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Review: The New England Romance Collection

I hate to say it, but this collection of Christian Fiction romance stories was the straw that broke the camel’s back. (Although, I should really credit one of the Amish romance novelists with weighing down the camel in the first place.) I avoided sunburn and heatstroke by curling up indoors with The New England Romance Collection on my summer break. Let’s dive in to what I found.

What Worked

  • First and foremost, these five ladies wrote novellas, found agents, and published their manuscripts. Kudos to Susan Page Davis, Darlene Franklin, Pamela Griffin, Lisa Harris, and Lynette Sowell for that! It takes a lot of hard work, focus, and dedication to complete a work of this length.
  • The purpose of encouraging other Christian women in their faith clearly drove these five authors in their writing. Regardless of the execution, I believe these women wrote with pure hearts and an admirable goal.

What Could Improve

  • Unclear Settings: The book’s back cover provides the most clarity for the time and place where each story occurs. The stories themselves do not contain enough unique descriptions to differentiate this book from the thousands of others on the shelves. In addition, the descriptions in these books rely heavily on the visual sense. Unfortunately, the simple visuals actually prevent the reader from getting drawn into the story.
  • You Told Me Too Much: What is the first rule of writing? Show, don’t tell. Now, I find it easier to say that rule than to accomplish it, but that rule separates diaries from prestigious magazines. Unfortunately, The New England Romance Collection tells the reader setting, emotion, and character development far more often than it shows the reader. By telling instead of showing, the authors actually prevent readers from putting on the characters’ shoes and walking around.

Why Does Walking Around in the Character’s Shoes Matter?

When readers can’t immerse themselves in the story, they can’t learn the lessons the characters learn, either. Bringing readers along on a character’s emotional journey allows readers to learn the lessons for themselves. Don’t we usually learn better from experience than from rules and advice? If it’s true for a parent trying to keep their child from touching a hot stove, it’s true for the author trying to lead people in a deeper relationship with God.

Hope Exists for Romance

If Christian Fiction Romance authors focus on vivid sensory details, we can vastly improve the genre. (Of course, editors and publishers have a hand in promoting immersive books, and that’s a different issue.) I believe improving the quality of the writing would start bringing a wider audience into the genre. That wider audience means more people who can be shown Christ. A win-win!

If you are looking for a romance book that handles sensory details well, check out Jan Karon’s Mitford series. For a different take on The New England Romance Collection, the Goodreads reviewers note what they valued and liked in the book. How do you feel about immersive sensory details in books? Let me know in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Review: The New England Romance Collection

  1. Hey Ashton! I have enjoyed reading your blogs about Christian Fiction! I liked this last post in particular because I think you touch on the heart of fiction books (i.e. the immersive sensory details). I agree with you that this is vital for a fiction book because it allows the reader to be in sink with the character(s) of the story. If we (as readers) are given a highlight or even an image of what is to come then it would ruin our experience of reading the story because we would already have an expectation of what it should look like or be. I mainly read Christian Fiction books but my genre is more fantasy, historical fiction and futuristic. My favorite author is Ted Dekker who has created a world within countless books. I just recently finished a series by Stephen Lawhead and he is really good as immersing the readers into his books. I know your post is about romance books and these two authors are not that, exactly, but they are two examples of authors who understand immersive sensory details. Francine Rivers and Lynn Austin are two Christian authors that I enjoy reading when I feel like a romance type book, but they also mix in some historical and biblical fiction with their romance, and they also grasp the idea of allowing their readers to be immersed with their characters.
    I’ve enjoyed following you through this topic and even though I don’t comment on many of them (this is my first), I really enjoy reading them. You make me think of things I hadn’t thought of before, not only about books but about God and His Word!
    Blessings to you as you follow this journey and I look forward to reading more of what you have to say and share!
    – Katlyn Gregory

    1. Thank you so much, Katlyn! You bring up some excellent examples of Christian authors who take a more complex approach to writing! I haven’t read much of their work for myself yet, so thank you for the suggestions! I look forward to reading their works and discussing them on the blog! Blessings to you, as well!

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