guest post by kellyn roth | arranged marriage romances are always dirty...right?
If you've stuck around my blog long enough, you've no doubt discovered that there is little in regards to blogging that I like more than swapping guest posts with the illustrious Kellyn Roth.
Her guest post last year was a HUGE hit (and if you haven't read it yet, what is wrong with you???), so I am beyond excited to have her join us again in honor of the release of Springtime in Surrey!
Without further ado, I give to you the unfiltered thoughts of Christian historical romance author Kellyn Roth on none other than one of Christian romance's most controversial tropes: arranged marriages!
Arranged Marriage Romances Are Always Dirty … Right?
Hey folks! My name is Kellyn Roth, though you can call me Kell … and I get to come on and write a guest post for Grace, which is epic!
The reason I’m coming this time is because I’m launching an anthology called Springtime in Surrey with my small publisher, Wild Blue Wonder Press. Grace is a part of this anthology, as am I. I’m so excited to share these eight amazing stories with you!
My story is an arranged marriage romance set in the Regency era, and if you groaned, well, I get you, girl. I get you.
When I was a young thing way back when, I had an expectation that arranged marriage romances were always dirty.
Why? Because even Christians have to admit that certain things happen within a marriage, and since arranged marriage romances are generally modernized, these delicate topics are often discussed quite a bit.
Now I don’t feel quite that way—to the point where I’m in the process of writing several arranged marriage romances myself, including the novella in our current collection.
Why has my perspective changed?
There are three reasons.
My standards for what I consider “dirty” (or rather, ungodly) have changed.
I’ve found better arranged marriage romances.
The benefits of this type of romance have stood out to me more.
Let’s break those all down one at a time.
1: My standards for what I consider “dirty” (or rather, ungodly) have changed.
This probably made you cringe. It might make me cringe out of context, too. Usually standards shifting is not considered a good thing, and though there is a place for it, holding fast to what is true and good is never a bad thing.
That said, we all learn and grow. When I first started reading Christian romance, deep in my own sins and doubts and angst, I was incredibly harsh on any “negative content” or sensitive topics. I mean, I couldn’t even discuss menstrual cycles with my mother—how did you expect me to discuss … gAsP … KISSING!?
The funny thing is, I probably was harsher on passionate kisses in arranged marriage romances than in just plain ol’ romances. The reasoning? Those kind of kisses lead to sexual content. And I was uncomfortable with even the implication that it was happening off-screen.
Which was probably fine, in some ways. We are under no obligation to read what makes us uncomfortable. However, I hope that, unlike me in those early years, when something makes you uncomfortable, you will spend some time in thought and prayer and find out why.
Because sin should make us uncomfortable … but is the implication that sexual relationships have happened between a married couple sin?
Depends on the implication, and what “implication” means with vary from book to book, author to author, and reader to reader. But I argue that if the Bible can say in simple words “sexual content happened here” (not an actual Bible quote; usually it’s “he went into her,” “he laid with her,” etc., as you probably know!), we have reason to become more comfortable with that much.
Further, there’s Song of Solomon. Y’all probably groaned—because NO, Song of Solomon doesn’t have explicit sexual content. There’s no “then he did this and this to her” in SOS. However, most people agree* that the book deals with the desire of a man and his new bride to make love. It’s non-explicit, largely poetic, and really romantic.
And honestly, I’ll like to see more authors going that way.
*some disagree, and hey, that’s going to alter your perspective, but this is mine
Even if we separate this from the Bible—especially given that a lot of the time, the Bible is dealing more with needed information than sexual content for sexual content’s sake—I still believe there’s a case to be made for a little smooching and a slight implication being a-okay.
I know it’s a private relationship, but we’re reading about their private relationship from start to finish. Though we’d never want to be standing there in the room, and though I feel strongly that writing explicit sexual content is wrong, I’ve only read a Christian romance once or twice that actually had us standing there in the room during the act.
Honestly, the constant hemming and hawing around what should be a natural and beautiful experience is much worse than the actual sexually-charged scenes.
In some ways, I argue that it’s the average Christian writer’s need to explain and justify why they can write these sorts of things that makes it worse. If you’re simple and honest, people don’t complain as much. (Yet another area where we could learn from the classics!)
In my novella, Courage to Stay, I chose to have a couple kisses and a scene where it’s implied that they consummated their marriage (which is confirmed later by other things that happen #spoilers). I gave it some decent thought and prayers, as with all other aspects of the story, but these days, I find that overthinking it does more harm than good.
2: I’ve found better arranged marriage romances.
Maybe I’m wrong and if I re-read all my childhood arranged romance readers in the Christian fiction genre, I’d find they were just as good …
But I feel like I’ve found better Christian arranged marriage romances lately?
In particular, books like The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham that features a healthy appreciation for how nice kissing is. (Freddie and Grace are my OTP, and you cannot tell me that they are not the cutest things ever.)
Or the The Lumber Baron’s Daughters series by Mary Connealy which shows each couple eventually entering into at least a pseudo-arranged marriage situation where they are healthily attracted to each other … and healthily excited about their new benefits. (Note: I don’t think this series is actually that well-executed in terms of writing or plotting, but I liked some of the relationship dynamics, such as they existed in my head.)
Neither of these get explicit, but they still show people approach sexuality in a healthy way. This means both parties are interested in sexual relations and find each other attractive—and both parties seemed to enjoy proceedings or at least such is implied.
I’ll discuss why I think this is important in the third category, but just know that though I say some things that sound like they’d get pretty explicit, it’s so easy to write this into the character dynamics in a way that makes sense without getting into anyone else’s private business.
In my novella, Courage to Stay, I didn’t have to approach this aspect too much except in one scene as a) it’s short, and b) their relationship is not exactly healed in any area, so spending a lot of time on the sexual aspect seems silly.
3: The benefits of this type of romance have stood out to me more strongly.
Did you know that arranged marriages are actually really good for Christian fiction readers?
Okay, maybe not ALL Christian fiction readers. There was probably an era of my life when I wouldn’t have been benefited as much as I am today. But honestly, I have been so blessed by reading and writing Christian romance in recent years—of this trope and others—that I can’t help but talk about it.
So you can address this in two different ways—one as an unmarried Christian woman and one as a married Christian woman.
As an unmarried Christian woman, I think it’s good for us to get a look inside what a Christian marriage, often one wrought with issues (because fiction = plot = conflict), can look like. Further, I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that the end of a romance story is not marriage—rather, that’s the beginning.
As a married Christian woman, the same is good, but it also helps us know that we’re not alone, and a good romance should encourage us to do better.
Further, as I said, it gives us an opportunity to explore sexual love and physical attraction in a genre that so often only gives us accounts of sin (if it gives us anything at all) before moving on to the present and a new healthy relationship.
And there’s more to overcoming sin than just, “And now I’ve found a better man/woman who won’t pressure me to X, Y, and Z out of the marriage bed.” That’s often what a move away from sexual sin and into sexual purity is seen as in Christian fiction.
However, even if the author chooses to write an arranged marriage romance which doesn’t discuss sex (which is fine and acceptable, of course), the same benefits can of course be reaped.
Which brings me to my conclusion, for I have little else to say on this subject. Simply put, I believe firmly that there is value to arranged romance novels in Christian historical romance—they have gotten a bad rap—and there is great cause to keep writing them and reading them!
At the same time, we need to be thinking harder as authors about writing great arranged marriage romances. Because yes, there are some bad ones out there—quite a few—and it seems to be a genre that experiences some of the worst issues that have plagued Christian romances for years.
What are your thoughts on Christian arranged marriage romances?
~ the author ~
Kellyn Roth is a historical romance & women’s fiction author who writes about the empty places where hope has the most room to grow. Her novels include the inspirational Victorian family saga, The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy. When not building her author career or her indie-author-helping business, Wild Blue Wonder Press, Kell is likely getting lost somewhere in the Pacific Northwest with her friends, watching period dramas and facetious comedies, or spending time with her husband.
You can find her online at https://kellynrothauthor.com/
~ the anthology ~
Springtime in Surrey, the first collection releasing with Wild Blue Wonder Press, is a Christian anthology featuring eight lovely stories. With a mix of historical and contemporary, romance and women’s fiction, a dash of mystery here and there, real-life themes presented in a loving way, and a vintage feel, this story is sure to charm lovers of Christian women’s fiction.
Learn more at Wild Blue Wonder Press!
To echo Kell, share your thoughts on arranged marriage romances in the comments! We'd love to have a respectful conversation within you! And while you're down there, if you do like arranged marriage romances, drop the titles of some of your favorites! 😊 Oh, and if you want a chance to read an arranged marriage romance by Kellyn herself, be sure to preorder Springtime in Surrey!