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Romance Sub-Genre Guidelines

Christian Gothic Romance (TM)

These stories resemble the genre of such authors as Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels, Mary Stewart, Isabelle Holland and Phyllis A. Whitney, but with mainstream Christian theology intact. Stories can be contemporary or historical. There must be a supernatural element, there must be a Christian theme, and there must be a happily-ever-after ending.

These are romances surrounded by an atmosphere of mystique in which some or all of the aspects are:

• A brooding hero with a tragic past
• A heroine completely out of her comfort zone and in peril (whether real or imagined)
• A villain who is not as he appears
• A lonely mansion, eerie castle or other formidable setting
• A limited number of secretive secondary characters who may or may not help or endanger the heroine/hero
• A "mad woman in the attic" or similar secondary character who threatens the happy outcome of the story and is attached to a mystery to be solved. (Mystery must be 50% of the story, romance the other 50%.)
• An ancient prophecy
• Omens or portents of things to come (ultimately orchestrated by God for the good of the protagonists.)
• A supernatural element, which can encompass:

o Angel Intervention within the confines of mainstream Christian teachings
o Demonic activity within the confines of mainstream Christian teachings
o The gifts of the Spirit according to 1 Corinthians 12:1-14 (Wisdom, Knowledge, Discerning of spirits (human, angelic, demonic), Speaking in tongues, Interpretation of tongues, Prophecy, Faith, Working of miracles, Healing)
o Apparitions or visions sent by God with an important message

If you're familiar with the traditional gothic romances "of old," you'll remember the tortured, yet completely loveable, hero. He has a tragic past that often includes one or more of the elements listed below under "Hero." The gothic heroine is a woman in danger, and she is often driven and/or cornered by one or more of the elements listed under "Heroine."

Mystery and suspense must always pervade these stories. The setting can be an old castle, manor house or mansion with a tragic and haunted history. Atmospheric element builders usually include one or more of those listed under "Atmosphere."

In the Christian Gothic Romance TM, these elements still play a role, but are written within the confines of mainstream Christian theology:


• He has a wife, girlfriend or fiancée who died mysteriously. Either he knows why, but also knows no one will believe him; or he doesn't know why, but believes he is somehow to blame.
• One of his relatives went insane and he feels he may actually be losing his mind.
• Tragic accidents befall anyone who gets close to him, so he's become a recluse in order to keep harm from those he loves; or a family curse precludes him from falling in love.
• He is tortured by the knowledge that he doesn't know who sired him.
• He sees apparitions or has other visions that he knows are not corporeal, and believes can't be real, so he's sure he's insane.
• He is physically scarred, and so is the "Beast" to the heroine's "Beauty." (This scarring is often due to some accident to which he feels responsible, and which cost someone else his/her life.)
• He is emotionally scarred due to being abused (physically, emotionally, verbally) by a tyrant of a parent.
• He is involved in a job or hobby that he is not at liberty to discuss, which makes him mysterious-and alluring.
• He believes his is responsible for some catastrophic tragedy because the real villain is making him think he is responsible.
• He is always emotionally unavailable.


• She has suddenly discovered she is destitute and must take a job in an eerie mansion owned by the tortured hero or his family
• She is being threatened by an overbearing male figure and is trying to escape her present, only to be thrust into a fearful situation to which she sees no escape.
• She is hiding a secret about herself that, if discovered, will threaten her life or her way of life.
• She suffers some phobia that will be used against her (either by accident or by design.)
• Someone tries to force her to do something unbearable-and possibly illegal-else "suffer the consequences."

• She always carries an inner strength, and so is not actually a victim, but at the same time, always needs the hero to rescue her in some way-even if solely emotionally.


• A plot built around a murder, family curse, or prophecy
• Apparitions and other visions that act as portents of tragedy
• "Supernatural" events such as inanimate objects moving/coming to life (later to be given a natural explanation)
• The use of metonymic metaphors (eg. driving rain to mean sadness or howling winds to mean anger or danger.
• High emotions of all kinds-surprise, anger, and especially, fright/terror-all written in a highly dramatic, almost poetic, fashion.
• Fear and the unknown danger lurking in the shadows is always a key atmospheric element.

What a Christian Gothic Romance TM is NOT:

• Stories about an angel or demon falling in love with a human, or vice versa

• Stories about humans becoming angels or demons

• Stories with paranormal elements such as vampires or werewolves, etc. (unless the characters fall under the

• "demonic" category and are written within the confines of Christian doctrine regarding such.)

• Stories that glorify non-Christian tenets such as witchcraft or divination.

Contemporary Romance

Contemporary romances must be set no earlier than a decade ago, and are usually set in the current year. These romances feature characters whose external conflicts revolve around contemporary and realistic issues. The stories can encompass settings worldwide and feature characters of diverse experience.

Historical Romance

Historical romances are set any time between Medieval times and 1900. Stories set in the Dark Ages or earlier will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but are not encouraged. Word usage and language make it more difficult to retain an authentic feel for the Dark Ages than in more recorded history. These stories may be set anywhere in the world. Historical flavour and accuracy is a must. If you feature real historical figures, you must remain true to their provable, recorded personalities.


Interracial / Multi-cultural stories can either be historical or contemporary. They must feature a hero or heroine each of different race or culture or may feature a hero and heroine each of the same non-caucasian ethnicity.

As the question has been raised, we will answer it here: The ethnicity of the author of these stories is irrelevant. If a story rings true, the characters and setting are accurate and believable, and the plot and conflict are interesting, we do not care if you are Asian and writing African-American characters  or Caucasian and writing Hispanic characters (e.g.). What matters is the integrity of the story.

Romantic Suspense/Romantic Mystery

Romantic Suspense stories must contain an air of mystery. They may have the flavour of police procedurals, cozy mysteries or straight suspense. Romance must be the main plot; however, we will allow for forty percent of the story to be the developing mystery / suspense.

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