What is Inspirational Romance?

Our guest blogger today is Angela Breidenbach. She is a Montana author & Christian Authors Network president, is the host of Lit Up! on Toginet Radio and Apple Podcasts. Angela went back to college for genealogical studies w/specialties in English & Scottish Records. She’ll graduate in 2019 as a professional genealogist.

Find her at:
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Apple Podcasts/iTunes: Lit Up! with Angela Breidenbach
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What does “clean”, “sweet”, and “inspirational” mean?

My name is Angela Breidenbach and I’m a multi-published author in the inspirational romance category, both traditional and indie. I’d like to help you understand what Christian romance is and dispel seven myths about the Christian romance market.

Myth 1: There’s no physical attraction or even any kissing!

The truth: Yes, you can show physical attraction and be published by traditional Christian publishers. My characters notice physical attributes, touch, cuddle, and have sky rocket kiss moments. They talk to their friends and family about their attraction the way normal people do in the real world. Christian authors use emotional words to draw readers into the scene to move the story forward. We keep faith involved in the characters’ decisions creating the holistic person who is more dimensional and interesting.

Myth 2: All Christian publishers are the same.

The truth: In the inspirational romance market each publisher is different and has different business goals. Learning about publishers helps you see the variety of depth, entertainment, and topics they focus imprints on for readers.

Genres also vary widely from contemporary to romantic suspense, historical crosses centuries from biblical times to WWII, Amish to Southern, and many more. Stories range from novellas to long sagas. Christian romance is so diverse it’s hard to choose.

Myth 3: Christian publishers and readers don’t like sex.

The truth: Romantic tension is not the same as sex. Romantic tension is what builds between two people and pulls them together physically. Part of romance, but not all of it. In the Christian inspirational (inspy) romance market, a lot of relationship and conflict builds before the “I love you” scene. The act of sex in inspy romance is handled more like that coffee date with a friend where you tell each other the romantic story of how you met your loved one. It’s not common to tell a friend the blow-by-blow details that happen behind your bedroom door. We tend to keep those parts of our lives personal and private in the real world. And yet those personal stories are highly charged with emotion and romance. That’s what reading a Christian romance is like for readers, the romance and story without the invasion of privacy.

Myth 4: Conversion scenes and “Bible thumping” are demanded by publishers.

The truth: No, publishers want a good, cohesive story. If I’m referring to anything biblical, it’s done in dialogue and paraphrased as we do in common conversation. Deep conversations between two people discuss hard life choices, how they share empathy and love. Think of a time you when you hurt deeply. What did that friend say to you to help you through the pain? That’s more like what would happen in a Christian romance.

Myth 5: Clean, sweet, and inspirational tags mean b-o-r-i-n-g and that means sex is a “dirty” word.

The truth: Sex between married people is important to a good marriage and beautiful to Christians. As a norm, there’s no gratuitous sex, violence, or blue language. “Clean” means clean language to readers. “Sweet” means sex is only between married people and behind the bedroom door, unseen and “off screen”. It might be inferred, as in my story, Bridal Whispers in the Lassoed By Marriage Romance Collection. The characters were married, but had obstacles in the way of fulfilling their vows. We know he carried her across the bedroom threshold, and then the door closes. Privacy is respected. Sexual and story tension are important. Christian publishers and readers want that tension. Books are rejected without enough tension.

This readership does call books “clean”, “sweet”, “inspirational”. There are always jargon words in any industry. These are the jargon words in the Christian publishing industry. They have to do with language content, explicit sexual content, and whether the story is from the Christian worldview. Meaning, the book inspires you to live a better life and turn away from things that are harmful. That’s why if risk-taking behavior happens in a Christian book (yes, these do get written into inspirational romances) the character expressing the risky behavior has to have a consequence shown in the story that results from that behavior.

Myth 6: Christian readers don’t like real life problems. They want cotton candy and fluff.

The truth: Christian readers are voracious readers. They love settings of places they want to visit, characters who struggle through real life problems that they’re trying to figure out themselves, and strong women that set an example of going after their goals.

There’s quite a varying degree of what Christian romance readers want to read from fun fluff to deep literary works. For me, it depends on my mood as is likely the same for others. The average age is 45 and up. They want to learn something from the stories and feel good at the end. These readers love learning how to work through relational conflict in positive ways, love to laugh, love to cry with the main characters, and love to win the goal with them at the end.

Myth 7: It’s easy to write a Christian romance.

The truth: Writing a good story, good enough to get published, is complicated. Entire organizations, conferences, and online education systems exist to teach fiction, including Christian romance. These books are character and/or plot driven, but the story is prime and must hold the tension for the reader through characterization and storytelling. The healing in a Christian romance can be from a trauma that resulted from risk-taking behavior or abuse. Even suicide, rape, drug addiction, marital affairs are written—the stuff of real life struggles. But these books are written for readers that want to learn how to heal from trauma while reading a good story. As our characters go through the journey, the reader does, too. No, writing Christian romance is not easy with the additional dimensions added to the mix. But it is fulfilling.

Consider reading across the wide variance from different publishing houses and their various imprints. There are some similarities, but a whole lot of differences between publishers as with the ABA traditional publishers. Both Lynette Eason and Susan May Warren write great romantic suspense for Revell and Harlequin Love Inspired. Both Roseanna White and Elizabeth Camden write historical romance for Bethany House. If you love biblical romantic fiction, try reading Mesu Andrews or Connilyn Cossette who write for Waterbrook and Bethany House respectively. Personally, I write historical romance for Barbour Books and have quite a few indie romances that range from the American Revolution (Captive Brides Collection) to the great fire of 1910 (The Second Chance Brides Collection) for settings. The list of great authors and entertaining Christian romance would take far too long. Time to get started!


40 Responses to What is Inspirational Romance?

  1. Judith Robl May 24, 2018 at 5:16 am #

    Great post! Thank you for clarifying so many of the misconceptions about Christian romance writing. Brava, Angela, Brava!

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 7:45 am #

      Thank you 🙂

  2. Sharon K. Connell May 24, 2018 at 5:36 am #

    Thank you for pointing out that Christian romance does not have to be boring.

    When I wrote “His Perfect Love,” I was surprised to win over a secular contemporary romance author to the enjoyment of Christian Romance Suspense. Here’s what she said in a review.

    5.0 out of 5 stars A Christian suspense that will keep you guessing all the way to the end!
    This story was unlike any other Christian suspense I’ve ever read. Some authors in this genre either include too much sexual content, and the book is miscategorized as Christian fiction, or they’re afraid to include any sexual references, language, or the like, and the story comes off a bit boring. This author incorporated just the right amount of sexual tension, suspense, and violence to keep the story interesting. I was glued to the pages, and I read a variety of genres, not just Christian-based ones.

    The characters were well developed and I could picture them perfectly, based on the author’s descriptions. The plot twists were natural and still exciting, and the ending was beautiful. Even when I thought I knew who the bad guy was, I was wrong!

    I would highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys clean but compelling fiction. I’ll be reading more by this author, for sure!
    By T. Sanders

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 10:31 am #

      You’re welcome 🙂 This is only a small sampling of Christian fiction.

  3. Susan G Mathis May 24, 2018 at 6:31 am #

    Excellent post, Angie! Thanks for sharing.

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 10:29 am #

      Thank you, Susan.

  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser May 24, 2018 at 6:35 am #

    Great post, Angela!

    One thing that I find puzzling is that most authors (and film-makers) don’t understand that sex is far more often a stumbling-block in relationship than it is any kind of foundation…and that gives their work an element of fantasy.

    The real relational work and glory comes in shared commitment, implicitly or explicitly informed by faith, and that falls directly under the aegis of Inspirational Romance.

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 10:37 am #

      The world view makes a big difference. But how much less hearts would hurt if people understood that. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Judythe Morgan May 24, 2018 at 7:29 am #

    Fabulous explanation, Angie.

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 10:38 am #

      Thank you 🙂

  6. Gail Gaymer Martin May 24, 2018 at 7:41 am #

    My Christian romances deal with serious problems and are still exciting love stories–abuse, hero had been in prison, unable to have children, rape, and so much more. I am the author of the Writers Digest Boo, Writing the Christian Romance. If you have questions, I believe the book is still available on Amazon.com. I would love to get the rights back and bring the book out again since Sweet and Christian romance is very popular.

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 10:40 am #

      Thanks for sharing, Gail.

  7. Cherilyn Rivera May 24, 2018 at 7:54 am #

    Thank you for the post. Cleared up a lot of questions I didn’t realize I needed answered.

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 10:42 am #

      Thank you for letting me know the article helped 🙂

  8. Nancy Nelson May 24, 2018 at 8:11 am #

    Great info for aspiring writers as well as for the general public. I wish that the first sentence had not had a grammatical error ( there are 3 items in the list so a plural verb is required: do instead of does). Also, commas go inside quotation marks. These seem like little things, but they are off-putting to grammar nerds like me and should be easily spotted in the writing/editing process.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser May 24, 2018 at 8:20 am #

      Actually, I took, “clean”, “sweet”, and “inspirational” to be a ‘tethered list’, making the singular appropriate.

      • Angela May 26, 2018 at 11:01 am #

        And you would be correct 🙂 Thank you.

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 10:43 am #

      Thanks for sharing.

  9. Rebekah Love Dorris May 24, 2018 at 8:19 am #

    Great post! Nice to see a fellow Middle Tennessean!

    I also listened to your impressive podcast. Great job! An hour-long weekly podcast is no small feat, especially as a successful writer! I know that much because I just got my podcast on iTunes yesterday (and I’m not a great writer like you). With four shows already under my belt I have a new appreciation for faithful, longtime podcasters. Keep up the great work! God bless 🙂

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 10:46 am #

      Hi Rebekah, Montana, but I have family in Tennessee 🙂
      I’m honored you listen to Lit Up! I had to take a short break for an illness. But will be back this coming week 🙂

  10. Stacy Simmons May 24, 2018 at 8:33 am #

    Wonderful post-Angela. It’s refreshing to see so many of the disclaimers about romance writing dispelled. I’ll be bookmarking your blog post.

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 11:02 am #

      Thank you!

      • Stacy Simmons May 3, 2021 at 9:39 am #

        Sorry, didn’t get an alert to your response. You’re welcome. : )

  11. Rebekah Millet May 24, 2018 at 8:43 am #

    Hey Angie! It’s great to see you posting over here! I loved your article and am so glad to have it to share with others who don’t quite understand what Inspirational romance is.

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 11:03 am #

      Thanks, Rebekah!

  12. Carol Ashby May 24, 2018 at 8:50 am #

    Great post, Angela. I especially resonate with points 4 and 6. Strictly speaking, I write romantic historical rather than historical romance because the romance is a vital but not primary focus of the plot arc. But your points still apply when the relationship problems between a believer and a nonbeliever (both the romantic pair and other major characters) drive a spiritual transformation within an adventure/suspense plot. The problems should be intensely real, and the deep conversations about following Jesus need to be like the real conversations I’ve had with real friends about why I believe. I do write conversion scenes because I write Roman era where the love and forgiveness of Christian characters toward pagan characters open hearts and minds toward God.

    For me, writing those question-and-answer, struggle-and-finally-yield scenes is absolutely the most fun part of writing inspirational fiction, especially when a particularly hardened character is forced by events to face the moment of decision. I just had a blast writing the transformation of a character who ended the second volume by banishing his son because he had converted. In the fourth volume that comes out next Monday, I got to write about how his deep regret over that decision that cost him his son opened a door eight years later. Conversion scenes certainly aren’t necessary, but I’d say don’t shy away from writing them when they’re a natural part of the story. At least, don’t be afraid to write them up to the precipice and let the reader guess what they decided after the novel ends.

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 11:06 am #

      One important aspect for a rich story is the wholistic person. I’m glad you write that as well. Thanks.

  13. Pegg Thomas May 24, 2018 at 9:45 am #

    Nice article – which I shared on Facebook – but I wanted to include Smitten Historical Romance in the imprints to check out. We’re releasing some very exciting titles by new authors and some not-so-new authors. We might be a small imprint, but we’re making waves and winning awards!

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 11:07 am #

      Thank you, Pegg.

  14. J.L. Callison May 24, 2018 at 10:03 am #

    Thanks for a revealing post. I’m a fairly new author, and definitely new to the romantic genre. My WIP did not start out in this vein, but has turned very much in this direction. As a Christian, my writing is always clean, and love is almost always a part, though I don’t generally write a romance. You gave great guidance and cleared up a couple of misconceptions for me.

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 11:08 am #

      I’m so glad that was helpful, J.L. Keep writing!

  15. Cathy Krafve May 24, 2018 at 10:56 am #

    Angela, I’m always so happy to see your wisdom wherever it crops up! I especially loved this thought, “Deep conversations between two people discuss hard life choices, how they share empathy and love.” Thanks for taking the time to write on this topic, which you live out in your writing and life.

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 11:10 am #

      Hi Cathy, I’m really touched, thank you! You do that on your radio show as well. Honored to connect with you anywhere!

  16. Jayna May 24, 2018 at 12:31 pm #

    Great article. Specifically breaking down the difference between “sweet” and “clean.” Also, thanks for showing the depth and breadth of Inspy publishing.

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 11:12 am #

      Oh my, there are so many more genres and subgenres in christian fiction to explore, too!

  17. Sheri Dean Parmelee May 24, 2018 at 12:45 pm #

    Thank you for this outstanding post, Angela. I remember a scene from Ethan Frome that made such an impression on me in high school. The sexual tension was incredible and the scene ends with something like, “and in the end, he realized that he had not even touched her hand…”

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 11:20 am #

      Now that’s skillful writing! Oh to be that capable.

  18. Claire O'Sullivan May 24, 2018 at 11:03 pm #

    Hi Angela,

    Perfect post. I have struggled with these very issues in the process. What to broach, what is too close, too likely to cause a covfefe, etc. It gets tricky when different publishing houses have different likes/dislikes … but that’s what readers are like. They will pick what suits them, as PH’s guidelines.

    Thanks again –

    • Angela May 26, 2018 at 11:21 am #

      So true, Claire 🙂 It’s a constant learning process.

  19. Tamela Hancock Murray May 29, 2018 at 6:55 am #

    Angie, thank you so much for offering such a lovely article while I was at a conference! I appreciate you!

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