Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Spiritual Conflict in The Romance Novel by Laurie Alice Eakes

“Eakes has a charming way of making her novels come to life without being over the top,” writes Romantic times of  bestselling, award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes. Since she lay in bed as a child telling herself stories, she has fulfilled her dream of becoming a published author with a dozen books and novellas in print and more on the way. A graduate of Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate program, she also teaches writing and gives inspirational talks to women’s groups. She lives in Texas with her husband, dogs, and cats.

Follow her on Twitter:
Read excerpts from her books at:

Spiritual Conflict in the Romance Novel

"Why do you read romance novels?" I've been asked more times than I can count on fingers
and toes with my nose and ears tossed into the mix. "You know how it's going to end. The  hero and heroine always get together."

"Ah, yes," I respond, "But it's HOW they get together, how they resolve their conflicts that makes the story worth reading." 

Conflict is essential to a romance novel. Without a believable and compelling reason for the hero and heroine to stay apart for 200-400 pages, the point of the story is completely lost. In fact, if boy meets girl and they fall in love and have a friction-free courtship, no one would want to read the story because it is probably unrealistic. It is what non-romance readers think that romance novels are.

Conflict, contrary to what many believe, is not 200-400 pages of hero and heroine sniping at one another until they realize they’re in love. That would be ludicrous and tiresome to read.

The hero and heroine must have some kind of personal issues that keep them from diving head first into the relationship and staying their. This is internal conflict. One can also have external conflict. This is some outside force that keeps the protagonists apart—war, an interfering parent, whatever the writer’s imagination comes up with. Internal and external conflict have been the mainstay of romance novels since romance novels have existed—Mr. Darcy is arrogant, Mr. Rochester had another wife already, Emma needs to grow up. . .

Now, enter the inspirational romance novel and one more layer—spiritual conflict.

Inspirational romances are written from a “Christian world view”. Again, this does not mean their world is friction free. It means the Christian characters incorporate their faith into the decisions they make, the actions they take, the viewpoints about the issue they hold—at least they are supposed to. At least they know they are supposed to do so. When they do not consider their faith, or if their faith is in crisis, you have spiritual conflict.

In my recent release from Baker/Revell, A Flight of Fancy, my heroine, Cassandra, and hero, Geoffrey, Lord Whittaker, hold a great deal of guilt because of their past behavior with one another. They allow this guilt to stand between themselves and god, and then between one another. When a tragic accident befalls Cassandra, she thinks God is punishing her and thus backs away from her faith altogether. Until Cassandra and Whittaker can resolve their spiritual conflict, they cannot resolve their romantic conflict either.

On the other end of the spiritual conflict spectrum, in my upcoming Heartsong, The Carpenter’s Inheritance, my hero and heroine hold their faith and hold it fairly strongly throughout the story. The conflict rises from them questioning god’s purpose for their lives, as they try to work out which direction they should take as godly men and women. Their decisions in this direction make a difference in the romance outcome also.

Unlike with romantic conflict, an inspirational romance does not specifically need spiritual conflict; however, it makes for a deeper and richer story if that extra layer of internal issues exists. In addition, when the characters need to get their hearts right with the Lord before they can get their hearts right with one another, it sends the reader a stronger message of how accepting God’s love and redemption impacts all aspects of our lives, especially our relationships with one another.

Her head is in the clouds. His feet are planted firmly on the ground. Can love cover the distance?
Cassandra Bainbridge may be a bit of a bluestocking, but when Geoffrey Giles is near, love seems a fine alternative to passion for Greek and the physics of flight. With his dashing good looks and undying devotion to her, the earl of Whittaker sets Cassandra's heart racing with his very presence. It seems his only flaw is his distaste for ballooning, the obsession that consumes so much of her thoughts.

When a terrible accident compels her to end her betrothal, Cassandra heads for the country to recover from both her injuries and her broken heart. With time on her hands and good friends to help her, she pursues her love for ballooning and envisions a future for herself as a daring aeronaut. But when Lord Whittaker slips back into her life, will she have to choose between him and her dream?


Iola said...

You say "an inspirational romance does not specifically need spiritual conflict".

I agree - and I don't. An inspirationanl romance without spritual conflict can be no different from a general-market romance without swearing and sex. But an inspirational romance with spiritual conflict can become a 300-page sermon.

The middle ground is what makes a Christian novel have the potential to be great (at least, to me): enough spiritual conflict that the novel is clearly Christian, not so much that it is 'preachy', but still with a clear spiritual message.

Susan Anne Mason said...

So very true! Thanks for the wonderful description! Congrats on both your books. They look wonderful.