Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
“This woman is my future. This woman is my home. This woman is my family.”
One of the reasons I’m drawn to L.B. Dunbar’s brand of romance is its insistence on focusing on a specific group within romance, namely the over 40 (or even late 30s) hero and heroine. In her newest book in the Sarina Bowen Busy Bean world, Dunbar reminds you why her stories are essential in romancelandia: they speak to love at any age. If you’ve read enough romances, you know that the average age for a hero and heroine is mid-to-late twenties with outliers in the young adult and early thirties categories. To date, I haven’t read another author who consistently crafts stories in an age-group to which I belong. In her insistence on this focus, Dunbar writes beautiful stories that show the challenges of this age-group while also titillating her reader much as any romance author might do. In Cowboy, her newest book, Dunbar points time and time again to the fissure between one’s sense of age and one’s actual age. Through her heroine, Scarlett, a forty-three-year-old woman, Dunbar reminds us that, while the experts tell us that forty is a beginning of sorts, a time when a woman finally comes into herself, society often denigrates this age, making women, specifically, feel like their lives are almost over. Dunbar weaves this idea through her story in such a way that it never undermines the romantic journey of her hero, Bull, and Scarlett. Instead, it sits in the back of your mind challenging you to consider your thinking on aging.
In Cowboy, Bull and Scarlett meet at The Gin Mill, one of the locales brought to life in Sarina Bowen’s Truth North series. Scarlett has just left her husband and Bull has decided to forgo dating after much disappointment. When their eyes meet across the bar, however, these two are drawn to each other, and an initial introduction leads to a one-night stand. Thinking that they’ve gone their separate ways, the two run into each other again at the Busy Bean a couple of weeks later, Sarina Bowen’s local coffee shop and bakery, where they realize quickly two things: that they are still drawn to each other AND that Scarlett is pregnant. As the story progresses, Bull and Scarlett must determine their future amidst pitfalls. Will they find a happy ending?
There are several guarantees in a Dunbar romance: a happy ending, some steam, a sweet story that feels fully developed and paced evenly, and usually a hero who is forthright and honest, caring for his heroine, but jaded by his past. All of these qualities find purchase in her Cowboy. She takes you on an emotional journey that challenges your thinking about aging and love and labels. She entrusts your heart to her hero, Bull. Bull is a stalwart, kind, compassionate, protective hero. He has moments of weakness when he makes some decisions that separate him emotionally from Scarlett. However, Dunbar is so wise in developing the tension of their relationship that she never lets it go too far. Instead, she rectifies their challenges and usually salves the wound with a sweet scene or two. What happens is you trust Dunbar with your heart as you read a story such as Cowboy. Any good romance requires dissension/tension in its story, but Dunbar never takes it too far. She, instead, invests you emotionally in her characters, so much so that you can’t help but smile at the resolution of their story.
I love that Dunbar wrote a sweet, compelling story in Sarina Bowen’s Truth North universe. Bull and Scarlett definitely capture your heart through their journey, reminding us that love can be found at any age. That everything doesn’t need to always be a young, shiny package. And that a Dunbar romance is a perfect read on “every day that ends in day and all the nights as well.”
In love and romance,