I've had a couple of LDS fiction phases, but neither lasted very long. As a teenager, I read several Jack Weyland novels, and later when I worked at the BYU Bookstore I read a few novels published by Orson Scott Card's publishing company, Hatrack River (more about that later). But recently, a good friend surprised me with the revelation that she is working on an LDS romance novel. I'm not a fan of that genre, but I was so impressed that she'd written 100+ pages of an actual novel that I begged her to let me read it. She finally relented, but she suggested that I read some examples of the already-published stuff, so I’d know what she was going for. So this is like research, I guess.
Beyond Perfection by Juli Caldwell and Erin McBride
This was the one that started it. I read it before I found out about my friend's work-in-progress. I ran across it at our local library—it’s a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I’m a sucker for those, and some mind candy sounded good right then. Unfortunately, I was in the mood for peanut M&Ms, something with at least the hint of substance, and this was Pixie sticks or Jolly Ranchers. I get annoyed when the main character is referred to as “the sad brunette” well after her identity has been established.
It was while telling my friend about this book that she revealed her secret.
Soul Searching by Shannon Guymon
The cover of this was decidedly less embarrassing than the typical LDS romance novel, which often features lace and curly letters. The story was okay, though the characters were a little flat.
Love Lights the Way by Michele Ashman Bell
In spite of the cover (flowery and pastel) and cheesy title, this one was pretty good. It took place on the Oregon coast, about which it is nice to dream. The characters were again a little flat but likable.
The Heart Has Its Reasons by Kerry Blair
I liked this title even less than Love Lights the Way, but it was my favorite one. There were relatively few cliches and moments of bad writing to annoy me—those few were references to the love interest’s rippling muscles, but since he was a professional baseball player and thus presumably well endowed with muscles, perhaps that can be forgiven. Also, I liked the characters and the conversion story of the main guy—it seemed more natural and believable than the spiritual crises of characters in the other books.
On the other hand, I have a sneaking suspicion that the more of these one reads, the more one wants to read. It’s kind of like watching TV—easy and pleasant and not very challenging.
I read both of these many years ago when I worked at the BYU Bookstore. They are (were) published by Orson Scott Card’s publishing company, Hatrack River, which probably doesn't exist anymore, but OSC has plenty of online presence, and you can still get the books he published. They’re not romances, but more like LDS comedy with some serious elements. They are pretty funny.
I meant to read something by Anita Stansfield, too, since she's kind of the queen of LDS romances, very prolific and widely read. But I couldn't bring myself to get excited about any of her titles. Maybe later.