I’ve had folks ask me if I’ve ever read a book I didn’t like. Um … yeah! Usually, I don’t waste my time finishing those that can’t hold my interest. And I never review a book that I can’t give at least 3 stars – “It was okay. I liked it.” Call me a coward, or noodle-kneed, but I’m fully aware that each book I read has a real live author who likely sweat blood over their baby’s creation. I know how hard that is. I also fully realize that the book I so dislike has been published while mine … well … not so much. But I am a reader. Like other readers who may never aspire to write, I do know what I like. And what I don’t like. And it just so happens that a book I just put down held at least a dozen different things that would make me walk away from it with a bad taste in my mouth. At first, I started to make this a top-ten list, but as I chatted with some of you online, I realized that there are a lot more than just 10 reasons why readers will put a book down. I’m calling them Reader Rejectables, and I’ll share one per week (or there abouts) for at least the next few months.
My first rejectable is inappropriate content. Check the website header. This is Faith~Driven Fiction and I read Christian novels. When a reader picks up a CBA book, they can and should have certain expectations. And the reader shouldn’t be made to feel naive or backward just because they hold to their values. One of the big taboos of Christian fiction is sexual content. For some, a steamy kiss is too much. Now me, I like a good kiss, but everyone has their ‘druthers. I think the attraction is key in a relationship. A heroine that always focuses on the hero’s chest and biceps, or tight waist and narrow hips misses the most important aspects of the romance. Same goes for the hero who only sees hair and eyes and a beautiful body. Have you read books that focus on the physical appearance almost the whole time? These types stem from passion and chemistry. While physical attraction often ignites the romance, it can’t hold the affection. If there’s not substantial internal thoughts about the personality, glow, spirit, or character of the love interest, then even a tender embrace can become a raunchy kiss. There has to be the right foundation for the relationship, or you might as well be reading a “bodice-ripper.” I mean, aren’t they all about the physical attraction? Speaking of bodice rippers, they have no place in Christian fiction. Not even under the guise of tragic circumstances like rape. If the description of the action is at all clear, then it doesn’t matter if the heroine consents or not. As a reader, I’ll put a book down in a heartbeat if they try to take me through that sort of a scene. The details aren’t necessary. The author can instead describe the shame of the heroine or the bruising in general terms to give the reader the gist without subjecting them to the inappropriate content. Go ahead and bash me for being a prude, but I don’t choose to visit anyone’s boudoir, no matter where it is. And that goes for secondary description as well. In one novel, a so-called counselor insisted that a young woman describe her experiences in the sex-slave industry in detail. His voyeurism became my own, for about a second and a half. By then, I’d shut that book and tossed it in the trash. Well, virtually anyway. I would have preferred tossing it in the dumpster for real, but technological trashing had to suffice.
I have seen some books dealing with such volatile subjects as rape and slavery with grace and success. One that was marginal dealt with child trafficking. I had to skip a few pages in this one, though. Not because of a “boudoir” scene, but because the child involved was the age of my girls. I had to read her story on the back side – reactions at the end from the other characters because I couldn’t bear to be in the child’s head. Another book I recently read and reviewed offered a great example of how do to this well. Janet Sketchley‘s Heaven’s Prey is about a serial rapist/murderer. It could have gone very dark and blistered the edges of sexual content, but it resisted that sensationalism. Don’t get me wrong. It was violent, frightening, riveting. But the main character experienced the antag’s crimes in far more detail than I did. The author showed the horror of the appalling situation without putting the reader through shame. I think maybe that’s key. Your Turn: What’s been your experience with sexual content in Christian Fiction.