by: Staci Stallings
As a Christian romance author it has become incredibly obvious to me why people struggle to understand “romance.” You see, my days are spent crafting stories about people falling in love. While in most such stories the characters have challenges, in mine very often the challenges are emotional explosions meant not just to destroy the budding relationship but to destroy the two people in that relationship as well.
Because I write Christian romance, and let me tell you, Christian romances are NOT EASY romances. Satan would like nothing more than to convince both people that God is not real, He is not for them, and love is not worth all the hassle.
Now this past month or so I’ve really been struck by this understanding because I do a lot of Facebook marketing in book groups. This means I go around to the groups every day and post information about my books, hoping to attract new readers or to alert my current readers about other options I have available. The thing is, these reader groups (most of them anyway) are decidedly not Christian.
I choose to market there anyway because I think the hundreds of thousands of people who get their book information from those places should have a choice that doesn’t include vampires dripping with blood, thrillers and murder, and bodice rippers. It is that last category that has most caught my attention recently. Why? Because their primary understanding of “love” is two bodies in a bed.
On their ads, they say things like, “Can Bryce and Trudy find real love?” next to a picture of… well, you can probably guess. To which I always, looking beyond the hot nights in bed, respond, “No. Sooner or later, they’re going to realize life isn’t just about what happens between the sheets, and because their relationship is only rooted in how ‘hot’ the other one is, it’s doomed before it ever gets started… even if they find ‘love’ right now.”
Then you get the genre of jilted, revenge-seeking lovers who will stop at nothing to make the other one pay. There is a whole genre of books dedicated to this very topic. Why? Because after a person realizes in their own lives that the first option doesn’t work, they will naturally move to the second one!
And herein lies what I have found in juxtaposing those types of “romances” with my stories… I find myself often going, “Ugh. My couple would love to just go right to the physical and skip all of this emotional stuff. Why is this taking so long? And why is it so hard?”
The other night as I posted, there was a plethora of the first type of ads—those for the hot bodice rippers. I was slogging through 10,000 word days when my characters were just going through a ton of emotional YUCK, and I have to tell you, even I got discouraged. “It sure would be easier just to write that stuff. He thinks she’s hot; she loves it that he loves her; they fall in bed, and BAM, they’re in love!”
And then it hit me. Women (and men) read these kinds of romances and feel the same way about their own marriages and relationships! They don’t have the benefit of being an objective third party to the trials of establishing a relationship that will last. All they get is the day-to-day struggle of trying to keep a family together, deal with in-laws, co-workers, problems—a tired spouse, financial problems, conflict, and exhaustion. When they turn on the television or open that book to a story soaked in hot, easy romance, I’m sure one of their thoughts is, “Why can’t my relationship be like this?”
So, I guess I’m trying to give you a warning. When you read my books, you get “real,” sometimes like these next two books in the Hope Series, “really real.” The hero in “A Time to Love” has the bodice-ripper paradigm as relationship goals in his head. The heroine is barely functioning after a tragic loss. To say the two of them miss the point completely through most of the book is putting it VERY mildly!
I do sincerely hope readers will stay with me and not get terribly frustrated by the twists and turns these two take to become a real couple. I dare say, these books are “more real” than even some of the ones I’ve written previously, but if you will stay with it, I think you will gain amazing insights into what being in a relationship can mean. It ain’t easy, but it is worth it!
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The Hope Series