Category Archives: Christian

Book Review Wednesday – Captured

Captured: A Fantasy Romance (White Road Tale Novella Book 1) by Jackie Castle

Amazon Book Description:

He will lose everything if their secret is found out.

When Tarek’s family is taken prisoner by the conniving, self-proclaimed King of Racah, they make a pact to lay low and do whatever is necessary to survive until they can devise an escape plan.

Despite Tarek’s efforts to follow his parent’s orders, he has no choice but to save the Princess from making a life-threatening mistake. And despite his best efforts, he can’t help when he loses his heart to the enchanting and lonely Princess.

Unfortunately, Tarek is in danger of losing much more than just his heart.

Captured is the first of three novellas in the White Road Tales trilogy which also include Stolen and Ransom. All three are prequels to the White Road Chronicles series which include:
Illuminated: Book One
Luminosity: Book Two
Emanate: Book Three

Captured is the first in the prequel trilogy of novellas for Castle’s White Road Chronicles. I have enjoyed Castle’s novels thus far and picked this up when I saw it would give more of the missing backstory to two key characters

Plot – Grade A

Considering this prequel novella follows a completed trilogy, anyone who has read at least the first book, Illuminated, knows the ultimate ending to the novella and its sequels. However, do not let that deter you from checking out this story. Castle did an excellent job of sharing more about the background of Tarek  and his family as well as weaving in Princess’ life before the first novel. The story develops the world of Racah, the dark kingdom beyond what we see through Princess’ eyes in Illuminated and stands up well on its own. The plot is short and woven together with just a few strings left to be picked up in the next novella. Certain throwaway elements in this novella will jump at readers familiar with Castle’s work and trigger an “Oh! I know what that means!!” reaction. I enjoy Easter eggs so it was fun for me. The plot whets one’s appetite for more without giving away noticeable spoilers for the novels if readers haven’t read them yet while also breathing fresh life into the world for those who are already familiar with it.

Content – Grade A

This is a clean read. Language takes place offstage with only the inoffensive “Trollsbreath” being used plainly. There are references to sensuality but they are very discreet even when a girl propositions Tarek and he sees his father with a mistress. There is violence. Several people are killed and blood is described as pooling and staining witnesses’ clothing. However, this did not teeter into being gratuitous since again the focus is more on the characters’ reactions than anything else.

There is a very sweet romance brewing between Tarek and Princess. I liked how he respects her and how he draws her out of her shell. I also liked the way Tarek works to take care of his family even with his father being an absolute boor.

The spiritual side of things is extremely light in this first novella, especially compared to the allegorical nature of the original trilogy. There are mentions of the white trees and the true king. Nothing too overwhelming or in your face about it, which definitely suits this short novella and the characters’ current frame of mind spiritually.

Technical – Grade A-

This was very well edited. There were a few typos and one instance where you’re was used instead of your but nothing too grating. There a few places where the language used was a tad modern for the medieval-esque setting but nothing that truly jerked me out of the setting. The pacing was quick without being rushed. You get a clear picture of characters, especially Tarek and his family, without being overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Secondary and tertiary characters stand out when they need to and are not made of cardboard. The story is able to stand on its own while inviting you to dive further into the world of The White Road Chronicles.

Final Grade – A or 5 stars

Overall, I really enjoyed this prequel. I love it when authors reveal the backstories to novels/characters and further explore the world they’ve created. I’m looking forward to reading more about the lead up to Illuminated. I recommend this book to both fans of Castle’s White Road Chronicles and those looking to dip their toe into a fantasy romance that is family-friendly and leads into a strong Christian allegorical fantasy.  Recommended for ages 13 and up.

Next – Stolen: A Fantasy Romance (White Road Tale Novella Book 2) by Jackie Castle


Sacrifice – Authors and Characters

It’s Good Friday. The day we commemorate the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ whose shed blood covers our sins and provides salvation. Sacrifice is one of the theme archetypes in fantasy. Characters sacrifice comfort, home, family, friends, and sometimes themselves in order to achieve the quest and (more often than not) save the world. But is that sacrifice worthwhile?

In fantasy, the theme of sacrifice is very common, almost to the point of becoming a cliché. But it is also relatable. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NKJV). I have had a character who sacrificed himself because it was part of his character arc and I’ve seen some extremely well-written sacrifice arcs that cover everything from comfort and home to oneself. Because, let’s be honest, how boring would the Hobbit have been if Bilbo Baggins didn’t sacrifice comfort in order to go on an adventure? Or how differently would the Lord of the Rings have been if (Spoilers ahead!) Gandalf hadn’t sacrificed himself to provide the escape from the Balrog or Frodo sacrificing everything to carry the ring to Mordor or Boromir sacrificing himself in his final redemption as he tried to protect Merry and Pippin? And how much more do we love the characters who are willing and ready to lay down their lives for their faith or to protect another character?

But, what we authors need to be mindful of is whether the sacrifice truly fits into the character’s growth (this goes double for if he or she is a main character)? I won’t name any of the books or movies I felt had a contrived sacrifice because we all know that reader opinions vary when it comes to whether a sacrifice was fitting/moving or contrived. But, when considering having your hero or heroine make the ultimate sacrifice take into account whether or not they have to die or only be willing to die. Sacrifice does not always mean that the character making it must die. Willingness to die can be just as poignant. Or perhaps the ultimate sacrifice does not need to be made by your hero or heroine but by someone else. The plucky sidekick who has been the light, joyful reminder of all the good in the world. Or the previous traitor (willing or unwilling) who wants so badly to make amends and maybe protect his/her family or friends. When I try to decide whether a character makes the ultimate sacrifice, I look at his/her growth over the course of the story and whether a sacrificial death will (a) complete the character’s natural redemption/growth arc or (b) is just a way for me to make sure everyone in the world can see how sacrificial and great this character is even though I have other options for both sacrifice participant and type of sacrifice/plot resolution or (c) I have run out of ideas for this character and I’m not even going to consider the other options because they must die. Obviously, option a is the preferred one and leaves more satisfied (if emotionally crushed) readers.

I think part of the reason sacrifice is such a popular theme, in fantasy and especially in fantasy written by Christians is tied to Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. It is a vital part of our beliefs that Jesus Himself carried out the greatest sacrifice once for all the sins of every person in the world, past, present, and future. And our beliefs impact our writing. Look at Tolkien, he did not set out to write the Lord of the Rings as an allegory but his Christian beliefs left an imprint on  his characters and their story arcs. And many Christians feel that their fantasy should be allegorical at least to the extent of having a character mirror Christ’s sacrificial death even if it comes across as forced to readers. To each his own.

Another reason I think sacrifice is a popular theme is because authors can relate to it . . . a lot. Authors sacrifice many things ranging from spending all their free time off work working on their writing to cutting back extra pleasures such as going out to eat to save up for a professional editor or even choosing to turn down a high-grade contract due to the publisher wanting content that the author’s Christian conscience cannot agree to writing. Writing is not the career path to take if a person only wants to get rich quick and it will take a while (unless you happen to become an overnight sensation) before you build a big enough fan base and have enough books out to break even and even longer before you earn a profit. But these sacrifices are made because authors love to write.

What we need to remember and what Good Friday and Easter remind us of is the fact that the truest and best sacrifices are motivated out of love. Not the drive to be the best saintly character ever. Not for fame or impressive contracts. True sacrifice is made out of love, it is an expression of love. And the best sacrificial arcs in fantasy and in any fiction are those motivated by love, the truest and purest of love whether it is romantic, familial, philia, or agape.


*Note: Due to it being Easter weekend, which is a time for family, the next episode of The Stolen Jewel will be posted on the 12th.

The Inspiration Behind The Stolen Jewel

My web serial, The Stolen Jewel, is a medieval-esque fantasy romance. However, it is based on a historical event. About six weeks ago, I was reading an article about Philip II of France who had three wives and one that got away. My curiosity was definitely engaged when I read that the woman who was originally meant to be Philip II’s third queen was “carried off in an ambush” by a count.

In 1195, the Count of Geneva sent his daughter by convoy to France for her wedding to Philip II. Count Thomas of Savoy ambushed the party and stole Margaret/Marguerite away. He married her and used the defense that Philip II had yet to be divorced form his second queen to keep from being taken to task. The marriage between Thomas and Marguerite resulted in fourteen or fifteen children so I assume the match was agreeable to the girl. It probably helped that Thomas was 17/18 when he carried her away from a marriage to 30-year-old Philip since she was probably about 16. Thomas was young, dashing, and both rash and cunning enough to get away with the stunt. 😉 Thomas and Marguerite became the grandparents of four queen consorts through one of their daughters, including the queens of France and England.

Naturally, I wished I could find more information about the count and his stolen bride, which wasn’t available. I also wondered what would have happened if Philip had been more invested in fetching his stolen bride or if he were actually the count’s  king. Ronan happily rose to the challenge although I decided it would take more than a count to defy his own king and made him a duke. The ambush needed gryphons because that was one of the coolest ways to ambush someone I could think of (yes, I will pick some factors based on the coolness). 😉 And I decided the king needed to be a true villain in order to make this more than a man scorned who doesn’t know how to lose gracefully. Mauger has the worst traits of the medieval kings, a true despot, and he is NOT going to let Etain go just because she’s now married to another man, especially when the man in question is Ronan.

Whether Ronan and Etain have a happy ending remains to be seen, of course. The tale of Thomas and Marguerite of Savoy has been an excellent reminder of how much story fodder can be found in history for more than the historical fiction genre. 😀 The Stolen Jewel will continue to explore what happens when a noble is bold enough to steal the king’s intended in the upcoming episodes posted every Sunday.

Why I Write Fantasy

Last week I had a heavy topic on my mind. This week I want to do something lighter. I want to talk about something that brings me joy-my writing and why I choose to write fantasy.

Two months ago, I talked about writing being my calling, which I do feel strongly that it is, but today I want to talk about the other reasons I write and specifically in the fantasy genre.

Reason #1: I have an overactive imagination

Of course, most fiction writers I know do, especially those of us who write in the fantasy genre. It has been said that the best way to prompt a writer is with two little words: What if? As a fantasy writer, I tend to look a situation or a event or sentence and I ask “What if this included a gryphon? Or what if Werewolves weren’t the only shapeshifters around and things are more complicated than they appear in most stories/movies? What if they were Centaurs?”

Reason #2: I love to read fantasy…

Therefore, I want to read the sort of fantasy I enjoy best and when I ran out of published stories that I enjoyed, I wrote my own. 😉 Writing what you love is even more important than writing what you know. If you love what you write, you won’t mind contributing the hours to research, planning, rewrites (oh so many drafts), and everything else that goes on behind the scenes to create a book because you want to present the best version you can instead of simply wanting it be over. Although, when editing and revision comes around, you will still have days (or weeks or longer O.o) when you are utterly sick of your book. But when you write what you love, you want to come back to it and put a few more polishing touches on it. It’s not just a chore or a job. It’s something you care about and it is a part of you that you dare to share with other people.

Reason #3: I love the way fantasy can look at hard situations without being too close to home

Everyone knows that fiction allows both the author and the reader to look at situations, hard situations that go along with our messy world, through a different perspective. But fiction that is set in a recognizable era or place can often run the gambit of stepping on too many toes or being considered as slander and libel. Fantasy adds additional buffers, taking away the accusatory finger (real or imagined) or permitting changes to the established history. These buffers allow authors to prompt their readers to consider real life parallels, to achieve the goal of making readers think, without making them feel preached at or attacked. For example, in my series The Therian Way, the issue of prejudice, racism, and interracial marriage is handled through the more exotic lens of Therians and Elves. It’s not particularly prominent in Tiger’s Paw but it gains more focus later on due to some of the series subplots. Other fantasy novels written by Christians deal with religious persecution. Others tackle the harder topics, the dark side of human life, even if the characters aren’t Human. Fantasy is not bound by history or the established record, even in historical and urban fantasy because fantasy writers look at “What if.”

Reason #4: Fantasy is capable of making the fantastic human

Some people might see this reason as an oxymoron but it’s not really. The heart of a good story isn’t just the plot or the world-building. The real heart of a good story are the characters and the readers’ ability to connect with them. Fantasy, no matter what form the characters are given, still rests on basic human emotions and feelings. Readers want to care about the characters, especially if they are heroes. Fantasy is not about making characters and races so fantastic, so inhuman that there is nothing for the reader to relate to, it is about making a world, a situation, a race that is relatable to some degree-love of family, love of God, fighting for freedom, making sacrifices for someone you love, taking a stand for what is right even when the odds are against you-so that the fantasy is not only a new experience that shows a different world or views our world through a different lens but it binds the reader to at least one character, makes them care about the character and the story.

Reason #5: Fantasy is what flows best from my pen

It’s as simple as that. When starting out as a writer, I experimented with the different genres: historical, contemporary and historical romance, mystery. But the stories never got far until I started my first fantasy novel. That was the one I finished and that was the one that confirmed fantasy was the genre I worked best in. No matter which subgenre of fantasy, urban, medieval, romance, epic, my stories take flight and I enjoy the task of writing them most. I have learned that it is not enough to do what is popular or the ‘it’ genre of the month or year. You have to truly love what you do and the genre you write in.

Book Review Wednesday – The King of Anavrea

The King of Anavrea (The Theodoric Saga Book 2) by Rachal Rossano

Amazon Book Description:

A reluctant king, a blind queen, and a marriage that sparked a rebellion…

Ireic Theodoric, King of Anavrea, constantly battles with his council over who will run the country. When the council insists on a treaty with Sardmara, he agrees. However, the treaty quickly becomes an arranged marriage. Ireic offers up himself for the sake of Anavrea. But after he signs, no princess appears.

Lirth Parnan, only daughter of the king of Sardmara, survives alone in a cold, damp tower room. Baron Tor kidnapped her in an attempt to control her father. No one came to claim her. She suspects her father considers her flawed beyond use in his political games. After five years of waiting, her hope of rescue wanes with her health.

After Ireic fights his way into Lirth’s tower, he realizes the depths of her father’s deception. Instead of being an answer to his problems, Lirth creates new ones. The council will not accept her as queen, but Ireic has sworn an oath that he will marry her. His choice could cost him his throne, perhaps his life.

Another of Rachel Rossano’s books, which I picked up because of how much I enjoyed Wren and Duty. I also picked it up because it’s another medieval-esque fantasy romance dealing with an arranged marriage.

Plot – Grade A

I really enjoyed the intrigue in this book. While the romance is important, there is a significant amount of political intrigue occurring due to Ieric and Lirth’s arranged marriage. I thought the twists were well-handled and the dual plot lines melded together well. I was able to follow the plots when they diverged and came back together and the ending tied things up nicely while also opening the door for the next book in the series. This is the second book in the series but the stories stand well on their own with the callbacks to the previous book being woven in without bogging down the pacing or feeling that everything is being retold.

Content – Grade A

There is no language in this book. The crassest it becomes is when the “pure bloodline” fanatics accuse Lirth of being baseborn and call her a wench and sorceress. They also refer to her as being deformed due to her blindness. There is violence and one of the bad guys asks a woman if she enjoys being roughed up but nothing is gratuitous and usually takes place off-screen.

The romance is very sweet in this book. Even though the arranged marriage angle could easily cross the line depending on how it’s written, that is not a factor here. There are kisses and Ieric refers to sharing his bed with his wife but that’s it. Although one time Lirth is walked in on by a male messenger when she is not properly dressed, she’s in her undergarments (stays and shift), and the situation is understandably awkward for her. While Lirth is blind and must rely on touch to see Ieric, the descriptions never come close to being overly sensual. It is all very sweet.

The spiritual content in this book is far more front and center then it was in The Crown of Anavrea due to one character being on a journey to choosing to believe in the Kurios. While the spiritual content and its Christian influence is far more prominent, it didn’t feel like the author was preaching or bashing you over the head with the Gospel. Significantly, a character who is a follower of Kurious and His Son makes the conscious decision to hold back after the searcher doesn’t give the most enthusiastic response. The similarities between Christianity and the religious beliefs present in the book are also addressed in an author’s note by the author. I thought Rossano did an excellent job of presenting the Gospel message in the context of her fantasy world and without making it feel forced or like the searcher was just a caricature who had to come to believe in the Kurios for the sake of allegory. I also appreciated the way she didn’t just present the Gospel message but tackled the hard question of “Why would a God who knows all and controls all make or, rather, allow His followers to suffer?”

Technical – Grade A-

The book was very well-written. The challenge of writing a blind character as a POV character was pulled off quite well. It’s not often that I see a blind character providing the POV, unless an omniscient narrator is in control. I can count the books with blind narrators I’ve read on one hand. But there aren’t any gaffs where sight is used when it shouldn’t be; instead, Lirth relies on touch, smell, and hearing to paint the picture of her surroundings and the people she encounters. What impressed me is that I never felt a disconnect with her.

However, while this book is free of typical typos, there were quite a few missing words, dropped letters occurred once or twice, and sometimes part of a phrase was missing. There was also a place where it was obvious an edit occurred but part of the previous version was left behind. It’s possible that it was simply the kindle version I downloaded where these errors occurred, though. There was also one place where Ieric referred to being crowned for a year but everywhere else it’s been three years. That was a little confusing due to the scene.

Final Grade – A or 5 Stars

Overall, I enjoyed The King of Anavrea and I eagerly await the next time we return to The Theodoric Saga. I loved the unconventional heroine and how her relationship develops with the hero in the midst of political intrigue and the difficulties of being a less than perfect royal. I also enjoyed the spiritual aspect of this story and how realistically it was woven into the plot without being a hand wave or in the reader’s face. There were more technical errors this time than what I usually see with Rossano’s work but not to the point of truly detracting from the story, although some editors might twitch in certain places. I would recommend this book for fans of clean, sweet romance in a Christian medieval-esque fantasy and those who enjoy fantasy with political intrigue and a strong Christian message. Recommended for reader ages 15 and up.

The King of Anavrea is available through Kindle, iTunes, and paperback.

Next Week: Honor: Second Novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano

Serial Sunday: The Stolen Jewel – Episode Three

The Stolen Jewel

An Episodic Medieval Fantasy Romance


Kimberly A. Rogers

This is the third episode in The Stolen Jewel. Read from the beginning here.


Chapter Three

The Monster she knew or the laughing madman who stole her. What sort of choice was that? A simple one he claimed but she knew better. She was the one who would have to live with the decision. She was the one who knew the people the consequences of her decision would fall upon. “What of my father?”

Duke Ronan looked down at her, amusement still crinkling his eyes, and shrugged. “I’m certain he’ll be more than willing to return you to Mauger.”

Etain clenched her hands into fists then blushed as he raised an eyebrow and lightly squeezed her wrists. She had forgotten he was holding onto her. Still, she permitted frost to enter her voice as she raised her chin. “It is very easy for you to make such a jest. It was not your lands and people that Mauger threatened to burn and enslave if I attempted to flee this marriage.”

“Mauger will not carry out his threat if your father can convince him that he had no foreknowledge of my actions, which he did not. And that whining weasel Mauger keeps as his enforcer will have no choice but to attest that you were not taken until after the caravan had left Haderyn’s borders.” The duke bent his knees, dropping just far enough so they could look each other in the eyes. “This is your choice, my lady. I will not make it for you. And your father is not here to push your hand.”

Her choice. Etain looked away from his intense gaze. Her choice. She scanned the courtyard below. Most of the people, humans and gryphons alike, were watching them, watching her. What had he told them? Did they know that he meant to take her as wife? Or were they simply watching to see what his captive would do? Her father would demand she surrender to Sir Grimbol and his master. But . . . her father was not here. And if he were stronger, he would not have surrendered her to Mauger or, at least, he would have given her the chance to run.

She studied Ronan again. Mad fool, yes, but he had dared to defy Mauger. He had dared to defy the Monster of Cymru in one of the most blatant ways possible. She still was unsure of whether that made him brave or completely insane. Her choice. For once, it would truly be her choice about the direction her life took from this moment forward. It could also be her doom. But could it be worse than the doom that awaited her as the wife of the Monster of Cymru?

Etain looked up, searching Ronan’s eyes. They still crinkled with that hint of humor that vexed her so but now she looked deeper. She searched for the signs that would give away his cruelty, his malice, his lust for power and women, but there was none. His brown eyes didn’t show her everything but she could see beyond the humor an eagerness of some type and something stronger, something that was missing even from her father’s gaze. She could not find a word to give to that elusive trait but somehow she knew that he would not be the abuser Mauger was known to be . . . could she trust Ronan?

Perhaps, which was more than she could trust other men who would have dared to steal her away or even the man he had stolen her from. And for now that was enough. Etain uncurled her fingers, allowing them to rest on his wrists, no longer resisting. She nodded once. “I choose you.”

He grinned. “Excellent.” Then he turned to the gryphons and raised his arm. The magnificent creatures stepped back as he shouted, “Filbert!”

Etain flinched slightly, resisting the urge to cover her ears in case he decided to bellow again. But then she was distracted by the shuffling figure emerging from the shadows—the simple grey surcoat of Shaddai’s priests was too short for the lanky frame of its wearer and ended just below his knobby knees, his legs looked rather like twigs covered in matted dark brown moss and his broad feet were shod in worn leather sandals. The priest cleared his throat, drawing her attention from his scrawny frame to his face. Large eyes stared back at her, so wide that he looked startled but she suspected his rheumy blue eyes wore an expression of constant surprise. His mouth was thin and puckered, his nose was long and hooked at the end, while his ears stuck out and his dark hair had receded so his forehead seemed overly long. He offered a jerky bow that reminded her of a hunting stork. “Your grace?”

Ronan released one of her wrists but kept a firm hold of the other. “Come here, Filbert. The lady has given her consent. We will wed.”

Filbert blinked. His rheumy eyes turned to Etain, staring wildly. His large Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “Her? When?”

“Now, Filbert.” The duke grinned, far too cheerful for a man whose own people were questioning his decision. “I’ll even ask Corydon to take you up for a brief tour of the citadel.”

The gryphon tiercel let out a loud screech that made the priest jump as though he were attempting to take flight or perhaps a child had pulled on his strings all at once. Etain could not help but think that neither the priest nor the gryphon was particularly pleased by Ronan’s offer. Filbert tugged at his surcoat, looking around wildly before his gaze once more returned to Etain. He looked her over, no doubt taking in her disheveled appearance, the rain had lightened to a steady drizzle but she probably still appeared half-drowned. “Perhaps the lady should change into-”

“Nonsense!” Ronan shouted jovially as he slapped the priest on the back of his shoulder with such force that the man bobbed awkwardly and flapped one arm to regain his balance. “None of this delaying and silly primping. We are simple, honest folk at heart. And this wedding shan’t be delayed a moment longer. There are witnesses aplenty and the sooner we complete the vows, the sooner we can seek shelter from the storm.”

The priest darted another nervous glance at Etain. She willed herself to present a strong and willing front. None could know that her knees quaked and threatened to give out as she allowed herself to wonder if she had made the right choice. She licked her lips then nodded. “Please. Let it be done without delay.”

She glanced at Ronan. This was her choice. She had given him her word when she chose him. She would not shirk it now. He was nodding to something the priest was saying but then he abruptly turned to her, the wide boyish grin from before back on his face. Then his grip on her wrist slid down so he gently cradled her hand in his, callouses making his touch rough but the pressure was light and would leave no hint of a bruise. “People of Aelwyd, hear me! This day I, Ronan of the house of Brynmor, do stand before you and in the sight of Shaddai to take as wife Etain of the house of Lugh.”

Her pulse was pounding so loudly that it became a dull roaring in her ears. She heard nothing that the priest said but everything Ronan said was as clear as if he were etching it onto her heart. Brown eyes held her gaze, amusement and something else flickering in their depths, as he rumbled, “Before Shaddai, I pledge to take you, Etain, as my wife. Through plenty and famine, joy and sorrow, sacrifice and reward, I will stand with you and in front of you as your shield. No harm will I allow to befall you if it is in my power to prevent it. I will give you my children, my lands, my every possession . . .” There was a pause but then he continued, completing the traditional vow, “and my heart.”

“My lady?” The priest’s voice squeaked a little, jarring her attention back to him and to the fact it was now her turn to pledge her life, her everything, to the strange man before her. He bobbed his head. “Repeat after me.”

Etain’s attention returned to the duke. His mouth was still curved by a lingering hint of the grin that made her want to smile back at him. She licked her lips then squared her shoulders and raised her chin, trying to look taller. Her voice was surprisingly steady as she recited the vows. “Before Shaddai, I pledge to take you, Ronan, as my husband. Through plenty and famine, joy and sorrow, sacrifice and reward, I will stand by your side. I shall keep your confidences and protect that which you entrust to my care—your lands, your possessions, your children, and your heart.”

“What is pledged before Shaddai may not be broken by any being. His blessings and grace shine down upon this marriage, may it bloom in love, prosperity, and children, and may the prosperity of your marriage spread to Aelwyd.”

She had done it. She had joined herself for life to the madman who dared to steal her away from that miserable caravan. Ronan’s grip on her hand tightened as he tugged her the scant step between them. His free hand touched the corner of her jaw and traced its line to her chin, making a shiver skitter down her spine. Fingers curling around her chin, he pushed until she titled her head back and then he captured her mouth in a kiss.

For a moment, just one thrilling moment, she lost herself to the kiss. But then the roaring of the crowd intruded on her senses, grating against her ears, and she stepped back, a fiery blush creeping up her neck and cheeks. Ronan maintained his grip on her hand, though. Her husband raised his free hand once more then shouted, “The feast has been laid in the hall. Let us enter and celebrate the return of our missing people and the arrival of my bride!”

The shouts climbed to a new deafening level as the gryphons added their own shrieks of delight. Ronan flashed her that grin of his and then he led her past the priest and across the walkway to a sturdy door too small for the gryphons to use. As they entered the corridor, Etain tried to keep track of the path her new husband chose but soon admitted defeat. Eventually they came to another door but when Ronan opened it, she gasped in unbidden delight at the sight of the large tub waiting only feet from the door. Steam rose in lazy plumes bearing the promise of the soothing embrace only a good bath could provide.

“I hope this means you will forgive me for making you stand in the rain for our wedding, my lady.”

Etain jumped then blushed. “My lord, I-”

“Ronan. We are married now, after all, and there’s no need to stand ceremony.”

“I didn’t know you knew how to stand on ceremony.”

As soon as the impulsive words slipped free, Etain wished them back. But Ronan tilted his head back and let out a hearty bark of laughter. “Oh yes, I think we’ll get on very well.” He grinned at her then bowed. “My lady, if you will forgive me, I must attempt to make myself look somewhat less disreputable before I return to your side. Clothes have been laid out for you once you have finished with your bath.”

He handed her a large key and then strode past the tub and the large bed beyond it to slip through a smaller door. It must have led to an antechamber since she caught the glimpse of a smaller tub before he pushed the door shut. Etain stared at the door until her stomach rumbled a complaint and she set her trembling fingers to undoing the laces of her soaked clothing. The tub and a change of clothes would set her physical appearance to rights. She was not so certain of what would straighten out the tangle of emotions she now felt within her breast. What path would her choice lead her down?

The Stolen Jewel Copyright © 2015 Kimberly A. Rogers and blog. All rights reserved. This story is a work of fiction and a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Illustration: “Stitching the Standard” by Edmund Leighton, 1911.

How Much is Too Much or A Christian Author’s Obligations

Romance, sensuality, how much is too much, and Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8:9-13. All these things should be considered by Christian writers, whether they write secular or Christian fantasy, when it comes to writing romantic scenes. This is a topic that might step on some people’s toes but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and it’s been weighing heavily on my heart. My goal is not to attack anyone for what they write or read. My goal is just provoke thought and consideration of the obligation that authors have to their readers.

A trend among secular fantasies is to randomly toss in sex scenes because ‘that’s what sells’ even if it’s out of character and doesn’t contribute anything to the story itself except for adding to the page count. Over the years, I’ve noticed that Christian authors are starting to really push the envelope on sensuality. There are more detailed descriptions of women’s figures and the male characters lusting after them and barely closing the bedroom door in time, etc. and so forth. I have been thinking about this recently because I do write about married couples and I don’t mind premarital kissing and hugging but I always try to keep in mind what Paul wrote in Romans and 1 Corinthians about not being a stumbling block to believers who are weaker in their faith. The most intense encounter between a husband and wife I’ve written was from the wife’s POV and she talked about her husband’s kisses setting off her own personal fireworks right before I firmly closed the door on that scene. But I know other Christian authors might have gone a bit further if they’d been writing that scene and I ask myself about possible reasons for them taking the sensual aspects of the romance in their stories to a level that can seem racy to some of their readers.

My speculations have led to a few possibilities:

  1. They’re used to writing for a secular publisher and didn’t tone the scenes down because they were tame compared to what other secular writers were doing.
  2. They’re going for “realism” including in how men and women react to each other on a physical and romantic level.
  3. They’re married and reading about scenes with the same level of sensuality in books does not bother them and simply strikes them as passionate as opposed to borderline racy so they write what they like to read.
  4. These situations can often be combined, by the way. In all three scenarios, the writers don’t really consider how their writing might affect the readers who are more sensitive to sensuality in the romantic portions of their book. I don’t believe this is malicious or even intentional (well, some authors can be rather defiant about it when they receive negative feedback on it but they weren’t being malicious), it’s simply how things worked out.

I have seen the debates between Christian authors about vulgarity in books, which I consider a whole ‘nother can of worms although the basic principle underscoring my personal view on the matter draws from the same verses. However, when it comes to sensuality, that’s a tricky line to walk because every Christian has a different yardstick for measuring these things and it is true that you can’t please everyone. Something will always be too much or too little for someone. For example, some Christians object to any kissing or hugging between the characters before marriage. I understand and respect their objections even though as I said before it doesn’t bother me so long as the actions are chaste.

Let’s focus on the romances in fantasy where there are physical displays of affection before and after marriage. How much sensuality is too much? How do we, as Christian authors, measure what should and shouldn’t be included?

The secular world is saturated with sensuality to the point that television, movies, and books are preaching that closing the bedroom door is only for prudes. And it does influence Christian authors as well. Christian authors have the challenge of writing a story that feels true but they don’t want to be called preachy or prudish when it comes to the romances of their books. It doesn’t help that we can check the top selling fantasy books and there’s a series where the graphic sensuality is so woven into the plot that you can’t skip over it, which is my personal solution to secular books when they cross the line. Now, I personally had to stop reading the first book of that series because it bothered me but I know Christians who have no difficulty with the same series. I’ve also stopped reading a handful of Christian authors because they included too much sensuality for my personal tastes.

I believe that Christians should write books that are inherently different than those written by secular authors. There is such a thing as too much realism and too gritty. I believe that Christians who write secular fantasy still have a responsibility to decide whether they will reflect the darkness of the world or the pure hope of Christ’s redeemed world. From Christian authors writing Christian fantasy, I want to read books that provide relief from the darkness of the world. I want books that are a refuge from the ones that spend entirely too much time on the sensual.

In the past, I have felt tricked and even betrayed by fantasy books I picked up for the intriguing premise but the romances quickly turned into too much sensuality because the characters were either focused on bedding a love interest or kept staring at their undressed or partially undressed love interest, particularly when the man is staring at the woman. With secular books, I know it’s highly likely that I’ll have to skip pages. And sometimes a secular book will be a lost cause for me due to content. Nevertheless, for Christian books or clean reads written by Christian authors, I don’t want to run into that sort of scene. I am not married and I am trying not to dwell on the sensual side of romance so I try to avoid the books that take the focus off the adventure and intrigue of the fantasy world and focus on the romance to the extent that pushes the envelope on how much is too much. But, I don’t always succeed and it is incredibly frustrating when this happens with a Christian book when I had no idea it was a possibility.

But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idiols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

~ 1 Corinthians 8:9-13

Paul addressed the specific matter of Christians who were eating the meat that had been sacrificed to idols, which was causing the Gentile Christians to stumble because witnessing believers who were not avoiding all things associated with the idols would wound their conscience and possibly draw them back into their old life of idolatry. Christians are meant to set examples not only for the world but also for newer believers and believers who are struggling with temptations. The apostle Paul’s writings aren’t limited to dietary habits, but are a call for Christians to take into consideration how all their actions, including their writing, will be viewed. Christians are not and shall never be perfect in this life; we are only redeemed sinners who are yet on a journey to being perfected in Christ. We will all stumble in our walks with God, we will all mess up in our witness at least once if not more often, but the point is that we make the effort to mend our ways and to be more like Christ than the world even if we don’t always get it right. That’s not being a hypocrite, it’s called being human. I am thankful that our God is merciful and just that He will forgive me when I stumble in my own walk and confess my sin to Him. This Scripture passage also reminds me of the need to consider what I write and how I present it. Am I presenting it according to the world’s standards or according to Christ’s standards?

Now, there is nothing wrong with portraying a healthy romance, especially between a husband and wife. In fact, I think there should be more of those portrayals in Christian fiction, including fantasy, instead of ending the romance at the altar. I want to portray healthy and realistic romantic relationships whether the romance is a primary or secondary plot. I want to show that romance doesn’t end with marriage. But I always ask myself will this be uplifting or a stumbling block when I am writing romantic scenes for my fantasies. This is an important question and I believe it should be important to all Christian writers because we have an obligation to our readers.

Allow me to clarify what I mean by obligation. I am not saying that readers get to dictate what authors write. That would be impractical, stifling, and downright frustrating because authors will never be able to please every reader. I am saying that we are responsible for every word we write and every book we release. We are responsible for what we put out.

One argument I’ve heard in the debate over wholesomeness and how much is too much for sensuality is that “if you don’t like it, then you shouldn’t be reading X book or X author.” I disagree with this argument for a couple reasons. First, it implies that the author can write whatever and include whatever but should never be held accountable for what they write. Second, Christian authors who choose to include heavy sensuality often don’t give any warnings and more often than not the reviews don’t mention it either. I think it’s unfair to treat readers like they’re in the wrong when it comes to protesting heavy sensuality in a Christian book or stating that they found the level of sensuality uncomfortable because they went into the book with a certain set of expectations for content. Third, the reader is not forcing the author to write something they disagree with or that acts as a stumbling block to them. The author is the one who chooses the words, the descriptions and their level of detail, and the sensations conveyed by the scenes. As I said before, authors do bear responsibility for their choices.

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. ~ Romans 14:13

I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. ~ Romans 14:14-18

Just because something is not a stumbling block for us, it does not mean that we are absolved of all responsibility for our choices and how those choices affect others. Passionate? Racy? I tend to err on the side of caution in that debate. If I think a relatively harmless scene from my perspective seems too close to crossing a boundary and provoking overly sensual and lustful thoughts in my readers, then I will rewrite it. Sex and the romantic relationship between husband and wife is a wonderful thing and the Bible makes it clear that this is not a sin within the confines of marriage. However, the Bible and just honest evaluation also shows that the intimacy involved in a sensual relationship can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for Christians. Consider how often the Bible addresses the need for sexual purity outside of marriage and the examples of David, the man after God’s own heart, and the Corinthian church who prompted Paul’s teachings on love, marriage, and singlehood. Detailed descriptions of a romantic interlude can push the envelope and create a major stumbling block for readers.

I am not saying that Christian authors need to axe every single hint of sensuality in their romantic plots, even in fantasies. What I am asking is that authors take into consideration how much detail is being used and how it would have made them feel if they were struggling with the temptation to dwell on the sensual more than they should. Take into consideration the message being sent by your word choices and your description choices. You don’t have to show everything to be realistic. Actually, the more sensual side of romance is when it’s a good time to tell instead of show. I ask Christian authors to consider whether they want to reach readers by blending in with the world’s overly sensualized portrayals or by standing apart, by being different. I also ask Christian authors who feel that the level of sensuality included in their books is perfectly fine, even though they’ve received feedback that it might be too much for other Christians, to consider making a habit of posting notices in their book summaries that there is content best suited to a mature believer or something along those lines.

Most importantly, I call on Christian authors to carefully consider the apostle Paul’s words on the Christian obligation to weaker believers and how that should affect their choices in regards to romance and sensuality. Don’t just call the readers who take issue with the level of sensuality in a book “naïve” or “prudes” or say they’re in denial about reality. Some feedback will need to be taken with more salt than others but if there are legitimate and well-articulated concerns, then authors need to step back from the defensive and carefully consider whether the choices regarding the sensuality of the romance are celebrating marriage and love or are creating a stumbling block. It’s a hard thing to do but I believe this is something that Christian authors should do to set themselves apart from non-Christian authors, whether in Christian or secular fantasy. We will never be able to please everyone but we can decide how we portray ourselves, our books, and what goes into those books.

Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. ~ Romans 14:19-21

If you include a romantic plot in your fantasy, you will have to make choices on how to handle it. As Christian authors, we need to not only be able to stand before God unashamed of our work but we need to be conscientious of our target audience. Sensuality sells. But, how much sensuality can be included before it damages the testimony of a Christian? A wholesome and sweet romance sells too. Once you find your audience and you make a reputation for your writing style, there will always be an audience for the product. The first question is which audience are you writing for and is Christ in the audience? The second question is will you be mindful of your weaker brothers and sisters in Christ or will you throw up potential stumbling blocks and shrug off your obligations as an author and a Christian?

*All Scripture is in the NKJV.