Thursday, July 26, 2007

Inspire: to fill with high or reverent emotion. . .

Inspirational romance.

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.


Alice Audrey said...

I love well written books no matter what genre, but will admit I'm not all that taken with Inspirational. I guess I'm too crude. :D

AprilsMom said...

Hi, Gillian! (looking around) What a lovely website--I love what you've done with the place!

I haven't read any specific inspirational novels, but I remember reading several short stories when I was younger that were about inspirational romance. O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi" comes to mind. I think that connection-of-the-heart is the most satisfying part of any romance novel, with or without any steamy sex scenes. (And I agree with AA, good writing is satifying no matter what the genre!) Who would you suggest to read besides the authors in your comment?

Kelly Krysten said...

Great post! And I have actually been asked before how a Romance novel could be I think the best thing about those who denegrate the industry is that, many, have never read a romance novel. I was one of those once*sigh*
I've yet to try out an inspirational, but did just buy one the other day. Hopefully my experience will be as good as yours.

Gillian said...

Alice, you made me grin. I doubt that crude fits. Just a matter of different strokes for different folks.

Hi Aprilsmom!! You know, if you love historical, there are a load of good authors, but Lawana Blackwell is one of my favorites. And for contemporary, I adore Debbie Macomber. Most of her books are sweet romance, not actually inspirational, but she is just a great writer.

Kelly, I hope you enjoy yours too. I know I've barely tapped the market, so I'm sure there are a bunch of wonderful writers out there I've yet to find. It is the same with erotic romance, as well.

Maggie Robinson said...

Several years ago we rented a beach house near Nag's Head, NC. Every single book in the bedroom was an inspirational romance, and I'm afraid they were not of the delightful variety you found. I guess I find religion to be a private thing (or it should be!). I mean, I'm still not used to shaking hands during the service and muttering "peace be with you." But I find even in my own very secular writing, God seems to have a way of creeping into some of the characters. *g*

Gillian said...

I totally agree, Maggie. And it really did catch me by surprise to realize that some of the books I was reading were classified as inspirational. As in all sub-categories, I imagine the subtlety varies, but I learn the most from the ones that make me really search for the way they weave in the physical attraction and the spiritual message.

beverley said...

I accidently read an inspirational by Francine Rivers. I say accidentally because I didn't know it was inspirational ("Redeeming Love") Talking about emotional!!! My heart was in a vise throughout the entire book.
Every now and then, I'll pick up a contemporary, but I'm really strictly historical.

Gillian said...

Bev, I have really enjoyed spreading my horizons with all those free books from Nationals. And although I picked up a bunch of new (for me) historicals, I'm really enjoying the paranormals as well.

Lenora Bell said...

Thanks for the horizon-expanding post, Gillian. I'll have to check out Lawana Blackwell.

Gillian said...

Hi Lenora!

I hope you enjoy her. She has two series, The Gresham Chronicles and Tales of London. As with most series, they stand alone but are more enjoyable read in order. :)

Eliza said...

I just started reading inspirational historical romances this year...because an editor at one of the Big Inspirational Houses was interested in one of my manuscripts. I thought I should study up on what was out there.

I grew up in a Christian home and am still a Christian, but in those days the books were, well, blech. I prefer gothic novels (a la Daphne Du Maurier) and crime/suspense (like Sara Gran and Patricia Highsmith) to romances, but since I was specifically asked to write an inspirational romance thread into the book, I thought I'd give it a shot. And the only hard part was leaving out the curse words I'm so fond of. *cough*

I was happy to find Deeanne Gist, the Bunns, and James Scott Bell as just good fiction, without the preaching. The best-written ones were Glimpses of Paradise (Bell) and The Noble Fugitive (Bunn).

Just found you through Unusual Historicals, and I'm very much loving your blog. Consider yourself RSS-fed. ;-)