Christian Romance Novels: Inspiring Convention and Challenge

Publication year

Even among Christians, Christian romance novels remain "overlooked or invisible in the evangelical subculture," notes Lynn S. Neal in Romancing God, the only book-length treatment of the genre. This invisibility may benefit readers, for if those religious leaders who promote traditional gender roles within marriage read the books, they might balk at the images of gender equality that are central to the happy marriages that conclude the novels. Worse, they might correctly conclude that readers of these books prefer the companionate, egalitarian marriages of Christian romance novels to the wifely submission taught in other conservative Christian texts and respond by scolding or shaming these women or policing their reading habits. [...] Drawing from personal, telephone, and online interviews with readers and writers of Christian romance novels, fan mail, and observations of online book discussion groups, this chapter considers the words of more than 400 readers and writers as it seeks to add to the scholarship on this understudied field. It does so by describing the genre, especially standards that pertain to gender, sexuality, and theology, and, building on Neal's analysis of how women use these books to shape their personal piety, exploring how the novels challenge conventional notions of gender in conservative Christianity. (347)