Christian vs. Secular Romance — Bridging the Gap
Kara Leigh Miller & Jody Holford
Oftentimes, there are a lot of misconceptions about the Christian romance genre. It’s been dubbed by some as boring and preachy. As authors of this niche genre, we are excited at the opportunity to bridge the gap between these two markets. Before we can successfully do that, though, we must first define the primary differences between Christian and secular romance. Simply, it comes down to three things:
- Faith — Every Christian romance has an element of faith present throughout the story. Whether it is one of the main characters believing in God or attending church regularly or giving thanks before meals or saying nightly prayers, there’s always a relevant element of faith. It’s important to note that the faith doesn’t have to be “in your face” or preach to the readers. In fact, a strong Christian romance won’t do those things. It’s woven into the story subtly, it works with the plot to help strengthen it and the characters.
- Romantic Elements — Typically, there are never any physical acts of love in a Christian romance novel. It can be talked about under certain conditions, but there’s never any moments of physical intimacy on the page, except for kissing. That’s totally okay 😉
- Language — There’s never any cursing in Christian romance.
Now, we’ve heard the arguments that Christian romance is boring because it doesn’t have all the “good stuff” that secular romance has. In secular romance, authors have the benefit of really diving into the physical aspects of a relationship along with the emotional ramifications. Whereas in Christian romance, you don’t have that ability. For us, we had to work hard, to stretch ourselves as writers to be able to create that same sort of tension that wasn’t only emotional and physical, but spiritual as well. For example, in a secular romance, when the hero and heroine meet for the first time, there’s an instant, strong physical attraction. In Christian romance, the initial meeting of the characters is more of an emotional event.
In our book, Dangerous Love, Dr. Josh Parker’s first meeting with the heroine, Alessa Matthews is when she’s wheeled into the ER, beaten and half dead. There’s not an initial physical attraction, but rather a strong, internal need to want to help her and protect her — feelings that go beyond just his oath and duty as a doctor. Conversely, when Alessa awakens and consciously meets Josh for the first time, she’s thankful for his presence, for his gentle bedside manner and his ability to put her at ease.
Furthermore, neither of the two main characters have faith in the true sense of the word. Josh lost his faith shortly after his wife’s death. Alessa has no memory of her past for a majority of the book, so she really doesn’t know if she was a God fearing woman or not. Two of our secondary characters — Ethan and Amanda, who are Josh’s sister and brother in law — do have faith. Ethan is even the pastor of the local church. So for a majority of our book, they act as our faith element until our two main characters come around. Although Amanda is actively trying to get her brother back to church and back on terms with God, she doesn’t force him and she doesn’t preach to him, but rather let’s him find his own way back, which he eventually does thanks to a little help from our heroine.
From the very beginning stages of writing this book, it was important to us to ensure it had crossover appeal between both the Christian and secular markets. The draw for romance readers is the connection between the characters and the journey toward a happily ever after, regardless of market. We worked hard to achieve this by creating that intense connection between Josh and Alessa while also preserving the values and expectations that come within the Christian market. We don’t preach to our readers nor do we attempt to turn non-believers into believers. That’s not our job as Christian romance authors. It’s our job to tell a great story with compelling characters who live their lives by the teachings of God. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.