My first published novel was a western romance set in 1879 Denver, Colorado. EXTREME MEASURES came out in July 2002 and was a secular novel with Dorchester Publishing. The sale of that first novel was very high-profile. I entered the inaugural Romantic Times New Historical Voice Contest. And won. The prize was a publishing contract and a nice feature in the magazine.
Alas, my journey could have ended there. I couldn’t buy interest in my secular romances. II went many years without another sale, and only found success again when I switched from writing secular romances to inspirational romances.
I can’t say the move was an easy one. It took me a long time and a lot of false starts to learn the difference between the two sub-genres. Here are some of the misconceptions I had about the Inspirational romance market.
1. Level of Sensuality: This is the big difference between the two sub-genres and what I consider the pink elephant in the room. Inspirational romances are not merely “sweet romances.” Oh, they can certainly be “sweet,” but this is not a prerequisite.
In fact, a writer cannot simply take sex out of the story, or even shut the door to the bedroom, and magically have an inspirational romance.
Yes, the story should have two people falling in love without the use of sex, or blatant sexual tension on the page. However, the focus should always be on the emotional connection between the hero and heroine rather than the physical connection. Put another way, whether it’s a kiss, a look or even a touch, the event needs to trigger an emotional reaction in the character(s) not a physical one.
2. Attending church: Yet another misconception. Simply sending characters to church on Sunday does not make a romance an inspirational. Both the hero and heroine must go on a personal faith journey that is tied directly to their internal conflict. The inspirational thread is actually an additional element to the GMC of your character. Think of it this way: the internal growth of the hero and/or heroine must happen by way of the character’s faith journey.
3. The characters must all be good: No, no, no. Good is boring. Good is unrealistic. Good is…bad. In fact, the best inspirational romances are when the characters are deeply flawed from the inside out. The story will be much stronger if the hero and heroine make a few wrong decisions before they make the right ones.
I had a minister once say, “We’re all emotionally hurting on some level. Christians simply turn to Christ to help them get healthy.” That resonated with me as a writer and is something I keep in mind throughout the writing process. The more human the characters, the more they’ve fallen away from their belief system, the bigger the journey required to return to a stronger faith than before. Getting them there is half the fun and the key to a good inspirational romance.
4. Inspirational romances are preachy: Again, not true. Every inspirational romance is different, of course. The level of “preaching” will depend on the type of story, but nowhere should the story be a place for the author to bang the reader over the head with his or her personal theology.
Salvation stories (where a character ultimately comes to Christ who wasn’t a believer at the beginning of the book) can sometimes seem preachy to someone not used to reading inspirational romances. It’s up to the author to present this journey smoothly.
Stories where both the hero and heroine are already Christians but have fallen away from their faith tend to be less preachy. However, the faith journey still needs to be strong. Again, it’s up to the author to make sure this journey is both realistic and (wait for it…) inspiring.
Leave a comment and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of my November release, FINALLY A BRIDE, the seventh novel in my Charity House series. Here’s a quick blurb:
Reclaiming the Runaway Bride
Seven years and two broken engagements haven’t erased Garrett Mitchell from Molly Scott’s mind. Her employer insists Molly and Garrett belong together. To appease the well-meaning matchmaker, the pair agrees to a pretend courtship. But too late, Molly finds herself falling for a man who might never trust her.
Garrett is a prominent Denver attorney now, not the naive seventeen-year-old who always felt second-best. Surely the string of suitors Molly’s left behind only proves her fickleness. Does Garrett dare believe that she has only ever been waiting for him? The third engagement could be the charm, for his first—and only—love.
Charity House: Offering an oasis of hope, faith and love on the rugged Colorado frontier