When I mention the term to those who've never read any romance, they are confused. How can a romance novel (i.e., smut) be connected to something inspirational (i.e., pure)? To those familiar with romance and it's many genres and sub-genres, there is still usually a moment's hesitation. If you haven't read one, you're not sure why you would.
If you haven't read one, you don't know what you're missing.
When I read my first inspirational romance, "Leading Lady", by Lawana Blackwell, I had no idea it was inspirational romance. I knew it was a Victorian story, and I loved the cover. After I read it, I felt happy and satisfied. Job well done. Then a year or so later, I bought an anthology of Victorian romances, "English Carols and Scottish Bagpipes" by Pamela Griffin and Jill Stengl. Again, I adored the stories. This time it didn't take me quite so long to figure out they were inspirational, but they were Christmas stories, and I love holiday stories. No problems, even though the little radars were humming in my head.
I really, REALLY dislike being preached to.
It never happened. Not in that story, or next, or the several that followed. Instead, every time I read a well-written inspirational romance, I learn something more about the art and craft of what we do, the skill of subtlety that can be applied to any story, in any genre.
Writing romance is a tricky, tricky business. The romance must be the story, and for many/most (goodness, this will be a blog for another day) adults, a sexual relationship is a key component to romance. Most bestselling novels have a least a few detailed scenes that leave no doubt as to the couple's physical compatibility, and they do it WELL. And no one part of a romance novel is the easy part to write.
But to watch an author unfold the story before your eyes, to watch her mold the conflicts and characters and acknowledge their physical attraction while making sure the emotional components always take center stage--Wow. It's poetry in motion. At Nationals I picked up "Missionary Daddy" by Steeple Hill. I haven't read it yet, but I am looking forward to it, as I've never read a contemporary inspirational. I'm sure I'll pick up as much from it as I have from the others. And I'm reading Rita winner Tamera Alexander now; both her story and her skill are inspirational indeed.
Is anyone else fond of inspirationals? Do you look to other genres (paranormal, suspense, contemporary) to inspire your own work? What are your favorite finds, to read if not to write?
We'll swing in the opposite direction next Monday and talk about my set of 1928 sexual education texts.