Burning Flames v. Smoldering Embers

Writers and readers alike know that burning flames in a romance novel sells books. It’s no different for Christian romance either. The flames may look a little different – there’s nothing gratuitous or inappropriate – but everyone feels the flames from their cheeks to their toes.

All fires need three things – fuel, heat, and air. Lots of fuel (love interests doing their amazing things), mixed with heat (attraction) and air create BIG flames.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Burning flames include that initial vision of the love interest. Since I’m female, I’ll be imagining a male. He’s tall, strong (preferably with bulging muscles noticeable through his shirt), his eyes dazzle, his smile sparkles. He probably has dimples somewhere.
This hero does amazing things – saves children from runaway horses or is a firefighter. He comes to the rescue, fanning those already high flames so they’re even higher. The female protagonist is completely swept off her feet.

Most romances end at the actual beginning of the story. The couple realize their love and they kiss, get married, etc. And then it ends. Happily ever after like Cinderella, right?
This is what has always bothered me about romances. Falling in love (puppy love, at least) is the easy part. The hard part comes later when they realize just how much their new husband loves to fry fish or squeezes the toothpaste from the middle. Maybe they have different ideals on how to raise children. This is when the relationship is real.
I’ve always been told that readers want to imagine them to live happily and without issue. But really – what fun is that? That’s a boring life. People argue, they differ. That’s what makes us interesting. It’s enlightening one another to different traditions and cultures.

I’d like to enter a plea for smoldering embers. My husband will tell you that coals/embers burn hotter and longer than flames. Allow Wikipedia to explain…

An ember is formed when a fire has only partially burnt a piece of fuel, and there is still usable chemical energy in that piece of fuel. This happens because the usable chemical energy is so deep into the center that air (specifically oxygen) does not reach it, therefore not causing combustion (carbon-based fuel + O2→ CO2 + H2O + C + other chemicals involved). It continues to stay hot and does not lose its thermal energy quickly because combustion is still happening at a low level. The small yellow, orange and red lights often seen among the embers are actually combustion.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ember
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

Flames from a fire burn high and quick. Embers are still alight, but not burning so fast that they’ll quickly burn out. Embers last longer, they burn slower.

This is the love story that has a little flirting, still with the tingly feeling, but it’s not so hot the characters will end up burned and hurt. This is the love story that will last and see the couple celebrate 50 years married.

This is the story where after the arrival of children the hero takes night duty so his exhausted wife can sleep. This is the hero who comes to the rescue without complaint when she’s locked her keys in the car – again. Maybe looks have started to fade and the muscles don’t quite bulge anymore. But the eyes still dazzle and the smile still sparkles.
And the female protagonist realizes that while those big heroic acts were amazing back in the day, it’s the days when her man puts air in her tires or plays baseball in the yard with the kids that makes her heart swell with love and keeps that low, steady fire burning in the pit on her stomach, keeping her whole body aglow with love.

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