ROMANCE ARC#2: Religious/Gentle Romance (3/22/22)

WHEN: March 22, 2022

WHERE: This was a virtual Zoom meeting sponsored by the Danvers’s Peabody Institute Library.

Contact: Leane Ellis;  

We are studying Romance over the first 5 months of 2022. This month we delved into Religious/Gentle Romance; in January 2022, we studied Contemporary Romance, and in May we will study Speculative Romance.

Our next topic is Romance Arc II: Gentle/Religious

Assignment:  Everyone read the benchmark: C. E. (Carla E.) Laureano’s The Saturday Night Supper Club: #1 (2018) Everyone also read a Choice title in this category either from the suggested lists below on our blog and then post a review on our blog under Submit Choice Titles.

For appeal, please focus especially on Tone, Character, and Setting.



NOTE: The NE RA RT did do an overview [Romance (3/23/10)] and a study of Romance through the lens of Diversity [9/24/2019]



ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) CAROL Award

DELICIOUS READS: Always Craving a Good Book 24 Clean Romance Books (2/9/16) [1/18/22]

CHRISTY Awards – Honoring and Promoting Excellence in Christian Fiction

EMMA Awards — Award for Excellence in Diversity in Romantic Literature

RWA (Romance Writers of America): The Voice of Romance Writers RITA & VIVIAN Awards


Romance/Appeal Terminology for Sex Handout

NOVELIST/LIBRARY READS Crash Course in Romance

ROMANCE RA RESOURCES: MLS—Genre Overview Romance Vimeo

ARRT: GENRE STUDY: Romance (5/21/19)

The Ripped Bodice: The State of Racial Diversity in Romance Report 2020

Print/PDF Bibliography  (Available on Google Group) 

Bouricius, Ann. The Romance Readers’ Advisory: The Librarian’s Guide to Love in the Stacks. ALA, 2000. p.3-21; 51-57.

Higgins, Kristan.” It’s Not the Sex”. Publishers Weekly, August 17, 2015.  p.76.

Ramsdell, Kristin. Romance Fiction: A Guide to the Genre. LU. 1999. p. 3-15, 17-20, 23-29, 261-265, 273-277 (Inspirational Romance), 289-292.

Rodale, Maya. Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. Maya Rodale, 2015. p. 15-31, 66-67, 82-99, 174-183 plus all tables.

Saricks, Joyce. G. with revision by Krista Biggs. “Getting Up to Speed in Romance,” NoveList. EBSCO. 2020 (10/31/21)

Wyatt, Neal & Joyce G. Saricks. “Romance.” The RA Guide to Genre Fiction. 2019. 3rd ed., ALA, p.191, 215-226.


Title: A Girl’s Guide to the Outback (2020)
Author: Jessica Kate
Appeal Factors: CH/FRAME/TONE/SEX: Sweet, Gentle Lust & Kissing
Summary/Thoughts: Jessica Kate’s second Romance is a sweet and an easy way to visit Australia without dealing with the scary spiders and snakes. Most of the plot takes place on an Outback dairy farm that is having financial challenges and belongs to the main male protagonist’s family, Sam Payton, and is run by his sister Jules. The prelude begins in Charlottesville, VA at Wildfire, a Christian ministry serving the poorer teenage population where Sam is the resident gifted and charismatic preacher. His administrator, Kim, and he have different styles of approaching life and butt heads frequently, setting up the Frenemies Romance trope. Of course, they are both very attractive and misunderstood and Kate does a great job giving us their backgrounds through dialogue and internal thoughts so that the reader knows their motivations and flaws. A secondary Romance between Jules and her high school boyfriend Mick is also paramount here and both end in an HEA which was refreshing—since a reader does not need to delay gratification from a sequel. Both good CHs, Jules and Mick’s relationship is also comic relief. Other CHs provide other challenges and opportunities for growth, the family matriarch Penny Payton and hired hand, laconic Butch. Belief in God is absolutely important to almost all the main CHs and there is frequent references to faith, but not a lot of Bible thumping making this accessible to readers who want a Gentle Romance and/or something that celebrates faith as an intricate part of their lives. Definitely PG, the sex is never hotter than passionate kissing, tender caresses, and lustful wishful ST. I most enjoyed the detailed Australian Frame, good use of weather (both hot, dusty, and wet) to create Tone, just the right amount of dairy farming specifics to give the narrative cred, and the sassy dialogue. The author’s Australian background is an asset here. RED FLAG: Endangered dog but all ends well. Good Readalike for Armchair Travelers who want a nice, gentle story with satisfactory ST and no more than passionate kissing. I would suggest Kristan Higgins for a Gentle Readalike with Christian overtones, as well as C.E. Laureano and Irene Hannon’s Hope Harbor series.

Title: Hope Harbor: Hope Harbor: #1(2015)
Author: Irene Hannon
Appeal Factors: CH/TONE/FRAME/SEX LEVEL-Gentle/PG
Summary/Thoughts: Redemption and second chances are primary themes in this Gentle Christian Romance. Hannon does a great job giving the reader CHs to care about and who resonate. In many ways, this series is more a Relationship series even though there is a primary Romance between Michael and Tracy both who have emotional baggage, of course. Secondary CHs also have their trials and tribulations, provide comic relief (including Floyd the seagull), and sage practical and religious counsel. The atmosphere of the coast of Oregon, the beaches, and cranberry bogs add to the Tone of the novel and the setting details layer the Story Line and infuse the CH development. Both readers looking for similar beliefs or curious about this genre will enjoy this book. There is actual scripture quoted, numerous mentions of the power of prayer, and allowing God to guide the CHs. It is nicely balanced with the Story Line and integrated within the CHs thoughts and actions. Hannon does more show than tell and never becomes preachy, more affirming throughout the book. Sex is gentle and except for great kissing scenes, there is no sex on the page–but some good ST develops. Forgiving oneself is even more important in Hannon’s theme in this novel as it is when it comes to others. Not a bad takeaway and an enjoyable Romantic interlude. Other authors that may fall into the same category are Marilyn Pappano, Sharon Sala, and Robin Lee Hatcher’s contemporary Romance.

Title: Ayesha at Last (2019)  Author: Uzma Jalaluddin
Appeal Factors: CH/TONE/PLOT/Gentle-PG

Originally written for Diversity: Romance Arc 9/24/19  Summary/Thoughts: This delightful gentle romance was both an entertaining and informative choice for Romance Diversity exploration. Both a take on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with ample dips into Shakespearean couplets, this realistic contemporary love story revolves around South Asian Muslims and the importance of their culture and Islam beliefs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Issues like arranged marriage, the role of women in society and in marriage (independence vs feminism), and the assumptions people make about others who are unlike themselves or even differing interpretations from the same culture and faith gives the story weight. Plot tropes like mistaken identity and a Wickham-like cad as well as cultural nods to Bollywood, Tim Horton’s, wrestling, and life coaching add richness to the details of the novel. The description of the food will make your mouth water. Outspoken and independent Ayesha, a talented poet, feels the need to pay back her uncle for her education by becoming a teacher, even though she longs to discover her own bliss, clashes with conservative Khalid whose traditional dress causes him problems at work and with Ayesha. The sexual tension builds between them as they navigate the characters in their lives, some questionable choices, and the drama of S. Asian Aunties’ expectations. There is no sex on the page but the sexual and romantic yearnings are well-painted and believably complicated. The style was engaging and the tone was compelling with dashes of both humor and sentiment. This is a great love story for readers who want something gentle yet full of food for thought on identity, religion, culture, tradition, familial expectations, and the role of personal dreams in one’s life choices. The author even weaves and handles issues like abortion and pornography in an even-handed way. Not as hot as Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient but contains an equal lens into S. Asian culture in an author’s own voice. Other readalikes may be Dev Sonali, Sonya Lalli, Soniah Kamal and may appeal to fans of Emily Giffin and Meg Cabot’s adult novels.

Beth S.
Title: Send Down the Rain (2018)
Author: Charles Martin
Appeal Factors: Fast-paced, courageous but flawed hero, strong emotional pull
Summary/Thoughts: Send Down the Rain is a Christian romance whose protagonist, Joseph (“Jo-Jo”), is a sixty-plus Vietnam vet and war hero with diabetes and mysterious heart problems, for which he refuses to seek medical attention. He eats a lot of junk food. I believe his age and health issues are why the novel is classified as ability diverse. Jo-Jo makes a fortune with a portable toilet company he creates called Poop Coop, but he has no interest in money and uses his wealth to help others. Throughout the story, Jo-Jo kills people, saves the lives of an illegal immigrant and her two young children, helps save a winery, starts a carnival, helps a group of immigrants obtain citizenship, rebuilds his former girlfriend’s restaurant, becomes friends with a radio talk show host (whose father coincidentally saved his life), and confronts his brother (who is a liar, former alcoholic and drug addict, and politician). Towards the end, there is a dramatic court scene, described by its judge in these words during the sentencing: “Joseph Banks, you’ve captivated a nation. I’m told that several million people are currently watching these proceedings. There are more than a thousand men in black leather straddling enormous, eardrum-splitting motorcycles outside this courthouse right now. Schools across the country have canceled classes and are projecting these proceedings on giant screens in auditoriums. A record of living history.” Warnings: a murdered dog, the people he kills during the story, sexual exploitation, and the years he spends stalking his brother and Allie (his childhood sweetheart and love interest) when he’s not in prison. Allie–who has anger issues and slaps him, pours beer over him, and vomits explosively during pivotal scenes—is pretty frightening. There are many, many plot twists and the religious aspect is subtle and the sex is not described but everything else is pretty much over the top. Readers who value literary fiction may not like the cliches, sentence fragments, and implausible plot twists but, based on reviews on Goodreads, many readers loved the writing. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review.

Title: The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow (2020)
Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer
Appeal Factors: Frame, Character, Tone, Plot
Summary/Thoughts: This Christian-inspired historical romance is based on the Pack Horse Library Initiative, a WPA program during the Great Depression that served the mountain residents of rural Kentucky. When Addie Cowherd’s family falls on hard times, Addy is forced out of college and must find a job to pay the bills. Emmett Tharpe has just graduated with a degree, but there are no jobs for educated men to be found. Both characters find themselves leaving the city of Lexington and traveling to Boone’s Hollow in the rural hills of Kentucky, Addie for a job as a Pack Horse Librarian and Emmett, for lack of a better opportunity, to work with his father in the mines. Bettina Webber is a pack horse librarian looking to marry Emmett and escape her abusive father.

The characters, principally Addie and Emmett, are all sympathetically drawn, but it is all the ensuing issues and the setting that make this a more “toothsome” romance. Although the jealousy and strained relationships Bettina has with Emmett and Addie, and then domestic violence, take center stage, many other thorny issues are introduced. Emmett and Addie’s “citified” ways and their higher education are at odds with the rural blue-collar mining community. One of the more poignant subplots illustrates how Emmett and his father’s lives have diverged and how they both long for the close relationship they once had.

The setting, or frame, of the story is integral to the plot and Boone’s Hollow, is well-wrought as a particular place and time. Regionalism — what side of the hill your family is from — is very present here and is a divisive force. One can see the challenges and beauty of the region and simultaneously ache for, and admire, the folks living such a hardscrabble life in this part of Appalachia. The dialect of the mountain folk adds to the details and richness of this background.

Christian faith and traditional values are threaded throughout the book, with an emphasis on kindness to others and being aware of the blessings one has. The romance is very gentle and chaste. At the end, there is a tender moment when Emmett and Addie touch their foreheads against each other and a promise is made for marriage and their own “happily-ever-after” story.

Overall, this is a rich and gentle Christian-fiction love story that would appeal to both book lovers and historical fiction lovers, and also to those who are curious about different walks of life and regions in the US.

Title: On a Summer Tide: Three Sisters Island#1 (2019)
Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher
Appeal Factors: Setting, Character
Summary/Thoughts: This story takes place on an island off the coast of Maine. An unhappy, disjointed family is reeling from the death of their mother, who died in a terrible accident. The father buys the camp where they met. In doing so he owns 51% of the island. This does not go over well with many of the locals. The family learns to trust and support each other as they work to renovate the camp. The growth of the family is represented by the psychological healing of the only grandchild. Much of their progress is facilitated by the island school teacher who is in love with the oldest daughter.
The setting is well described. There are detailed descriptions of the beauty of the natural surroundings.
The characters grow throughout the story. The daughters are very whiny and self-centered in the beginning, but become more self-aware as the story progresses. They are much more likable at the end of the book. The secondary characters are well-developed and believable.
I would describe this as a relationship fiction book. There is a romance and a happily ever after, but the other relationships are just as important. There is a religious aspect that struck me as being a natural part of the characters’ lives.

Alyssa T.
Title: Once More Upon a Time (2021)
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Appeal Factors: Fast-paced novella/Tongue-in-cheek/Fantasy (specifically fairy tale) setting/RATING: PG
Summary/Thoughts: Princess Imelda (who has an unfortunate relationship with shoes) and Prince Ambrose fall in love at a royal wedding and when they wed, they receive the kingdom of Lover’s Keep. The big catch is that its rulers must be in love, a love they lose when Ambrose makes a deal with a witch to save Imelda’s life. And so after a year and a day, they are no longer king and queen and must leave the kingdom. But then the same witch offers a quest…

This book provides retellings and continuations on different fairy tales: for example, Imelda is one of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, but she is unmarried at the end of the tale. The shoes are destroyed by dancing because the father used magic to control his daughters’ movements through the shoes. Other bits seemed to appeal to a Very Online audience: A honey badger antagonist seemed to be included just so the author could put “Honey badger don’t care!” in her book. Red flags include vivid descriptions of emotional abuse of children (both main characters are survivors), yet this is an otherwise gentle romance. Three perspectives: Imelda, Ambrose, and the witch.

Second chance romance. Strong female character as typical with romances. Main couple are described with South Asian features like the author, but are not explicitly any ethnicity. Side character of the talking horse hair cloak that still thinks it’s a horse in the form of comic relief.

Title: My Amish Boyfriend (2014)
Author: Melody Carlson
Appeal Factors: Religion and characters’ religious growth, Pastoral setting and frame of Amish daily life, G-rated
Summary/Thoughts: This is a romance where religion takes the front seat, and the romance is a strong theme, but secondary to the characters’ religious growth. Gentle in tone, and set mostly in an Amish community with Amish characters and ways of life influencing the main character (she wears Amish clothes and lives an Amish life for a good part of the book). The romance is important, but it is only HEA in the sense that they realize they are not right for each other, and that God has other things in mind for each of them.

Title: Royal Holiday (2019)
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Appeal Factors: Character; tone; story
Summary/Thoughts: Maddie Forest is a fashion stylist heading to England to help the royal Duchess plan and execute her wardrobe for the Christmas festivities. She persuades her hardworking mother Vivian to accompany her. They will be at Sandringham for the holidays, return to London for a few days, then fly home. It’s been a while since they’ve spent time together. Vivian has a thousand reasons why she can’t just pick up and go but pick up and go she does.

On her first morning in the Duke and Duchess’ ‘cottage’ at Sandringham, Vivian heads to the kitchen for coffee and meets Malcolm Hudson, Private Secretary to the Queen. The two are immediately attracted to each other. They are fascinating people with different personalities who delight in one another. This is a charming romance of two adults slightly past middle age who find they complement each other beautifully. Highly recommended for any time of the year.
Jenny Holiday’s Bridesmaids Behaving Badly; Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals; Karen Schaler – Christmas Camp; Susan Mallery – You Say It First; Mary Monroe – Right Beside You; K.M. Jackson – Insert Groom Here; Tracey Livesay – Sweet Talkin’ Lover; Lisa Kleypas – Sugar Daddy; Rachel Gibson – Sex, Lies, and Online Dating.
Pace: Fast-paced
Characters: Culturally diverse; mature; charming
Storyline: Own voices
Writing style: Engaging
Tone: Heartwarming
Frame: Sandringham & London England; contemporary
Theme: Love abroad; mature romance

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Statement: RART-NE encourages all library staff to use leisure reading as a way to connect with the community, with a particular focus on reaching the underserved and promoting “own voices” authors. Throughout our discussions we will explore ways in which library staff can provide services, collections, and programming that puts EDI concerns at the forefront. Examples include but are not limited to, delivering the same information in different formats, advice on how to diversify your displays, and ways to include more staff voices in basic RA service [more voices leads to more equitable, diverse, and inclusive offerings]. Library staff attending RART-NE must be interested in allowing all staff [not just professional and/or public service staff] to participate in serving all populations, not just the ones most represented by staff or as identified in a local census.

Cancellation Policy: This policy is in effect while we follow Covid-19 protocols and also for the future event that a meeting is scheduled at the physical location of a library.  There is no plan to cancel a meeting. During Covid-19 we will be meeting virtually using the Zoom platform sponsored by a member library.  When the group is able to meet in person at the physical location of a library; and if the town/city of the location of the meeting cancels public schools, and/or there is a parking ban–the meeting will be changed to a Virtual meeting using Zoom, even if the library in question remains open. Leane will broadcast the change from physical  to Virtual meeting due to inclement weather or other reason by 7:00am or before from the Google group, and post it on this website. January meetings will be Virtual Zoom meetings until further notice beginning 1/25/22. Edited 5/23/21