There’s a lot of talk about bad boys in romance, even in Christian romance. Women love to read about bad boys and rebels, especially ones that turn good. But what about bad girls?
From a Christian fiction author’s standpoint, bad girls are both tricky and a joy to write for many of the same reasons. It can be difficult to create a character readers will connect with and feel compassion and even affinity toward when she’s walked a road our readers might perceive negatively.
As readers we want to see ourselves in the story, don’t we?
For a woman out there in the real world who has been redeemed, these characters are a blessing. This reader feels seen and immediately recognizes herself in the heroine. I will concede that sometimes that “bad” girl’s path may hit a little too close to home and said reader may prefer to DNF the book. Like I said, it’s tricky!
Then you have the reader of lesser-blemished past, and that’s where things can get even trickier.
Let’s say a book opens with our heroine fresh out of a stranger’s bed after a night of hedonistic choices (i.e. Jobie from my novel What Makes a Home). Right off the bat, we’ve got a lot of readers who will flip the cover to make sure they’ve got the right genre or outright DNF. I’ve even read reviews left by readers who only made it to page four then reviewed it glorifies sin then questioning the author’s salvation (none on my books, but still not ok).
You may be like me, saying, “what? They didn’t even give the author a chance to redeem her!” And yet, this still happens. Now do you understand why I say tricky?
But it’s a risk we’ll often take because redemption matters. Understanding just how far our Shepherd is willing to go for one lost sheep matters. Even in fiction.
So how do authors like me write a likable heroine with a “bad girl” past with whom readers will connect, especially if her story starts out more colorfully than more conservative readers may prefer to read or if they don’t want to read about her past at all? And how do we create a realistic portrayal of the side characters in her life, both the loving and the not-so-loving ones without offending readers?
The answer is mindfully and with a lot of prayer. LOL! Sorry, I don’t have a wittier or more insightful answer. I don’t have a magical one-size-fits-all answer because what one reader considers likable is unlikable to another, and that’s true even with the sweetest, most innocent of heroines.
What I do have, however, is a nice list of books from some of our InspyRomance authors featuring “bad girls” if you’re interested in reading their stories.
And in the comments, I’d love to hear your perspective on reading about “bad girls,” specifically in CCR and inspirational fiction. What makes you choose a book with a “bad girl” heroine or put it back on the shelf? What keeps you turning pages and cheering her on?
Here’s that list I promised you:
Jobie in What Makes a Home from yours truly—a free-living artist whose past catches up to her as God brings her home.
Haven in Aspen Crossroads by Janine Rosche—her small town has more than its fair share of small-minded folk, but Haven knows firsthand the value of a second chance, so she’ll do anything to give newcomers a chance at theirs.
Dixie in Valerie Comer’s Dancing at Daybreak—thought she found love with her third child’s father until he found Jesus, now everything’s changed and she’s determined not to.
Mindy in Regaining Mercy from Carolyn Miller—the girl from the “wrong side of the tracks” endures plenty of judgment from her island townsfolk, but will she trust in a love that sees more than who she was?
Deb Kastner’s Angelica in And Cowboy Makes Three—she left him at the altar, and now she’s back, unwed with a baby in tow, willing to withstand the gossip to honor her grandmother’s memory.
Jade in Valerie M. Bodden’s Not Until Us—any girl in town would make a better pastor’s wife than Jade, whose bad-girl past is no secret, but will they listen to gossip or their Father’s voice?
Elizabeth Maddrey has at least three “bad girl” heroines, but my favorite is Lydia in Wisdom to Know. She’s a rebellious pastor’s daughter on a self-destructive path with a best friend who knows she’s the One… but is there a sin love can’t cover? Don’t miss Sara in A Tidbit of Trust or Serena from Cookies & Candlelight!
I’m sure there are more, so let’s stick with contemporary Christian romance titles if you make suggestions in the comments! Thanks for hanging out with me today!