Thursday, November 8, 2012

Christian Romance: What exactly is it?

I've heard more than once that "Christian Romance is an oxymoron," that there can be no such thing.

As a Christian romance author, I beg to differ, and quite loudly at that.

The romance genre isn't all bodice rippers, graphic scenes, and half-naked men on the cover. And it SURE is isn't all Fifty Shades of Filth. (my apologies to you who read and enjoyed the book...)

I'll even take a step further and say "romance" isn't all about sex either. (although as a married woman and mom of 4 kids and an angel baby... it is about it at least a little!)

As a Christian author, I attempt to write romance through a Godly perspective.

First, what exactly IS romance? defines it as A feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.

I can get on board with that. Romance is about feeling. Our romance novels, regardless of CBA or ABA, should invoke emotions or feeling in our readers.

Even basic childhood fairytails do that. I mean, seriously. Who doesn't have that little heart quickening when Cinderella's slipper fits at last, or when the prince sweeps her into his arms? Or when Belle kisses the Beast as the last petal falls off the rose?

It isn't all sexual. Especially for women, it's about a heart connection on an intimate level.

In Christian romance, we have a unique responsibility. There are certain lines that shouldn't be crossed. Those lines vary widely based on readership and publishing house. 

For me, I choose to view those lines as a challenge instead of a barrier. I'm challenged to show the romance and to connect my reader while showing restraint. know, restraint can be quiet sexy in itself. While not a Christian book, Twilight was a great example of a "hero" showing respect and restraint, and as twisted as it was, a man denying his basic human (or in his case, non-human) need out of love for the woman of his heart... that, my friends, is ROMANTIC.

Every author needs to examine their heart, pray, and deciding on what their "lines" are, but I'll share with you the guidelines I use:


"Un"married sex happens. It is not a no-no to be included in my books, but it is shown a moral no-no if it happens. In "Sandwich" my heroine has a pretty racy past. She slept with half the guys in her high school class. She's now a Christian and left that life behind her, but it's still a struggle. Karen Kingsbury's Return features a hero who goes too far with his girlfriend, and the resulting story showcases the consequences.


I've always said, characters can have sex (although see above note about unmarried ones)... as long as you close the door and give them privacy. But that begs the question... when does the door need to be closed? For me, my rule of thumb is before clothes start being shed, or at what point the door needs to be shut to keep kids out:-)


To be blunt... in romantic situations, there are certain, um, parts of the body that react. Since it is our goal to invoke romantic feelings in our readers, not lustful ones, I limit visceral (and physical) descriptions to areas of the body that aren't covered by a bikini or boxers.

RULE OF THUMB: My final line is this, and it covers all of the above three issues nicely.

I don't write anything that I'd feel embarrassed if my mom would read it. I have a fairly conservative mother, but not so much that she's scandalized at the S. E. X. word, so this works for me. 

Discussion: Do your "lines" differ from mine above? What are your thoughts on Christian romance?


Debra E. Marvin said...

very well put, Krista!

My test audience (in my head), is the teen girls in my church. How would I feel about having them read my book? Our CBA books are certainly pretty tame compared to what's going on in TV, movies and even YA books, yet I want them to be realistic, too. People do have visceral reactions to all emotions so it's a fine line we draw. And of course, we all draw those lines at different points and so do publishers.

Jeanne T said...

Great thoughts, Krista. I like how you described your lines and what helps you draw them. I think mine line up pretty closely with yours. I'm writing women's fiction about a married couple. To be honest, I haven't even figured out where to place a kiss in the story (well, one is in there, and my crit partners are gettting on me. :) I'm still working out how I want to show that aspect of their relationship. ;)

Lindsay Harrel said...

Writing romance is kind of hard, only because there can only be so many shots of heat up arms, flushed cheeks, etc. But I definitely agree that romance is about more than the physical, and that there need to be certain boundaries set. I think you've got great ones here.

Pepper said...

GREAT points, Krista.
I would have to make one correction- vampires don't have beating hearts so love MUST come from somewhere else, right?!? LOL

Okay, okay - back to the post.
I think you rule of thumb is a good one. I think the point we're trying to make underneath all the heat and kisses (for Christian authors) helps drive the point of our romance. It doesn't mean we run rampant with it, though.

I'm with Lindsay - it's hard to figure out how to always describe the physical if you don't pair it with a deeper emotional growth because after a while the poor hero or heroine just reads like their having a cardiac arrest coupled with frostbite.
:-) I'm going back through my wIP to check on cardiac arrest moments.

Krista Phillips said...

Debra, I always say my books are suitable for "16 and up." My girls have been told that they can't read them until they are that age.

Re: placement of kisses... I say do what is natural. A good kiss is oh-so-needed and totally warrented in a romance, and definitely between a married couple. I try to keep in mind that even for a 16 year old who is reading my book, it's important for them to see how rich and wonderful married romance and kisses can be. It's why my hubby and I have no problem making out in the kitchen and sending my kids running yelling, "EWWWWWWW" While it is ew to them now, it's SUPER important for them to see that GOOD romance modeled by their parents.

Krista Phillips said...

Okay, I just realized I mixed my response to Debra and jeanne all in one. WHOOPS. It's been a long morning... HA HA HA!

Krista Phillips said...

Lindsay, I KNOW!!!! It IS a challenge and I'm a fan of challenges, ha ha ha! And on the flip side, if I were to write the, um, more graphic romances (not gonna happen....) I also think there are only so many ways to describe what goes where too. I think having that boundary makes us have to be a little more creative, and that's a GOOD thing... even though it is difficult.

Krista Phillips said...

PEPPER!!!! I guess I didn't realize that Vampires don't have beating hearts. I guess we could go back to the Biblical example of throbbing bowels... but, uh, no.

Have fun with the cardiac arrest scene!

Iola said...

To me, Christian romance serves three important purposes:

1) Reflects our love relationship with Jesus

2) Models solid Christian male-female relationships. Not everyone is blessed to have that as their upbringing.

3) Entertainment that doesn't need a dose of brain-bleach afterwards (unlike most general market romances, and almost everything on TV)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I like this post. You know I write romance, too :) I like the idea of looking at it as a challenge. I want my readers to be moved, to be entertained, and to hopefully see a hero to heroine romance as an example of the ultimate romance between us and God.

Krista Phillips said...

Lola... Agree on all 3 points!

Krista Phillips said...

Cindy... YES! To not only be a model of a healthy romantic relationship HERE... but a model of how fantastic the heart connection can be between Jesus and his bride.... US!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Great post, Krista! I found myself nodding, laughing, and blushing as I read this. My favorite line is the boxers or bikini one. Brilliant way to explain it. :)

Krista Phillips said...


I used the word "visceral" JUST for you, my friend!!!!!! LOL (fyi for everyone else, Sarah is the QUEEN of fabulous viscerals in her fiction... I, on the other hand, am NOT!)