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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The romance in my soul . . .


Hard-wired for it, I can't remember that thing called romance never being with me. Not in the gushy, girly-girl, over-the-top kind of way. Not that I can fault that. It is what it is. But rather so deep in my soul that it covers everything else. It rises to a three note tune and overwhelms me. The melancholy or the sensuality or the desire to immerse myself in its beauty. It's integral to who I am even when I don't know who that is.

This romance in my soul emerges from the sad, sacred sounds of Chris Botti's trumpet. It hovers inside me bringing all the insecurity of that first date. First kiss. Lips touching.

I sense the holiness intended -but corrupted.

The intensity of sensation that God intended for good. The genesis of romance from God's heart to the human will. Tainted but salvaged in potential obedience.

I can't take the sensuality away from it. Hand in hand they travel. Merging. Right or wrong.

I capture the essence of romance in my love story novels. Because I must. If I do nothing else well, I write romance - total immersion. Not demanding it conform to me or anyone else but that it treasure the gift of God to humanity.

The purist gift of souls and bodies merging changed, ravaged by sin. The contrast remains. The purity is lost. This is what I write about. Capturing that contrast because it's hidden from view even within the boundaries of faith, often unrealistically portrayed within the pages of Christian novels. Or worse: ignored.

I lived it from both sides. I've survived the shame and repentance. I can describe the curse of sin and how it applies to the worldview of romance. Because I've been there, I can write it. Like it is. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Contrast it. Make it real.

Christian publishing struggles in this reality. The romance in my soul demands honesty. Are we still hiding our nakedness from God? We can't. Our hearts lie exposed before Him.

Sweet little romances own their much-deserved place in Christian fiction. My question to readers is this: What's at the root of reading these kinds of novels? Is it the desire to return to the pre-sin Garden experience? Is it the desire for happily-ever-afters? Is it the desire to leave out the sensual apsects of romance and stick to the basics of simple attraction? Is it the desire to refrain from the "dangerous"? Please understand I'm not putting down the choice or reasons for reading these novels. I just want to know how the genre became so restrictive to the parts of romance that seem more "real" to me.
Raw, romantic, redemptive . . .
 Nicole Petrino-Salter writes love stories with a passion. Visit her here. 


  1. I found your closing question intriguing. For me the line between romance and sensuality follows the exhortation that Jesus gave. If you lust after a woman in your heart you have committed adultery with her.
    Words on a page are powerful. Many people have come to Jesus out of sexual addiction. Many Christians struggle with sexual temptations. To much detail,sexual description, can send these readers to places they do not want to go. I agree that romance can't be bland and elementary school level but our Lord has given us the mandate not to cause another to stumble.
    One could argue these individuals should not be reading romance novels if they are so weak. What I see is a need for balance. Leave some details to the imagination. Ask God to proof-read any questionable descriptions. After all He promises that if we lack wisdom we can ask Him and He will give it freely. A good romance has lots of layers besides the physical attraction and the resolution of the problems can be just as stimulating to the romantic angle as a detailed description of the physical encounter. After all love has a deep emotional and spiritual layer that makes it last until death do us part.

  2. Great thoughts Nicole. My guess is all of your answers and more. It's the same reason people are uncomfortable with a book like Song of Solomon so they tend to spiritualize it to the point the initial story of Salomon's passion for the wife of his youth is all but lost.

  3. Thought provoking, Nicole. I'm on my way to Amazon to get one of your books. I don't read a lot of romance, unless there is more to the story than just the romance. It sounds to me like yours have that. So, your name just went on my library list. :)

  4. Just to be clear, I'm not talking about graphics in the sexual arena. However, some readers view anything above mere attraction as "graphics". Speaking of lust, it goes both ways. And I think lust can be contrasted/demonstrated within story to separate the worldview from God's view. I don't write to cause anyone to stumble, and I doubt Christian writers would do so. However, it's impossible as a writer not to offend someone. Readers take a share of the responsibility in not reading what is provocative to them.

    I would agree many are addicted to sex in this society and all over the world. (I even wrote a novel about it called Wounds . . . and Healings.) So it could be argued that if romance novels present any kind of stimulation/titillation to them, perhaps they should choose a different genre.

    I also agree a good romance has many layers, but some readers seem content to stay at mere attraction when the beauty of romance itself is layered with the physical, emotional, and spiritual. Glossing over these aspects only presents partial and incomplete revelation to this reader.

    And I absolutely agree the Holy Spirit should direct the story, the words, and the selection of novels that readers choose.

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments, jubileewriter.

  5. Tim, I totally agree about Song of Solomon. It's a beautiful "Song". The passion of course can be spiritualized, but let's face it, if we don't get the physical passion infused into our being, we won't fully understand God's passion for us. I think people forget that God invented sex. It was tainted and potentially ruined in The Fall, but He's willing to restore us in this area. Maybe that's so we can fully understand passion for anything.

  6. Ane, you're a doll. I have to warn you: I'm not your "normal" CBA writer. Wait till I email you.

  7. One picture of Jesus through the Scriptures is a lover pursuing his bride with full abandon.

    I agree with the first poster that care should be taken with our language. However, I stand with Nicole that there should be room in Christian fiction for the safe and sweet fiction and books that challenge us and push the boundaries. Not pushing boundaries in a rebellious "let's see what we can get away with" way, but fighting against a Pharisee-like attitude that puts a heavy standard to overprotect what God is really like.

    I think there should be books that are enjoyable but don't cause waves, and those that elicit a few complaints. I don't want to stumble people, but I'm convinced there is a "professional weaker brother" mentality that takes offense and plays the stumble card when they are not truly stumbled, but their sensitivities have been stepped on.

    The world sees Christians as hypocrites in part because of our facades we put out there. If we are real, that argument dies. I would like to see gifted Christian writers tell a true romance that radiates the truth of the Word - the dirty can become clean, the unworthy can be made worthy, and the unloveable become passionately loved.

  8. So well said, Jason. Thoughtful comment. Thank you.

  9. Beautifully written post, Nicole.

    I believe that the Bible addresses areas of lust/sensuality, therefore, we should also be able to do that as Christian writers dealing with reality. Very interesting observation about romance novels seeking that "pre-fall" perfect romance mentality. I agree with you. I would rather read a realistic book, with characters who struggle with the same sins I've encountered or seen others encounter, than some white-washed diversion that portrays love/romance as something it is NOT (nor will it ever be in this life).

    But I also agree that we can't be erotic and graphic w/what we write. Why are romances (even worldly ones, like 50 Shades of Gray) selling like hotcakes among women? Because story engages our minds--and any psychologist/counselor will tell you that romance is linked to the MIND in women.

    Here's hoping we can deal with very real-life romantic issues in such a way that resonates with women...with our Christian worldviews steering the way the stories play out and turn out in the end.

  10. Nicely stated, Heather.

    And thank you. ;)

  11. Terrific discussion. Thanks for getting it started, Nicole.

  12. An interesting post, Nicole.Recently I had a conversation with some CBA publishing professionals about how the romance genre became so restrictive. The consensus was that in past years, Christian bookstores dictated to no small degree which content was acceptable and those restrictions eventually took on the weight of law.Publishers had to comply in order to have their books in those stores. More recently as these stores have abandoned their core mission of selling books in favor of selling gift items, their market share has dropped and their influence over content is waning. At the same time, CBA publishers are realizing that survival depends upon broadening the appeal of Christian fiction to a larger and more diverse readership. All of this is good news for authors who have chafed against the old restrictions. I doubt we will ever see the kind of passages in Christian fiction that made general market authors such as LyVerle Spencer such a success in the 1980's, but perhaps this new paradigm will allow romance to be portrayed in a more complete and realistic light. For Christian authors it presents a delicate balance: how to gain enough readers to grow and sustain a career while holding fast to the principles and beliefs that set Christian fiction apart.

  13. Fascinating information, Dorothy. Thank you for that.

    I know I don't want to do the general market kind of romance - or read it for that matter - but I definitely want more realism and include it in my novels.

    You're absolutely right about the balance. And I think it can be done, but no doubt some of us will need a "different" branch from the current CBA romance readers.


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