Full disclosure: I skipped book two in the series. The plot sounded a little too angsty for me and not something I would like so I decided it was best for all if I skipped it (neither myself or the author would enjoy a low rating). The author was nice enough to respond to my inquiry about how advisable this was and recommended against it, but said it was probably possible. There were a few times that I suspected something was being referenced that happened in book two, but I got through okay. In fact better than okay. This book made me feel things:
And I mean this in the best possible way. Yes, parts of it were sad, but I frickin loved it!
Surprisingly my favorite character wasn't Ben or Ainsley, but Eliza (Ben's grandmother). She had a smaller part than she did in Firefly Hollow, but she was so much funnier in this one! She was sassy. She provided a good comic relief and I loved her.
I have to admit, that while I liked Ben and Ainsley, it wasn't their romance that made this book so enjoyable for me. It was the Campbell clan. I tend to love the dynamic of big, tight-knit families in books. Ben's parents (who I loved from Firefly Hollow) are still larger than life characters here. Ben's relationship with his siblings, and his sisters in particular, were entertaining and endearing. And it is the mark of a great writer when they get you to love the secondary characters as well as the main ones - and this is because the secondary characters are fully developed themselves. This may have something to do with the fact that many of this secondary characters have their own books in the series.
And to that point, what's really interesting in how Haddix has set up the sequels of Firefly Hollow, is that the timelines of the sequels overlap and you get glimpses of the other stories.
For example, book 2 (Butterfly Lane), is about John (Owen and Sarah's oldest son) and his wife Zanny as they go through a rough patch and almost break up. Now in Dragonfly Creek, from Ben's POV we see when John and Zanny separate for a while. Their story actually happens at the same time that Ben's unfolds and we see them overlap.
And then in book 4 (Cattail Ridge), it's Emma's story and we know she has a daughter. Well in Dragonfly Ridge, again from Ben's POV, we find out about Emma getting pregnant and are with her when she has the baby - essentially setting up the scene for the next book. These overlapping timelines and stories all woven together is really neat and I don't think I've ever see anything like it. It's really very cool and very well done!
Now, while Ben and Ainsley are my second favorite couple from the Campbell clan so far (yes, that's out of two), I did still enjoy their romance. As I've said, Haddix creates characters you can become invested in and love.
"If being pure of heart and merciful were conditions of getting into heaven, Ainsley figured her mother was probably feeling toasty."