Realities About Romance in Christian Fiction (And Why It Matters)
Updated: Feb 16
Sometimes I take breaks from my life as an artist and author to read for pleasure. I scout out uplifting yet meaningful entertainment in the Clean and Christian market, yet these books are often a disappointment to me.
Bookland is peppered with brutally honest reviews, and reviewers say it's necessary to have gatekeepers to help readers determine if another reader's trash is their treasure. Nevertheless, I struggle about posting blogs like this, for sensitive authors and readers might find it to be harsh. I trust that those who stick with this blog until the end will see why their influence matters to their audiences - their ministry.
I stress little over grammar in books and aim to be gracious in allowing freedom for the author's writing personality. A few typos don't ruin a good story. But as a Christian, cursing or crude language is an instant stopping point for me, for the Bible is more than clear about how believers are expected to communicate as ambassadors for Christ, with His mind, not joining in the corrupted way of the lost.
"No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29 HCSB
Last week, I read four romance novels in the Christian market. They were free of cursing, to my delight! These books have overall good reviews and one author is "award winning" (this could mean anything and reach back many years, but it is a fair claim). The core story of the first book was good. Storylines in the next two books from a series of three were interesting. The titles and hype in the descriptions didn't live up to the story contents, though, and while the characters were intriguing at first, they became so annoying that I started skimming. Both authors were heavy-handed with scripting and staging, telling most every movement and thought rather than letting character actions and conversations lead readers to use their imaginations.
It was what I missed from these stories that left me sad and prompted this blog.
I liked it that the first book included some scripture and biblical worldview when the characters struggled with handling family situations. But the author was lavish in applying descriptions about the attraction between the two love interest characters, especially the female, who thought about "rippling muscles" and other physical characteristics too often. When the pair became a couple, steamy kisses alone at her house and wandering minds seemed inappropriate and worldly when juxtaposed with the way the characters talked about their faith. In the series of three books, the irritating overtelling writing style didn't change much. Like the other book by a different author, the female character's thoughts often went to "rippling back muscles" and instances of noticing (and handling) the male character's "well-defined" chest. The novel covers of bare-chested men in the steamy features of book promotions came to my mind - a taboo subject for covers in the clean and Christian markets. Yet Christian authors are nurturing this subject matter within the pages of their Christian romances, where lusty descriptions aren't necessary. Readers so inclined can fill in details with their own imaginations. Is it boring to substitute a strong Christian man for the hunky love interests in stories? Why? Do women want to be judged by the same standards?
In this series, I searched for qualifications that placed it on the Christian market. The three novels are clean as far as no foul language and the love interests stop short of going too far. But they both (separately) get wisdom from a quote-a-day calendar, not scripture. There is a mention of the male lead being in a Bible Study, but he's never shown there, never invites the female love interest to join him there, and never seems to give it a thought. They don't open a Bible, attend church, or bother to inquire if the other is a fellow believer. And when the female finally attempts a quick prayer when she reads a text from someone with cancer, she addresses God by acknowledging that prayer has not been part of her life, but this friend needed Him. I shook my head sadly to think this is how many readers will think of Christ - as a genie to do the bidding of someone who shows no hint of having salvation or of being His disciple. By the third book in the series, the female lead character was truly doing risky things, lying, and she even planted false evidence (she was an investigator). I skimmed broadly to just pick up where the romance was going. I won't be buying the rest of the series to find out what happens. Whether it was the author or editor/publisher who turned this series into benign fare in hopes of a broader market, I don't know.
True, I'm not the average female reader. Nor am I a master at writing. But be honest, fellow sisters and brothers in Christ - most of what's on the Christian market today is NOT written to bring glory to Christ and the Gospel. We should be inspiring readers to get out of the gutters to walk the narrow road. "Is it Real? Seven Keys to Writing About Christian Romance and Relationships" offers a more indepth look at what's largely missing in the Christian Romance market. For an in-depth and eye-opening message about what the "man of your dreams" should look like for Christian ladies, see this YouTube session by Redeemer Bible Church.
From now until February 17, 2020, my novel Landmark, Painter Place Saga 4 will be on sale for .99! You can find a buy link on the Kindle $400 Valentine Giveaway, 1531 Entertainment, your favorite online bookseller, or your local library. Please consider leaving a review to help other readers!
Blog contents copyrighted by Pamela Poole, 2020