My sister LOVES Christian romance novels.
She has an entire bookshelf filled with them. I love reading, but I just can’t stand them! They don’t have nearly enough plot for me, but that’s why she loves them! We were in a bookstore once, and she was looking at the romances, and while reading the back of one of them, said “Nope. Too much plot.” and put it back! We actually call them “hair books” since that’s the main reason she buys them–the girl’s hair is really pretty on the cover.
When I was 14 I had a stage where I read as many Christian romance “hair books” as I could, being a lovestruck grade 9 girl, but since then I have never been able to fully appreciate that whole world of fiction, and I’ve narrowed it down to three reasons.
1. Struggles end as soon as they become Christian and Married
Meeting God and making a relationship with him is the most important thing in any person’s life. We understand. But the story doesn’t end there! Life gets harder, people struggle. Why don’t we see that side of the story? Why does everything always become picture perfect as soon as they meet God? Enemies become inseparable friends, the two people end up married, and this all happens within the course of about a week after meeting God. It’s really unrealistic, and really just the beginning of a bigger picture.
When you’re a Christian, life isn’t easy. That’s the cold, hard, truth. Life just gets harder usually. The hope is that we have God now to fight our battles for us, and that’s the beauty of Christianity–not that our struggles disappear.
And don’t even get me started on marriage. So many girls believe this lie that as soon as you are married your life is “happily ever after.” So not true. Marriage isn’t a fix-all cure for sadness and struggle, it’s a commitment which comes with a lot of battles of its own. It’s really unhealthy to tell teenage girls that as soon as they have God and a husband their lives will be perfect.
2. The Female Protagonists in Christian romance novels are weak
GIVE HER SOME FREAKING BACKBONE. Even the “strong” girls are pathetic! Especially in Christian romance novels–I read one where the girl “swooned” more than 5 times in the same book! I have a tendency of passing out, and come close to blacking out quite often, but I have never swooned at the mere sight of someone. Ever. It doesn’t happen. No matter how gorgeous he is. And frankly, it’s annoying when your plot keeps getting interrupted by some fainting little princess.
Beyond the physical, they are emotionally inept! They obsess over these men, refuse to take the easy way for anything, but instead every little misunderstanding becomes some huge catastrophe. Almost all Christian romance novels’ climaxes could be solved by the two people just talking to each other for once in the freaking book.
Also, why are they always 18th century girls with flawless skin? Why can’t we write about a girl with acne who lives in a middle-class neighborhood in 2013? Or a 50 year old man who’s trying to wrestle through his children’s leaving the church?
3. Christian romance novels verge on soft porn
His rippling biceps, barely contained by his shirt. Girls losing all ability to think when seeing him shirtless, a bolt of electricity sending shocks through her body. Watching him wash and wondering what his skin feels like. Picturing kissing him all over. I actually found all of these in Christian novels! Seriously! Since these are in Christian novels, it’s perceived as OK, because, well, they’re Christian. But that’s not love–that’s lust, and the images painted in these novels verge on soft porn. I understand that not all novels are like this, but the ones I found those examples in were popular Christian romances.
Above that, when it becomes OK to read these scenes in a Christian book, then it’s easy to just pick up a non-Christian romance. The scenes may be a little more explicit, but it’s OK because since it’s non-Christian, you can’t expect them to act in a Christ-like way. But after getting used to those romance novels, you want something new, so let’s try some harlequins. And after that, why wouldn’t you go on to read something like 50 Shades of Grey? (and that book has nothing “soft” about it.)
In all, it’s just unhealthy to be portraying that kind of obsession and lustful need as healthy and Christian.
That all said…
All the above is a generalization, specifically geared towards Christian romances. However, there are some Christian romance novels I just love, and here’s a list for you:
The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers
This book series is amazing. Set in Roman times it shows the struggles of early Christians. Although it’s also a romance I actually enjoyed this one–the characters are great, and stick with you although they can be a bit one-dimensional at times. I love the real struggles that they go through and how Francine Rivers works through them. Also, the plot-line is one of the best in all Christian fiction I’ve ever read.
Eve’s Daughters by Lynn Austen
This book follows the history of 3 generations of women in the same family, coming to terms with past sins and making difficult decisions for their futures. I love how it looks at each of the women’s lives and shows how seemingly small decisions can have a huge impact.
Again, this book follows many generations of women, and dives into the history at the time on top of being a romance novel. I just loved this one–the heroes aren’t perfect, and the plot was interesting.
What are some of our favourite Christian books? Do you love Christian romance novels? Why or why not?