Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Good Romance is Like Strawberry Cheesecake

by Rachael Phillips  

Have you ever read a romance that left you with that [*sigh*]-if-only-that-book-lasted-forever feeling? Better yet, have you written one? Then you know exactly what I mean when I say a good romance is like strawberry cheesecake.

Do I have a food fetish? I’m afraid so. One friend, having read my romances, even complimented? me, saying I always blow my quota of adjectives describing food.

True. Probably more than I spend on the hero.  

Still, I stand by my hypothesis. 

 First, romance, like all writing and all yummy food, is best when authors begin with fresh ingredients: exceptional characters, riveting dialogue, unique settings and ingenious plot twists.

Romance, as well as cheesecake, also consists of a delicious balance of the sweet and the sour swirled together to create a flavor blend better than the original ingredients.    

A contrast of textures, including crunchy graham cracker crust, creamy filling, and fruity topping, reinforce this in cheesecake. Likewise, nitty-gritty research (often historical, geographical or occupational); rich, luscious language; and wholesome, flavorful everydayness together enhance a romance’s appeal.

Like strawberry cheesecake, excellent romances usually take time to solidify before the writer layers on the final elements that make it taste out of this world.

John Steinbeck, in his book Travels with Charley, deplored chain restaurants that boasted their generic offerings were “untouched by human hands.” He wanted a dinner imprinted with the cook’s own fingers. Likewise, an excellent romance should bear an author’s special touches based on her background and personality, distinctive as an unrecipe-d sprinkle of cinnamon or even an opulent layer of chocolate.     

Yes [*eye roll*], dieticians don’t consider strawberry cheesecake a critical element of the food pyramid. Likewise, theologians and pastors don’t regard Christian romance an essential nutrient. Some even see both cheesecake and romance as harmful.

 Yet how many of us avoid those who religiously stick to their uncompromising diets—and expect everyone else to, as well?    

The Bible does not stuff truth down our throats without regard to taste. In fact, the frankly sensual chapters of the Old Testament book Song of Songs celebrate married love. The romantic theme of Christ’s love for His Church resonates throughout the entire Bible, including a rescue of the damsel in distress—on a white charger, no less, as Robin Jones Gunn says—the Great Elopement (a.k.a., “Rapture,” no ladder necessary), and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (notice the food reference, here?), which celebrates His becoming one with his Church forever.

Strawberry cheesecake, right? With a gazillion chocolate dribbles on the plate.

Certainly, something is wrong if our diets consist of nothing but yummy dessert-type fiction. Even the most avid romance readers and writers should fill their lives with a variety of nourishing genres.

 Yet somehow, a bowl of oatmeal doesn’t celebrate life and truth the way strawberry cheesecake does.

I say, “Mmmmmmmmm. Bring it on!”

Uh, yeah . . . the well-written romance, too.

What do you say? 


  1. This has been one of my main struggles with writing, Rachael! (I'm not a fan of cheesecake (gasp) but I DO love creme brulee and strawberry shortcake,so we can go with that analogy.) Anyway, I do think Christian romances can reach more people than some dry, preachy nonfiction book and how many people do you touch in a kind way with a scowl and a "you're not seriously going to eat that!?"

    You've given me much food for thought...(I know, groan!)

  2. [*Chuckle*] Actually, Crystal, that was the original title of this blog--somehow, my mind and taste buds wandered to cheesecake :-)

    I agree wholeheartedly. I handed my book to a non-believer on a plane last month, and she lit up. I don't think she would have if I'd given her a tract.

  3. Well, if good romance is a strawberry cheesecake, then a good mystery is like a spearmint mocha latte and a good suspense story is like a grilled chicken sandwich with jalepenos, guacamole and horseradish. Both of which I'd prefer to cheesecake any day.


    1. Oh, yum! LOL! Yeah, I really like this analogy, Rachael. Lots of stories and whatever you're in the mood for, Jeff! :)

  4. LOL, Jeff, I like those analogies, too! (I love lots of genres and definitely, all kinds of food!) Isn't it great how God has given different tastes and different gifts to all of us so we can speak to his diverse people?

  5. I was working a retreat where each of the attendees (not the ones working) received a book. Usually, the books were non-fiction and--though very good--not always...uhm, cheesecake-like in flavor. This particular weekend, when money for the program was tight, those of us on the working team were asked if we could donate any gently used books. We did. Romances. The book table was swept clean in the blink of an eye!

    Loved your post.

  6. Thanks, Liz! Yes, people--particularly women--seem to assimilate truth through romance than practically any other medium! I used to look down on them (while secretly enjoying them), and now I've written several! Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?

  7. Your posts always leave me smiling. I agree, people assimilate truth through fiction as Jesus well knew when he spoke in parables.

  8. For some reason, He knew what He was doing, right, Mary? :-)

  9. There is a great need in the prison system for Christian fiction. I agree whole-heartedly. The inmates pass books around and they are valuable commodities. Unfortunately, many of the books have no message. The inmates will read a fiction much more readily than a dry non-fiction. I agree. Fiction makes the message powerful delicious.

  10. Thanks, Karla! That's one big reason why we keep working at it! I prayed this a.m. for all Christian writers that God might share His truth in bite-sized portions as readers consume our stories.