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I just finished Heiress, (Daughters of Fortune Series #1) by Susan May Warren. If you have not yet read the book, you may want to skip this post, but I’ll try not to give too much away. This isn’t really a review so much as it is a reaction. (And I will try very hard not to make this a rant, but no promises).

Heiress. Wow. I loved the book. I was shocked by the book. I wanted to stand up and applaud after reading the book.

Honestly? My first thought was this: “This is not your grandmother’s Christian Fiction!”

A caveat: I have yet to read a book written by Susan May Warren that I did not enjoy. Susie could write out The Constitution verbatim and I think she’d find a way to give it a new twist and make it interesting. Another caveat: I read the reviews before I read the book. Yeah, I’m one of those people. I do actually find it interesting to see what people think about a book before I read it. I don’t let their thoughts influence me, but when I’m done I usually go back and read the reviews again, if only to agree or disagree inside my head. As it was, most of the reviews for this book were positive.

I’ve been a fan of the big story ever since reading Gone With The WInd. You know the kind I mean – lots of characters, lots of wealth, intrigue, lies andΒ  lots of sex. Well…you know… I do read mainstream fiction and I have to say unfortunately, that comes with the territory. In a Christian novel of course you won’t find the same descriptions, but I venture to say that with the likes of Susan May Warren, Julie Lessman and perhaps other CBA authors I haven’t yet discovered, Christian fiction is taking a bold step forward in giving readers a glimpse into the real world. And yes, if you were a fan of Dynasty, Dallas or any of the old night time soaps, you’ll love Heiress. There is wealth, a ton of it, intrigue, deception and yes, sex, (without getting graphic). Infidelity. Betrayal. It’s all there, penned in such a fashion that you’re sucked into the world of The Gilded Age from the first page.

I’ve visited those Newport Mansions and I can tell you that Susan did an amazing job with her descriptions. The lives and attitudes of the rich and famous were completely believable. As one who has rubbed shoulders with some super snotty fabulously wealthy individuals, I related to these characters. I understood them. Money is their God. End of story.

So here comes the question. How is this Christian fiction? Should it be?

In light of Richard’s thoughts on Friday, I mulled over all this as I read the book. In Yesterday’s Tomorrow, my two main characters sleep together. They’re not married. They even have a child together. Does this mean I can’t call my book Christian fiction? Indeed, I have had at least one reader say so. Does God show up in Yesterday’s Tomorrow? Undoubtedly. Does God show up in Heiress? I believe He does. And keeping in mind that this is Book One in a series, I venture to say that the characters’ spiritual journeys are only just beginning.

Do we honestly believe that sin is an invention of the last century?

If we are going to decry books that dare to throw back the curtain and show readers the real world in all it’s glory, books that give us a taste of the grit and the grime and the complete depravation of the human condition, then I am drawn to conclude that you’d better put your Bible away under lock and key.

Sin has been in existence for as long as man has. Why is a book written today that deals with these things any different than the stories of sin, infidelity, immorality in the Bible? Is God not present in the Bible? Of course He is. Is God present in Christian fiction? If that author is a professed child of God, then yes, I believe He is, whether the author chooses to present Him up close and personal or not. He’s still there.

If we have no sin, we have no need of a Saviour. I’ve said this from the moment I started writing for the inspirational market. Yes, you can savor your sweet little romance all wrapped up neat and tidy in a big pink bow with nary so much as a chaste kiss between characters. Those books exist and they sell well. To Christians. Perhaps I’m generalizing, but I think a book that deals with reality has a far greater chance of speaking to the non-believer than a book where the characters are so good that Jesus doesn’t need to show up.

As an author who also happens to be a Christian, I’m continually faced with the question of why I write. Do I write to merely to entertain my readers, the majority of those being people of like-mindedness in faith or do I write with a hidden agenda, making sure every chapter whacks the reader over the head with the gospel message so that if that person who doesn’t happen to believe in God somehow picks up a copy of my book, they’re darn sure gonna be saved by the end of it.

Puh-lease.

I think what we’re seeing in books like Heiress is a creative balance between entertainment and faith. We’re seeing a new brand of fiction with a faith message. Fiction you can share with your friend who wants nothing to do with God for whatever reason. These books won’t appeal to everyone. There will be some who say it’s too much. Too much reality. And perhaps it is. But personally, I’d rather deal in reality than walk through the world with blinders on, stepping over the things that make me cringe along the way.

So yes, this isn’t your grandmother’s Christian fiction. But maybe it is. Because between you and me, I think our grandmothers knew a lot more than we gave them credit for.

What do you think? Should Christian authors embrace reality in our writing or shy away from it?

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