On Valentine’s Day I normally favour a bit of counter-programming on this blog, rather than slavishly adhere to calendar observance. However, this year I think it is worth promoting fellow author DM Miller, who has written an unusual romantic trilogy. The Religion of the Heart, The Agony of the Heart and Secrets of the Heart are not the kinds of novels I would normally choose to read. However, because the novels centre around interfaith romance, I was interested purely because I have explored this territory a little myself (in my novel Love vs Honour).
DM Miller’s novels are radically different to Love vs Honour, but nonetheless raise many fascinating religious and political questions, in their fearless examination of the challenges faced by those in interfaith marriage.
The main plot appears simple enough, with Catherine and Abdul, Jewish and Arab respectively, meeting and falling desperately in love. In any love story there must be a blocking force, and here the blocking force is less religion but more culture, tradition and in some cases entrenched prejudice, most of which stems from relatives on both sides of their families. The third monotheistic religion, Christianity, is also cleverly woven into the mix, due to Catherine having been partly raised by her strict Christian adoptive father Dan. Incidentally Dan himself, for reasons too complicated to detail here, enters into an interfaith marriage of sorts in the course of the story.
Obviously the primary purpose of this kind of romantic novel is to provide an exhilarating emotional rollercoaster with dizzying highs and crushing lows, with a certain degree of escapism, and the trilogy contain these in spades. For example, Abdul’s rich family background is definitely a romantic escapist element popular in this kind of fiction. However, despite this escapism, intriguing religion based dilemmas are delved into throughout, and it is these that ground the novels, making them provoke thought as well as tug at heartstrings.
Whilst the first novel explores the considerable obstacles that stand in the way of Catherine and Abdul getting married, as well as some surprising family revelations, the second novel concerns complications that ensue post marriage once children enter the mix. Catherine and Abdul are complex, fully rounded protagonists who elicit sympathy and occasionally irritation, thus making them more believable. The supporting characters are interesting too, particularly Dan.
Some might criticise the novels for being melodramatic, but since melodrama is a genre staple here to say that is to miss the point. Besides, melodrama is not necessarily a dirty word, as I have pointed out elsewhere on this blog. Again, I emphasise that whilst this kind of romantic fiction is not a genre I generally indulge in, DM Miller’s trilogy certainly goes to some interesting places. So far I have read the first two novels in the trilogy, and I look forward to reading the third.