Friday, July 28, 2017

Best of the Archives: A Passion Undaunted

This post by Julie Lessman first appeared in Seekerville on 
August 11, 2010. Comments are closed today so we can catch up 
with our reading and writing!

NOTE: I chose this Best of the Archives because the passion remains "undaunted" in my latest release, His Steadfast Love, book 3 in the 
Isle of Hope series, which releases TOMORROW! 

So just for fun, I thought I'd give you a sneak peek at some of the "passion" 
in store in His Steadfast Love -- both spiritual and romantic -- with two 
little snippets sprinkled within this blog.

The sweet, fragrant curves
of your body, the soft, spiced contours
of your flesh invite me 
until dawn breathes its light
and night slips away. 

Okay, quick—somebody turn on a fan, preferably one of those gale-force mega fans. You know, the kind that make you look like you just got a bad facelift? Because no, the above romantic quote is not from Harlequin Blaze or Silhouette Desire or even from one of my own books. Nope, we’re looking at a bestseller of astronomical proportions—"Song of Solomon 4:6-7, Message translation. 

Whew!  Who knew that the Creator of the Universe could burn up the pages with passion?

Uh … well, I did.

You see, it was one of the first lessons I learned at the age of 23, when my bestseller of choice went from Gone With the Wind to The Bible, and honey, let me tell you, I ran into passion with a capital “P,” the kind that made Rhett and Scarlett look like amateurs.
Passion for God
Passion for Romance
Passion to be all God has called us to be.

Which, for a gal who does everything with “passion”—from brushing my teeth with a vengeance, to piping dinner guests’ initials into twice-baked potatoes—is a HUGE relief! Because, let’s face it—I either have to admit that I have some genetic defect that translates into an overload of passion … or … I can believe that the God of my heart molded me in a manner that reflects the same intensity and passion of His own heart for each of us. Genetic defect or God’s hand … mmm, no contest.

So, why am I broaching this subject today? Well, because in exactly three weeks, the first book in my new “Winds of Change” series, A Hope Undaunted, will hit the bookstore shelves, and I thought this would be a timely opportunity not only for a giveaway, but to once again reiterate just why I write the intense type of romantic passion that I do.  

For instance, did you know that in 2009, the romance genre generated $1.35 BILLION in sales? Well, if you read Tina Radcliffe’s excellent Weekend Edition a few weeks ago, you did know that, along with the astounding fact that in 2008, 75 MILLION Americans read at least one romance novel, 90% of which were women. 

Why? Because of passion, pure and simple. Only in the secular market, passion is seldom pure and rarely indicative of the God who created it. Which, and I don’t now about you, ticks me off to no end.

Because let’s face it—passion is powerful. It can drive a woman into the arms of a man, or a person into the arms of God. In truth, I believe romantic passion gives us a glimpse into the very heart of God. After studying the “Song of Solomon” in the Bible, I’m convinced that the God who created passion and intimacy did so to mirror the intensity of His own love for mankind. So I coined the tagline “Passion with a Purpose” because it is my belief that passionate romance laced with God’s precepts is also powerful—it can draw, woo and win advocates to its cause with the stroke of a keyboard. It is my hope that my books not only strike the balance between strong romantic and spiritual passion, but by interweaving the two, bring readers into an intimate relationship with the true author of romance.

Consequently, since passion is so important to me, I’ve talked a lot about it in my various Seeker blogs:
  • Why I write the type of intense romantic passion that I do in Life on the Edge
But one of the biggest reasons why I write intense romantic passion is the same reason that the romance genre is the most popular genre in the world. Because passion in any form—be it passion for country, romance, God, whatever—compels a human being to FEEL. It elicits a response that pulls a person from the sidelines into the heart of the matter, wooing them to a cause. 

And what better cause than a love affair with the God of the Universe, whose passion and intense love for each of is as pulse-pounding and heart-racing as the most romantic of novels? A passionate love affair that I believe is available to each and every one of us, and one which I strive to convey in my books—juxtaposing all the feelings and passions of romantic love alongside a relationship with God that can be just as intimate and exciting.

In book 2 of the “Winds of Change” series, A Heart Revealed, the heroine Emma Malloy tries to convince her young neighbor that not only can a relationship with God be as intense and romantic as the most heated love affair, but it teaches us the true meaning of love, enriching our lives and relationships in the process. Here is a clip that illustrates what I believe Christian romance can and should do—tell a love story between a man and a woman, certainly, but also between a man and a woman and the God who loves them.

      Livvie’s eyelids lowered as she shifted in her seat. “But we can’t see or feel God, Emma, so how can you feel his love? I need more than prayers to a God I can’t touch, see or hear—I want to hear words of love, see kind actions, feel hugs and kisses …”
     “We all do, Livvie, because yes, we’re human beings. But we were made in God’s image.” Drawing in a deep breath, Emma leaned back in her chair, her eyes tender. “Which means, Olivia, like Father, like daughter. You want to be loved? So does he. You want to be touched? So does he. You want to feel the rush of a kiss or the warmth of a hug?” Tears pricked Emma’s eyes. “So does he. Which is why I rushed to him when Rory hurt me and my family betrayed me. And you know what? I found a God whose arms were open wide and whose heart leapt with joy when I called his name. As protective as a mother and as jealous as a lover, this was a God who wanted me for his very own. Me—Emma Malloy! To touch, to bless, to fill with his pleasure.” She swallowed hard, her gaze locked on Livvie’s. “Until I overflow, spilling his love on all those around me—treasured possessions of a passionate God.”

To some, “passion” is shocking in a Christian novel, but to me, it is a means of setting a heart ablaze for Christ, igniting a passion for Him with the spark of passionate romance. So to celebrate the release of my first “passionate romance” in a year and a half, I’m going to give away a signed copy of A Hope Undaunted AND end this blog with a repeat of my favorite love scene from that book. It’s my deepest hope and prayer that your love affair with God produces as many flutters of the heart as Katie’s love affair with Cluny and that your passion for Him will remain ... forever undaunted.

      “Katie, are you okay?” He loosened his tie and stared, concern creasing his brow as he watched her, her body slumped at the window with a hand to her eyes. She didn’t move, and the tightness in his gut increased. He approached quietly, afraid he would startle her. “Katie?”
      “Oh!” She whirled around, staggering against the sill with a hand to her chest.
He clutched her arm to steady her, and the color drained from her cheeks. Softening his hold, he absently grazed her skin with his thumb, then ducked his head and smiled, eyes tender as he studied her. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you. Are you all right?”
      She nodded stiffly, her gaze glued to the massive hand on her arm.
      Worry wrinkled the bridge of his nose and he braced both palms on her shoulders, convinced something was wrong. Her face was white and her breathing labored, and he could swear he felt a hint of a tremble. “No, I can feel it. Something’s bothering you.” He pressed his hand to her forehead. “Are you sick?”
      She jerked back from his hold and butted up against the window, arms crossed and hugging her waist. “No!” she said too quickly to suit him, clearly avoiding his eyes. “I mean maybe a little dizzy, but nothing serious. I just need to go home …”
      He shifted, suddenly concerned it had to do with him. Plunging his hands in his pockets, he softened his tone. “Katie … is it me? Did I say or do something to upset you?”
     She shook her head, gaze bonded to the floor. “No, please, I just need to—”
     He nudged her chin up with his thumb, and her lips parted with a sharp intake of breath. And then he saw it. The gentle rise and fall of her chest, the soft rose in her cheeks, the skittish look in her eyes, flitting to his lips and then quickly away.   Comprehension suddenly oozed through him like heated honey purling through his veins. Could it be? Was it possible that cold, callous Katie O’Connor was beginning to warm up? To him, of all people—Cluny McGee, the leper from her past? The thought sent warm ripples of shock through his body, thinning the air in his lungs. His gaze gentled, taking in the vulnerability in her eyes, the fear in her face, and all he wanted to do was hold her, reassure her.
     As if under a spell, his gaze was drawn to her lips, parted and full, and the sound of her shallow breathing filled him with a fierce longing. “Oh, Katie,” he whispered, no power over the pull he was suddenly feeling. In slow motion, he bent toward her, closing his eyes to caress her mouth with his own. A weak gasp escaped her as she stiffened, but he couldn’t relent. The taste of her lips was far more than he bargained for, and he drew her close with a raspy groan. With a fierce hold, he cupped the back of her neck and kissed her deeply, gently, possessive in his touch. His fingers twined in her hair, desperate to explore.
     And then all at once, beyond his comprehension, her body melded to his with an answering groan, and he was shocked when her mouth rivaled his with equal demand. Desire licked through him, searing his body and then his conscience. 
     With a heated shudder, he gripped her arms and pushed her back, his breathing ragged as he held her at bay. “We can’t do this,” he whispered. He dropped his hold and exhaled, gouging shaky fingers through disheveled hair. His gaze returned, capturing hers and riddled with regret. “Believe me, Katie, as much as I want to, I’ve learned the hard way to take things slow. I should have never started this, and I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”
     Forgive him? She stared at him through glazed eyes, her pulse still pumping in her veins at a ridiculous rate. She never wanted this, couldn’t stand the sight of him, and now here she was, tingling from his touch and desperate for more. Addicted to the “King of Misery.” The very thought inflamed both fury and desire at the same time, muddling her mind. Dear Lord, she was torn between welding her lips to his or slapping him silly. With a tight press of her mouth, she opted for the second and smacked him clean across the face.
     His jaw dropped a full inch, complemented nicely by a slash of red across his cheek.
     Her chest was heaving, but at least it wasn’t from his touch. She narrowed her eyes and clutched her fists at her side, not all that sure she wouldn’t slap him again. “So help me, if you ever touch me again, you will be the sorriest person alive.”
     He slowly rubbed his cheek with the side of his hand, exercising his jaw as if to make sure it still worked. His eyes glinted like blue glass, sharp and deadly. Even so, the swaggering smile of old eased across his face. He bent forward, his tall frame looming over her like a bad omen, and his voice held that cocky drawl so reminiscent of his past. “What’s the matter, Katie Rose,” he whispered, “does my touch make you nervous?”
     The heat in her cheeks went straight to her temper. She iced him with a cool gaze. “Nervous? Around you? Hardly. You can dress up in a suit all you like, Luke McGee, but to me you’ll always be the same cocky street brat with a twang in your voice and grime on your face.”
     She knew her words hit their mark when a red blotch crawled up the back of his neck like a rash gone awry. A nerve pulsed in his temple, but his smile never wavered despite the steel edge of his jaw. One blond brow jagged high in challenge. “Is that a fact? Well then, how about a little experiment? Kind of like when you were eleven and I bet you couldn’t be nice?” He leaned close, his voice as hard as his eyes. “What d’ya bet I can make you nervous now?”
     She tried to shove him out of the way. “I’m going home.”
     “Not yet,” he whispered, blocking her in with a push to the wall. His voice, like the dominance of his hold, was a force to be reckoned with. “You always packed a wallop for a little girl, Katydid, but this time you picked the wrong street brat. You can turn your nose up at me all you want, but we both know that slap wasn’t so much about an innocent kiss …” He bent close, his eyes on fire and his breath hot against her face. “As how it made you feel.”
     His words seemed to vibrate through her, low and thick in the air. She shuddered, and the force of his savage look trapped all protest in her throat.
     “To you I’ll always be riff-raff, something vulgar and crude. Well, welcome to my world, Miss O’Connor. And, please, let me show you how we do it on the ‘streets.’ Because if I’m going to take a beating, you can bet your bottom dollar on two things for sure. One—I’m going to get my money’s worth.” 
     A dangerous smile surfaced as his gaze focused on her lips. “And two …” His mouth hovered just above hers while his voice trailed to a whisper. “I’m gonna make you real nervous in the process.”
     In a catch of her breath, he took her mouth by force, his late-day beard rough against her skin. A faint moan escaped her lips and all resistance fled, burned away by the heat of his touch, leaving her weak and wanting. His mouth roamed at will, no longer gentle as he devoured her, ravenous against the smooth curve of her throat, the soft flesh of her ear. With a guttural groan, he jerked her close with powerful arms, consuming her mouth with a kiss surely driven by the sheer will to ravage.
     And then in a frantic beat of her heart, he shoved her away. She gasped, numb as she thudded against the wall. His chest was heaving and his eyes were hard, focused on her with cool disregard. “There. Now that makes two of the sorriest people alive.” He grabbed her purse from the floor and threw it on her desk, then rubbed his mouth with the side of his hand. “Better run home, Katydid. God knows the riff-raff that roam the street this time of night.”
     He turned and walked into his office, slamming the door hard.
She stared, her body still quivering from his rage. Closing her eyes, she sagged against the wall, too stunned to move and too shaken to care. She pressed a trembling hand to her mouth, her lips swollen from the taste of him. 
     She was doomed, she realized, and the thought shivered through her like a cold chill. She wanted a man she didn’t really want, and the very notion weakened her at the knees. He had called her one of the sorriest people alive. She grappled for her purse and put a hand to her eyes.
     And God help her, she was.