“You’re every guy’s nightmare, Salem. Because you’re the girl with too much love inside you.”
Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
I’m never quite sure why I’m surprised at Saffron A. Kent’s capacity to craft a romance. As I began reading her newest book, My Darling Arrow, each turn of the page reminded me why I adore her stories. I think when you read an author you get a sense of the things in life that are important to them as they spin their stories. For some, it’s social justice issues; for others, it’s simply to entertain. For even others, it’s to provide you with the most titillating $exual experiences. There is something about wanting to shock your readers. When you enter a Saffron A. Kent romance, you find a world of psychology, namely psychology of the human spirit. Underscoring her characters’ journeys towards each other lies a truth about human nature, generally an emotional one. And My Darling Arrow is no different. In fact, the tenets of Kent’s brand of romance are found again and again in her stories, and it feels like wrapping yourself in an old family quilt, an heirloom of the past. There are qualities to her writing that pin you again and again to her pages, and My Darling Arrow, like her other books, fails to disappoint. And why? Here goes…
- Your heroines are these complex creatures. They are formed from inerrant beings. In other words, the guardians of their lives, parents, guardians, etc, have failed to allow them to exist in their personal truth. Instead, they do it at the cost of acceptance. In doing this, Kent’s heroines are resilient and insightful, setting them apart from society. They are not common, and it’s that quality that you, as the reader, adore, but more importantly, the hero of her story adores. In MDA, Salem is the wisest person in the book. She has the ability to see into the core of the hero, Arrow. And that’s necessary business toward drawing Arrow and Salem together. What I found interesting, and what I imagine most of Kent’s readers will miss, is that the name Salem means “peace.” In the story, Salem aligns herself with the Salem Witch Trials in describing her eyes and her heart as “witchy.” However, the true depth of Salem lies in the meaning behind her name because, through the brilliance of Kent’s writing, we realize quickly that she is the peace bridge for Arrow. That is compelling and interesting and gives you goosebumps when you realize the gravity of their relationship. We see these quirky, marginalized heroines over and over again in Kent’s romances, and she allows them to be the focus of her romances in ways that other romance authors fail to create.
- Saffron A. Kent’s heroes are broken. Usually, however, Kent hides their fissures behind a staid, socially acceptable veneer. As the voyeur reader, though, we see where the heroine has the capacity to mend those cracks and fissures. It doesn’t happen easily, though, because the hero’s journey is a reluctant one. They are afraid to drop their facade and embrace the love of the heroine. In MDA, there are two very brilliant aspects of Arrow’s characterization: his name and his journey. As Salem pours out herself onto Arrow, time and time again, his emotions become figurative arrows at her. As “peace,” she absorbs them into herself, allowing Arrow’s evolution. Without these moments, Arrow cannot change; he cannot be a better version of himself. That Kent personifies him is a nod to her writing genius. Even more, one of the psychological movements of this story exists wholly in Arrow’s characterization. I won’t reveal it here because readers need to find it for themselves, but it’s the core of the book. And given the world we live in, this message is a necessary one. I know that, as a parent, I find myself in Arrow’s mother, Leah. Not to the extent of this story, but there is a keen truth about parents in this book about pushing achievement in our children. Kent’s story is an warning about that, and Arrow’s characterization shows the power that parents hold over their children’s development.
- From the metaphors of the bridge to the allusions of the names of Salem’s friends and their hometowns, there is a writerly quality to this book that this book lit nerd adored. Saffron A. Kent pulled on the mechanisms of Victorian literature for it, and it elevated her storytelling. In fact, for me, this is one of her best pieces of writing to date. Each little Easter Egg tickled my fancy and made me fall deeper in love with Kent as a writer.
- The ultimate message of My Darling Arrow is purposeful. This is always intentional with Kent. I love that she takes these emotional truths and twists in the psychology of her characters. In the last book, we dealt with bullying and the consequences of it to one’s sense of self. In this book, Kent reminds us that life is messy. It’s meant to feel lived in, not buttoned up. It’s an adventure, and that adventure is fraught with as many failures as successes. That’s powerful for younger generations who have been raised to succeed with helicopter parents who have stepped in to protect their children from failing. We see the issues with that in this story, and it feels compelling in its elaboration.
- Lastly, a Saffron A. Kent romance would be empty without a heroine whose love is BIG, almost too big for their souls that they suffer in bridling it. For me, that is often my favorite part. In most of her stories, they deny themselves of those feelings because there is a forbidden element of Kent’s heroic relationships. However, as is the case in every one of her books, the love cannot be contained, and the hero requires that depth of love to fill the cracks of his soul. In a world where love seems diminished, you can’t help but love this about Kent’s romances. In My Darling Arrow, there is so much of this, and the mechanics of its revelation feel blessedly old-timey.
From her prose to her characterizations to her story, I found myself lost in My Darling Arrow. I didn’t get much sleep last night because I didn’t want to put this story down. Even more, this book has set up a new series that will offer up more of what we love about Saffron A. Kent’s romances: these beautifully drawn heroines who exist outside the norm with heroes who require the overflowing adoration of their heroines to heal their wounds. Salem and Arrow’s story is everything you love about Kent’s stories and even more.
In love and romance,