their sisterly closeness and Betsy who must renew her intimacy with Ty.
All the while, Hurricane Ingrid is approaching fast.
Don Noble is host of the Alabama Public Television literary interview show “Bookmark with Don Noble.” His most recent book is Belles’ Letters 2, a collection of short fiction by Alabama women.