Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stepping out of the box, to use a cliche

All of us as readers and writers fall into ruts, I think. As a new published author, I haven't been around quite long enough yet to fall into a rut. Instead, I'm searching for my niche, as I bounce from romantic suspense to historical to contemporary crime caper. But as a reader, I have my favorite romance sub-genres and can be wary of stepping outside of them. One genre I had not explored is the inspirational or Christian romance. Although I'm always open to a good book, I'm not very religious personally and knew nothing about the genre. It can be intimidating to start out from zero in a genre, studying a bookshelf full of unfamiliar names and wondering where to begin.
So I began, as I often do, with an award-winner. I picked up a heavily honored Christian romance at my local library, and although I found the writing skilled, I was turned off by its preachy tone. The author's habit of interrupting her story every few pages to proselytize with a heavy hand was too distracting, and I ultimately couldn't finish the story. I thought for a while that perhaps the Christian genre just wasn't for me, but I tried again, and I'm glad I did. I picked up Deeanne Gist's "A Bride Most Begrudging" recently and flew through it. Published in trade paperback, Gist's historical novels are well-researched and historically accurate, often in settings that you don't see often. (Don't get me started on this. I simply do not understand why many mainstream romance publishers seem to want to flog the same dead horse -- uh, I mean, re-use the same overused settings -- again and again to the exclusion of all others.) The two Gist novels I've read so far were set in Gold Rush San Francisco and Seattle during its timber/lumberjack days.
In any case, Gist's books contain characters striving to become better Christians, but aren't preachy. Her tales often poke holes in religious hypocrisy and stress forgiveness and humility as core Christian values. Although the tales don't contain any explicit love scenes, Gist is good at subtly building sexual tension and romance. All in all, I would recommend any lovers of historical romance give her a try.
What am I missing? Any books you've enjoyed recently that were a bit of a departure for you? Leave a comment and tell me about it!


Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Linda,
I haven't personally read a Christian romance but I know they do ahve a very large following. Historicals I love reading and writing them. Like you, I do wonder why the publishers keep on with the same old settings book after book. I always try to set my novels in different eras and countries. Well, I write Australian backgrounds because I am an Aussie, My favourite era to write about is the 1st World War, and I have three novels published with that background. I also like the Vietnam war era, probably because I was a teenager at the time and can remember it vividly. The Wild Rose Press were the only publisher who would publish these stories.



Maeve said...

Great post, Linda! I've always enjoyed pretty much ANY genre of romance. I guess I'm a sucker for a happily ever after. But my husband got me started on Clive Cussler's action/adventure novels and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed them. I guess what I really learned was that great writing is great matter the genre.

SherryGLoag said...

Like you I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I read my first Insipration book, Angel with a Backhoe. I fell in love with the characters and the writer, and have since rad many more inspirationals. Some I couldn't finish - for the same reason you give - and others had me on the edge of my seat.
I have been amazed at the wide range and variety of styles and content within the Inspirational genre.
But... I am still guilty of hovering before I pick up a new genre.

Leigh D'Ansey said...

Another thought-provoking post, Linda. I enjoy reading many different genres but haven't yet read any inspirational novels.Thanks for your recommendation. I'll look for Deanne Gist and "A Bride Most Begrudging" (love that title).

I haven't explored paranormals yet, even though they're huge at the moment. Nalini Singh is a NZ writer and a very successful paranormal author. As Maeve says, great writing is great writing in any genre, so Nalini will be the first paranormal author I select - I don't know what's holding me back!

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