One oft-repeated piece of advice for writers is "Read!" My taste runs to mystery-suspense with a dollop of romance, preferably relevant to the plot, not particularly graphic, and with a better vocabulary than the commonly-used four-and-five-letter words that have grown old and boring. I also enjoy a good "how-to" book, although I find those must be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Still, fresh ideas are always good.
I just began one of the the Writer's Digest books ordered from their online bookstore, Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin. She has forty romance and romantic-suspense books to her credit.
She begins by defining Christian romance and says that it contains the common elements of all romances. The difference between the two is found in the presentation of violence, profanity, and physical sensuality and explicit sexual content. She calls Christian romance "a modern day parable" with the purpose of providing hope and comfort within the context of God's promises. The genre has evolved to "tackle deep and devastating human problems".
I find this evolution promising. Readers may want to escape daily life with all its difficulties, and there are plenty of genres to help them do so. Yet a realistic visit with characters experiencing those same difficulties can also be self-fulfilling. What they are escaping in Christian fiction, I believe, is the in-your-face-this-is-life-so-deal-with-it-because-it-won't-get-any-better, whatever-feels-good-do-it sort of mentality.
One doesn't have to be of any particular religious persuasion to believe the old adage that "Hope springs eternal". I see hope as a gentle thing, though with a subtle strength that challenges all other less-positive philosophies. I believe that Christian fiction/romance can be the vehicle, the spreader for the "Miracle-gro" on the lawn of life.