9.4 Salvation as Miracle

Since raising the dead can be considered miraculous, and the saving of the damned and the devilish possibly even more so, romances in which these events occur are probably intended to be read as miracles rather than as relationship advice. According to St. Augustine, miracles are extremely unusual examples of how a particular phenomenon may be made manifest in the world. He

defined the miracle as any difficult, unusual event which exceeds the faculties of nature and surpasses the expectations or ability of the observer to comprehend, so as to compel astonishment. [...] Miracles are essentially an acceleration of the normal processes of nature whereby the seeds (semina seminum) inherent in nature are activated. These phenomena occur in such an unusual way that they are termed miracles, and are intended to teach us a lesson. (Goodich 147)

However, although this chapter has been devoted to "difficult, unusual events," Augustine's is not the only definition of the miraculous and nor are these the only types of miracles depicted in romance fiction. Some romances take what Marina Warner refers to as “the position of absolute faith and maintain that [...] miraculous work informs all natural phenomena [...], both startling and otherwise" (317-318). This is the position adopted by Dave in Elliot Cooper's Hearts Alight (2016): he states that he "read once that either everything in the world, in the universe, is a miracle, or nothing is. Everything I know about nature, about the goodness in the world ... it amazes me." Similarly, in A. E. Wasp’s City Boy (2017), one protagonist is suddenly filled with an

awareness of how miraculous it was for two people to find each other amongst an infinity of possibilities. And yet it happened every day. Like birth. Each time a child arrived safe and whole into the world, it was a miracle; no less wondrous for its familiarity.

Whether a novel expresses its faith through unlikely miracles or more quotidian ones may indicate its positioning with respect to two main modes of faith: the ecstatic mode emphasises the power of the unusual in order to move the believer and reveal spiritual truths, the legalistic mode stresses the security and truth that are to be found in existing social structures and daily routines. The former celebrates the eruption of the spiritual into everyday lives, whereas the latter encourages the view that deep spiritual truths, even miracles, are present in the quotidian itself. As we have seen, however, romance can combine elements of both the ecstatic and the legalistic modes. The paranormal romance series by Nora Roberts which is the subject of the next chapter certainly does so: it combines a series of events in which the forces of evil are very dramatically made manifest, “altered states of consciousness” are experienced, and “terrible ordeals” (Whitehouse 294) are undergone, with a series of legalistic assessments of love.