The Joy of the Love Story

Sometimes readers will tell me they don’t understand why anyone would enjoy genre romance novels. Sometimes they’ll even grimace and shudder. I can tell you a couple of reasons why these are such great books:

They Make Sense

Some books don’t make sense. If you read book reviews, you’ll see that a plot not making sense is a frequent complaint. As for everything making sense, perhaps my faith (or personality) helps me not to be bothered when, “things don’t make sense,” whereas others (even other devout Christians) may tend to ponder these issues. I’d rather fry an egg than worry whether the chicken or egg came first. (I think Genesis answers that question anyway.) So I give authors a wide berth here, although I do appreciate loose ends being tied up. For example, don’t leave me hanging on a big issue with a character you’ve made me care about unless all is revealed in a subsequent book.

In a genre romance novel, the hero and heroine must overcome both internal and external conflicts that are in the way of their romance. The way they overcome these conflicts needs to make sense to the reader. The reader may be struggling with similar conflicts and, through fiction, can see one way of coping. Or the reader may just be looking for an inspiring story where conflict is overcome and all is right with the world. Either way, everyone wins.

The Endings Are Always Happy

Years ago I watched a movie with extended family and couldn’t believe when criminals got away with a large sum of stolen money. My father-in-law, a pastor, joked, “They’re going to give it to the church.” He knew I’d like that thought. Because of my moral compass, criminals freely riding off into the sunset was an ending I didn’t like.

I don’t often read novels where all ends badly. That doesn’t mean others can’t or shouldn’t enjoy these books; they just don’t usually appeal to me. Readers of genre romance know they’ll be getting a happy ending. This is the contract the author makes with the reader. Some people criticize the genre for not being realistic because not all love stories end well, but that’s not what the genre purports to accomplish. Do you want stories of love gone terribly astray? Take your pick of celebrity tabloids. Do you want stories of Christians seeking God’s will for their lives? Read Christian romance. Just sayin’.

Whatever you enjoy, happy reading!

Your turn:

What are some other good reasons to read romance novels?

What are good reasons to read Christian romance in particular?

What Christian romance author and/or novel would you recommend?

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Where is the Romance?

When I talk with authors about their stories, sometimes they’ll say. “Yes, there’s romance. But it doesn’t happen until chapter five.” That’s when I look at the story and try to give advice on how they can change that. Granted, not every novel is a genre romance, nor should it …

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Heartsong’s Publishing Legacy

Last week, as mentioned in Tamela’s wonderful tribute, Harlequin announced that the Heartsong Presents imprint is going to be shuttered. Heartsong Presents has been primarily a “direct-to-consumer” book club which published romance titles with a specifically Christian message. {And last week I joked about how things can change on Tuesday… This announcement came …

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Why I Read Romance Novels

Valentine’s Day is on its way, and that got me to thinking about that four-letter word we all use with impunity:


What a powerful word, one so full of meaning I could write a dozen blogs about it and still not exhaust the depth and breadth of all it entails. I’m grateful for love. For God’s love. For my hubby’s love. For my family’s love. For my doggies’ love. Love has blessed me more than I could ever deserve. But then, isn’t that the very nature of love—that it comes to us regardless of our so-called “worth.” And one area where I most enjoy the blessing of love is in writing. Whether poetry or novels, nonfiction or essays, I’m not afraid to admit that I love reading about love. And I especially enjoy–get ready for it–romance novels!

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The Moral Protagonist: A Key Difference

This is entirely an opinion, but in my reading of general market fiction versus Christian fiction, I have noticed one key difference:

The protagonists don’t have to be moral.

In Christian fiction, the protagonists must be moral or have a great desire to be moral at their core, even though they may make mistakes.

Christian fiction offers a Christian world view.  The characters’ circumstances test their moral fiber. Readers want to see how the characters deal with their situations and trials, and the resulting consequences. Whether or not the characters experience a happy ending will depend a lot on the genre and story itself, but the characters should grow in and/or find sustenance in their faith.

In general market romance fiction, the characters can be of any faith or no faith. More likely than not, the issue of the characters’ faith won’t be visited at all or might be explained or dismissed in a phrase. Often, the characters are swept up in circumstances they must overcome, but they won’t draw upon religious faith to solve their problems. Their solutions may or may not reflect a moral choice. More likely they will reflect the necessary choice to their survival.

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Do You Give Them What They Really Want?

Last weekend, my husband and I attended a family wedding in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Though we didn’t have a chance to do much touring, we did drive through the town and neighboring Gatlinburg. We noticed that the shops, amusements, and attractions reminded us of another vacation spot we enjoy, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Except we were in the beautiful Smoky Mountains rather than at the sunny beach.

The tourist towns did their best to appeal to what their audiences want, yet each is unique. For instance, Tennessee boasts pottery made by local artisans while you’ll find opportunities to buy magnificent shells at the beach. Yet you’ll find frozen yogurt, putt-putt golf, carnival rides, concerts, restaurants, and other attractions at both locales.

Since I love books, I couldn’t help but make a comparison, and genre fiction came to mind. Each story holds elements of appeal to their audience. For instance, no romance novel is devoid of a heroine and hero falling in love. No mystery novel leaves the crime unsolved. Yet each story contains its own unique elements that readers will find fresh and enjoyable. Which is why readers keep reading!

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A Little Less Shade, A Little More Light

by Steve Laube

There could not be a better argument for the need for good Christian romantic fiction than the recent sales phenomenon of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. In case you aren’t aware, this trilogy has sold ten million copies in the last three months. Ten million copies. The content of these novels should be x-rated and yet sit atop every bestseller list in the country. The media labeled the novels “mommy-porn” which is an apt description considering the book’s advocacy for aberrant sexual behavior. It has sold over one million e-book copies for the Kindle suggesting that some buy it for their e-reader because they can hide what they are reading by not showing the cover.

Of course there has always been salacious fiction on the market, so this is nothing new. Many saucy and erotic novels are readily available with the click of a mouse. But none, with such unapologetic deviance, have achieved such extraordinary success in such a short time.

Christian novelists? You were born for such a time as this. The message of love and romance in the confines of a loving God-centered relationship is diametrically opposed to that found in these bestsellers. Write stories that show relationships with all their ethos, anguish, strife, redemption, honesty, and romance. Therefore, let this phenomenon be a clarion call for you to dig deep and improve your storytelling, hone your craft, and shout it from the mountaintops that there are great novels that can be read as an alternative to what the general market offers.

If you aren’t aware of what is available, go to Fiction Finder and search by genre. Our agency represents over 110  of those great novelists.

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Romancing the Readers

I had a conversation with a writer friend a few weeks ago. She was telling me that the book she’s writing is, at the core, a romance, and no one was more surprised than she. “I don’t know a thing about writing romances,” she confessed. “Any tips?” I sent her an email with my thoughts, and that was that. Then she emailed me a few days ago:

“I just re-read this [email] as I’m still struggling through the end of my ms. This is an unbelievably beautiful note! It would make a great blog post on how to write romance….”

Well! I took a look at it, and I think she’s got something there. It does lend itself well to a blog. So I did a little editing, and here you go. If you find yourself writing a romance and you’re not quite sure about it, here are some things to keep in mind about the hero and heroine:

* The reader needs to see their attraction as believable. In other words, Not just because he’s handsome and she’s beautiful. As with real romance, let their feelings surprise them, then show those feelings growing as an organic part of the story. That’s not to say they can’t be immediately attracted to one another, or that one can’t be immediately attracted to the other. That instant spark does happen. But make sure readers see good reasons for romance—and love–to grow between them. Think about it. What’s more romantic than a man who treats women and children with respect? What’s more appealing to a man than a woman who honors and respects him? It’s not about Tarzan meets Jane, it’s about character and integrity and true strength and beauty.

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Fresh Formulas

Some have a hard time appreciating the talent involved in writing genre fiction. By genre fiction, I mean novels that fall into a defined category such as contemporary romance, historical romance, romantic suspense, or cozy mystery. Many of these novels are published by mass market publishers (like Harlequin) and fit in lines they have formed for the sole purpose of selling the genre.

These are distinguished from Trade fiction where there isn’t necessarily a specific line that has been formed to sell a genre, although there are exceptions to that “rule” like the “Love Finds You” series from Summerside Press. In publisher’s lingo “trade” means a 5 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ trim size and is probably between 80,000 and 100,000 words in length. “Genre” or “category” fiction can mean the 4″ by 6″ trim size (also known as mass market) and between 50,000 words and 70,000 words.

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