Morality of Clean Romance Novels

I’m curious to hear people’s thoughts on the morality of clean romance novels with no sex or sexual tension. It seems obvious to me that Catholics shouldn’t read smut, but I’ve occasionally encountered people who seem to think it is wrong to read romances even if they are as G-rated as Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen. What are your thoughts on the matter? If you think it’s wrong to read clean romances, could you explain why? If you don’t think it’s wrong, I’d also be interested to hear your thoughts.

NOTHING wrong with reading clean romance novels. Clean romance novels are what we should be reading.

I don’t think it’s wrong at all to read clean romance novels. I had to read Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen for a Literature class and I actually liked it.

I think they misunderstand ‘romance’. Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer wrote novels which happened to have major romantic plot lines. They also had passages which dealt with the slave trade and its morality (Mansfield Park, Austen), the Napoleonic Wars (Heyer, An Infamous Army), with poverty and its effects on women (Sense and Sensibility, Austen), with hypocrisy (Sylvester, Heyer), with the general differences in moral views in rural England (Austen) and in London and other metropolises (Heyer), with characters who were shallow and deep, comic and tragic, families with flaws who yet managed to help each other through (Pride and Prejudice, Austen), (The Masqueraders, Heyer), families who ‘broke’ under the strain of temptations (Mansfield Park, Austen, Persuasion, Austen), (The Black Moth, Heyer); and above all, these were not novels written solely about "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl’ with a couple of artificially contrived and usually sloppily written scenes of ‘nearly succumbing to sex’, but rather slices of extremely well written, literate, witty, enchanting dialog between as fine a cross section of people as one could ever hope to meet.

And in the end, the deserving boys and girls/men and women/husbands and wives/parents and children move on to spread their love ‘outward’. . .even to the LESS deserving, to whom they will still offer help, and who even at the worst (Wickham, S&S, Austen), (Belmanoir, The Black Moth, Heyer) still show some gleams of remorse and self-knowledge which have the power of redemption in the future.

It’s the best of morality in these authors especially which makes their works so enjoyable.

If you haven’t been able to guess, I possess all the works of both the above authors and have been reading both for nearly 50 years now (yes I was a very precocious young reader, for which I’m thankful to God!)


I don’t think there is anything wrong with reading romance novels (if that’s your fancy) that have sexual tension or sexual expression between lovers. Even if the relationship is morally suspect or downright sinful (from the RCC perspective) simply reading about it does not make the reader complicit in the actions described. Unless of course the reader infuses the images from the work with some sort of malice or intent to abuse oneself or another. Reading about sexuality, even illicit sexuality is no more a violation of the 6th or 9th commandment than reading about a bank robbery is a violation of the 7th commandment.
Victorian paranoia regarding human sexuality is alive and well in a significant portion of the RCC faithful; sadly enough !!

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My favorite author WAS Victoria Holt. She wrote mysteries with maybe a hint of romance in them but nothing smutty or nasty. I read and collected all of her books. They sure don’t write them like that anymore.

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