“She could eclipse me. Her light could brighten my darkness.”
Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
L.B. Dunbar is easily winning her readers over with her Lakeside Cottage series. Set in a small town in Michigan, it follows four friends brought together when one of them receives a terminal diagnosis. As life happens to these friends, the power of community and friendship carry them through their challenges, oftentimes coming from their ability to love and be loved.
In her newest story, Loving at 40, Dunbar drives us through the story of Jenna and Archer. Jenna is the friend of Anna, the widowed wife whose home in Lakeside is the center of this series. A single mother of two young girls and a teacher, Jenna comes to Anna’s home for vacation and to be supportive of her friend. What she finds quickly is a man waking her in the middle of the night. Archer is Anna’s brother and the mystery man who surprises and frightens Jenna. Having spent a majority of his adult life away, he’s returned home during a time of healing. What he finds is a woman who calls to his soul and two daughters who steal his heart. The back and forth of Jenna and Archer as they fight against and for each other makes for a story that sinks into your soul. From the start, Dunbar draws this couple as fated, soulmates needing a happy ending. Unfortunately, life interjects and threatens to derail them forever.
Loving at 40 furthers the story of the friends and Anna, providing set up for the fourth and, probably, most difficult book of this series. It provides updates for Logan and Zach and their heroines, Autumn and River. It adds more to the Lakeside Cottage adventures, pulling us deeper into these stories. As characters, Archer is the grizzled, alpha male who is drawn to Jenna like a moth to a flame. For much of this book, his fight is with himself and his misunderstanding about his capacity to love. The frustration of his characterization is his willingness to accept and then quickly dismiss Jenna and his adoration for her and her children. This can tend to be repetitive and the reason why I don’t give this story a 5-star rating. Jenna is my favorite character in the book. She’s insightful, willing to give Archer her heart, and a strong heroine. Her daughters provide the heart of this story. Together, Dunbar makes it difficult for Archer to walk away from them because they are the complete loveable package.
My other criticism is the ending. After spending quite a bit of time in her falling action sequence, Dunbar’s ending feels abrupt, launching us into the epilogue which previews the next story in the series. I wanted a bit more foreshadowing of Archer and Jenna’s future. Hopefully, as we find in Loving at 40, tendrils of Jenna and Archer’s story will shade the next book, Letting Go at 40.
One note: L.B. Dunbar has a trigger warning. There are guns in this book with an instance of a gun in a school. It does not have tragic consequences in the sense of our present world. However, if you are sensitive to guns, you might want to avoid this story. You will miss out on the enfolding love of Archer and Jenna, but the other two current books in the series are apt substitutions.
In love and romance,