Now that we’ve revised the more popular Special Titles Listings, we are left with a number of the smaller categories that appear to be less in demand, but still interesting to some. So as we open them for new submissions, we considered these lists among ourselves, wondering what is attractive and what is less attractive about them.

For the Love of God is a list that suffers from the fact that titles which fit here are not so easy to spot. Many of the romances featuring characters for whom religion plays a major role are firmly anchored in the inspirational arena. They tend to center on the Christian faith and the main protagonists’ relationship with God, and actually this relationship is of equal importance as the actual romance. In many of these romances great emphasis is placed on a character being “saved” by his or her renewed faith. This is all well and good, but to find these titles any reader just needs to peruse the catalogues of publishing houses specialised on inspirationals.

On the other hand, romances which feature heroes and heroines for whom their faith is important, but not to such a marked degree, are scarce. Pickings are equally slim when looking for protagonists who practice Judaism, Hinduism, Islam or other faiths, depticted in a realistic manner – not in the manner of the typical Sheikh Harlequin Presents! There are also hardly any romances that deal realistically with the issue of inter-faith romances, and the difficulties that may arise with such a union.

In the contrary, most mainstream romances are agnostic in their approach: Religion is hardly ever mentioned, and if people go to church at all in the story it’s worth a single sentence. While this avoidance of religion works in contemporaries, it can add to the wallpaper-y character of many historicals, as religion played a huge role in almost everybody’s lives right down to the 1960s, and it’s appropriate to see this reflected in novels set in earlier periods.

So what we’re asking you to nominate for this list are romances that are not inspirationals, but still feature protagonists who work in the field of religion – of any faith – and/or for whose life religion – again, any faith – plays an important role. If you can, please indicate who the religious character is and what role religion plays in his or her life.

The Scots & Irish Romances list is one that smacks of a holiday: Escape to the Emerald Isle, or the Highlands, and enjoy whisky, tartans, and quaint pubs with live music. What’s not to love here? But fewer romances of this sort have been published recently than in the past, and we can only speculate why. Possibly the traditionalistic approach to both nations is no longer in tune with the modern societies these countries are in reality? Possibly fewer authors want to tackle the brogue? Possibly with the greater generational distance of many US readers from their immigrant ancestors, there is felt to be less interest in these countries? No matter why, we still love romances set in Scotland and Ireland, and hope that with Outlander on TV last summer, there may even be an increased interest in these particular settings.

If you nominate titles for this list, we’d like to ask you to indicate whether a romance is Scots or Irish – we want to point this out with the little icons that you can see in the list.

This is the last time around we are only opening lists we haven’t revised so far. Starting next month, we plan to mix some of the remaining lists with lists that we started our work with three years back, and for which you submitted so many books then. And once more, thanks so much to our readers, without whom this work would not be possible. We are looking forward to your submissions! You will find the criteria and submission ballot here. The lists will remain open until Thursday, March 5, midnight.

Rike Horstmann, LinnieGayl Kimmel and Cindy Smith

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