A little while ago I asked a question in some groups about how Christian characters pursuing relationships in romance books are portrayed, a question which met with some interesting responses. It led me to wondering how Christian readers like to see Christian characters demonstrate their faith in Christian books, and how this relates to romantic relationships in Christian fiction.
Do you enjoy seeing characters pray? Do you like to actually read their prayers or read that so-and-so ‘murmured a prayer’? Do you enjoy seeing characters go to church? Attend a Bible study? Read their Bible? Worship God? Do you like to see characters ‘witness’ to their friends or do you prefer the Christian’s actions to speak louder than their words? How do you like to see this affect romantic relationships in Christian fiction? Or do you not care at all?
Of course, there are all kinds of books, written by all kinds of Christian authors from different cultures, who have all kinds of experiences with faith, church, etc and it can be really interesting to read about people whose faith traditions are different to mine. I remember being intrigued by some of Jan Karon’s ‘Mitford’ series church practices, and how they were similar and different to the Anglican traditions I grew up with in Australia. Similarly, our family practice is to say grace before the evening meal, so it was interesting to read about characters who’d close their eyes and pray together before every meal. I wasn’t used to this, so it came as a surprise when I was in Nashville with people who did this every time.
So I understand that Christians are different, and not every Christian book is going to be packed to the brim with sermons etc. And honestly, I don’t want to read that all the time, either. (But for me it feels natural that a sermon might impact a person if they’re going to church. Just sayin’)
For me, presenting characters who are Jesus followers and demonstrating this is important. None of them are perfect (hello, I’m not either, so they’re flawed like me), but they are on the God-journey, and for the most part, my Christian characters tend to pray, attend church/ Bible study, read the Bible and are influenced by it, and try to encourage others to find hope in God too. That’s the kind of book I like to read, anyway.
I want to write books that show (how to have) godly relationships and encourage people to ‘not be unequally yoked’ and to ‘not stir up love until it’s time.’ Maybe it’s ironic for a romance writer to do this, but I am mindful of the single ladies who don’t want to be ‘stirred’ into unhealthy fixations with romance and needing a man to ‘complete you’ (that’s God’s job). I’ve always strived to ensure my characters (who are usually Christians) are aware of the faith of the potential partner, and if it’s not there, they don’t pursue it, no matter how attracted they might be. And that can be HARD. And real. Because it happens. A too-long look can lead to a too-long conversation which can lead to a too-long kiss which can lead to… Other Things. (Like maybe the basis for some of those secret baby stories…)
Hearts and Goals and Big Apple Atonement are two books where my Christian characters hold off on pursuing relationships until they see the other person make a decision to follow Christ. More than that, they wait until they see real heart change that results in God transforming the other person’s life, so as to not confuse the new believer’s God-heart touch with the human emotions connected with a romantic relationship.
Even within a relationship between two believers I think there can be interesting questions about being ‘unequally yoked’ due to different interests, etc. In Love on Ice Brent wants a Christian girl who understands his commitment to elite-level sport, who likes him for himself, and won’t get swept up in his money or fame. He also doesn’t want to get swept up in hormones so he’s careful with how he treats the girl he likes, holding off on kissing until he’s ready to demonstrate wholehearted commitment, and prove it’s not a relationship just based on hormones and emotions. Yes, the ‘On Ice’ part of the title is not just because it’s a book about two winter athletes; it’s also about putting things on hold until it’s the right time. I want to show that attraction and passion are real, and I (will continue to) include this in my books. But I feel I have a responsibility to do so carefully, especially knowing I have younger readers.
I’ve been so grateful over the years for readers and reviews that have commented on how the character’s faith in my books feels ‘organic’ to the story and is woven in naturally. But I also know that some might find my ‘faith content’ a little too much, which is why I’m curious to know what Christian readers enjoy.
So with all of this in mind, I’d love for Christian readers to share your thoughts on the following:
What sort of ‘faith content’ do you like to see from your Christian characters in Christian books? What do you think makes a Christian book different to a ‘clean’ read?
How do you like to see faith portrayed between a hero and heroine in Christian fiction? When should the subject of faith come up? How does this / should this impact their romance? Eg do you like to see them pray together? Share Bible verses? Attend church? What are some books where you’ve seen this done well?
How do you expect Christian characters to conduct the ‘romance’ part of their relationship differently to non-Christians? What do you think about a Christian dating a non-Christian in a Christian book? How much kissing, etc is too much?
What do you think? Let’s chat.
Oh, and as an extra special bonus in this giveaway month, I have an ebook of one of my Original Six books for a commentator on this post. Let the discussion begin!