REVIEW: “The History in Us” by L.B. Dunbar

“The History in Us” is a deep, intensely dramatic romance.  Levi, Hero and Katie. the Heroine are extremely sympathetic characters suffering abuse and abandonment as children.  They have an intricate history together going diverging and uniting throughout the years since she was six years-old.  Levi comes from a rough family, his mother leaving when he was young.  His father physically abused him and his brothers and was the notorious town drunk.  Levi’s family’s name is synonymous with Trouble in the small town of Elk Ridge.  He escaped, enlisting in the military when he was nineteen.  Katie’s mother was mentally and physically abusive and leaving her when she was two years-old.  She stopped speaking until she was six years-old.  Katie has always been the quintessential responsible good girl even now as an adult.

Levi was Katie’s first kiss.  Her uncle, was his basketball coach and was like a surrogate father to him.  At his Going Away party Levi drank a little too much bumping into Katie as she emerged from the bathroom.  The spoke a little and he kissed her sparking something between them.  Levi’s friend broke them apart and informed Levi that Katie was thirteen years-old while he was nineteen.  Katie’s been smitten with Levi for years before that night, since the first time she ever saw him in fact.  When she sees him years after that first kiss he’s still in the military.  Katie’s seventeen years-old and asks if he’s a hero yet.  She tells him to stay safe.  Stay alive.  She’s still waiting.  Levi carries that memory with him through his every deployment and the worst day in his military career.  And life.  He thinks of his promises to Katie.

The novel opens with Levi being wheeled through a medical facility in extreme pain bleeding profusely begging not to die.  He’s calling out for men in his squad while the medial staff urge him to calm down.  Levi begs them to save his life and they assure him they’re doing their best.  He falls into delusions and memories of his father and brother straddling Life and Death the Present and the Past.  He remembers his men, women, children, explosions, an alley, a street lamp, Katie, “Will you come back a hero?”  What he realizes is now a broken promise.  He doesn’t deserve her or her hero-worthy kiss.

Katie’s twenty-four and in graduate school dreaming of writing fairy tales in which princesses rescue princes who fight for justice.  Unfortunately, she’s unemployed, unable to even get a job as a copy writer.  Katie’s advised to take a Chicago History course to help with her writing.  She finds History in the class; her own.  Behind her sits Levi Walker.  They pair up for an “ice-breaker” exercise and Katie’s convinced Levi doesn’t remember her, nor their kisses.  However Levi does remember every detail about Katie.  But he doesn’t want to let her know, since his memories of their small town are bad.  There’s a lot Levi doesn’t want to let Katie know about his present life.  Under pressure he reveals to her that he has a six month-old son.  Levi must ask Katie to baby-sit for his hearing impaired son and finds her to be quite tenderhearted with him.

Levi got out of the military and took advantage of it educational benefits and attended college.  As an older student he relates to older students and socializes with them especially the females.  One of the women he had a “benefits” relationship with got pregnant.  She wanted to terminate the pregnancy he wanted to keep the baby.  Levi wanted to make a go of things and proposed to the woman.  She wasn’t interested in marrying him or being a mother especially a special needs baby.  The woman left Levi and the baby abruptly with no warning ending all communication.  At first when Katie re-connects with Levi she thinks he’s either married or involved with a woman.  However she learns he’s single.  Her friends warn her, and she’s concerned, if a relationship happens, she’s the “transition girl” and doesn’t stand a chance.

Katie and Levi’s relationship is frustrating.  Levi pushes Katie away because he’s “messed up” and doesn’t deserve her sweetness and her innocence.  For Levi Katie is Home.  She provides the sense of Love and Family he never experience as a child.  That’s the thing that frightens him yet draws him back to her.  Whenever Levi’s disgusted with himself he barks at Katie, driving her away.  He regrets his actions then begs her to return.  Katie loves him unable to deny her feelings she returns every time.  She invites him to come home for Thanksgiving he refuses because of the terrible memories he has of their hometown.  Levi’s goal is to become a professional photojournalist for Geographic Digest.  He would travel the world constantly rarely coming home.  Levi mentions that a future with Katie would be difficult if he gets a job with the magazine.

Finally, Levi acquiesces and accompanies Katie home to Elk Ridge for Thanksgiving.  Katie doesn’t tell her adopted mother and father she’s bringing Levi and his son.  Even so they’re welcomed warmly.  Levi and Katie learn they’re staying at her aunt and uncle’s house.  This is the uncle who was a father-figure to Levi.  They go to the local tavern not knowing the couple is throwing a huge surprise party for Levi.  It’s a surprise to him that the townspeople are happy and proud to see him.  Katie’s told by both her father and her uncle they can see that Levi’s in love with her.  But she denies it telling them that Levi’s told her he doesn’t believe in love.  Unfortunately Levi has an accident during the visit which lands him in the hospital.  It’s when they get home that Katie gets a horrible surprise and finally does leave Levi.

“The History in Us” has a compelling storyline yet the pace drags in places.  I believe the culprit is the constant back and forth of the main characters relationship.  The characters are compelling and complex but are also lacking.  Levi’s a damaged hero but comes across as weak.  Katie lacks confidence yet she’s unwittingly a strong foundation.  They undergo lots of emotional growth saving them.  There’re intriguing elements in the book.  Integral characters whose lives interconnect with each other and the main characters.  A set of cryptic letters mysteriously appear at crucial times.  Conversely a couple of events feel unnecessary.  There’s romance yet it’s the substance, emotion, and weight of the story that are the stars of this book.  There might be an opening for a follow-up book or two which intrigues me; I hope they come to fruition.

I’m giving “The History in Us” 4 Lightning Bolts and a Gale Warning.

 

This novel was provided, voluntarily read, and honestly reviewed.

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