By Narelle Atkins
I recently read a Christian romance book that I couldn’t bring myself to finish. The writing was beautiful and technically I couldn’t fault the story. The book has received great reviews and endorsements by well known Christian romance authors who I admire and respect.
What was the problem? The story hit a hot button. The thought of turning the page and staying immersed in the story world and living in the heroine’s head was too much.
The last twelve months of my life have been challenging. My writing time has been limited by family, work and other responsibilities. I’m in the so-called ‘sandwich generation’ with teenage children and elderly parents with health issues. Last year my husband had a health scare that made me stop and reassess my priorities.
Writers are taught to create lead characters who are forced to face their greatest fears during the story. This particular romance story tapped into one of my greatest fears. I was surprised by the intensity of my emotional response to the events taking place in the story.
I read the reviews for the book to see what other readers had to say. Not long ago I was chatting with a reader friend about whether or not reviewers should mention trigger warnings if they come across content that could create problems for readers who are struggling with a particular issue.
A trigger warning is potentially a plot spoiler. I’m certain the hot button issue that hit me in this book would not have been an issue for the large majority of romance readers. I also don’t know if a trigger warning would have deterred me from reading the story. In this instance a trigger warning would have been a big plot spoiler.
Christian fiction has traditionally been known as a safe genre. This knowledge has provided readers with an assurance that the stories wouldn’t include bad language, gratuitous violence and sexual situations. The more edgy Christian fiction books often have content warnings in the book description or the reviews.
Have you struggled with reading stories containing hot button issues? Do you like knowing about potential issues that may require a trigger warning before reading a book? If you write reviews, do you mention that there’s content in the story that could be an issue for some readers? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.