Friday, April 8, 2016

Are there Heat Ratings for Faith in Fiction?

They have heat ratings for romance novels. Since I sometimes review romances I've been trying to work them out so I'll use the right words. To the best of my knowledge:

  1. Burning means vividly graphic detail in sexuality and vocabulary. These ones probably go further than I'd choose to read.
  2. Hot means detailed sex scenes with plenty of body parts. They're not my scene either, but I'm happy to read and review them once in a while.
  3. Moderate might be moderately explicit, but spares the reader's worst blushes. More about feelings than body parts. More euphemisms rather than intricate detail.
  4. Warm emphasizes the feelings even more, letting the action slide under the bedsheets.
  5. Subtle stays above the belt (a euphemism I learned at a Christian writers' conference).
  6. Soothing closes doors.
  7. And cool keeps sensuality on the backburner in favor of unencumbered emotion.
(Okay, I like sevens. I had to have seven ratings in my list!) But what about ratings for faith in novels? Some religious fiction has me wanting to hide the book in the same way I'd hide a burning romance, while other books with spiritual leanings keep them well below the belt, or only let them off the backburner when there's a death in the fictional family. That doesn't mean spirituality's not important in all these books, just as romance is important in all romances. It just means it's less "in your face," and easier for different audiences to read. So, here's my list of heat ratings for faith in fiction.
  1. Burning means the reader will have to agree with the author, politically (all fire is red of course), spiritually, emotionally, sharing a desire to proselytise and prove all non-believers wrong. These books haev a place, but they probably "go further than I'd choose to read."
  2. Hot keeps the detailed need to agree, with black and white politics, religion, preaching, and more, but story matters almost as much as belief.
  3. Moderate stories tell of people of faith, sharing their faith, but allowing some good guys not to be converted.
  4. Warm might even love the unconverted without converting them. Characters are guided by and strengthened by their beliefs, but readers don't have to agree.
  5. Subtle lets readers and characters question their beliefs.
  6. Soothing keeps faith and questions in the background.
  7. And cool just slips characters' faith to the fore when the story demands it of them.
Do you have a list? Do you want to change my list? I'd love to know if you do. But in the meantime, I believe in coffee as a great accompaniment to reading, and here are some books where faith (not always Christian faith) plays an interesting part.

First is Mercy’s Sunset by Lindsay Luterman, a story that blends past lives, historical and modern romance, and some really intriguing questions about the decisions we make. A reader who believes in past lives will buy into the story completely, but fiction doesn't have to be true, and this reader, who doesn't, can still enjoy a well-told, intriguing tale. I guess that puts the heat rating at 4 or 5. Meanwhile I'd suggest a well-balanced three-star coffee to accompany the read.

Chocolates in the Ocean by Eva O’Reilly tells the story of a woman rebuilding a house and her life, after being betrayed by the man she hoped to love. This time the questions raised are whether women really need men in their loves, whether love can ever last, and what gives us purpose. With evocative portrayals of Denmark and relationships, it's an introspective, absorbing novel, perhaps a 7 rating for beliefs, and deserving another well-balanced three-star coffee.

An American Gothic by Alice Krenz rates a warm number 4 on the scale. It tells the story of a woman writing a gothic romance, who finds life following art (or the other way around). Faith is important in the story, but there's no attempt to ram it down readers' throats. It's just part of a character whose interests include handsome men, lifestyles of the rich and famous, and the well-being of a wounded child. You might want a dark five-star coffee to hand as you read some scary scenes.

Waking Dream by J.J. DiBenedetto is the fifth in an intriguing series of books, each set two years after its predecessor. The protagonist, Sara, has a curious ability to enter other people's dreams, a skill that lands her deep into mysteries, murder and mayhem as years go by. But the series' scifi and mystery elements are beautifully counterbalanced with the genuine affection of family life, childbirth and life as a doctor. Waking Dream advances both story and characters, and includes some serious soul-searching as Sara ponders why she has this skill. Probably another 4 on the faith scale above, this is one to enjoy with some elegant, complex four-star coffee.

Faith is somewhat more explicit in Finding Amanda by Robin Patchen, where a young man who has turned to faith finds himself turned out by a wife who has not. Amanda was abused as a teenager. Now she's risking all with a memoir, but seems blind to danger. Husband Mark struggles to cope with anger, betrayal and love as he tries to keep her safe, and prays for guidance. Enjoy this dark tale with some dark five-star coffee. And on the faith-heat scale, it's probably a 3 (with a touch of 2).

Finally That Dog Won’t Hunt by Brandilyn Collins hits the sweet spot with a warm heat-rating of four. A great blend of darkness and light, it combines the story of an abused young woman with the zany capers of a crazily normal family, blends unexpected weakness with hidden strengths, and keep the reader on that happy edge between laughing and crying all the way. Enjoy with a well-balanced three-star coffee.

Fun books all of them. It's been a good reading week.





1 comment:

sherriehansen said...

I really like your assessment!