Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
L.B. Dunbar’s Living at 40, the first book of her newest series, Lakeside Cottage, is an emotional journey about finding an abundant life. Her hero, Logan, and her heroine, Autumn, are searching without realizing they are searching. Both of them feel their ennui, but each has handled it in different ways: Autumn wants a child to provide the fulfillment she lacks in dating relationships, and Logan pours his focus into his child and his career to keep him from recognizing the lack in his life. When a life issue provides them with a different perspective, they find themselves drawn to each other. Realizing that he finds her attractive, Logan offers to give Autumn the baby she wants, while Autumn falls into the crush she’s had on Logan for years. Both of them engage in this journey without realizing the magnitude of their interest in the other. As the story progresses, they find themselves falling deeper when they both were trying to protect themselves against that. This story along with Dunbar’s adept characterization makes for a story that insistently pulls at your heartstrings. For me, the ending of this story is Dunbar’s masterpiece. It is the definition of bittersweet, and you will leave Living at 40 with tears in your eyes and a sigh in your heart.
With all of that, though, I found the story to be a bit repetitive and inconsistent in its rendering. Autumn and Logan circle each other for much of this story, and for quite a bit of it, I struggled with liking Logan because his inconsistency punches holes in Autumn’s heart. As Living at 40 isn’t a dark romance, that was a hard pill to swallow. When Logan finally realizes his truth, their romantic journey becomes easier, but it takes much of this book for them to reconcile their love for each other.
What ameliorates this issue, though, is their chemistry in the bedroom. Autumn and Logan are steamy. Additionally, the inclusion of other characters into the story along with a health plotline for Logan add more dimension to the story that pulls from the constant push and pull of Logan and Autumn. Thankfully, this allows for a distraction from the inconsistency of Logan and Autumn’s journey.
But really, the piece de resistance of Living at 40 is its ending. It is there where the entire story is reconciled in a way that will make you cry. There is both resolution and reconciliation, but it’s done within the specter of sadness. And I loved that. We are so used to the happy endings of romances where everyone gets everything that they want, but is that real life? In this book, L.B. Dunbar reminds us that where there is life there is also darkness. Her finale felt poetic in reminding us to live the most abundant life no matter our circumstances. We can choose happiness even in difficulty.
In love and romance,