Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Well, L.B. Dunbar has done it again. She has written a story in her newest series, Lakeside Cottage, that, once again, will steal your heart. When she left us in Living at 40, Autumn and Logan had found their happy ending under the specter of Ben’s diagnosis. How will Ben’s situation haunt the newest book of the series, Learning at 40? It continues to be the thread that binds these stories together. In this book, Zack, the newly divorced, dad to twins, is trying to make sense of life. Dealing with Ben’s situation, trying to find himself after the divorce, and raising his energetic twin boys mostly on his own, Zack doesn’t know who he is. One night, while looking at his old house from the upper window of his friends’ house next door to it, Zack sees his “angel.” The next-door neighbor seems otherworldly. When his sons escape to the house next door and find his old treehouse, Zack meets his angel, while trying to hide his interest in her behind his gruff exterior. River, the lovely neighbor, has a spine of steel and a compassionate demeanor, thankfully. This entices Zack to want more of her. When he bulldozes through River’s boundaries, both literally and figuratively, these two begin to fall deeply in love…in the span of ten days. However, their pasts haunt their present, and you wonder if these ten days will be all they get, or will Zack end up with his soulmate?
There is so much I adored about Learning at 40, but I want to first begin with the one most imposing thought I had about this book:
It was difficult for me to enjoy Zack. Honestly, it took most of Learning at 40 to appreciate him. And I get it. He has an unresolved issue from his past that he has failed to handle. As such, his emotions are stunted. Yet, time and time again, Zack reads like an out-of-control temperamental beast, much like the behavior of his sons in Living at 40. He loses his temper quickly, and he spends much of this book doing two things: apologizing for losing control or bedding River. This wouldn’t be such an issue if River wasn’t so amazing. Without River, Zack would be almost beyond redemption.
Therefore, the best part of Learning at 40 is Dunbar’s heroine, River. And while she has a bit of a secret, she has immense patience, a caring, beautiful soul, and a compassion for people that, honestly, save this book. Her ability to help Zack evolve into a better man is the best part of this book. I challenge you NOT to fall in love with River. It will be impossible because, at the most basic level, she teaches him to be a better father and a better man.
Additionally, the continuing story of the Four Points is a draw to this book. There is more Ben, Anna, Mason, Logan, and Autumn. There are also more clues to the next book in this series, Loving at 40, and I’m intrigued to see where this goes. I’m impatient for Mason’s story, wondering if the series is going where I think it’s going to go with him. And given Dunbar’s immense capacity to make us fall in love with characters and situations that seem impossible to love, I’m acutely anticipatory for the future stories of this series.
So, here’s the bottom line for L.B. Dunbar’s Learning at 40. If you adore a grumpy, controlling hero who REQUIRES a heroine with a soft hand but a firm sense of self to help him find personal redemption, then you will ADORE this story.
In love and romance,