More on Religion and Fiction

Cat_243_dover_19 By Mary Jo

Pat Rice’s fine Tuesday blog about religion in romance inspired a lively discussion of the topic.  The consensus seemed to be that most readers didn’t want to see religion forced into a story where it wasn’t needed, but they didn’t object to appropriate religious and spiritual references.  As RevMelinda said, “As I think was said on Teresa Medeiros day, romances in general often deal with issues that could be viewed as "spiritual" if not religious—love, death, meaning, trust, betrayal, redemption, self-sacrifice, reconciliation, cruelty, kindness, generosity of spirit—and did I mention LOVE (smile)?”

So there is at least an implicit element of spirituality in most romances.  So far, so good.  But beyond that, a wise metaphysical teacher once told me that everyone has certain basic dilemmas they must deal with in their lives, including relationships, family, work, etc. 

One of these basic life challenges is spiritual: to come to terms with one’s own place in the cosmos.  This can be through organized religion, or non-organized spirituality, or a rejection of all forms or religion and spirituality.  The dilemma the teacher was referring to isn’t about the final choice, but the process of determining what one does, or does not, believe.

So I was contemplating a blog on spirituality when Pat forwarded this comment to me from Janga:  “No one has mentioned Mary Jo’s books. One of the things I find most appealing in many MJP stories is encountering characters who are fully dimensional, whose spirituality is as much a part of them as are their bodies, minds, and hearts.”

Thanks, Janga!  A book for you!  This is exactly what I try to do.  My metaphysical teacher’s words made an impression on me, and once I began to write, I automatically included spiritual dilemmas where it seemed appropriate.  My Asian setting books move among Muslims, Hindus, Confucians, and more.  In my Western books, I’ve touched on a range of Christian churches, as well as Judaism. 

I’ve only ever received one reader complaint (I was insufficiently doctrinaire), but over the years, I’ve gotten a number of letter and e-mails that appreciated seeing spirituality addressed in an honest and respectful manner.  My personal goal is that no one reading my books will know what my own upbringing is.

So I strive to treat all religions with the respect they deserve.  How does this work out in practice?

Well, my book Uncommon_vows_cover is a medieval.  I’m not over-fond of the period—too brutal and too much bad plumbing—but setting my subversion-of-the-captivity-fantasy in any more civilized era would have made the hero a psychopath.  In the 12th century, he fit in just fine.  <g>  But I decided that if I was stuck with that time period, I couldn’t really tell the story without dealing with the community of belief that existed in Western Europe in the days before the Black Plague undermined that widespread faith. 

When my hero and heroine appear, they are novices in religious orders with plans to take vows.  The hero, Adrian, chose the church as way to control his own violent potentials, but he leaves the cloister when the rest of his family is massacred and he must take up the responsibility for his inheritance. 

Uncommon_vowsoriginal_1The heroine had become a novice because it seemed like a reasonable choice for a young lady in her circumstances, but on the eve of taking her final vows, Meriel has a panic attack and realizes that the life of a nun is not for her.  Throughout the book, there is an awareness of the Church, and in Adrian’s case, a definite struggle with sin.  There are no evil priests or prioresses—the ones in the book are admirable members of their communities.  And when the protagonists first make love—well, the Song of Solomon is pretty sexy stuff!

Just for contrast and because it was historically accurate, I also included a Jewish Star_of_david family, a devoted couple and their beloved only son, who are looking for a safe place to live and work.  They are also part of the religious texture of the story. 

That was possibly my most religious book, but it’s hardly the only time I’ve Methodist_cross tackled theses themes.  In Thunder and Roses, the first of my Fallen Angels books, the heroine is the daughter of a late and much lamented Methodist minister in the mining country of Regency Wales.  In an era when the Church of England was focused more on the middle and upper classes, laborers and workers were often spiritually neglected.  Dissenters arose to address this lack, and perhaps the best known of these was John Wesley, an Anglican minister who founded what has become the Methodist Church, with an emphasis on education for all and charitable works. 

The Methodists were so effective in Wales that to this day, I understand that many of the Welsh are Methodist (and the Welsh male choirs are famous!)  In my book, Clare’s spiritual dilemma is her secret belief that her faith is not what it should be.  Her father was a selfless man of the spirit, while Clare feels that she can’t live up to people’s spiritual expectations of her.  Her struggle with this becomes part of her journey in the story.      

One_perfect_rose_1 Nor are these my only characters who must make spiritual journeys.  Terminally ill, Stephen Kenyon of One Perfect Rose must discover what he believes and values most.  In my contemporary The Spiral Path, the hero, Kenzie Scott, survived a childhood of Dickensian horrors by detachment and the fantasy world of acting.  While he learned to cope very well, he can’t live and love fully until he makes a spiritual journey—one that is symbolized by the labyrinth that he builds with his own two hands.

Perhaps the most spiritual of my three contemporaries is Twist of Fate, where the lawyer heroine becomes involved in a last ditch effort to save the life of a condemned man, and she must come to terms with her Quaker upbringing.  The hero of that book is also looking for an absolution that will come only with a spiritual awakening.

Marriagespell_2_comp_8Even in my new Stone Saints series, where magic is a matter of course, there is a religious strand, for the wizards came out of their closets during the disaster of the Black Death—and it turned out that many of them were priests and nuns.  Since some Christian traditions refer to psychic abilities as ‘gifts of the spirit,’ this makes perfect sense to me.  <g> 

Are any of my books about religion?  No—they are about people living their lives, and sometimes that means a spiritual journey is intertwined with the emotional one. 

I’m certainly not the only writer doing this.  What are some other books you’ve enjoyed where the spiritual was a significant element rather than the main story?  And would you like to see more such stories? Fewer?  Or none at all?

Mary Jo

64 thoughts on “More on Religion and Fiction”

  1. Mary Jo said… “And when the protagonists first make love—well, the Song of Solomon is pretty sexy stuff!”
    In the first love scene I ever wrote, the hero quoted from the Song of Solomon. In his high fantasy world, King David’s work did not exist, but, the words flowed from him like sweet wine as he worshiped the heroine’s body with his own. How the SOS ever got past the early church fathers and into the Cannon, I will never know. (maybe there was a closet romance writer in the mix *g*)
    As for spirituality in romance novels… I want to see more of it. Not preaching… IMHO, as members of the human condition, we are remiss to try and make others do more than think. To insist on more is to remove their God-given right to freedom of choice. And the world’s blood-stained history tells us what happens we try. But mind stretching… that is another thing entirely. I want my romances to encourage me to think, reconsider, grow.
    Recently I read Jo’s TO RESCUE A ROGUE. Dare does something in the story (don’t want to spoil it if you’ve not yet to read it) that touched me so deeply I began rethinking a choice I made 20 years ago. My religion said it was a sin. But after reading Jo’s work, I began to separate what man called sin from what my God has to say on the subject. I am not fully decided. The religious vein runs deep. But I am living freer, in my marriage, my work and in my writing, than I ever was before. I don’t know if Jo ever meant TRAR to have any sort of spiritual bent, but that was the impact her fully developed hero had on me.
    Thank you Jo, for making me think.
    Ya know, I’ve been part of the wenchling community since its inception 7ish months ago. There is rarely a day that passes that I don’t visit. And, I must say that I’ve noticed a change in the depth of the posts in the last several days. (Has anyone else?) Mary Jo asked if we wanted to see more or less spiritual dimension in our romance reads. Perhaps the shift in our community is evidence enough that we, as readers, want more.
    –the littlest wenchling
    P.S. While we are spending our time on edgy subjects… I would love to see a blog discussion around sex and religion/morality. In our present society, sex before marriage is generally accepted – almost expected. Historically, it was not considered a mark of honor to engage in sex with your partner before marriage. How has our modern view/expectation of sex impacted the period specific spirituality (morals, code of honor, religion) of your characters? Do you find it difficult to make them ‘modernly sensible’ and still maintain the historical feel of the book?

    Reply
  2. Mary Jo said… “And when the protagonists first make love—well, the Song of Solomon is pretty sexy stuff!”
    In the first love scene I ever wrote, the hero quoted from the Song of Solomon. In his high fantasy world, King David’s work did not exist, but, the words flowed from him like sweet wine as he worshiped the heroine’s body with his own. How the SOS ever got past the early church fathers and into the Cannon, I will never know. (maybe there was a closet romance writer in the mix *g*)
    As for spirituality in romance novels… I want to see more of it. Not preaching… IMHO, as members of the human condition, we are remiss to try and make others do more than think. To insist on more is to remove their God-given right to freedom of choice. And the world’s blood-stained history tells us what happens we try. But mind stretching… that is another thing entirely. I want my romances to encourage me to think, reconsider, grow.
    Recently I read Jo’s TO RESCUE A ROGUE. Dare does something in the story (don’t want to spoil it if you’ve not yet to read it) that touched me so deeply I began rethinking a choice I made 20 years ago. My religion said it was a sin. But after reading Jo’s work, I began to separate what man called sin from what my God has to say on the subject. I am not fully decided. The religious vein runs deep. But I am living freer, in my marriage, my work and in my writing, than I ever was before. I don’t know if Jo ever meant TRAR to have any sort of spiritual bent, but that was the impact her fully developed hero had on me.
    Thank you Jo, for making me think.
    Ya know, I’ve been part of the wenchling community since its inception 7ish months ago. There is rarely a day that passes that I don’t visit. And, I must say that I’ve noticed a change in the depth of the posts in the last several days. (Has anyone else?) Mary Jo asked if we wanted to see more or less spiritual dimension in our romance reads. Perhaps the shift in our community is evidence enough that we, as readers, want more.
    –the littlest wenchling
    P.S. While we are spending our time on edgy subjects… I would love to see a blog discussion around sex and religion/morality. In our present society, sex before marriage is generally accepted – almost expected. Historically, it was not considered a mark of honor to engage in sex with your partner before marriage. How has our modern view/expectation of sex impacted the period specific spirituality (morals, code of honor, religion) of your characters? Do you find it difficult to make them ‘modernly sensible’ and still maintain the historical feel of the book?

    Reply
  3. Mary Jo said… “And when the protagonists first make love—well, the Song of Solomon is pretty sexy stuff!”
    In the first love scene I ever wrote, the hero quoted from the Song of Solomon. In his high fantasy world, King David’s work did not exist, but, the words flowed from him like sweet wine as he worshiped the heroine’s body with his own. How the SOS ever got past the early church fathers and into the Cannon, I will never know. (maybe there was a closet romance writer in the mix *g*)
    As for spirituality in romance novels… I want to see more of it. Not preaching… IMHO, as members of the human condition, we are remiss to try and make others do more than think. To insist on more is to remove their God-given right to freedom of choice. And the world’s blood-stained history tells us what happens we try. But mind stretching… that is another thing entirely. I want my romances to encourage me to think, reconsider, grow.
    Recently I read Jo’s TO RESCUE A ROGUE. Dare does something in the story (don’t want to spoil it if you’ve not yet to read it) that touched me so deeply I began rethinking a choice I made 20 years ago. My religion said it was a sin. But after reading Jo’s work, I began to separate what man called sin from what my God has to say on the subject. I am not fully decided. The religious vein runs deep. But I am living freer, in my marriage, my work and in my writing, than I ever was before. I don’t know if Jo ever meant TRAR to have any sort of spiritual bent, but that was the impact her fully developed hero had on me.
    Thank you Jo, for making me think.
    Ya know, I’ve been part of the wenchling community since its inception 7ish months ago. There is rarely a day that passes that I don’t visit. And, I must say that I’ve noticed a change in the depth of the posts in the last several days. (Has anyone else?) Mary Jo asked if we wanted to see more or less spiritual dimension in our romance reads. Perhaps the shift in our community is evidence enough that we, as readers, want more.
    –the littlest wenchling
    P.S. While we are spending our time on edgy subjects… I would love to see a blog discussion around sex and religion/morality. In our present society, sex before marriage is generally accepted – almost expected. Historically, it was not considered a mark of honor to engage in sex with your partner before marriage. How has our modern view/expectation of sex impacted the period specific spirituality (morals, code of honor, religion) of your characters? Do you find it difficult to make them ‘modernly sensible’ and still maintain the historical feel of the book?

    Reply
  4. Mary Jo said… “And when the protagonists first make love—well, the Song of Solomon is pretty sexy stuff!”
    In the first love scene I ever wrote, the hero quoted from the Song of Solomon. In his high fantasy world, King David’s work did not exist, but, the words flowed from him like sweet wine as he worshiped the heroine’s body with his own. How the SOS ever got past the early church fathers and into the Cannon, I will never know. (maybe there was a closet romance writer in the mix *g*)
    As for spirituality in romance novels… I want to see more of it. Not preaching… IMHO, as members of the human condition, we are remiss to try and make others do more than think. To insist on more is to remove their God-given right to freedom of choice. And the world’s blood-stained history tells us what happens we try. But mind stretching… that is another thing entirely. I want my romances to encourage me to think, reconsider, grow.
    Recently I read Jo’s TO RESCUE A ROGUE. Dare does something in the story (don’t want to spoil it if you’ve not yet to read it) that touched me so deeply I began rethinking a choice I made 20 years ago. My religion said it was a sin. But after reading Jo’s work, I began to separate what man called sin from what my God has to say on the subject. I am not fully decided. The religious vein runs deep. But I am living freer, in my marriage, my work and in my writing, than I ever was before. I don’t know if Jo ever meant TRAR to have any sort of spiritual bent, but that was the impact her fully developed hero had on me.
    Thank you Jo, for making me think.
    Ya know, I’ve been part of the wenchling community since its inception 7ish months ago. There is rarely a day that passes that I don’t visit. And, I must say that I’ve noticed a change in the depth of the posts in the last several days. (Has anyone else?) Mary Jo asked if we wanted to see more or less spiritual dimension in our romance reads. Perhaps the shift in our community is evidence enough that we, as readers, want more.
    –the littlest wenchling
    P.S. While we are spending our time on edgy subjects… I would love to see a blog discussion around sex and religion/morality. In our present society, sex before marriage is generally accepted – almost expected. Historically, it was not considered a mark of honor to engage in sex with your partner before marriage. How has our modern view/expectation of sex impacted the period specific spirituality (morals, code of honor, religion) of your characters? Do you find it difficult to make them ‘modernly sensible’ and still maintain the historical feel of the book?

    Reply
  5. Nina said: ‘I would love to see a blog discussion around sex and religion/morality’.
    It would certainly be interesting, but it is hugely complex, because there are so many factors involved: changes in social and moral principles; actual behaviour (not always matching the principles); and changes in laws and customs affecting written material – in brief, the obscenity laws, which have waxed and waned according to some factors other than morals (primarily, social class and literacy levels).
    These matters are all interconnected, and even a study of the changes that someone of my age has seen within her own lifetime are fairly mind-bending. Extrapolating into earlier centuries is fraught with danger.
    Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt it, though!
    🙂

    Reply
  6. Nina said: ‘I would love to see a blog discussion around sex and religion/morality’.
    It would certainly be interesting, but it is hugely complex, because there are so many factors involved: changes in social and moral principles; actual behaviour (not always matching the principles); and changes in laws and customs affecting written material – in brief, the obscenity laws, which have waxed and waned according to some factors other than morals (primarily, social class and literacy levels).
    These matters are all interconnected, and even a study of the changes that someone of my age has seen within her own lifetime are fairly mind-bending. Extrapolating into earlier centuries is fraught with danger.
    Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt it, though!
    🙂

    Reply
  7. Nina said: ‘I would love to see a blog discussion around sex and religion/morality’.
    It would certainly be interesting, but it is hugely complex, because there are so many factors involved: changes in social and moral principles; actual behaviour (not always matching the principles); and changes in laws and customs affecting written material – in brief, the obscenity laws, which have waxed and waned according to some factors other than morals (primarily, social class and literacy levels).
    These matters are all interconnected, and even a study of the changes that someone of my age has seen within her own lifetime are fairly mind-bending. Extrapolating into earlier centuries is fraught with danger.
    Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt it, though!
    🙂

    Reply
  8. Nina said: ‘I would love to see a blog discussion around sex and religion/morality’.
    It would certainly be interesting, but it is hugely complex, because there are so many factors involved: changes in social and moral principles; actual behaviour (not always matching the principles); and changes in laws and customs affecting written material – in brief, the obscenity laws, which have waxed and waned according to some factors other than morals (primarily, social class and literacy levels).
    These matters are all interconnected, and even a study of the changes that someone of my age has seen within her own lifetime are fairly mind-bending. Extrapolating into earlier centuries is fraught with danger.
    Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt it, though!
    🙂

    Reply
  9. You’ve reminded me of many of your great book, MJP. :o) Now I feel like reading some over again!
    Hmmmm…Amanda Quick used to write some Medieval books which I really enjoyed. I think I like the functional Catholic communities that many portray.
    I read another book–PLAGUE–the author I do not recall, where the physician is a Jew who travels to Avignon to escape antisemitism. There, the pope sends him to the King of England’s household to prevent them from getting the plague. He discovers that the only cure–and it’s somewhat effective–requires him to do things (dessicated human body-for antibodies, which he didn’t know about) that would be un-Kosher. So here he is compromising his deeply held beliefs to save the lives of the Catholic King’s family, those same people who would persecute the physician if they did not need him so much.
    The physician is a main character from History, but there’s a parallel thing going on in modern times. It was one of the few non-Romance books I’d read in the last few years.

    Reply
  10. You’ve reminded me of many of your great book, MJP. :o) Now I feel like reading some over again!
    Hmmmm…Amanda Quick used to write some Medieval books which I really enjoyed. I think I like the functional Catholic communities that many portray.
    I read another book–PLAGUE–the author I do not recall, where the physician is a Jew who travels to Avignon to escape antisemitism. There, the pope sends him to the King of England’s household to prevent them from getting the plague. He discovers that the only cure–and it’s somewhat effective–requires him to do things (dessicated human body-for antibodies, which he didn’t know about) that would be un-Kosher. So here he is compromising his deeply held beliefs to save the lives of the Catholic King’s family, those same people who would persecute the physician if they did not need him so much.
    The physician is a main character from History, but there’s a parallel thing going on in modern times. It was one of the few non-Romance books I’d read in the last few years.

    Reply
  11. You’ve reminded me of many of your great book, MJP. :o) Now I feel like reading some over again!
    Hmmmm…Amanda Quick used to write some Medieval books which I really enjoyed. I think I like the functional Catholic communities that many portray.
    I read another book–PLAGUE–the author I do not recall, where the physician is a Jew who travels to Avignon to escape antisemitism. There, the pope sends him to the King of England’s household to prevent them from getting the plague. He discovers that the only cure–and it’s somewhat effective–requires him to do things (dessicated human body-for antibodies, which he didn’t know about) that would be un-Kosher. So here he is compromising his deeply held beliefs to save the lives of the Catholic King’s family, those same people who would persecute the physician if they did not need him so much.
    The physician is a main character from History, but there’s a parallel thing going on in modern times. It was one of the few non-Romance books I’d read in the last few years.

    Reply
  12. You’ve reminded me of many of your great book, MJP. :o) Now I feel like reading some over again!
    Hmmmm…Amanda Quick used to write some Medieval books which I really enjoyed. I think I like the functional Catholic communities that many portray.
    I read another book–PLAGUE–the author I do not recall, where the physician is a Jew who travels to Avignon to escape antisemitism. There, the pope sends him to the King of England’s household to prevent them from getting the plague. He discovers that the only cure–and it’s somewhat effective–requires him to do things (dessicated human body-for antibodies, which he didn’t know about) that would be un-Kosher. So here he is compromising his deeply held beliefs to save the lives of the Catholic King’s family, those same people who would persecute the physician if they did not need him so much.
    The physician is a main character from History, but there’s a parallel thing going on in modern times. It was one of the few non-Romance books I’d read in the last few years.

    Reply
  13. I thought of another one:
    MAIDENSONG, by Diana Groe
    It’s a viking romance, which I do not normally like, but I liked the voice of this author and the story was really very, very good. The hero converts to Christianity, which tempers him a bit–in a good way–and allows for opportunities to juxtapose the Christian and Norse pagan religion.
    It was well done.

    Reply
  14. I thought of another one:
    MAIDENSONG, by Diana Groe
    It’s a viking romance, which I do not normally like, but I liked the voice of this author and the story was really very, very good. The hero converts to Christianity, which tempers him a bit–in a good way–and allows for opportunities to juxtapose the Christian and Norse pagan religion.
    It was well done.

    Reply
  15. I thought of another one:
    MAIDENSONG, by Diana Groe
    It’s a viking romance, which I do not normally like, but I liked the voice of this author and the story was really very, very good. The hero converts to Christianity, which tempers him a bit–in a good way–and allows for opportunities to juxtapose the Christian and Norse pagan religion.
    It was well done.

    Reply
  16. I thought of another one:
    MAIDENSONG, by Diana Groe
    It’s a viking romance, which I do not normally like, but I liked the voice of this author and the story was really very, very good. The hero converts to Christianity, which tempers him a bit–in a good way–and allows for opportunities to juxtapose the Christian and Norse pagan religion.
    It was well done.

    Reply
  17. Nina, I’m moved that something in TRAR had such an impact. I’d love to know what — I can think of a number of thing, but none precisely seem like sins to me. Perhaps you could e-mail me about it?
    As Mary Jo said, religion and spirituality simple are part of people, even if they don’t realize it. Characters who’ve managed to block those sorts of things entirely wouldn’t be interesting protagonists, but ones who buck the accepted religion of their time often are.
    Often are martyrs, too, but that’s another issue.
    Regardless of religious rituals, things like honor, charity, generosity, and forgiveness are all spiritual and heroic to me.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  18. Nina, I’m moved that something in TRAR had such an impact. I’d love to know what — I can think of a number of thing, but none precisely seem like sins to me. Perhaps you could e-mail me about it?
    As Mary Jo said, religion and spirituality simple are part of people, even if they don’t realize it. Characters who’ve managed to block those sorts of things entirely wouldn’t be interesting protagonists, but ones who buck the accepted religion of their time often are.
    Often are martyrs, too, but that’s another issue.
    Regardless of religious rituals, things like honor, charity, generosity, and forgiveness are all spiritual and heroic to me.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  19. Nina, I’m moved that something in TRAR had such an impact. I’d love to know what — I can think of a number of thing, but none precisely seem like sins to me. Perhaps you could e-mail me about it?
    As Mary Jo said, religion and spirituality simple are part of people, even if they don’t realize it. Characters who’ve managed to block those sorts of things entirely wouldn’t be interesting protagonists, but ones who buck the accepted religion of their time often are.
    Often are martyrs, too, but that’s another issue.
    Regardless of religious rituals, things like honor, charity, generosity, and forgiveness are all spiritual and heroic to me.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  20. Nina, I’m moved that something in TRAR had such an impact. I’d love to know what — I can think of a number of thing, but none precisely seem like sins to me. Perhaps you could e-mail me about it?
    As Mary Jo said, religion and spirituality simple are part of people, even if they don’t realize it. Characters who’ve managed to block those sorts of things entirely wouldn’t be interesting protagonists, but ones who buck the accepted religion of their time often are.
    Often are martyrs, too, but that’s another issue.
    Regardless of religious rituals, things like honor, charity, generosity, and forgiveness are all spiritual and heroic to me.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  21. Oh duh!! (littlest wenchling slaps palm to forehead) SOS wasn’t written by King David… It was King Solomon. What was my brain thinking? (please, nobody answer that. “g”)
    And your right Ag, the sex/religion/morality question is complicated in a strict historical study. Hopefully confining the topic to fantasy/fiction characters written for a ‘modern time’ will make it a touch easier.
    For me, as a writer, walking the ‘perceived historical line’ between what was sexually acceptable (say in the Regency) and what was really acceptable is tough. We write to modern readers who have modern ideas that will superimpose themselves upon the character’s decisions. A character who wants to ‘wait’ could be perceived as dragging his/her feet for a perceived ‘dumb’ reason. Is it really honorable to make her wait if she wants to do ‘it’ now? After all, what is the true value of vows spoken before a vicar? On the other hand, not waiting cuts into that whole honorable code thing.
    All in all, how much does it matter? As I continue to write, read and talk with other writers and readers, I’m beginning to suspect that the less history taught in schools, the more history fiction writers write. Which in of itself does not change history but it does make history equal to a perceived realty. And it is into that shifting reality that we try to sell our work.

    Reply
  22. Oh duh!! (littlest wenchling slaps palm to forehead) SOS wasn’t written by King David… It was King Solomon. What was my brain thinking? (please, nobody answer that. “g”)
    And your right Ag, the sex/religion/morality question is complicated in a strict historical study. Hopefully confining the topic to fantasy/fiction characters written for a ‘modern time’ will make it a touch easier.
    For me, as a writer, walking the ‘perceived historical line’ between what was sexually acceptable (say in the Regency) and what was really acceptable is tough. We write to modern readers who have modern ideas that will superimpose themselves upon the character’s decisions. A character who wants to ‘wait’ could be perceived as dragging his/her feet for a perceived ‘dumb’ reason. Is it really honorable to make her wait if she wants to do ‘it’ now? After all, what is the true value of vows spoken before a vicar? On the other hand, not waiting cuts into that whole honorable code thing.
    All in all, how much does it matter? As I continue to write, read and talk with other writers and readers, I’m beginning to suspect that the less history taught in schools, the more history fiction writers write. Which in of itself does not change history but it does make history equal to a perceived realty. And it is into that shifting reality that we try to sell our work.

    Reply
  23. Oh duh!! (littlest wenchling slaps palm to forehead) SOS wasn’t written by King David… It was King Solomon. What was my brain thinking? (please, nobody answer that. “g”)
    And your right Ag, the sex/religion/morality question is complicated in a strict historical study. Hopefully confining the topic to fantasy/fiction characters written for a ‘modern time’ will make it a touch easier.
    For me, as a writer, walking the ‘perceived historical line’ between what was sexually acceptable (say in the Regency) and what was really acceptable is tough. We write to modern readers who have modern ideas that will superimpose themselves upon the character’s decisions. A character who wants to ‘wait’ could be perceived as dragging his/her feet for a perceived ‘dumb’ reason. Is it really honorable to make her wait if she wants to do ‘it’ now? After all, what is the true value of vows spoken before a vicar? On the other hand, not waiting cuts into that whole honorable code thing.
    All in all, how much does it matter? As I continue to write, read and talk with other writers and readers, I’m beginning to suspect that the less history taught in schools, the more history fiction writers write. Which in of itself does not change history but it does make history equal to a perceived realty. And it is into that shifting reality that we try to sell our work.

    Reply
  24. Oh duh!! (littlest wenchling slaps palm to forehead) SOS wasn’t written by King David… It was King Solomon. What was my brain thinking? (please, nobody answer that. “g”)
    And your right Ag, the sex/religion/morality question is complicated in a strict historical study. Hopefully confining the topic to fantasy/fiction characters written for a ‘modern time’ will make it a touch easier.
    For me, as a writer, walking the ‘perceived historical line’ between what was sexually acceptable (say in the Regency) and what was really acceptable is tough. We write to modern readers who have modern ideas that will superimpose themselves upon the character’s decisions. A character who wants to ‘wait’ could be perceived as dragging his/her feet for a perceived ‘dumb’ reason. Is it really honorable to make her wait if she wants to do ‘it’ now? After all, what is the true value of vows spoken before a vicar? On the other hand, not waiting cuts into that whole honorable code thing.
    All in all, how much does it matter? As I continue to write, read and talk with other writers and readers, I’m beginning to suspect that the less history taught in schools, the more history fiction writers write. Which in of itself does not change history but it does make history equal to a perceived realty. And it is into that shifting reality that we try to sell our work.

    Reply
  25. I don’t think that you can have a discussion about the differences in attitudes towards pre-marital sex during Regency times and the modern period without considering the pill.
    If safe, woman-controlled, effective birth control was available 200 years ago, would the attitudes have been different then? Certainly the modern acceptance of single moms weighs in to this decision, but if you take precautions, you don’t have to be a mom at all so consequences of pre-marital sex aren’t what they used to be.

    Reply
  26. I don’t think that you can have a discussion about the differences in attitudes towards pre-marital sex during Regency times and the modern period without considering the pill.
    If safe, woman-controlled, effective birth control was available 200 years ago, would the attitudes have been different then? Certainly the modern acceptance of single moms weighs in to this decision, but if you take precautions, you don’t have to be a mom at all so consequences of pre-marital sex aren’t what they used to be.

    Reply
  27. I don’t think that you can have a discussion about the differences in attitudes towards pre-marital sex during Regency times and the modern period without considering the pill.
    If safe, woman-controlled, effective birth control was available 200 years ago, would the attitudes have been different then? Certainly the modern acceptance of single moms weighs in to this decision, but if you take precautions, you don’t have to be a mom at all so consequences of pre-marital sex aren’t what they used to be.

    Reply
  28. I don’t think that you can have a discussion about the differences in attitudes towards pre-marital sex during Regency times and the modern period without considering the pill.
    If safe, woman-controlled, effective birth control was available 200 years ago, would the attitudes have been different then? Certainly the modern acceptance of single moms weighs in to this decision, but if you take precautions, you don’t have to be a mom at all so consequences of pre-marital sex aren’t what they used to be.

    Reply
  29. Oral contraception is only *one* of the many variable factors I had in mind, Val, and it is important, but only in context. In fact, when the contraceptive pill was first in use, in the 1950s, it was *extremely* difficult for unmarried women to obtain it at all, as it was/is a prescription-only drug, and most doctors (in the UK at least, and I doubt if the USA was more liberal) simply refused to prescribe it to unmarried females; I don’t mean just teenagers – unmarried adult women, too.
    It became much more widely available only with the general relaxation of socio-sexual attitudes in the 1960s. In other words, the mere existence of oral contraception cannot alter behaviour. The changes in attitude came first, and combined with the existence of the pill (and the relative freedom from venereal diseases at the time, the old ones having become curable, and HIV not yet being known) that created a new climate.
    In fact, the diaphragm, which had been in use for a generation at least by the 1950s, was a highly effective means of birth control; again, it was fairly easily available to married women but was difficult for unmarried women to obtain, because most doctors subscribed to the general moral climate.
    Other social attitudes also changed. In Europe, the aftermath of the 2nd World War included marked changes in social stratification – class – and that, too, is crucial. There are many, many different elements in this matter, and they changed almost decade-by-decade from the mid 19th-century onwards.
    That’s why I said this was a complex subject. I should not like to attempt even the most basic summary of it in less than about 5000 words.

    Reply
  30. Oral contraception is only *one* of the many variable factors I had in mind, Val, and it is important, but only in context. In fact, when the contraceptive pill was first in use, in the 1950s, it was *extremely* difficult for unmarried women to obtain it at all, as it was/is a prescription-only drug, and most doctors (in the UK at least, and I doubt if the USA was more liberal) simply refused to prescribe it to unmarried females; I don’t mean just teenagers – unmarried adult women, too.
    It became much more widely available only with the general relaxation of socio-sexual attitudes in the 1960s. In other words, the mere existence of oral contraception cannot alter behaviour. The changes in attitude came first, and combined with the existence of the pill (and the relative freedom from venereal diseases at the time, the old ones having become curable, and HIV not yet being known) that created a new climate.
    In fact, the diaphragm, which had been in use for a generation at least by the 1950s, was a highly effective means of birth control; again, it was fairly easily available to married women but was difficult for unmarried women to obtain, because most doctors subscribed to the general moral climate.
    Other social attitudes also changed. In Europe, the aftermath of the 2nd World War included marked changes in social stratification – class – and that, too, is crucial. There are many, many different elements in this matter, and they changed almost decade-by-decade from the mid 19th-century onwards.
    That’s why I said this was a complex subject. I should not like to attempt even the most basic summary of it in less than about 5000 words.

    Reply
  31. Oral contraception is only *one* of the many variable factors I had in mind, Val, and it is important, but only in context. In fact, when the contraceptive pill was first in use, in the 1950s, it was *extremely* difficult for unmarried women to obtain it at all, as it was/is a prescription-only drug, and most doctors (in the UK at least, and I doubt if the USA was more liberal) simply refused to prescribe it to unmarried females; I don’t mean just teenagers – unmarried adult women, too.
    It became much more widely available only with the general relaxation of socio-sexual attitudes in the 1960s. In other words, the mere existence of oral contraception cannot alter behaviour. The changes in attitude came first, and combined with the existence of the pill (and the relative freedom from venereal diseases at the time, the old ones having become curable, and HIV not yet being known) that created a new climate.
    In fact, the diaphragm, which had been in use for a generation at least by the 1950s, was a highly effective means of birth control; again, it was fairly easily available to married women but was difficult for unmarried women to obtain, because most doctors subscribed to the general moral climate.
    Other social attitudes also changed. In Europe, the aftermath of the 2nd World War included marked changes in social stratification – class – and that, too, is crucial. There are many, many different elements in this matter, and they changed almost decade-by-decade from the mid 19th-century onwards.
    That’s why I said this was a complex subject. I should not like to attempt even the most basic summary of it in less than about 5000 words.

    Reply
  32. Oral contraception is only *one* of the many variable factors I had in mind, Val, and it is important, but only in context. In fact, when the contraceptive pill was first in use, in the 1950s, it was *extremely* difficult for unmarried women to obtain it at all, as it was/is a prescription-only drug, and most doctors (in the UK at least, and I doubt if the USA was more liberal) simply refused to prescribe it to unmarried females; I don’t mean just teenagers – unmarried adult women, too.
    It became much more widely available only with the general relaxation of socio-sexual attitudes in the 1960s. In other words, the mere existence of oral contraception cannot alter behaviour. The changes in attitude came first, and combined with the existence of the pill (and the relative freedom from venereal diseases at the time, the old ones having become curable, and HIV not yet being known) that created a new climate.
    In fact, the diaphragm, which had been in use for a generation at least by the 1950s, was a highly effective means of birth control; again, it was fairly easily available to married women but was difficult for unmarried women to obtain, because most doctors subscribed to the general moral climate.
    Other social attitudes also changed. In Europe, the aftermath of the 2nd World War included marked changes in social stratification – class – and that, too, is crucial. There are many, many different elements in this matter, and they changed almost decade-by-decade from the mid 19th-century onwards.
    That’s why I said this was a complex subject. I should not like to attempt even the most basic summary of it in less than about 5000 words.

    Reply
  33. Just to add – I am sure you are all aware that female-controlled contraception already existed in antiquity, e.g. in ancient Egypt and in the Roman Empire: though not as reliable as the pill, the methods in use did provide considerable help for experienced women, and for the working girls, of course. Modern versions of the sponge or tampon soaked in some spermicidal liquid (e.g. vinegar) were still in common use only 50 years ago.
    The first condoms were devised, though as prophylactics against disease rather than as contraceptives, in the 17th century AD: there is actual archaeological evidence. They became more effective after the invention of the vulcanisation of rubber in the early 19th century. Earlier condoms were made from sheep-gut, and tied with a little pink ribbon. Well, it didn’t have to be pink.

    Reply
  34. Just to add – I am sure you are all aware that female-controlled contraception already existed in antiquity, e.g. in ancient Egypt and in the Roman Empire: though not as reliable as the pill, the methods in use did provide considerable help for experienced women, and for the working girls, of course. Modern versions of the sponge or tampon soaked in some spermicidal liquid (e.g. vinegar) were still in common use only 50 years ago.
    The first condoms were devised, though as prophylactics against disease rather than as contraceptives, in the 17th century AD: there is actual archaeological evidence. They became more effective after the invention of the vulcanisation of rubber in the early 19th century. Earlier condoms were made from sheep-gut, and tied with a little pink ribbon. Well, it didn’t have to be pink.

    Reply
  35. Just to add – I am sure you are all aware that female-controlled contraception already existed in antiquity, e.g. in ancient Egypt and in the Roman Empire: though not as reliable as the pill, the methods in use did provide considerable help for experienced women, and for the working girls, of course. Modern versions of the sponge or tampon soaked in some spermicidal liquid (e.g. vinegar) were still in common use only 50 years ago.
    The first condoms were devised, though as prophylactics against disease rather than as contraceptives, in the 17th century AD: there is actual archaeological evidence. They became more effective after the invention of the vulcanisation of rubber in the early 19th century. Earlier condoms were made from sheep-gut, and tied with a little pink ribbon. Well, it didn’t have to be pink.

    Reply
  36. Just to add – I am sure you are all aware that female-controlled contraception already existed in antiquity, e.g. in ancient Egypt and in the Roman Empire: though not as reliable as the pill, the methods in use did provide considerable help for experienced women, and for the working girls, of course. Modern versions of the sponge or tampon soaked in some spermicidal liquid (e.g. vinegar) were still in common use only 50 years ago.
    The first condoms were devised, though as prophylactics against disease rather than as contraceptives, in the 17th century AD: there is actual archaeological evidence. They became more effective after the invention of the vulcanisation of rubber in the early 19th century. Earlier condoms were made from sheep-gut, and tied with a little pink ribbon. Well, it didn’t have to be pink.

    Reply
  37. From MJP:
    I remember reading about the contraceptive pessary Egyptian women used–I believe that crocodile dung was involved, but hey, it worked! Well enough, anyhow. (Something to do with a high acid level being a spermicide. Though maybe it was alkalinity.)
    If the topics have become deeper in the last few days–maybe it’s because we’ve started asking Wenchlings for questions? And we’ve received lots of good suggestions, too!
    Sexuality, morality, and history are indeed fascinating and incredibly complex topics–even more complex than are apparent on the surface. For example, I’ve read that during the Victorian period, virginity was obsessively necessary for middle and upper class girls, but that among agricultural laborers, sex before marriage was not only common but perhaps even the rule. Becoming pregnant was a way for a girl to prove her fertility, and if she and the father of her child married in haste, it was no big deal. Pragmatism takes some interesting forms.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  38. From MJP:
    I remember reading about the contraceptive pessary Egyptian women used–I believe that crocodile dung was involved, but hey, it worked! Well enough, anyhow. (Something to do with a high acid level being a spermicide. Though maybe it was alkalinity.)
    If the topics have become deeper in the last few days–maybe it’s because we’ve started asking Wenchlings for questions? And we’ve received lots of good suggestions, too!
    Sexuality, morality, and history are indeed fascinating and incredibly complex topics–even more complex than are apparent on the surface. For example, I’ve read that during the Victorian period, virginity was obsessively necessary for middle and upper class girls, but that among agricultural laborers, sex before marriage was not only common but perhaps even the rule. Becoming pregnant was a way for a girl to prove her fertility, and if she and the father of her child married in haste, it was no big deal. Pragmatism takes some interesting forms.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  39. From MJP:
    I remember reading about the contraceptive pessary Egyptian women used–I believe that crocodile dung was involved, but hey, it worked! Well enough, anyhow. (Something to do with a high acid level being a spermicide. Though maybe it was alkalinity.)
    If the topics have become deeper in the last few days–maybe it’s because we’ve started asking Wenchlings for questions? And we’ve received lots of good suggestions, too!
    Sexuality, morality, and history are indeed fascinating and incredibly complex topics–even more complex than are apparent on the surface. For example, I’ve read that during the Victorian period, virginity was obsessively necessary for middle and upper class girls, but that among agricultural laborers, sex before marriage was not only common but perhaps even the rule. Becoming pregnant was a way for a girl to prove her fertility, and if she and the father of her child married in haste, it was no big deal. Pragmatism takes some interesting forms.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  40. From MJP:
    I remember reading about the contraceptive pessary Egyptian women used–I believe that crocodile dung was involved, but hey, it worked! Well enough, anyhow. (Something to do with a high acid level being a spermicide. Though maybe it was alkalinity.)
    If the topics have become deeper in the last few days–maybe it’s because we’ve started asking Wenchlings for questions? And we’ve received lots of good suggestions, too!
    Sexuality, morality, and history are indeed fascinating and incredibly complex topics–even more complex than are apparent on the surface. For example, I’ve read that during the Victorian period, virginity was obsessively necessary for middle and upper class girls, but that among agricultural laborers, sex before marriage was not only common but perhaps even the rule. Becoming pregnant was a way for a girl to prove her fertility, and if she and the father of her child married in haste, it was no big deal. Pragmatism takes some interesting forms.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  41. Mary Jo – yes, right on both counts. Crocodile dung was indeed involved in the Egyptian recipe! The Roman methods were less distasteful. Of course, one cannot leave out of account the fact that infanticide was not illegal in those societies.
    Also right about pre-marital experience being quite acceptable amongst the ‘lower orders’ in recent centuries, for the practical reason that proof of fertility was regarded as a Good Thing. This is part of what I was pussyfooting around with comments on class differences. There are so many different, interconnected elements here that most generalisations can be challenged.
    😉

    Reply
  42. Mary Jo – yes, right on both counts. Crocodile dung was indeed involved in the Egyptian recipe! The Roman methods were less distasteful. Of course, one cannot leave out of account the fact that infanticide was not illegal in those societies.
    Also right about pre-marital experience being quite acceptable amongst the ‘lower orders’ in recent centuries, for the practical reason that proof of fertility was regarded as a Good Thing. This is part of what I was pussyfooting around with comments on class differences. There are so many different, interconnected elements here that most generalisations can be challenged.
    😉

    Reply
  43. Mary Jo – yes, right on both counts. Crocodile dung was indeed involved in the Egyptian recipe! The Roman methods were less distasteful. Of course, one cannot leave out of account the fact that infanticide was not illegal in those societies.
    Also right about pre-marital experience being quite acceptable amongst the ‘lower orders’ in recent centuries, for the practical reason that proof of fertility was regarded as a Good Thing. This is part of what I was pussyfooting around with comments on class differences. There are so many different, interconnected elements here that most generalisations can be challenged.
    😉

    Reply
  44. Mary Jo – yes, right on both counts. Crocodile dung was indeed involved in the Egyptian recipe! The Roman methods were less distasteful. Of course, one cannot leave out of account the fact that infanticide was not illegal in those societies.
    Also right about pre-marital experience being quite acceptable amongst the ‘lower orders’ in recent centuries, for the practical reason that proof of fertility was regarded as a Good Thing. This is part of what I was pussyfooting around with comments on class differences. There are so many different, interconnected elements here that most generalisations can be challenged.
    😉

    Reply
  45. Tigress–it’s the complexity that makes it interesting. 🙂 As for writing historical fiction–a whole lot of story elements can be supported if one makes the effort to make them plausible. The Regency world that is the setting for a lot of our historical romances is to a sizable extent a shared world fantasy originated by St. Georgette. But even if it isn’t always accurate, it is fun to visit.
    Mary Jo, who knows that world is a lot neater than the fantasy.

    Reply
  46. Tigress–it’s the complexity that makes it interesting. 🙂 As for writing historical fiction–a whole lot of story elements can be supported if one makes the effort to make them plausible. The Regency world that is the setting for a lot of our historical romances is to a sizable extent a shared world fantasy originated by St. Georgette. But even if it isn’t always accurate, it is fun to visit.
    Mary Jo, who knows that world is a lot neater than the fantasy.

    Reply
  47. Tigress–it’s the complexity that makes it interesting. 🙂 As for writing historical fiction–a whole lot of story elements can be supported if one makes the effort to make them plausible. The Regency world that is the setting for a lot of our historical romances is to a sizable extent a shared world fantasy originated by St. Georgette. But even if it isn’t always accurate, it is fun to visit.
    Mary Jo, who knows that world is a lot neater than the fantasy.

    Reply
  48. Tigress–it’s the complexity that makes it interesting. 🙂 As for writing historical fiction–a whole lot of story elements can be supported if one makes the effort to make them plausible. The Regency world that is the setting for a lot of our historical romances is to a sizable extent a shared world fantasy originated by St. Georgette. But even if it isn’t always accurate, it is fun to visit.
    Mary Jo, who knows that world is a lot neater than the fantasy.

    Reply
  49. Exactly! So many different angles, different aspects, to explore and experience. The Heyer vision of the Regency period is very much her own, of course, but it is such a great place to visit that it doesn’t matter. If it wasn’t quite like that, well, it ought to have been.
    🙂

    Reply
  50. Exactly! So many different angles, different aspects, to explore and experience. The Heyer vision of the Regency period is very much her own, of course, but it is such a great place to visit that it doesn’t matter. If it wasn’t quite like that, well, it ought to have been.
    🙂

    Reply
  51. Exactly! So many different angles, different aspects, to explore and experience. The Heyer vision of the Regency period is very much her own, of course, but it is such a great place to visit that it doesn’t matter. If it wasn’t quite like that, well, it ought to have been.
    🙂

    Reply
  52. Exactly! So many different angles, different aspects, to explore and experience. The Heyer vision of the Regency period is very much her own, of course, but it is such a great place to visit that it doesn’t matter. If it wasn’t quite like that, well, it ought to have been.
    🙂

    Reply
  53. “”The Heyer vision of the Regency period is very much her own, of course, but it is such a great place to visit that it doesn’t matter. If it wasn’t quite like that, well, it ought to have been.
    :-)>>
    That’s it exactly, Tigress. 🙂 Such a nice, orderly world–not like the one we see around us!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  54. “”The Heyer vision of the Regency period is very much her own, of course, but it is such a great place to visit that it doesn’t matter. If it wasn’t quite like that, well, it ought to have been.
    :-)>>
    That’s it exactly, Tigress. 🙂 Such a nice, orderly world–not like the one we see around us!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  55. “”The Heyer vision of the Regency period is very much her own, of course, but it is such a great place to visit that it doesn’t matter. If it wasn’t quite like that, well, it ought to have been.
    :-)>>
    That’s it exactly, Tigress. 🙂 Such a nice, orderly world–not like the one we see around us!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  56. “”The Heyer vision of the Regency period is very much her own, of course, but it is such a great place to visit that it doesn’t matter. If it wasn’t quite like that, well, it ought to have been.
    :-)>>
    That’s it exactly, Tigress. 🙂 Such a nice, orderly world–not like the one we see around us!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  57. To me, with sensibilities shaped by contact with ethical culture as a teen, religion and spirituality are about lived values and integrity. In romance novels,characters are often dealing with a personal sense of honor that speaks of deeply held values. Another aspect of spirituality is the ability to love another in a way that involves facing and overcoming the limits of the ability to love in the self. So many of the novels written by the authors on this blog, are, to me, deeply spiritual.
    Merry

    Reply
  58. To me, with sensibilities shaped by contact with ethical culture as a teen, religion and spirituality are about lived values and integrity. In romance novels,characters are often dealing with a personal sense of honor that speaks of deeply held values. Another aspect of spirituality is the ability to love another in a way that involves facing and overcoming the limits of the ability to love in the self. So many of the novels written by the authors on this blog, are, to me, deeply spiritual.
    Merry

    Reply
  59. To me, with sensibilities shaped by contact with ethical culture as a teen, religion and spirituality are about lived values and integrity. In romance novels,characters are often dealing with a personal sense of honor that speaks of deeply held values. Another aspect of spirituality is the ability to love another in a way that involves facing and overcoming the limits of the ability to love in the self. So many of the novels written by the authors on this blog, are, to me, deeply spiritual.
    Merry

    Reply
  60. To me, with sensibilities shaped by contact with ethical culture as a teen, religion and spirituality are about lived values and integrity. In romance novels,characters are often dealing with a personal sense of honor that speaks of deeply held values. Another aspect of spirituality is the ability to love another in a way that involves facing and overcoming the limits of the ability to love in the self. So many of the novels written by the authors on this blog, are, to me, deeply spiritual.
    Merry

    Reply

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