Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Welcome to Weight Expectations. Where Great Things Happen.”
The slogan for the fictitious gym in M.E. Carter’s newest book, Weight Expectations, goes far to show the “greatness” of this book. Carter’s story is an admonition, a reminder, of the need to love yourself as you are, so that we don’t become stagnant as we fail to meet impossible societal expectations. It’s that realization that we often find ourselves settling in situations because we fear trying something new and failing. This suggestion along with Carter’s craftsmanship of her heroine, Rian, a BBW, challenges her reader to be more to find the “great things” that happen in her book.
The story follows Rian, as she strives to lose weight and become healthier at the request of her employer. She decides to join a gym as a means to this end. This is not an easy move for her, as she has never joined a gym previously, and the experience is foreign to her. Thankfully, her trainer, Abel, along with Tabitha, the smoothie maker extraordinaire for the gym, help her attempt to adjust to this new experience. For the most part, Rian has been self-conscious of her weight for most of her life. She accepts that she is a heavier woman, but other people’s expectations and comparisons of her have made her more comfortable by herself.
Carlos is a gym rat. Like Rian, he began working out as a way to fit in with the security specialists of his employer, Cipher Systems. Even though he is a successful COO of his company, he, like Rian, compares himself to the brawny security personnel and strives to create a body that can compete. Unfortunately, there is a part of him that never believes he quite lives up to his perception of them. Therefore, he lives a highly-structured fit lifestyle.
Additionally, Carlos is not interested in relationships, given his parents’ divorce. He prefers bedding women in one-night stands or short flings. He finds a “type”: more physically attractive in the traditional sense than deep in substance. This works fine for him. Through Tabitha, Carlos and Rian meet. Rian is not Carlos’s type, yet he finds himself drawn to her intellect and personality. Yes, he finds her attractive, but, again, she isn’t his usual interest. Unfortunately, Carlos cannot seem to forget Rian, while Rian believes that Carlos would never choose a woman like her. Are Carlos and Rian destined for each other? That seems to be the question of Carter’s romance.
From the outset of this book, I fell in love. Well, at least, I fell in love with Rian. See, I absolutely connected with her self-image struggles and the way in which she girded herself up against the societal judgment regarding her weight. Her most impactful support system, her family, is actually fraught with problems because they fail to see the true Rian. Instead, they criticize her lifestyle choices and fail to provide her the support she needs to recognize her worth. I think we all see a bit of ourselves in Rian. It doesn’t matter if the problem is weight-related or some other perceived personal deficiency. At some point, we’ve felt that we simply don’t meet someone else’s expectations of us, and we make choices to remain comfortable instead of challenging ourselves to be better for ourselves. Rian’s character is the first representation of this in the book, and Carter does such a beautiful job of crafting Rian’s insecurity. Her words become the words that we say to ourselves in our own insecurities. Yet, Carter overrides those negative words through Carlos’s love of Rian.
Like Rian, Carlos also struggles with a failure to meet expectations. Yes, it seemingly looks like a body image issue. However, as his story progresses, his struggles relate to relationships. He doesn’t believe he can offer the necessary feelings for anything long term, so as Rian does with her weight and her career, he hides behind meaningless flings. Everyone around him can see the depth of his character, as Carter creates it. Yet, his lack of belief in his ability to love another person fully stunts any meaningful connections with women. Until Rian.
Through Carlos and Rian, Carter’s words find purchase in your soul. As Rian struggles to accept Carlos’s love, your heart hurts for her because Carter crafts it to be so. The truth of these two characters is challenged throughout the story through the wise words of Tabitha, Abel, and Frank. When Carlos almost misses his opportunity with Rian, Carter’s words cut at my heart a little. Thankfully, she repaired it through the wisdom of the other characters in the story. This occurs multiple times throughout the story that, once the words act as a salve, you can’t help but consider your own negative self-talk. There is so much wisdom about loving yourself and meeting your own expectations in this story that you’ll find yourself highlighting Carter’s writing like mad because it’s just so darn good.
As a professor of writing, I love ideas. In reading romance, it’s easy to feel your heart pulled into the relationship between the characters and their stories. It’s easy to read the same story over and over again and continue to fall in love with an author’s vision. Yet, there is something more profound in reading romance that has a mission: to offer a truth about life that is bigger than the romantic story. That exists in M.E. Carter’s Weight Expectations. Yes, there is a beautifully written story about two unlikely people falling in love despite their internal challenges. Yes, this romance has its requisite happy ending. And yes, there is the tension-filled climax, threatening the reader will all kinds of turmoil. What Weight Expectations has that many other romances don’t have is a reminder, a heady message of personal acceptance. Trying to meet other people’s expectations will leave us discouraged always. Instead, Carter shows us that we are wonderful just as we are, and that is truly where “great things happen.”
In love and romance,