When I began this book review blog, I intended to review books in the order in which I read them. So far, I had been doing just that. Not today. This one is queue jumping, a quaint British saying, several others. But I am so excited about this series; I cannot wait.
What series? Katie Mettner’s Dalton Siblings.
Why am I so excited about this series? This series, this author, these stories exemplify the best that the romance genre is. They transcend the genre to do what great fiction is meant to do: cause us to question the society in which we live and ourselves.
First of all, Inherited Love, Book 1, has the first non-perfect, non-buff hero I have read. While the last decade has seen a rise in romances featuring curvy heroines, the heroes remained male model types. Whether it was a seven-foot-tall alien whose whole planet worshipped ‘fat chicks’ or a mere human with a fetish for curvy girls, the body-positive movement has been decidedly skewed towards women.
Not so with Dr. Foster Kern. The conversations that Foster and the heroine Cinn have around the issue of his weight are poignant and liberating as the following excerpts illustrate:
Foster: “I’m no Calvin Klein model. I’m more like the Pillsbury Doughboy.”
Cinn: “I don’t care about what the scale says because the scale doesn’t measure the most important thing.” I laid my hand on his chest, and he put his hand over mine. “When you hold me, I feel safe and loved. No scale can ever measure your heart.”
Foster: “Not even my mother was able to see past those numbers on the scale. You’re the first person ever to actually verbalize that they accept me and my body, Cinn.”
Cinn: “I’m sorry, babe. I don’t understand how people can’t accept others. Maybe it’s my unique situation, but all I see when I meet someone is their heart, nothing else registers. If I see an ugly heart, I keep my distance, but if I catch a glimpse of a loving one, I hang on tight.”
If that type of honesty was not refreshing enough, even her cover features a realistic photo of a hero who I would describe more as slightly pudgy than Pillsbury Doughboy, but it is clear that this hero is atypical.
In addition to ground-breaking body-positivity, all three of the stories Inherited Love, Inherited Light, and Inherited Life features main characters who are struggling with medical issues such as Crohn’s disease and feeding tubes, transverse myelitis and wheelchairs, and even common ailments such as psoriasis which can cause surprisingly severe health problems.
Mettner handles each of these complex and life-altering conditions realistically and compassionately. The characters speak with brutal honesty about their struggles and fears. The issue of sexual intercourse with surgically implanted feeding tubes in the way, paralysis that can impede sensitivity, and the hunky cop who lost all his girlfriends the moment his shirt came off – nothing is taboo or TMI, including pillows, sex toys, and special padding.
“It’s not easy, but it is worth it when you find the person who completes you. There will be times when you’re absolutely petrified of losing her to the disease. It’s the rest of the time, the loving, the life-fulfilling moments that make you forget about everything else.” (ER doctor, Inherited Light)
If all that is not enough to set these books apart from a saturated field, the forthright, honest, and vulnerable way that the characters relate to one another stands in stark contrast to the tired and over-used trope of angst and mind-games that is the most common brand of conflict in the genre. Instead, Mettner focuses on external conflicts, mysteries that need to be solved, allowing the couple to bond, grow, and face situations together. It is a refreshing break from the usual will-she-won’t-she, does-he-doesn’t-he trope.
“Have you made love to the man you’re supposed to be with yet? Has the man you trust to love you through everything brought you to orgasm? If the answer is no to those two questions, then you don’t know what’s going to happen when we come together for the first time.” (Noah, Inherited Life)
The added bonus is the touching and bittersweet manner in which Mettner exposes the intricacies of family. As the series title says, these are siblings, two sisters and a brother. Their parents are minor characters throughout all three books. The series opens with the reading of their eccentric grandmother’s will.
But this family is far from perfect. The grandmother hated their mother and went years without speaking to them, just because she was Latina. As for sibling rivalry, there is plenty of that as well as an abundance of favoritism and scapegoating the black sheep.
“There would be good times, and there would be bad, but our family would be with us through it all. To think this all started with a woman who in her death, imparted more wisdom to us than she ever did in life. I thought back to the reading of her will.
‘Take what I’ve given you and build on it. Make a life for yourselves and remember in my own strange way, I did love you.’” (Tabitha, Inherited Life)
Okay to the schematics:
1) Characters – This is the greatest strength of these books. From the dead grandmother who had PTSD due to her days as a sharpshooter in the Army. Yes, you got that one right. A woman sharpshooter in Korea and Vietnam. To the self-proclaimed Pillsbury Doughboy. To the black sheep stripper daughter who ends up in trouble with the law and in love with the cop. These characters are dynamic, realistic, and empathetic. Honestly, after Tabitha as the bad girl in the first two books, I was skeptical about how Mettner might redeem her in Inherited Life; nonetheless, she did just that.
2) Pacing – Is appropriate for the stories. The intrigue elements in each keep the reader entranced.
3) Point of View – These stories are told in the first person by the Dalton siblings. I tend to miss the insights into the thoughts and feelings of other characters with this viewpoint. Though to be fair, the straightforward way that these couples communicate their thoughts and feelings means that this is not as troublesome as I have found it in other books. Nonetheless, I would have loved a bit more personal insight into Forest, Catalina, and Noah.
4) Theme – This is it, the selling point. I have never as closely identified with any other writer in terms of how they present the truth of love and romance as I do with Mettner. These books break the mold – proclaiming that love is for everyone. The chunky guy. The disabled. The broken. The frightened. All we have to do is take a chance, be open, honest, and vulnerable with another human being.
And while Mettner neither fades to black or is as raunchy as my books, she gets it. She understands the very nature of sex itself.
“The first time I made love with you, our souls connected in a way no outside force could ever change.” (Lorenzo, Inherited Light)
The Dalton Siblings series is why I choose to utilize this blog space as a book review – to lift up other writers who are trail-blazing, avant-garde, and revolutionary. Especially indie romance ones.
Romance has historically been a running joke in the writing community, but the truth is that Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters were romance writers. It is a billion-dollar industry. And for good or bad, it holds immense potential to influence how girls and women view relationships.
I grew up with traditional Harlequin’s. The hero was the strong, silent, brooding, and emotionally unavailable type. Only the love of the heroine and some crisis could save him. Then suddenly, he became everything she ever hoped. The truth is not even the love of a good woman can transform a bad boy into a good man. That is something he must want and work towards for himself.
As I ponder this series, I wonder how different my own life and loves might have been if the standard by which I measured love was not based upon mere physical appearance nor secrets. But instead, as Lorenzo Dalton says…
“I wanted a relationship based on mutual goals and love. I didn’t think I was asking too much, but I’ve learned the hard way I was. There’s a reason I’ve been celibate for years. I haven’t missed the entanglements that simple sex inflicts on my life.”
If PanKwake was ‘a reader girl’ as I was, these are the books I would want her to read. Not fade to black, wholesome books that negate the power of sex or graphic ones that fail to capture the true beauty of those moments when two bodies and souls unite. These books accurately portray the depths of that love, true romance, and real life.
And, that folks, is why they queue jumped to the front of the line.