Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
If I had to characterize Saffron A. Kent, I would call her one of the queens of the forbidden romance. Honestly, if you’ve read any of her books, then you know that she loves to toe the line of relationships that might make the average reader quirk their eyebrow. One of my favorite Saffron A. Kent romances is Medicine Man, which tells the story of a psychiatrist and his young patient. In that book, we are introduced to their daughter, Fallon, who at 3 years old, has eyes for Dean, their surrogate 17-year-old son. When you read this moment in Simon and Willow’s epilogue, you chuckle at it and think “awww…that’s cute.”
Then, being one of the queens of the forbidden romance, Kent decides to write a novella for the Mixtape Anthology and she imagines a future where an 18-year-old Fallon decides to confess her love for a now thirty-two-year-old Dean, while road-tripping from California to the East Coast. I waited patiently for that anthology because I wanted a future for this seemingly forbidden relationship, and Kent did not disappoint in its creation. In fact, she did such a wonderful job that we, her loyal readers, wanted more of their story. Hence, California Dreamin’ was born, and the parts of her storytelling that you love are found in this fleshed out story.
Should you read Medicine Man first before reading California Dreamin’? Probably. You might also want to read Dreams of 18 too because the surprise of this newest book (it is my favorite part) is Kent brought back many of our favorite characters while introducing us to new character voices from the Heartstone world. For this reader, I love when writers build universes for their characters to exist together, and the revised and expanded California Dreamin’ gives us a bit of Fallon and Dean’s story (Kent offers up a more concrete happy ending for them), but she also provides the voices from the other stories. I won’t divulge who’s included, but, if you’re a devoted Kent reader, you’ll be overjoyed with her choices.
Additionally, through this revised story, Kent revisits the truths of Medicine Man: the idea that one person can advocate for themselves while also wanting to be loved and cherished by a lover. Without giving too much away, Fallon and Dean’s story runs parallel to Fallon’s parents. They have many of the same struggles, yet now Willow and Simon must negotiate this new relationship from an advisor and parental position. I loved this added aspect to their story because, being a parent, I too would worry over this relationship. This shows Kent’s prowess at anticipating her readers’ questions about this May-December relationship.
If I had to give a final conclusion about California Dreamin’, I would say that this book is simply an ode to Saffron A. Kent’s readers. There is still depth and gravity to Dean and Fallon’s story, but this book reads like a love letter sent from Kent to us. When you finish this book, you feel settled. However, she also opens some windows of opportunity for future stories. I, for one, would love to read those too. So, thank you, Saffron, for bringing us more of this world. It was one of the highlights of my reading this week.
In love and romance,