Carolyn asked me to read an early copy of her novel, Stay with Me, ages ago, and I believe my endorsement began, in the unedited version, with “I LOVVVVE IT!” It’s a romance that will pique your interest without sullying your thoughts and one that also manages to not shove religion down your throat so that you choke and gag and take the author’s name in vain. It’s well-written, but I’ll let Carolyn cover more of that…
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Hang around a group of writers long enough, and you’ll glean the advice, “Write the book you want to read.” While I didn’t have those words in mind when I began to write Stay With Me, it’s what I accomplished.
With the encouragement of her brash sister, Abby, Rebecca has moved out of their overbearing father’s home. When a chance encounter with a good-looking guy named Chris ends with an invitation, Rebecca is emboldened to say yes. The authentic way Chris lives his Catholic faith and his life attracts Rebecca, and a family wedding, a camping trip, and a ride on his Harley-Davidson later, she’s in love, though she can’t bring herself to tell him.
Chris loves Rebecca and her innocence, but he’s confounded by the emotional scars she bears from her mother’s abandonment, her father’s cruelty, and an attempted assault. Coupled with her past, their differing faiths and her father’s disdain for both Chris’s religion and his career threaten their future.
With the counsel of their mutual friend Father John, can Rebecca and Chris overcome all the obstacles in their path and bridge the deepening gulf between them and her dad? Or will a crucial lapse in judgment and its repercussions end their relationship?
First and foremost, I want to be entertained by fiction, caught up in the characters and the story line and swept away. That doesn’t mean I’m seeking escapist fluff, only that I want to be drawn into the narrative and immersed in the fictional world. If you read Stay With Me, and you’re not invested in Chris and Rebecca’s story, then I’ve failed.
While many romance aficionados speak of a lifelong affinity for the genre, I only delved into it as I began to write it. I enjoy rediscovering the first blush of attraction and the rush of falling in love. I enjoy a “happily ever after,” even if we know those real-life ever-afters are rife with ups and downs, joys and suffering. At the same time, I seek to avoid trashy trysts or pornographic scenes. Even a “clean” novel with off-screen sex will pull me right out of the story if the character’s worldview and concept of right and wrong is diametrically opposed to mine. Chris and Rebecca’s romance should effectively embody the sizzle of romantic love that lands it on the edgy end of Christian fiction without teetering into titillation or unrepentant immorality.
Christian and secular romances abound, and I’ve discovered many very good ones. Most, however, are written by and for evangelical Christians if there is a faith element at all. The basic tenets of our Christian faith are the same, and I enjoy these stories immensely. I do, however, miss the familiar trappings of my lifelong faith—a cherished religious medal, a well-worn rosary, or characters that attend Mass or enjoy an adult beverage without any qualms. Stay With Me blends the faith of a man and woman from vastly different backgrounds, one raised with no faith and the other from a Christian fundamentalist perspective. A priest, who enjoys a good beer with a good friend, is an important secondary character.
If I’m going to write about love and romance, I have to address human sexuality. As a Catholic writer, I’m going to build a framework that confronts our sexually-permissive culture with a solid foundation in the Theology of the Body. We live in a culture that equates same-sex “marriage” with traditional marriage and normalizes living together and sex outside of marriage. Even those who understand and uphold the truth and beauty of authentic sexuality and chastity struggle with pornography addiction, habitual masturbation, lust, or on the flip side, Gnosticism and prudery. Stay With Me seeks to convey the truth that God created us male and female for a purpose without sounding like a textbook or hammering the reader with a theology bludgeon.
I hope I’ve piqued your interest about Stay With Me. It is the kind of book I want to read, and I hope it’s the kind you want to read, too.