Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
To decide to revisit a series, one that you had put to bed, and revise it for consumption feels certainly like an act of bravery. As a relatively new L.B Dunbar reader, I had not originally read her Heart Collection, formerly the Sensations series, given the extensiveness of her book list. With Dunbar’s willingness to revise this series, I have found myself falling into this new series as easily as I’ve fallen into her Sexy Silver Foxes, The Silver Foxes of Blue Ridge, and SmartyPants Romance collections. What Dunbar brings to these series is her ability to craft heroes and heroines who feel a little bit broken at the beginning of the story, but find completion and restoration in the arms of their paramours. For this reader, that reads like catnip to an insatiable cat.
Thus far, with the Heart Collection, I have fallen in love with Jess and Emily, Tricia and Leon, and Ethan and Ella. Within their stories, there is a cohesion. Whether it feels like hate-to-love or opposites attracting, Dunbar has crafted stories in these heroes and heroines’ books that draw you in and urge you forward through the difficulties of their journeys. Fight from The Heart is the first book in the series that quite literally felt like a fight. I am a particular fan of a hero who struggles to know himself and who is broody and inconsistent in nature. I am also a fan of a heroine who understands the hero’s temperament and challenges it as he learns himself. This is definitely the case with Pam and Jacob in Dunbar’s newest book. While Pam sees through Jacob’s pain, she struggles to understand it given his difficulty in expressing his feelings. As such, their journey is contentious and fraught because Jacob, a wordsmith by occupation, is unable to fully articulate his struggles in the presence of Pam. Normally, I love this type of journey. It makes the story compelling and fiery. Yet, with this book, I struggled.
There is distinct chemistry between Pam and Jacob. Anyone who read Look with Your Heart, Ethan and Ella’s story, noted Pam and Jacob’s chemistry quickly, and it feeds a want for Fight from The Heart. I know I was anticipatory for their story. Yet, Jacob as a hero is frustrating. He is a dark hero, one suffering from alcoholism and guilt, and it takes much of this story for him to hit rock bottom. During that time, one minute he wants Pam, she is his “angel”, his savior. In the very next moment, he can’t have her. This discord goes on for much of the story, and it creates an uneveness that slows down Dunbar’s narrative. Jacob’s epiphany takes longer than I would have liked. He is definitely the darkest of the Heart Collection heroes which is appealing, as it counters the simplicity and idyllic nature of the small town romance. That, in and of itself, is appealing. I simply wanted Jacob to be a bit more consistent with his feelings. Instead, he felt bipolar.
Pam is stalwart. She’s the type of heroine you expect for a brooding hero such as Jacob, and she challenges him even though her self-doubt derails her at times. That being said, she was my favorite part of the book in her dedication to him and her eventual challenge to his existing pattern of living. She becomes the impetus for his change, and that is always a swoony element in romance.
Fight from The Heart is your prototypical small-town romance except, in the context of L.B. Dunbar’s Heart Collection, it is its darkest. There is an appeal in that as small towns aren’t always idyllic places. I think what I love most about this book and its predecessors is the underlying literary influences (this one feels a little Phantom of the Opera or Edgar Allen Poe flavored) and the revelation of her characters’ journeys towards absolution of their pasts. Thus far, that feels like the underlying force of this series. With one more book in the series to go, Fight from The Heart has cemented its place as the darkest of the series.
In love and romance,