Sex in Inspirational and Clean Romance

I know I am opening a can of worms here, but It’s my blog and I’ll say what I want too. 😊

As a romance writer whose audience prefers a clean read the question authors have is how to define it. Clean or cozy romance general means all the steamy stuff happens behind closed doors. The details are left to the readers’ imagination. But the attraction, the warm fuzzies, and sexual tension are part of what the reader sees on the page. Hugs, kisses that grow in intensity, cuddling close, and pressing close fully clothed are all acceptable in this definition. Lots of sparks and tingly sensations and a head full of thoughts of the love interest. Keeping the bedroom door closed is the basic definition of a clean romance. Inspirational romance falls in that same category. There may be intense moments and a suggestion of sex, but the shades are drawn for the reader.

Marriage bed

Now we come to the burning question, what about married sex?  That is an interesting question. I recently read a series of inspirational historical romance where among the scripture references and prayer the reader watches the main characters have sex for the first time. The author I suppose did it tastefully, but it still mentioned body parts and what the couple was doing including groans. Not something I’d want my middle-school granddaughter to read. And that is the key. Most people who read clean romance, especially of the inspirational kind will share the book with the younger generation. The characters are an example of the kind of successful relationship I would want my granddaughters to experience. Although we live in a very liberal society I find it discomforting to think she might stumble across something explicit on my bookshelf.

In the middle ages when royalty wed there were witnesses on their wedding night. A priest and perhaps another man would watch the couple consummate their marriage. Then there was no doubt that the two were truly married in every way. I’m sorry—but EWWW! I wouldn’t be married today if someone had been permitted to watch.

But it’s make-believe

Yes, I know, romance novels aren’t about real people. But explicit descriptions stir things in a reader that may make them uncomfortable. When they pick up what they expect to be clean and find more than they bargained for they will either throw it across the room or give the author a terrible review or both.

Because the scripture is my guidebook and every reference to sex in the Bible leaves the details to the imagination I use that as my guide as I write my stories. Sex in the confines of marriage is to be celebrated. Even if we have characters who struggle with the issues of intimacy the writer can show how they overcame it without giving graphic details.

Let’s define graphic

Graphic details have a different meaning from one person to another. Some readers don’t even want the name of body parts mentioned i.e. breasts would become upper torso. (I know that is extreme.)  For others, the steam can get intense but at that key moment the door is shut for the reader and we rejoin the couple the next morning.

Most publishers have their definition of what is acceptable in the pages of their novels based on their audience. Before you begin to craft those scenes, read books from their romance line, and learn what they expect. If it makes you feel uncomfortable then find a different publisher who fits your preferences.

A well-written romance will sell even without sex scenes. The story arc, the characters’ inner struggles, and eventually victories of the hero and heroine are what these readers want. A truly happily-ever-after ending leaves them giddy.

This whole post is about clean romance only. Now I’m going to ask you: –

What are your thoughts on the subject?  

 

Two of my favorite new authors and why I love them

They say it’s important to read best-sellers and study their work to see how they did it. “They” can often miss some great gems in the leasser known authors. As I said before, I read alot. I love stories, I love learning things and when they can be combined in wonderful novels I’m especially blessed. I write historical romance and I reading how other historicla authors create their worlds teaches me things even if the author isn’t on the NYT best seller list. Below are four books I read over the last few months that really resinated with me. One is a series by Naomi Musch and the other is by Denise Weimer. Both excellent historical writers with other wonderful books available.

The Echoes of Heart series takes place in the first part of the twentieth century, a time less written about. Here are hNaomi Musch’s three books and my reviews of them.

Echoes of The Heart Book # 1 The Deepest Sigh by Naomi Musch

Seventeen year old Marilla Eckert has been in love with Langdon Prescott, her family’s hired hand, since she was fourteen years old. Determined to win him, she’s blissfully unaware of the secret passion he feels for her older sister Delia. But when Delia weds a longtime beau, Lang settles for Marilla and marries her anyway, despite his continued longing and intent to someday win her sister away from her husband. It isn’t long before Marilla realizes where Lang’s devotion truly lies, yet she presses on, giving everything she has to offer, convinced she can still gain his love.

Then America steps into the Great War. The men are sent a world away to fight, and Marilla’s cares, coupled with the lack of her husband’s favor, finally wear her thin. When heartache and disaster strike on every front, and Marilla’s hour of need leads her elsewhere for comfort, will all of them wind up too broken to ever find their hearts’ true homes?

My review

The setting is Wisconsin dairy country during the time of World War I. It’s the retelling of the Biblical story of Rachel and Leah, but it’s not. I found myself disliking Langdon Prescott right from the start. But that was good, because when he changes for the better I’m cheering. My heart went out to his longsuffering wife Rilla, who loved him from the moment she first lays eyes on him. This historically accurate, well-crafted story was everything I wanted to see despite a few detours before reaching it’s satisfying ending.

Book #2 The Softest Breath

Modern girls seemed always in a hurry. Now one of them has slammed into Jacob Hessman on the street near St. Paul’s Union Depot and boarded his train. He knows her type: flapper-chic in her bobbed hair and stylish dress, so different from the sweet, country-bred kind of girl who once filled his heart.

Gwendolyn Smith’s narrow window of time to escape Hugh Phelps is closing fast. Performing in speakeasies and underground clubs has left her mistrustful of most men, but the big fellow she plows into on her flight to the station seems safe enough to attach herself to for short-term protection.

Friendship unfolds, but Gwen hides behind lies, wishing she might deserve such a God-fearing man as Jacob, and Jacob’s pursuit of a perfect wife conflicts with his mounting concern for Gwen. Meanwhile, Hugh is catching up. For Jacob and Gwen, trapped in their pasts and misconceptions, the time for truth and love is running out.

My review

Jacob Hessman, the longsuffering friend of Marilla in The Deepest Sigh get his happily ever after. I was fond of Jacob and his desire to always do the right thing. And that conviction presents all sorts of problems when he determines to help the mysterious Gwen Smith. Loved the characters. The prohibition era setting made it so interesting. Naomi Much captures the timeframe and keeps you there through the whole story. I enjoyed the twists and turns the plot takes before the two are truly ready to tie the knot.

 

Book #3 The Brightest Hope

Five years after the Great War…Holly Allen is a well-adjusted war widow with a knack for running the family press. She’s over the days of waiting for a white knight to ride in and sweep her away from her cares. Besides, if Hugh Phelps is a knight, he’s certainly a black one—with his prison record, personal demons, and the ghosts of war that haunt him. When Holly hires Hugh, despite her reservations, it isn’t long before she sees the man he could really be, and as Hugh finds his niche at Allen’s Printing, he finds his lady boss equally appealing. Despite the attraction, however, Holly won’t let herself fall for a faithless man, and Hugh isn’t on gracious terms with God. Then, just when new beginnings seem possible, old heartaches from the war come calling. Now it might only be in letting go of everything dear that they both discover what real love is.

 

My Review

I’ll admit I was surprised when Huge Phelps, the villian, from The Softest Breath becomes the hero in this story. His reformation is not quite complete until he truly learns what sacrificial love is as he finds himself falling for Holly Allen. The surprise in this plot left me saying “oh no!” and turning the pages to see how it would all work out. A satisfying ending not only to this story but the Echoes of the Heart series.

 

Denise Weimer’s The Witness Tree

Past betrayal has turned John Kliest’s passion to his work as a builder and surveyor in the Moravian town of Salem, North Carolina. Now, to satisfy the elders’ edict and fulfill his mission in Cherokee Territory, he needs a bride. But the one woman qualified to record the Cherokee language longs for a future with his younger brother.

Clarissa Vogler’s dream of a life with Daniel Kliest is shattered when she is chosen by lot to marry his older brother and venture into the uncharted frontier. Can she learn to love this stoic man who is now her husband? Her survival hinges on being able to trust him—but they both harbor secrets.

 

 

My review

Denise Weimer brought the Moravian culture from the early 1800s to life for me. I learned so much about the time period while following the Kleists into the wilderness of Georgia and the Cherokee nation. Wonderful surprises and plot twists. The sprinkling of German and Cherokee words throughout the story added to the realism. Following the struggles of the arranged marriage of John and Clarissa kept me turning the pages. Many actual historical figure mingled into the story added the realism that made this story truly engaging.

My thoughts on Naomi Musch and Denise Weimer

Naomi Musch

Both of these authors captured the time periods beautifully. Showing the culture and the mind set of those from history. I learned a great deal as a lover of history and a writer of Historical Romance. And as a reader getting swept away into another time is absolutely the best experience ever.

Denise Weimer

 

 

Have you discovered any awesome authors that aren’t on the NYT Best-Sellers list that you love?  Share in the comments.

An Out of the Box Book Signing Venue

DSC_1315Finding places for book signings can be such a hassle. The possibilities of sales are risky. When I wrote my latest release New Duet I placed it in Aurora, Illinois with the intention of garnering a fan base from my hometown. To gain those readers I had to have book signings locally.  Which required me to leave my writing cave. One of the settings in my book is an Art gallery frame shop called If These Walls Could Talk. The owners support the arts. My heroine Isabella goes there to view the artwork and gains inspiration for her life.

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When I approached the owners about having a book signing they were excited. Aurora has entertainment every first Friday of the month from April to October. We agreed First Friday in August would be the perfect time to showcase me. Each First Friday has a theme. In a city of 200,00 there are activities at various venues down town.

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If These Walls Could Talk arranged to have the block in front of their store closed off for an Artist Block Party. The artist set up on the block to sell their wares. Many created pieces during the night. One woman held an art class for passersby. There were no other authors there.

 

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Notice the easel, paints and military items. These represent the characters of Isabella and Dan in New Duet.

 

The shop offered light refreshments and a wine tasting to those who came by to see the art inside. Jennifer is a smart marketer. She displayed my books in her window for two weeks before the event and they will remain for two weeks after. My book trailer played on a loop in the window.

I sold more books then I have at any event. Patrons came in and I mention my book was set in Aurora and this shop was one of the scenes. That intrigued them. (Key marketing point: Talk to people don’t just sit behind your table and hope to sell books.) I had copies of my historical romance Secrets & Charades on the table and those sold as well.

People who wouldn’t normally buy inspiration romance or shop in a Christian bookstore purchased New Duet. I found avid readers who were thrilled to get an autographed copy from a local author. The art community is a great supporter of one another. Often we forget writing a novel is an art form.

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I met ladies who are part of a book club. Who knows I may get featured there.

Getting my face out there in a non-typical book signing setting was fun and hopefully brings me new fans.

I offered a chance to win a $10 amazon card if they signed up for my e-newsletter.

I’d do another event like this in a heartbeat.

How about you? What venues were gold for you?

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Interview with Missionary Author Nancy Kelley Alveraz

Nancy Kelley Alveraz has stopped by for a visit today.  I am happy to have her here. She is serving as a missionary in the Philippines, a place near to my heart. Her novel The Butterfly Impact is set in the Philippines. I love the idea of giving American readers a sense of what the world is like outside our borders while sharing your heroine’s story.  

I’ve got sweet rice and Tang to commemorate the day. Two of the often-served treats when my hubby and I ministered there. So, let’s settle in and get on with our interview.

Nancy, tell us about yourself.

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Nancy Kelley Alveraz

 

I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan but also lived in Wheaton, Illinois and Orlando, Florida. I came to know the Lord when I was a teenager crying out to God for purpose and love. He responded in a slow and steady way to bring me to the place where I could understand His love and purpose. The church I attended taught me much about mission work and my heart was drawn to helping others know Him.

After college, I was asked to go to the Philippines as a short-term missionary which stretched to 3 yrs. I fell in love with the people and my eyes were opened to how many people around the world live in poverty. I knew God was calling me to continue on this journey. After graduate school and 4 years in Japan I ended up back in the Philippines as a 39 yr old. I struggled as a single missionary but God had special plans for me. And that’s what the book is about.

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Nancy and her husband.

 

Tell us a bit about your novel.

Raina made a mess of her life. Now guilt and grief follow her everywhere. While picking up the pieces of her life God calls her to take His love and truth to others—in a distant land. Can she cope with a new culture, language, home and friends? Or will her insecurities drag her deeper into loneliness.

As a caterpillar goes through the metamorphosis from worm to delicate butterfly so is the journey from a shameful past to living in the freedom God intended. It can be a tortuous process . . . but for Raina, it’s worth it!

Laugh, cry and rejoice with Raina as God’s healing love gives her courage to do more than she ever dreamed possible.

This fictionalized story is based on real life events

 

What prompted you to write Butterfly Impact?

I wanted to give God the glory for the wonderful things He did in my life. I also want people to see how God can take a shy, ordinary girl with weaknesses and failures and use her for His purposes. This is my story, a fictionalized version.

What do you hope readers take away from your story?

When we fall we should not lose hope. Difficulties are God’s opportunity for growth and unexpected outcomes. Don’t be afraid to take risks if God is leading you.

 

Do you have other books or WIP you’d like to mention?

My husband and I are involved in an Oral Bible Story ministry with Cru International (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) called Story Runners and we bring Bible stories to people of different cultures in Southeast Asia and train nationals to reach out to unreached people groups through this oral culture method. I also have a huge passion for those oppressed through human trafficking and all its ugliness. So I’ve combined the two and compiled stories from the Bible and modern-day stories into a Bible study booklet called Life Hope.

Give my reader’s one piece of writing advice you’ve found invaluable.

Don’t lose the magic of writing by worrying about all the technical do’s and don’ts.

More about Nancy Kelley Alvarez:

Nancy Kelley Alvarez refuses to let her introverted personality keep her from sharing with others God’s stories of love and truth. Starting in college she stepped out in faith to go where God called her and she hasn’t stopped yet.

She serves with Cru International in a ministry called Story Runners, telling God’s amazing stories and training others to share them with those who would otherwise have no access to His Word. Her passion for women, especially those touched by human trafficking, drives her to find creative ways to reach out. She and her husband Al, live in Quezon City, Philippines with their sweet little dog Bingo. Look for the next book in this series, coming soon.

 

I’ve so enjoyed getting to know you. How can my readers find you?

Facebook: Nancy Kelley Alvarez

Email: pnalvarez@yahoo.com

If you’d like to order Butterfly Impact click on the link below.

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https://www.amazon.com/Butterfly-Impact-Unexpected-Courage-Transformation-ebook/

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