"Passion with a Purpose"
Remember what I said a couple weeks ago about writing whilst everyone else is stuck at home? I take it back.
I've been writing, yes, and I was definitely working on my next manuscript when I posted that. But...uh...aside from a Christmas short story--I have a weakness for those, apparently--about two of my favorite secondary characters, I haven't been doing much. I just wrote 379 words yesterday in Bound and Determined, which was the first since...well, since I wrote that blog post on the 4th.
Maybe you count a 9,280-word long short story--it's becoming more of a novella--that I've indulged in as progress, but I don't. Thank God for self-publishing, or else I would have missed a thousand deadlines. 😅
So...what have I been doing, you ask?
Reading. And, no, not The Cost of Discipleship, which I started a few months ago and haven't finished. And, no, not the Lord of the Rings saga that has been sitting, untouched, on my shelf since Christmas.
Instead, I've been reading ebooks. I never read ebooks. To be honest, I hate them. I've discovered some greats through my several-month stint with my local e-library--like Karen Witemeyer and Kristi Ann Hunter--a few years ago, but I was turned off to popular Elizabeth Camden, famous Colleen Coble, and Kathleen Morgan due to, well, just not liking ebooks. I'm sure they're great authors, but I can't glean a lot from reading off a computer screen.
It was free, and I took the plunge. Next thing I knew, I was hooked. Somehow, in some way, Julie Lessman can make an ebook-hater pay good money for her ebooks. And, yes, I'm a penny-pinching miser, so my paying good money for something means a lot.
Well, two series and four weeks into Julie Lessman's wonderful universe of Irish Catholic womanizers--yes, you heard that right--and I'm getting kind of angry.
I love this lady's books. And I know only one person's going to read this blog post--you know who you are 😉😘--but I'm going take the time to preach a sermon anyway. (BTW, if you're reading this post, please like or comment just to let me know that I have an audience of more than one. It would be encouraging.)
I have a weakness for reading reviews. Especially before I write reviews. And especially the negative reviews.
A lot of books/authors--even the super famous, really good ones--get some nasty comments, bad ratings, or mess up a couple times. Most of the time, at least in the Christian fiction genre, it's usually the scenarios of a simplistic plot, 1-D characters, or--in the historical case--a lack of historic detail or an incorrect fact. (Which, if 'tis incorrect, wouldn't be a fact, but you get my point.)
However, I've never seen an author take this many hits. Everyone says the same thing about Julie Lessman and every stinkin' one of her books--too much. Too much passion. Too much "lust." Too far into the bedroom. (If that's a problem for you, I'd suggest you forget borrowing Redeeming Love from your grandmother and you put down Gone with the Wind or that Eugenia Price novel right this instant.)
All right, all right. I understand these concerns completely.
What I don't understand are the points these people make and the stands they take and the arguments they present.
Here's how I see things, firstly as a reader of romance.
#1: If you're reading a romance novel, then you've pretty much bet on a few heated kisses--even if it's "Christian." If that's not what you're looking for, but you accidentally stumbled upon a romance, read it, and didn't like it, then that's personal opinion. It was too much, for your tastes, because you're more of a light, inspirational reader. I totally get that.
#2: In the same way, I like kiss scenes. I will purposefully pick up one of my favorite books, flip to the longest one, and reread it several times. Disgusting? I call it human. So, for me, a little "too much" is not a problem.
#3: Heated kisses are reality. I like to read real things. Books about fictional people in fictional situations who have the same, real issues as the rest of us. I've never read anything more real than Julie Lessman.
I also write romance. How does that change how I see things like this?
#1: I like to write kiss scenes. (Don't look at me like that. Just because I might have never been kissed before doesn't mean I can't enjoy imagining.)
I wrote this one at twelve: "I wanted to jerk away, but his hold was too fast. I wanted to plant my fist in his face, but I was drowning in his touch. And I wanted to tell myself not to lean into him, to return his kiss, but the last of my common sense had fled me, and frankly, I didn’t want it back.
Xavier’s arms around me tightened, his mouth moving against mine in such a way that made me wonder if he had intended only to shut me up or if he had been planning to get his hands on me all along. Not that there was anything I was able to do about it, leastwise not when I was unwillingly enjoying kissing this devious scoundrel all too much.
My mind was spinning now, with warnings and objections and him. My heart was pounding, perhaps from fear of what the knave might truly be attempting to do or perhaps from sheer pleasure. And my hands, the utterly rebellious little limbs, were sliding up his chest to his shoulders, gripping onto him for dear life as I went overboard.
I parted my lips, deepening our kiss even as I told myself not to. Dash it all. What did it matter anyway? It was naught but a stupid kiss. I might as well make the most of it, aye?"
Then this one at fourteen: "'That you care'— he drew me closer, his arm around my waist, his hand on my hip—'about me.' He leaned in until our noses brushed, until the air I breathed in was the same he breathed out. Until there was no escape.
Even if I wanted to.
But I needed to.
'Elliot, you know—'
His mouth cut my words off. His left hand trailed up my arm, leaving tingles on my skin, moving up my shoulder and to the back of my neck. Tilted my head back, tangled his fingers in my curls. Parted my lips, blurred the lines between want and need, between reality and dream, between the warning bells and the thrum of my pulse.
My muscles ached, tightened with the gnawing pain of a long-ignored hunger. My fingers clenched into fists, balling up the fabric of his shirt in my hands. I had to let go. Needed to. So badly.
Because I was leaving. And it was for the best. And if I let this go too far, I’d regret it.
But then my back arched. All resistance fled, succumbed to the heady sensations his touch induced. My fingers loosened, climbed up his chest, over his shoulders. My mouth moved against his, melting into him. Then there were no bells. No thoughts. No oughts and needs and should’ves. Only Elliot. Only me.
Only us. Now.
And nothing else mattered."
#2: This stuff is important. I know you can easily write "he kissed her" and be done with it, but if you spend three paragraphs describing the exterior of a house, then the one-sentence thing is gonna be a little out of place. And those jolts of electricity? Um...they actually don't exist. And I don't believe in love at first sight. Attraction, yes. Love, no. (And I should know. Love is a choice. So are those tingles.)
#3: This goes hand-in-hand with reading reality. I write reality. And, for me, that means men speaking in tongues and women casting out demons--because I know that's real. And it also means writing some flying sparks. Like in this scene in Bound and Determined:"I leaned into her face, hovering over her until she had to bend back to continue glaring directly at me, watching as her gaze flitted from my jaw to my eyes to the pulsing vein in my neck. Pools of moist blue spilled over, almost lapping at her cheeks and trailing across the bridge of her nose…
'Do not pretend to know me, Daisy. You don’t. I’m not the same kid you used to know.'
Until she blinked. Stiffened and straightened, inclined her head ‘til my lips brushed against the feather-soft skin at her hairline. 'You should well know I’m not the same little girl either, Mr. Clarke.'
The heat radiating from her slender body was more powerful than it had ever been when we were younger. Her slender body was more full and curved than it had ever been when we were younger. I drew back, tracing my lips with my tongue and tasting her scent of honeycomb and lemongrass, morning dew and wildflowers—the taste of home. ‘Twas true; she was not the same either. She was taller—by half a foot or so—and surely weighed more. Her features had filled out, revealing low cheekbones, a perfectly rounded jaw, a pert nose, full lips.
Full, succulent, anticipating lips directly beneath mine, dripping with…
All right, all right. I could've done better with that one, couldn't I? Well, you got to understand where the point-of-view character is coming from--he's only pecked a girl's lips once or twice, so Daisy is a wee bit "too much," I guess you could say.
Now, as a Christian, surely I find the idea of reading such "lustful porn" distasteful? (To be honest, lustful porn is Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey and After. no. thank. you. I. will. not. period.) And what about as a teenage girl who is "easily influenced"?
Well, #1: It's better to marry than to burn--or at least that's what Paul says in 1st Corinthians--which implies that you do burn, and with passion, at that. He doesn't say that this burning is sinful, but that just as anger is a human emotion that even Jesus felt, one should be careful what one does with such passion. Acting on that passion, ruining one's purity and stepping over boundaries that should never be crossed? That's a sin. Disobeying God? That's a sin. Living with the demons of another person, bearing their illegitimate child, being disowned or despised by family, having a STD? That's the consequence of sin. Julie Lessman shows that through the guilt her characters are riddled with, through the consequences they have to endure. What else does she show, though? That Christ can forgive any sin.
#2: It's a beautiful allegory, that passion. If you'd just stalk the woman's blog posts--like I do--then you'd see that she doesn't write all that mushy-gushy nonsense for pleasure. (I mean, maybe. I know I do.) She writes about belly buttons like goblets and cheeks like pomegranates and lips like wine and breasts like roses because it reflects the love God has for us. Oh, wait. No. That was King Solomon. Ha, ha. I'm sorry. Ahem. She writes about impassioned married couples and lovesick rakes and desirable women because that reflects the love God has for His bride--whether that be His first bride Israel or His second, the Gentiles. Us. That reckless abandon and idiotic love that causes the characters to throw caution to the wind and chase after their hearts desire...is kind of like Christ's. Now, I'm not saying His love is reckless or stupid. Far from it. But for us to live out that love seems crazy to us.
#3: Now, how about that negative influence? Do I feel bad about myself because I'm not as "curved" or "sensual" as Charity O'Conner? Do I feel like I need a man to satisfy me? Do I feel like a less-than nobody on the outskirts of the crowd because I'm a virgin? Nope. Hands-down, nope. In fact, I might feel a wee bit proud about those things--that I'm a petite little girl who relies only on God and is as pure as a newborn lamb. I'm reminded by the stupid mistakes her characters make that, yes, beauty is very--very--vain, that charm is super deceitful, that my virginity is a gift I will only give my husband one day, that NO ONE can satisfy me like Jesus does. (I mean, even Selena Gomez apparently gets that, so... Not saying I know her heart, but she can talk the talk, or, well, sing the song.) And I am also reminded that some people--no, a lot of people don't know or understand or believe what I do. And a portion of those people are in my life. right. now. today. And they need God more than anything in the world.
So, yes. Her passion definitely has a purpose. I'm glad I realized that. I'm sorry others don't. I'm also sorry--not--that I got a little rant-ish and kind of prejudiced and maybe a bit biased. Hope you enjoyed the sermon, folks. And those kiss scenes. I got more where that came from! 😉
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(Originally published May 21st, 2020.)