A friend recently marveled to me, upon discovering the subgenre of Amish romance novels, that there really is a romance for everyone. She’s right, and for readers who want love stories based on religious themes—with sexuality limited to marriage and behind closed doors—there’s never been a wider variety of authors writing both historical and contemporary inspirational romances.
Harlequin author Jillian Hart‘s historical Gingham Bride follows Montana settler Fiona O’Rourke as she struggles to escape her loveless home. Newcomer Ian McPherson is a stranger, but anything seems better than living under her father’s cruel hand. Hart’s writing weaves the rhythms of a nineteenth-century town and frontier life together with an abiding Christian faith, while building a sweet and gentle love story that rescues both characters.
In Shari MacDonald‘s Diamonds, Casey Foster inherits a minor-league baseball team—and the team comes with temperamental star pitcher Tucker Boyd. Their egos clash, but eventually a relationship builds between Casey and Tucker, along with an increasing dedication to making a success of the team, the Bend Bachelors. But Tucker’s estranged from his faith, which is a deal breaker for Casey. This story has always reminded me of Bull Durham, had the movie made virginal ballplayer Jimmy the main character.
Julia Spencer-Fleming‘s first book in her Agatha Award–winning mystery series In the Bleak Midwinter brings Army pilot–turned–Episcopalian minister Clare Fergusson to Millers Kill, New York, where she meets police chief Russ Van Alstyne after finding an abandoned baby on the steps of her church. Spencer-Fleming’s eighth book in the series, Through the Evil Days, is brand new, and while the series is more mystery than romance—and a little racier than the other titles here—her writing captures the quirks and dark spots of small-town life better than almost anything I’ve ever read.
Lorna Michaels‘s A Candle for Nick starts out with widowed Mallory Brenner racked with worry when her son is diagnosed with leukemia. Mallory leans on her parents—her father is the rabbi of their Texas town’s only synagogue—during her son’s treatment and through her decision to seek out a man from her past who doesn’t know he’s Nick’s father. Romances involving Jewish families are still pretty thin on the ground, and this one’s Hanukkah themes make it a great gift for romance-loving friends celebrating the holiday in a few weeks.
Orthodox Jewish writer Yael Levy‘s Brooklyn Love follows three young women whose culture and faith might be unfamiliar to many romance readers, but whose problems won’t be. Rachel is torn between the rabbi she’s fallen in love with and the more successful lawyer her mother wants her to marry; Hindy has always dreamed of being a scholar’s wife but finds herself attracted to a coworker; and Leah struggles to reconcile her dreams with her immigrant mother’s goals for her.
What’s your favorite inspirational romance?