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?

19 Responses to The Joy of the Love Story

  1. Avatar
    Darrel Holcombe November 5, 2015 at 6:35 am #

    Perhaps all romance is Christian, even when the author, reader, and story do not acknowledge it as such. Just as all truth is God’s truth, could it not also be that all love is God’s love? If love and kindness are an extention or fruit of God’s Spirit, then wouldn’t all such instances of those attributes belong to the work of the Spirit, even if the person doesn’t follow God? Could it be that Christian doctrine is valuable not because it leads us to truth, but because it leads us to love. If it fails to do so, then maybe it is meaningless in the eyes of God. Conversely, perhaps a heretic or sinner who falls in love is far closer to the kingdom of God than a dispassionate advocate of orthodoxy.

    • Avatar
      Carol Ashby November 5, 2015 at 10:03 am #

      Lately I’ve read a few general-market romances by best-selling authors to sample commercially successful writing styles. I’ll sum the experience up this way. The plot developments were interesting and the writing was skillful, but if you’re not a married woman with the ability to skim/skip read through the often multi-page explicit sexual descriptions, I would strongly advise against doing this. The books were romances, but the love being portrayed as romantic was invariably erotic. The emphasis was on self-fulfillment, not deepest concern for the best interest of the one who was the object of erotic love.

      I must respectfully disagree with you, Darrel. While Christians often experience deep romantic love, Christian love is not romantic. Christian doctrine is valuable because it leads to salvation. That’s the whole reason Jesus took human form, suffered, and died. Agape love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit that Jesus’s followers will experience after being saved. The truest love isn’t romantic; it’s self-sacrificial.

      • Avatar
        rochellino November 5, 2015 at 10:28 am #

        Carol, (drum roll here please) I am very happy to see that “you get it” and are able to express it respectfully with sincere conviction in true Christian manner.

        • Avatar
          Carol November 5, 2015 at 11:33 am #

          I always need to remember that Jesus gave the apostles (and also us) His command during the Last Supper to love one another even as He had loved them, and then His sacrifice showed what that kind of loving really was. Utterly impossible for me to do apart from the Holy Spirit, often extraordinarily difficult even on a very small scale, even with the Holy Spirit’s help. I’m too inclined to try to do by myself what only God can enable me to do. Trusting in my own strength and gifts is a spiritually dangerous thing that I have to guard against.

    • Avatar
      rochellino November 5, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

      Darrell, I will respectfully add my perception to your questions. I don’t believe that all “love” is God’s love, all TRUE love may be. Man has been condemned, among other things, for the “love” of bad things. Loving idols, power, self and many other things more than God will condemn one. That “love” of things evil began at the tree of life at the behest of satan when Eve, then Adam, disobeyed and condemned us all. It continued on with Cain killing his brother for the love of evil and has continued in every generation since.

      In our own lives many of us have tragically witnessed mothers who love their drugs more than their children, love their boyfriends more than their daughters and also love those and many other things more than God. Fathers who love their pornography, their whisky, gambling and other things more than anything else as well. They are all subject to redemption if they could only “see the light” and “hear the call”. People of the Kingdom are here to generously render assistance should they wish to avail themselves. We all have our own personal stories of our own sin and our struggle to overcome. Our testimony can inspire.

      It is easy to develop what I call “string theories” (NOT the type found in physics), that is where one set of “facts” sets the path for the next set of “facts” and so on until what seems to be a logical conclusion is reached. BEWARE OF THE GREATEST DECEIVER OF ALL TIME, HE IS A MASTER AT THIS AND MANY OTHER TECHNIQUES OF DECEPTION, SELF AND OTHERWISE.

      “There is no possession more valuable in creation than the love of Our Father. Seek and cherish this.”
      m. rochellino

  2. Avatar
    Jackie Layton November 5, 2015 at 6:55 am #

    Hi Tamela,

    Romances make me happy. Christian romances are the best. The hero and heroine have more going for them than a good sexual relationship. They are deeper, and I enjoy seeing the relationship grow in a godly way.

    Beautiful post today!

  3. Avatar
    Susan Mary Malone November 5, 2015 at 8:01 am #

    Love this post, Tamela. You know, once the “grimace and shudder” response was, well, pretty deserved. But the quality of Romance novels in all categories has risen dramatically in the last decade or so. They’re smarter, better written, with deeper themes (especially in Christian Romance). As Jackie said, they’re not just about a good sexual relationship anymore.
    Nice post!

  4. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka November 5, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    I enjoyed your post, Tamela. I’m an HEA girl too. And, I discovered, a justice-loving girl as well. Years ago, I read, The Brethren, by John Grisham. In it the main characters were framing others and getting away with it. And in the end, all worked out well for them. I hated that ending. I wanted them to be brought to justice, somehow.

    I especially enjoy Christian romance because these stories often have the spiritual thread woven through them, along with a great ending. And, they’re clean. 🙂

  5. Avatar
    Linda K. Rodante November 5, 2015 at 8:54 am #

    Agree! Thank you for a good, succinct article.

  6. Avatar
    Deetje Wildes November 5, 2015 at 9:15 am #

    My favorite romance novel, where the “happy ending” almost doesn’t happen: “They Almost Always Come Home” by Cynthia Ruchti.

  7. Avatar
    rochellino November 5, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    Tamela, great post as usual! The 800 pound gorilla in the room, for me, is that when one mentions “love story” it is so very heavily weighed as, and almost always automatically considered, a “romance”. There is nothing wrong with this, its just the way it is. Todays blog “The Joy of the Love Story” goes on to exclusively talk about “romance” or “romantic” love.

    My point is that there are many other kinds of very important love. Love of the Kingdom, family, fellow combatants in war, fellow parishioners, fellow citizens and, as our Father commanded, our neighbors and yes, even our enemies. There would be no “romance” involved in this type of “love story” yet it can be a very powerful, moving and inspiring story of love. The type of love that Jesus, Our Father, commanded.

    I have completed such a novel in Dec 2014. It was a joy to write and parts of it seemed to “write itself”. With prayer I am confident that its eventual disposition will be revealed and, hopefully, be an asset in some way to the Kingdom.

    Matthew 5:43-48World English Bible (WEB)

    43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’[b] 44 But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don’t even the tax collectors[c] do the same? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

    • Avatar
      Carol Ashby November 5, 2015 at 11:42 am #

      So true! A recurring theme in my romantic historicals is how agape love for the enemy can lead to a transformation from enmity to friendship and sometimes (but not always) to romantic love. That’s part of what makes my novels not fit the romance genre.

  8. Avatar
    Tamela Hancock Murray November 5, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    Thank you all so much for stopping by and commenting, and to everyone who read this post, even if you didn’t comment. I appreciate all of you more than you know.

  9. Avatar
    Carol Ashby November 5, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    I love a good romance with a happy-ever-after ending. I actually thought I was writing them until I learned (thanks, Tamela) that I have too much going on beside the romance and too many main characters and events unrelated to the romance to fit the genre. I write romantic historicals instead of historical romances.

    I’ve always loved variations on the beauty and the beast story. One of my favorite 4-novella collections is a Christian-romance retelling of four fairy tales. It was called “Once Upon A Time” and came out in 2000. Authors were Irene Brand, Lynn Coleman, Yvonne Lehman, and Gail Martin. I’ve reread that collection several times over the past 15 years.

  10. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 5, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    Your comment about the movie you loathed reminded me of one I could not stand – “Mad Money”. An excellent cast, good acting, and characters with whom I would not want to be in the same room for five minutes…not to mention the morally corrupt ending.

    The touchstone for my writing is that love and marriage are the greatest adventure we have in life (and I’ve done a lot of the ‘guy stuff’, often including gunfights, to have some basis for comparison).

    Whilst I have been spectacularly unsuccessful in finding an agent who shares my take on thatvision, I still believe in it, and will continue to write in that vein, because I believe that above all, Christian love and marriage is a sacrament, and perhaps the best avenue we have to being able to understand God’s unqualified love for us.

    It’s true that there are conflicts, and things often don’t reflect the sacramental nature of the relationship that holds such promise, it’s brightness and hope are yet undiminished, and I believe in it.

    With all my heart, and with whatever writing skill I can bring to its service

  11. Avatar
    Carolyn November 5, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    I’m a HEA girl, too, some of my favorite romance authors being Becky Wade and Susan May Warren. One of my peeves with romantic fiction (even Christian) is the unrealistic nature of the relationships portrayed, where people commit too quickly without knowing the other person. I enjoy stories where characters have to work on their own ‘stuff’, like forgiveness, dealing with insecurity, etc, and show the often awkward dynamics of getting to know someone – then loving them anyway 🙂

    • Avatar
      Carol Ashby November 5, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

      Carolyn, I share your preference for things happening with realistic speed and difficulty. That’s why I mostly prefer full novels and not novellas. I admire those who can create a realistic novella that doesn’t feel like you’re in fast-forward mode through key parts of the developing relationship. I don’t think I could do it. I write romantic historical, not strictly romance, but I find it takes me on the order of 100K-115K words to develop the characters, the romance, and the non-romantic portions of the plots to a believable and satisfying conclusion.

  12. Avatar
    Peter DeHaan November 5, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

    The main reason I read fiction (and watch movies) is to enjoy a break from the reality of life. I want my investment of time to have a happy ending (or at least a satisfying conclusion). If the ending is sad, why brother reading?

  13. Avatar
    Angela Breidenbach November 5, 2015 at 11:27 pm #

    I spoke at a conference a couple of years ago. The question came up when I sat on a panel: Why romance? Isn’t it just the same old stuff? Everyone else on the panel answered the question in their own way, except they weren’t romance authors. At all. So when I could finally get the mic to speak, I looked at the audience and said, “When we want to get to know someone, one of the first things we ask is how they met their husband or wife.” I paused. Lots of nods and voiced agreement. Then I asked, “How many of you have the exact same story as anyone else in this room?” You could hear a pin drop as people contemplated the answer. Then I told them how I met my husband and the quirky, funny way we each remember it differently (POV). I finished by asking how many of them met their spouse the same way. There was a roar of applause. And a lot more romance novels sold that day 😉

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