CHRISTIAN romance novels featuring not-so-steamy love affairs between men and women of faith make for some good reading that inspires readers to pray and study the Bible more, says an expert.
In fact, by portraying romantic love within the moral and ethical context of Christianity, the fiction serves as a template for male-female relationships that can lead to happier marriages and a more fulfilling life.
And make no mistake, that’s exactly what the women who read Christian romance novels are looking for, says Lynn Neal, author of the important new book Romancing God: Evangelical Women and Inspirational Fiction (University of North Carolina Press).
“These women aren’t going to R-rated movies and they aren’t reading Harlequin novels that are known for lurid sexual passages,” Neal, assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Appalachian State University, told the Herald-Guide.
“They believe their leisure time should reflect their religious beliefs,” she continues.
"They are permeating their life with activities that reinforce their belief system. Their choice of reading material reflects their desire to uphold that faith and have it strengthened."
The women also read with a critical eye.
"The stereotype of the romance reader is that they aren't very critical readers," she said.
"But readers of Christian romance novels are picky. They are evaluating the theological content of the book and the writing style.
"And they are particularly concerned about the presentation of sexuality in the books.
“You can rest assured that the door closes at the bedroom in a Christian romance novel.
“It doesn't go into the detail you would get in the mass-market romance novel."
Christian romance novels, Neal says, are rooted in 19th-century “sentimental literature” in which relationships between the sexes transcended physical attachments.
Many women who write Christian romance novels consider them a form of ministry.
They believe they have been called by God to write the novels, and they hope to convert people through their writing and help women maintain their faith, Neal said.
Readers told Neal that the heroines in the novel inspire them to better their spiritual lives, to forgive, pray, trust God or read the Bible more.
5 Christian romance novels worth reading
1. Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers.
2. Love Comes Softly, by Janette Oke.
3. The Princess, by Lori Wick.
4. The Crossroad, by Beverly Lewis.
5. Catching Katie, by Robin Lee Hatcher."
Source: Lynn Neal, exclusive to the St. Charles Herald-Guide