Sweet Romances for Sweetest Day

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Sweetest Day ~ Saturday, October 20th

Are you ready?

I just discovered that Sweetest Day is mostly celebrated in the Midwest. Well, that makes sense, because I also discovered that it started in Cleveland, Ohio!

In 1921, Herbert Birch Kingston, an employee at a candy company, wanted to make the less fortunate happy, so he passed out candy to the homeless and orphans around Cleveland.

A year later, it became an official holiday!

So Sweetest Day is not just for couples. You can do something sweet for anyone! And while candy is nice, I think books are better!

This Sweetest Day, I would like to recommend a few sweet inspirational romances that will deepen your understanding of and longing for true love.

I’ve also interviewed the author, Carolyn Astfalk, so you can see what makes her books unique.


41MmpqQbnbLWith her sister Abby’s encouragement, Rebecca has moved out of their overbearing father’s home. When a chance encounter with Chris ends with an invitation, Rebecca says yes. The authentic way Chris lives his life attracts Rebecca and garners her affection. Chris loves Rebecca and her innocence, but he’s confounded by the emotional scars she bears from her parents and an attempted assault. Her father’s disdain for Chris’s faith and career only make matters worse. With the counsel of their friend Father John, can Rebecca and Chris overcome every obstacle and bridge the deepening gulf between them and her dad? Or will a crucial lapse in judgment and its repercussion end their relationship?

Click here for reviews.  Click on the book covers to reach the Amazon links.


OG-Front-Cover-FINALAfter his duplicitous girlfriend left, Dan Malone spent six months in a tailspin of despair and destruction: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Just when his life seems to be back on track, he meets Emily Kowalski, younger sister of his new best friend. Emily’s the kind of girl he’d always dreamed of—sweet, smart, and sincere. But he’s made a mess of his life and ruined his chances for earning the love and trust of a woman like her. Could Dan be the man Emily’s been waiting for? How could he be when every time they get close he pulls away? And will he ever be free from his shady past and the ex-girlfriend who refuses to stay there?

An inspirational Christmas romance that spans every season.

Check out the book trailer here.


rightfully oursSixteen-year-old Paul Porter’s relocation to Pennsylvania is a temporary move during his dad’s deployment. Or so he and his brother think, until devastating news lands on their doorstep. Paul’s new home with the Muellers provides solace, especially in the form of Rachel, his friend and confidante. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure. Will they acquire the strength of character and virtue to take only what rightfully belongs to them or are they in way over their heads, with more than a few lost artifacts at stake? Themes include premarital chastity and overcoming temptation.

This young adult Christian fiction is always listed high on Amazon’s “Values & Virtues” category.

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1.


Author Interview: Carolyn Astfalk

I’ve read all three of your published books. I found them all to be well-written and enjoyable with characters that remained with me even to this day. Stay With Meand Ornamental Graces are both adult romance and Rightfully Ours is young adult. Why do you write romance?

I didn’t set out to write romances. In fact, before I wrote the first draft of Rightfully Ours, which was my first attempt at fiction writing, I read very few romances. Somehow, as words spilled onto the page, what I imagined as a teen adventure morphed into a romance. And that’s what I’ve been writing ever since.

I’ve come to love clean, inspirational, and Christian romances. And I continue to read and write them because that spark of romance is not only fun, but provides opportunities for reflecting on the role of romantic love, which gives us a glimpse of the loving fervor with which God pursues each of us and helps us love as He loves.

Romance stories revolve around a central love story that ends in an optimistic ending. Christian romances are typically sweet (no explicit content) and they contain an element of faith woven into the plot. What makes your romance stories different from other Christian romance stories?

What sets my romances apart from other Christian romances is my Catholic worldview. Only a small minority of Christian romances include Catholic characters and themes.

I read heavily in the non-Catholic Christian genres and enjoy those novels very much. But there’s something to be said for seeing your own experience reflected in novels from time-to-time. So, when my characters pray, they’re more likely to bring out the rosary beads. If they’re practicing their faith, they’re at Mass on Sunday. They have the benefit of the sacraments and the grace that they offer. They’re more likely to be open to large families.

And, less significant, but contrary to what some Christian booksellers and publishers would condone, my characters enjoy a good beer, a glass of wine, or use a rare, well-placed mild curse word.

I also treat sexuality in a frank but non-explicit manner. I don’t gloss over the temptations we all face in remaining chaste, no matter our state in life. I try to communicate the joys and challenges of married sexuality lived in accordance with God’s plan.

I understand that themes in your stories reflect ideas found in Pope Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. What is TOB and how do these ideas influence your writing?

When my husband and I were newlyweds, Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body was becoming more widely known thanks to people like Christopher West, Janet Smith, and George Weigel. Simply put, the Theology of the Body, presented in a series of Wednesday audiences between 1979 and 1984, is a reflection on the body’s capacity for making visible an invisible reality manifested in our creation as male and female. It is an integrated look at the human person, made to love and be loved.

At the time, we volunteered for Catholic Engaged Encounter in our diocese and saw first-hand the extra challenges faced by couples who rejected the Church’s teaching on sexuality. As a consequence, I really delved into that aspect of theology and developed an affinity for it and a real love for Pope St. John Paul II.

While I never set out to write about the Theology of the Body, that holistic view of the meaning of our bodies always seems to find its way into my stories because it is integral to the intimacy between men and women and ultimately discovering our happily ever after.

How can a romance novel combat the false notions about love and sex that permeate our culture?

There’s a real dichotomy between the way love is often portrayed in modern media, often self-serving and fickle, and the kind of self-donative love we’re called to live.

The kind of romances I write are sometimes witty and flirty—at least I hope so! But, they also delve deeper. While the rush of attraction has an important role to play, I force my characters to move beyond those feelings to deal with what sustains love over the long term. So, that means they’ll wrangle with temptation, sin, forgiveness, mercy, and self-sacrifice.

Ultimately, that kind of love, self-sacrificial love, is more satisfying and fulfilling.

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JPII Unfolds the Mystery of Love

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menThe mystery of love? Whether it’s Valentines Day, Christmas, your birthday, or any day of the week…who doesn’t want to unwrap that mystery?

A friend of mine recently gave me a copy of Edward Sri’s Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love. I admit I prefer fiction to non-fiction, but I am enjoying this book so much that I want to tell everyone all about it!

Easy to read, this book provides practical insights from John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility. It has discussion questions at the end of each of fourteen chapters, making it ideal for a book club or for digging deeper into what you’ve just read. The topics are ones we all can relate to, but it contains many eye-openers that will likely change the way you think about love and relationships.

It is one I will read over and over so I can more fully grasp the messages and so I can grow in my relationships—especially my relationship with my husband. Honestly, as a writer, I’ll also use it as a resource for relationships in my stories!

The book covers real-life relationship issues:

  • What makes a true friendship and how can this kind of friendship lay the foundation for love?
  • What are the two main ways men and women are attracted to each other?
  • How can these attractions lead to either friendship and selfless love or to a relationship where someone is being used?
  • How do I know if I am in a relationship of authentic love or just another relationship that is doomed to failure?
  • What ingredients are necessary for true love?
  • The differences between men and women and the particular needs of a man and a woman in marriage.
  • Two aspects of love and knowing the difference is crucial for any relationship with the opposite sex.
  • The difference between feeling “I’m in love” and love itself.
  • Why should people wait for marriage to have sex?
  • The problem of pornography.
  • How can I be a better spouse?
  • How can I grow in self-giving love?
  • How to win the fight for purity in our relationships and in our hearts.

There is a lot more about friendship, attraction, relationships, emotions, love, sexuality, marriage, and chastity in the book too.

“Friendship… consists in a full commitment of the will to another person with a view to that person’s good.”    ~John Paul II, Love and Responsibility


While I find this non-fiction book indispensable, I believe fiction is another great way to grow in our understanding of these themes and to unfold the mystery of love.

Full Quiver Publishing is a great place to find fiction that celebrates the Church’s teachings on sexuality and marriage. Check out their website for books in a variety of genres.


carolyn saleAuthor Carolyn Astfalk writes contemporary Catholic romances, sometimes also referred to as Theology of the Body fiction. Her book Ornamental Graces is #FREE on Valentine’s Day!

After his duplicitous girlfriend left, Dan Malone spent six months in a tailspin of despair and destruction: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Just when his life seems to be back on track, he meets Emily Kowalski, younger sister of his new best friend. Emily’s the kind of girl he’d always dreamed of–sweet, smart, and sincere. But he’s made a mess of his life and ruined his chances for earning the love and trust of a woman like her.

Could Dan be the man Emily’s been waiting for? How could he be when every time they get close he pulls away? And will he ever be free from his shady past and the ex-girlfriend who refuses to stay there?

An inspirational Christmas romance that spans every season.


marchmeme.pngA young adult fiction, faithful to Catholic truth, that unfolds the mystery of love:

The ebook version of my contemporary young adult fiction Life-Changing Love is on sale for 99cents through the month of November.

With interesting characters and a fun story-line, this story addresses themes such as courtship vs. current dating practices, struggling with purity, obedience, finding the beauty within, Eucharistic miracles, supporting a friend faced with a crisis pregnancy, abortion vs. adoption, speaking the truth when it’s hard.


CathTeenBooks

For young adult fiction, in a variety of genres, that unfolds one mystery or another of faith and/or love, check out CatholicTeenBooks.com

Check out Carolyn Astfalk’s #OpenBook blog on My Scribbler’s Heart and CatholicMom.com