Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write. Martin Luther
Readers who have never read romance or people who seek to disparage it, to marginalize the readers of this genre, miss out on the depths of it. In many ways, it is one of the most inclusive communities, and it honors female empowerment in ways that other genres might not capitalize on fully. As the years have progressed, beyond empowering women in their $exuality, romance writers have the noted impact that literature in any form offers opportunities to tackle social justice issues. Entertwined in their stories of love, empowered writers of romance drop apt reminders of a world where everyone has a place, a voice, a power. Kandi Steiner is one of those writers.
Confession: I finished Old Fashioned, the last book in Steiner’s Becker Brothers series over a week ago. If I had been a responsible blogger, I would have posted a review the same day. But I couldn’t. I had so many ideas running through my mind, and quite frankly, I had a BIG book hangover from this series. I hated that Old Fashioned brought the series end. Steiner crafted a small town fraught with unequal power constructs and a burgeoning scandal at every page. Yet, in that town, she offers up characters that felt like family. Each one of the Becker brothers and their heroines represented a type, a character that looked and thought and felt like any one of us. In doing so, she found a space for her readers to find themselves in these stories. She created a profound space of inclusion whether it was socio-economic, racial, cultural, or $exual. This world also included personalities that you couldn’t help but fall in love with. From the Becker Brothers’ mother to Betty Collins in the nursing home, it felt like you always had someone in your corner. For me, this inclusion is the reason I hated leaving this series. She found a space for you and me through connection with seemingly “real” people in the midst of her fictional romance. This is its profundity.
And she increased this inclusivity in this final book. It would be easy to say that it is Old Fashioned’s story and the way in which she tied up all of the “loose ends” of the Becker Brothers’ father’s mysterious death (which she does so well) that makes this book the best one. Instead, Steiner’s choice to incorporate POC as her hero and heroine makes it the most compelling. In her final story, she challenges us to consider power and position. She flays the truths of unequal positions of power, $ex, and color throughout Old-Fashioned. From the mixed-race backgrounds of Jordan and Sydney where both of them struggled in the past to be accepted into a racial group to stereotyped constructs of gender and power through Sydney’s acceptance of a job “usually” filled by a male and the challenges of her acceptance of that position to the tenable hold of powerful individuals in their small community and the abuse of that hold, Steiner points a finger at inequality and asks us to open our eyes and fix it. In her story, she does that. She empowers the marginalized and provides them with the means to be heard. In doing so, everything is righted: Jordan and Sydney find their ultimate acceptance and place in each other, Sydney stands in the truth of her giftedness as a trainer and stands firm against stereotypes, and the “bad guys” lose in the end, upending the power dynamic of the community. In acknowledging these inequities, Steiner uses her power as a writer to right the wrongs of social injustice and show us that way for ourselves. Old Fashioned offers us a keen lesson in inclusivity, compassion, and change.
Ultimately, Steiner does this well through the construction of Jordan and Sydney. These are powerful characters wrapped into gentle souls. Prior to Old Fashioned, Logan Becker had been my favorite Becker brother because his soul was compassionate. He has a tenderness that Noah and Michael lacked. After Old Fashioned, Jordan Becker claims my top spot because, like Logan, he has a tender heart, but he has a likeability that is sometimes lost in Logan. Logan tends to be a bit staid and tied-up, a bit too organized. Mallory has to “mess him up” a bit as a way to soften that side of him, but it still exists. Jordan is a quiet, gentle giant of a man. He has his moment early on when he illustrates his reductive thinking about Sydney; however, after being reminded of his narrow thinking, he acknowledges it and offers her an apology wherein he accepts his fault and asks for forgiveness. He is incredibly masculine, but also compassionate, sometimes to the exclusion of his own feelings. He is careful, thoughtful, and principled. He acts a true foil or opposition to Sydney’s ex.
As a heroine, Sydney is strength personified. This is a woman who has taken on the burden of a past that could have destroyed her and transformed it into a purposeful present and hopeful future. She is the only person in this story who can stand toe-to-toe with Jordan and make an impactful change on him (well, except for his mother). Yet, as secrets are divulged in this story (and there are many of them as Steiner did not hold back on crafting a compelling, fast-moving story), it is Sydney who helps him find his resolve and his peace. She becomes his foundation because her strength, tenacity, and intelligence offer him a port as a calm in his storm.
The story. The characters. The prose (there is such an ease to Steiner’s writing). All of these qualities of Old Fashioned conspire to offer you a top read for 2020. Honestly. It’s easy to throw that moniker around. But it’s true. Kandi Steiner took her purpose as a writer to voice the foibles of our world and laid it bare in the midst of her romance. Old Fashioned acts as a marker for change whether you are a POC, a woman, a person of a lower socioeconomic class, etc. It’s a challenge for readers to stand for the underrepresented, offering more of your voice so they can find an equal footing for theirs.
Thank you, Kandi, for this series. I loved every page of every book, and I hate to leave the Becker family because they brought so many hours of smiles and tears and happily-ever-after sighs.
In love and romance,