Overall Rating: 4 + ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Wine & Dine is the latest offering from L.B. Dunbar. This book from her 40’s and over group of books brings us Garrett and Dolores. Dolores is the sister of Denton, the main H from her previous book, Second Chance, the book that launched my admiration for Dunbar. Wine & Dine is the fifth book of the Sexy Silver Foxes/Former Rock Stars series. And I am in love.
I first read Dunbar with Second Chance. In that book, I fell easily in love with Denton and Mati (read my review here). And to be honest, Dolores seemed like a “beige” character, blending into the background of the book. When Denton tells her to leave town (to stay at his house in California) and get away from the heaviness of her life, I didn’t really think much about it. Until Wine & Dine. Now, I am a bigger fan of Dolores’s than I am of Denton’s.
On some level, as a reader (especially one over 40), you connect with Dolores. She’s reached a point in her life where she has become reflective. What has she accomplished? Why is she at this point in her life where she feels alone and forgotten? Life has beaten Dolores down, and she wears that in her soul. As a reader, you cannot help but empathize with her struggle: a struggle to find more meaning in her life, to stop settling for the dregs given her by others. And it was this realization that connected me to her. My heart bled for her throughout this book because her pain was palpable and real.
Oftentimes, we read romance to escape. The H and h deliver us, through their stories, from our day-to-day lives. With Wine & Dine, the book acts as a bit of a reflection for a certain population of reader, and for me, this connected me more deeply to the characters. When Dolores experiences pain, I experienced pain. When she finds connection with the most unlikely of men, Garrett, I felt excitement for her. Dolores is that “every woman” type of character that you simply can’t help but fall in love with.
In contrast, Garrett is the prototypical “player.” He has no interest in settling down. A confirmed bachelor, Garrett plans to live his life, building his business and finding his dream in retirement. Until Dolores enters his life, Garrett is happy to share his bed with a variety of women, as long as there are “no strings attached.” Again, until Dolores. Then, the “tin man” begins to find his heart again, as he recognizes a bit of a kindred soul in her.
This story is a seemingly opposites-attract romance. Garrett the player and Dolores the woman with a dry soul don’t seem destined together…until they are. And Dunbar builds couples with such angst and fire and soul that you can’t help but connect with them.
Even more, Dunbar makes some keen stylistic choices with her book. She uses The Wizard of Oz as an allegory for her H and h. Garrett calls Dolores Dorothy as she traverses a different world than the one she has fled from, and he calls himself the Tin Man because he has no heart. Except…that Garrett has the bigger heart of the two. As the reader, once you realize that Garrett’s mask as a player is simply his guard wall, you cannot help but fall in love with him. Every time, he thinks or murmurs “don’t leave” to her, my heart broke for him a little. Dolores fills something in him that he never realizes until she enters his life. It’s this epiphany that makes this story special. These two people who don’t realize they can be loved find it in each other. And the story is glorious.
When I first read Second Chance, I’ll be honest; I wasn’t sure that I would like a 40+ romance. However, Dunbar creates these characters regardless of age that you can’t help but fall in love with them. Garrett is still the requisite playboy millionaire; Denton is the former rockstar turned model/businessman. It doesn’t matter that they are pushing 50. They are still hot and fun to read. And Mati and Dolores are attractive women dealing with real-life situations that Dunbar’s readers find in their own lives. This is the gold in her stories. Like I said, I wasn’t sure about these romances, but L.B. Dunbar won me over easily. She has become one of my newest favorite writers.
Read Wine & Dine. You won’t want to put it down, and your heart will sing for Garrett and Dolores.
In love and romance,