Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
“She anchors me, and until this moment, I didn’t realize how untethered I’ve been.”
L.B. Dunbar’s Love in A Pickle, her newest title in the SmartyPants Romance world, is divine. Seriously divine. You might want to know why. I’m a huge fan of the redemption of a former “mean” character, and Scotia Simmons of Green Valley, Tennessee has terrorized this small-town in various Penny Reid and SmartyPants Romance stories. However, you have heard that people who “bully” others or speak ill of them do so out of insecurity or some type of pain. And the interrogation of those underlying influences makes for some of the best stories, stories such as Dunbar’s Love in A Pickle.
To believe that Scotia is purely evil is to diminish and reduce her. In the first two books of this series, Love in Due Time and Love in Deed, Dunbar teases Scotia’s humanity as she steps in to support her sisters. The Queen of Mean shows her softer side in those books, and if you’ve been following the bouncing ball of Dunbar’s stories, then you have waited for Scotia’s story.
And Dunbar’s book did not disappoint. I’ve seen other reviews, and it’s a resounding response that Dunbar deftly wrote a compelling character in Scotia that changes your perception of her. Very easily, it changes your opinion of her character.
Without giving any details, let me talk around the parts of the story that simply work to cull together a beautiful story of redemption and love:
- There are secrets in this book that should not be divulged in any review. You definitely won’t find it in this one, and it absolutely is one of the factors that turns your head towards Scotia. For me, it brought tears to my eyes. It connects directly to Scotia’s most vulnerable place.
- Her hero, Chet/Chester/Big Poppy, is a revelation, and I appreciate how much Dunbar works to craft a character who is much like Scotia while seemingly very different. Dunbar’s story plays with the idea of identities or the masks we wear for different situations. Interestingly, Dunbar also admonishes her reader with the double-standard of judgment between men and women. Chet can throw ugly at someone, and it seems more acceptable, while Scotia is judged and characterized with ugly names.
Even more, Chet is a force of change. He challenges Scotia, while he falls in love with her. However, I wrote a note in the margins of my book around the 50% mark when I noted how much I wasn’t his biggest fan. One minute, Chet is beguiled by Scotia, wanting to protect her and encourage her to be a better person. The next minute, though, he pushes her away and cuts at her soul as she becomes more vulnerable. And this is the genius of Dunbar’s storytelling. It’s in these moments, along with Scotia’s other secrets, where Dunbar humanizes Scotia. It feels so calculated and necessary in order for people to accept a love story for Scotia Simmons.
- Ultimately, the camaraderie of the Winters sisters is the backbone of Love in A Pickle. Revisiting Naomi and Beverly while they support and encourage Scotia reminds us why these stories exist. They bring us back to Penny Reid’s Green Valley, Tennessee.
I’m sad that these stories seem complete for L.B. Dunbar. Maybe we need the children of these women to have stories, something to keep us in their small circle of sisterly love. What I do know is I think Scotia’s story is my favorite of the three. To take the villain of Green Valley and turn her into a puddle of love is a testament to L.B. Dunbar’s writerly craftsmanship.
In love and romance,