After the loss of his parents, Archer Hart is consumed by grief. Each day, he struggles his way through classes, parties, and trying to put on a good front for the sake of his best friend. But at night, he falls asleep to the sound of gunshots ringing in his ears.
Mallory is a man fighting a war of emotions all his own. When his son invites his best friend back home to Banff over a college break, he’s happy for the company.
Some time during the late-night talks, subtle smiles, and long, long silences, the two men begin to find solace in one another.
But love isn’t always easy, especially when it strikes you straight through the heart.
Arrows Through Archer is a story about loss. And of grief. And finding a reason to live again. There's a lot of angst in these pages -- a metric ton of it. But there is also hope and healing. And I read this novel in a single sitting, unable to put it down. The story is broken into two parts, the first one told from Archer's POV, and the second from Mallory's. And in each part you can feel the narrator's pain and regret, as well as their hope.
Archer Hart grieves alone. But he doesn't think he'll ever heal. In fact, he won't let himself. He was close to his parents when they were killed and now he lives his life for them. Certainly not for himself. He's working on his degree in business and marketing, not because he loves it, but because it was what his mother did. And he plans to apply to the police academy after graduating, in honor of his father. I'm not sure Archer has ever really done anything just for himself.
Archer has very little family left. Just his brother who rejected Archer when he found out Archer was gay. So Archer has been floundering in the waters of grief and depression all alone, except for his best friend Danny who won't let him get too far from shore. Danny talked Archer into coming home with him for Thanksgiving because Danny didn't want Archer to be alone.
Mallory Patel is used to being alone. His wife died several years ago from cancer and since then Mallory has lived a solitary life in a cabin on the outskirts of Banff, Alberta. He's a carpenter and he makes custom furniture and that has become his life and only outlet. While Mallory still grieves for his wife, he isn't really lost in the grief, anymore. But he hasn't really moved on, either, so he's extremely lonely.
Mallory and Archer are a lot alike. They're both quiet and reserved. They both appreciate silence and whiskey. Puzzles and conversation. Neither expected to find a kindred spirit in the other. Neither expected to find solace. It just sort of happened. But not at Thanksgiving. No, it wasn't until later when Archer needed a place to convalesce after a brutal attack that they became more.
The romance in Arrows Through Archer is a very slow burn. Though there is a 17 year age difference (Archer is 24 and Mallory is 41 when the story begins), Archer is really older than his years would suggest. He's been through so much and lost so much and that really does take its toll. It's Mallory that has the most trouble with the age gap and the fact that Archer is the best friend of his son Danny. Their relationship take ages to blossom and when it finally does Mallory finds he's not ready to face it, so he pushes Archer away, rejecting him just like everyone else.
It wrecked me when Mallory took the cowards way out and sent Archer away. He had his reasons, for sure, but it wrecked me. They have a long separation. One year. Two years. Three years. The chapters marked for dramatic effect. And it worked.
And where in part one, we can feel the tangible despair that Archer feels in the beginning, in part two we can feel all of Mallory's regrets about how things ended with Archer.
Their second chance very well might not have happened. They meet again, by chance, when Archer is back in Banff for work. Mallory is miserable and Archer is still feeling the sting of rejection. Archer doesn't let go of hurt easily. He carries it close to his heart. But their pull is still strong and while Archer doesn't forgive Mallory right away, he doesn't take much convincing, really. And that, aside from the way Mallory pushed Archer away to begin with, is my only real niggle.
I thought Archer and Mallory needed to have a lot more discussion before starting to see each other again. I wasn't looking for grovelling, since Mallory has seriously punished himself for three years and I could see his regret. But I think they needed to talk a lot more before deciding to actually date. Archer is cautious, though and Mallory is clearly regretful about sending Archer away. There was no doubt in my mind that Mallory meant it when he told Archer he was sorry.
Overall, I did enjoy Arrows Through Archer. I liked and connected with both MC's, which was impressive considering that they are both kind of closed off. Having both POVs did help greatly in understanding where each MC was coming from. The story is depressing, though, and full of grief. Even the thread of hope I felt in the story was weighed down by the grief that the MCs felt. The steam level is low to moderate and the ending was a strong HFN, that I might actually consider an HEA. I found the ending to be pretty satisfying, overall, with both men finally actually working on healing and moving on -- together.
ARC of Arrows Through Archer was generously provided by the author, in exchange for an honest review.
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