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? Dictionary.com 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. And...you 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?