Forgiveness, Hard Limits and the Constant Theme

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There is something we talk about in romance fiction called “hard limits.” We often ask and discuss, “what are a reader’s hard limits?” In other words, what is that one thing that even in fiction you can’t stomach, don’t want to read about, won’t tolerate in any form?

For me the hard limit is pedophilia. I can’t read books or watch movies about children being sexually abused. I’ve got four children, and thank God, none of them have ever been victims, but the mere idea is so horrifying for me I just can’t go there. But, if I’m honest, I have to admit I’ve waived even that hard limit for a handful of very good works, The Lovely Bones being one example.

For a lot of romance readers the hard limit is infidelity. I’m frequently amazed by how vehement many romance readers are about the idea of a cheating lover or spouse. I tend to be a “shades of gray” person (and no, not the Fifty, the world view). See, while some people see the world in black and white, right and wrong, I’m often interested in context, the particulars, the exceptions. So, the bottom line is, I don’t see all cheating as equal.

This doesn’t mean I think cheating in a monogamous relationship is ever the right choice to make, simply that I believe how the other person judges or reacts to it should be based on the individual circumstances of that relationship and event.

There is no doubt that some people, both men and women, are habitual, chronic cheaters. The college boy who cheats on his girlfriend becomes the twenty-something guy who cheats on his fiancée, and then the thirty-something man who is unfaithful to his wife. That guy doesn’t deserve to be forgiven, and if you’re that guy’s wife? Get a divorce. Fast.

However, there are a lot of people in the world who cheat in a relationship for reasons other than chronic philandering. People who are unhappy either in their marriages or in their lives. People striving to recapture their youth, people who desperately miss that adrenaline rush of a new relationship, the feeling that accompanies someone new who admires you and wants you sexually. And, let’s face it, what are romance novels but a way to experience many of those same feelings vicariously? We scratch the itch for new relationships by reading about them rather than having them. But not everyone is so careful when they’re jonezing.

My newest release, For the Love of a Lush, is about what happens after someone cheats. It’s about the reasons why a young woman in a very loving and committed relationship could make such a horrible mistake, and whether the man she betrayed can find it in his heart to forgive her. It’s a tough journey, for both the main characters and the reader, but in the end love wins, and forgiveness rules the day.

And, I’ve discovered that I have a constant theme in my books, and it is forgiveness. Writing is fascinating in the ways it brings out the inner thoughts and feelings of the writer. I’ve learned all sorts of things about myself since I started writing fiction, and my overarching belief in forgiveness is one of them. You’ll find it in all of my books, and I’ve come to accept it’s just part of who I am and what I write.

I hope that if you haven’t yet read For the Love of a Lush you’ll give it a try. While it deals with a topic that’s a hard limit for a lot of romance readers, I think you’ll find that it’s an interesting and thought provoking look at the anatomy of a relationship and at the many shades of gray that surround the world’s oldest sin—infidelity. And make sure to leave a review to tell us what you thought!

For the Love of a Lush on Amazon

For the Love of a Lush on Barnes and Noble

For the Love of a Lush on iTunes

9 Replies to “Forgiveness, Hard Limits and the Constant Theme”

  1. I agree with you pedophilia, can’t/won’t tolerate real or fiction. Other topics that make me cringe are abuse, unless it is a story of finally escaping. Animal abuse infuriates me, don’t really see why writing about that would ever be necessary.

  2. I’ve been writing for more than 20 years, and had never heard that term. For me, anything that hurts a child or animal is a hard limit. I guess I would add anything BDSM in there as well. Just not for me. Good post!

  3. Excellent Selena! I agree with pedophilia, animal abuse, or really abuse of any kind being a hard limit for me. Even if it’s a story of a woman breaking free it’s just not something I want to read about as “entertainmen”. I’m also not on board with the whole 50 Shades train. Being adventurous, role-playing and consensual games is one thing, but Dominant and Submissive – true BDSM is not something I care to read about. As you mention, cheating is a grey area. I don’t want to read about a serial cheater with a spouse who just puts up with it, but a one-off in unusual circumstances and true remorse is a different story.

  4. Good post. I have used abuse, sexual and physical, and abuse of children in my stories. I don’t go into graphic detail but there’s enough there to let the reader know what a bad person my antagonist is. And yes, I find those scenes difficult to write even without the graphic detail, but I think the story requires it. It’s not added for no reason. Other hard limits, I’m not into writing graphic sex, especially something like 50 Shades. Otherwise, as a reader, I’m with everyone else, violence isn’t entertainment except as where it lends itself to the story and isn’t gratuitous.

  5. I’m with you there, don’t want to read or watch a child being abused. Even cringe when a story goes back in time to explain the past is hard for me.

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