Tag Archives: Romance

Book Review Wednesday – Honor

Honor: Second Novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano

Amazon Book Description:

The Earl of Dentin excels in his position as Securer of the Realm. But the king’s order to pluck an orphaned child from a loving home unsettles Dentin. When a dark-eyed woman challenges his honor regarding the mission, Dentin finds himself unable to justify his actions or get her out of his mind. Something about her lack of fear intrigues him.

Lady Elsa Reeve attempts to avoid the marriage of convenience her brother and mother demand of her. She understands the need to pay off her brother’s massive debt. She only wants her family to consider her wishes in the process.

As Elsa becomes further entangled in a snare of her brother’s creating, only one man defends her. But can she trust Dentin, her unlikely champion, and his motives? With a murderer on the loose, Elsa’s fate in jeopardy, and a traitor plotting against the king, Dentin finds his priorities shifting in an unexpected direction.

I have to say that after reading the first book in this series, Duty, I was on pins and needles waiting for Honor and it did not disappoint.

Plot – Grade A

The premise of this book rests on Dentin’s attempt to balance his personal honor with the orders of the king as well as hunting for murderers and traitors in his position of Securer of the Realm. Dentin is a self-professed man of honor but he is challenged not only by the difficulty of his latest task but also by Lady Elsa Reeve. Elsa has been treated like a pawn by her own family for years but she has a strong and loving spirit too, which steals away any preconceived notion that she’s your typical damsel in distress. Think medieval-esque Darcy and Elizabeth and you have a good glimpse into their contrasting yet complimentary temperaments. The dynamic between these two characters is definitely part of what makes the plot, which ranges from initial intrigue surrounding Dentin’s unpleasant task to a murder to treason, mesh well together. As compelling as each of the elements in the plot are on their own terms, Dentin and Elsa’s personalities and their brewing relationship really glues it together as a whole. A number of familiar faces from Duty show up in this book and there are passing references to events that occurred in that book that are now influencing characters and events in Honor five years later and while reading the first book enriches the experience for this one, Honor is able to stand on its own.

Content – Grade A

This is a clean fantasy. The romance between Dentin and Elsa builds up slowly and sweetly with their attraction becoming clear even though they both spend about half the book reminding themselves that they really shouldn’t be falling in love right now, especially Dentin. There are two or three kisses before they get married and some references to sharing a bed with a husband but it’s all handled very sweetly. I applaud Rossano for her ability to show the initial and growing attraction between the characters in a way that is very compelling without ever straying into crassness. There is also a reference to a girl being rendered unmarriageable by a scoundrel and a man having a mistress but these are also handled with care.

No language is written out. It’s all either cut off before the first syllable or is merely referenced to as “he cursed.” There is violence, including a character who is abusive to women, and there are also people who are wounded or killed. This violence is accomplished without gratuitousness. The violence occurs and characters react but there is nothing shown that shouldn’t be or that should have been toned down further. With the abuse in particular, the aftermath is what is mainly shown with one exception but it is never glorified nor overly gritty and one character warns the character being abused to escape her abuser because she’s seen this happen before and the last time it killed the girl who was married to an abuser.

There is spirituality present with the characters referencing, worshipping, and praying to the Kurios and asking for His guidance. There is also a reference to one character not being afraid of death because he long ago learned to turn to the Kurios for his security after death.

Technical – Grade A

This was a very well-written and compelling read. There were maybe four whole typos/slips in the entire story. One was a missing punctuation and there was a missing article that didn’t affect the reading of the sentence. There were two true typos. Most readers might not notice these unless they’re looking for them. There was maybe one slightly anachronistic phrase but I can’t make up my mind on it and it wasn’t egregious.

Final Grade – A or Five Stars

Overall this was an excellent medieval-esque fantasy that demonstrates how to combine romantic and political intrigue without them competing with each other or straying into boredom or disbelief. The plot is compelling and along with the characters kept me drawn in. The end of the book leaves one with all sorts of questions about what will happen next and I eagerly await the next novel of Rhynan. I would recommend this book to those looking for a clean Christian fantasy and those who enjoy fantasies set in a medieval-esque world. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

Next – Avalon: An Allegory by Valerie Howard

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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

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.

Serial Sunday: The Stolen Jewel – Episode Three

The Stolen Jewel

An Episodic Medieval Fantasy Romance

by

Kimberly A. Rogers

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

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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 kimberlyrogerscfwriter.wordpress.com 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.

Serial Sunday: The Stolen Jewel – Episode One

The Stolen Jewel

An Episodic Medieval Fantasy Romance

by

Kimberly A. Rogers

The kingdom of Cymru is balanced on the edge of civil war. Tensions are high and cruel King Mauger intends to cement his rule with an heir but first he must take a wife, willing or no. Etain has no desire to wed the monster who wears the crown but when her father pledges her hand to him, she fears she is doomed to a life of misery. But raiders attack her wedding caravan and she is carried off by their masked leader. Duke Ronan’s boldness in spiriting away the tyrant’s intended seems half-mad to Etain, especially when they arrive at his keep to find a priest waiting to wed them. Ronan gives Etain a choice – she can wed him or he will send her back to her father . . . and the king.

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Chapter One

“Father, no!” Etain clasped her hands against her waist to keep from clinging to her father’s tunic or twisting her own heavy velvet skirts. Her father did not tower over her by even a head but she still had to raise her chin slightly to meet his piercing grey eyes, her own pleading for him to find a way to deliver her from the horrid fate now awaiting her.

But the man who had always protected her, always listened to her requests, even if he did not always indulge her, only set his bearded jaw in a determined line. Though Lugh, Count of Haderyn, was not a tall man, he was broad. His square build was now cloaked in a scarlet doublet that strained across his chest and shoulders and contrasted with his close-cropped silvered brown hair. The bejeweled hilt of his sword in the shape of a rampant hippogriff matched the family crest emblazoned in silver on the jet clasp of his black frieze cloak. His boots were still caked in drying mud and his hunting gloves were yet clutched in his right hand, testifying that the news he bore had first interrupted his hunt. Now, though there was a hint of regret in his grey gaze, her father shook his head. “You have no choice, lass. I have no choice.” His deep voice gentled as he offered, “Mauger’s offer is a great honor.”

A shudder ran down the length of her spine. Disgust made her tone sharper than intended as she snapped, “He is a monster!”

“He is the king!” Her father stepped forward, shoving his leather gloves in his belt before engulfing her hands between his, as he hissed, “And as king, Mauger may lay claim to any maid in the kingdom. Even if I tried to deny him now that his eye has alighted on you, Etain, he would still have you as wife.”

Etain shook her head, recalling all too clearly the tales of butchery, overindulgence, debauchery, and cruelties too ghastly to be named. Everything in her recoiled at the thought of wedding the Monster of Cymru. “Please.”

The word was little more than a whisper but still Lugh cast a furtive look over his shoulder as though Mauger’s great brute of an emissary might burst into her chamber at any moment. Then he turned back to her, his solemn gaze now tinged with pity, and touched her cheek for a moment before he shook his head. “There is nothing to be done. If you fled, your attempted rebellion would lead to my lands being razed, our people slaughtered, and you would be paraded in chains to his fortress instead of travelling safely in a caravan that will cater to the comforts of Mauger’s betrothed. With his reputation, you should know that any attempt on your part to escape will only make his hand fall heavier on you when you are brought to him.”

She shuddered again, feeling as cold as if the fire burning merrily in the hearth was but an illusion. Everyone knew what had happened to Mauger’s last mistress. The daughter of a wealthy silk merchant whose only crime had been to wish an escape from the gilded cage Mauger had placed her in. The poor girl had been burned at the stake for treason after she defied a degrading command from the king. In her heart of hearts, Etain knew that Mauger’s wife would fare little better. But to escape was impossible and would cause even greater harm to her father and their people. The realization made her sink down into the chair from which she had sprung upon hearing her father’s news. Betrothed. She drew a hitching breath then slowly looked up at her father. However, there was no hitch in her voice as Etain quietly asked, “When will the caravan leave?”

“Tomorrow. As soon as the morning fast has been broken.”

She nodded, but did not permit herself to react. “I will summon Tura so we can pack.”

“According to the king’s emissary, you need only bring travelling clothes. When you arrive at Carchar, Mauger will give you a wardrobe fit for a queen.” Her father’s wan attempt at a smile failed to conceal his unease over the implicit command that Etain bring nothing of her old home, of her old life, with her. She wanted to bristle at the thought of leaving her precious books and the loom where her mother had taught her to weave the same tapestries that now brightened her father’s hall. But if she brought them, especially the books, she would no doubt be forced to watch as they were destroyed before Mauger punished her.

No. No, it would be far wiser to leave them here. She nodded slowly and murmured, “Tura will be relieved.”

The elderly lady’s maid was far more likely to huff and grumble about uppity lordlings even if the ‘lordling’ in question was the king. Her father gave a curt nod then moved to leave but he paused with his hand on the door handle. His silvered head was bent and he spoke in a rumbling whisper, “I never thought I would regret that you survived the fever last spring.” Lugh cleared his throat then stated in a louder voice, “Perhaps Shaddai has a plan for you to help reach Mauger, lass. This could be His will.”

His will? How could the sham of a marriage that Mauger would force on her be Shaddai’s will? Surely, He would not ask so much of her. Could there not be some way for her to escape without bringing Mauger’s wrath down on her father and their people?

Etain was careful to keep her thoughts from showing as her father glanced back at her. She offered a faint smile of her own as she spoke what she did not believe, “Perhaps it is, Father.”

As she watched him slip out, a mere shadow of the proud warrior who had led the charge against an invasion of trolls in 845, and the despise she felt for the Monster of Cymru grew. Whirling about, Etain crossed the chamber to the large window seat. Pulling her skirts up slightly, she clambered onto the worn cushions then leaned her forehead against the cool pane of glass and sighed. Perhaps, just perhaps, there was a way to escape. She simply couldn’t flee from her father’s home. Yes, a smile curved her lips as she contemplated the mud and puddles left behind by the night’s storm, mud that would no doubt slow the caravan’s progress, I will wait until the caravan crosses the borders of our lands and then I can run without Father being suspected.

The heavy oaken door slammed open, crashing into the stone wall and making her jump. She twisted around to see Mauger’s brute of an emissary leering at her. Standing, she watched as the hulking brute loomed in the doorway before he stepped inside. His small, piggish eyes squinted against the caressing rays of sunlight for a moment before he surveyed the chamber—covetousness creeping into his gaze when it fell upon the rich tapestries and furnishings and when he dared to open her jewelry box and draw out her mother’s emeralds before carelessly tossing them back in, a sneer curling his lip as he eyed the seven books spread across her writing table although she rather doubted the thug could read, and, most disturbing of all, sheer avarice mixed with a hungry light as he impudently raked his gaze over her from the top of her head to the hem of her bliaut. Etain raised her chin defiantly even as she shuddered inside and wished that the spring day were cold enough to justify wearing a mantle over the close-fitting gown. Nevertheless, she only allowed a hint of frost in her voice, knowing that Mauger’s pet thug had a long leash and his master had yet to call to him to heel. “Why have you entered my chamber, Sir Grimbol? My lord father and the king would not approve of your presence here. A lady’s chamber is sacrosanct, after all.”

Sir Grimbol’s beefy face crumpled in confusion for only a heartbeat but then his already wine-flushed complexion mottled as anger overrode desire. His surprisingly high voice came out in a whine as he snarled, “King Mauger wants all of his betrothed’s comforts to be met and he has sent you a present of two slave girls.” A contemptuous light entered his piggish eyes as he added, “They will be swifter than that hag the old man claimed was your lady’s maid.”

Horror tumbled and churned its way through her. She had heard the furtive whispers amongst the servants and her father’s men-at-arms before Tura shooed her out of earshot, but never had she imagined that Mauger would grow bold enough to openly parade slaves, much less ‘gift’ them to anyone. It was a breach of the inter-kingdom charter to own sentient beings, human or no. The other five kingdoms would rise against Cymru if they learned Mauger was now bold enough to declare people ‘slaves.’ But . . . who would dare to tell them?

Only when the girls were brought in, cringing and timid, by two hulking guards did Etain register Tura’s squawked protestations echoing up the stairwell. Her eyes flew to where Sir Grimbol was looming over the girls. He noticed her attention and a triumphant sneer curled his lip just before he backhanded the younger of the girls as she made the mistake of reaching for one of the books with a coarse oath that blistered Etain’s ears. She stepped forward to intervene but Sir Grimbol gave her a warning look just before he yanked the stunned girl up, his beefy fingers digging into her arm with bruising force, and then shoved her toward the massive wardrobe, ignoring her muted cry of pain when she tumbled into an open chest. His warning was too clear to be ignored. Any attempt on Etain’s part to interfere would only bring greater harm to the poor girls.

Frustrated at her own helplessness, Etain returned to the window. She watched as a wild gryphon, its jet-black wings standing out against the blue sky, floated lazily on the updrafts. She imagined what it would be like to ride on one, to fly far from Cymru and out of Mauger’s clutches. Once she had flown with her father on his hippogriff stallion but that had been before her mother died after some fool of a hunter shot down her hippogriff. Her father had restricted her to land-bound horses after that incident.

Sir Grimbol’s high voice filled the air, “Set a watch on the lady’s chamber until morning and the slaves are to sleep in here. King’s orders. And tell the old man that a hippogriff shall be served for dinner.”

Etain did not turn from the window. Despite the high offense of requiring her father to not only kill one of their prize hippogriffs but to also eat the very symbol of their house, she did not turn and she did not allow herself to react. It was what he wanted. Sir Grimbol was the sort who delighted most in watching victims squirm and thrash in their attempts to escape his master’s traps. Still her gaze fell to what she could see of the courtyard and the soldiers clad in purple tabards with a blood-red basilisk emblazoned on their chests, a score and five in number, milling about the courtyard and the hall. Members of Mauger’s royal guard, loyal to the Monster of Cymru alone and all as soul dead as him if rumor was to be believed, who had come to ensure that his intended reached his side.

Raising her eyes to the heavens, Etain once more searched for the gryphon but the jet-black creature had vanished. Like her hopes of escape. She would be locked in a gilded cage for Mauger’s amusement. She raised her chin slightly and silently promised herself that though she would be imprisoned, she would not become a victim.

The Stolen Jewel Copyright © 2015 Kimberly A. Rogers and kimberlyrogerscfwriter.wordpress.com 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.