My dearest darling daughter asked me last week if I’d like to go watch a taping of an Oprah show. Now, I’m only slightly behind the times but I knew it would be for one of the Oprah Winfrey Network shows, taping in Dallas. I wasn’t sure what celebrity would be interviewed: It could be a football player—Dallas has several of those and the season is getting ready to begin. We have a few high-profile people who’ve gone a little radical—Jerry Jones comes to mind. But I was willing to go, even early on a Thursday morning, no matter the celebrity in question. And then my daughter let me know it would be an interview with Bishop J.D. Jakes for one of Oprah’s LifeClass segments. Hmm.

Let me provide a little background: Oprah was filming two segments with guest Bishop Jakes at the American Airlines Arena to be shown on the OWN LifeClass program. The topics were missing fathers and forgiving. As an entertainment reporter, Gwen was assigned to do a story on Oprah and the experience. And she had a plus-one ticket. That would be me. So we had great seats on the studio floor in the “we’ll-fill-your-seat-if-you-disappear” section. So, if you watch the shows, there is the possibility you’ll see us in the audience. And we had a great time. I was within 30 feet of Oprah; she was charming even through the technical hiccups and running an hour late. The only downsides were that we weren’t allowed any food or beverages and sitting in one area for five hours was draining.

The interviews were a kickoff to MegaFest 2013, which includes a Faith and Family Film Festival. The festival looked intriguing with a number of guests I’d love to see and hear: Kerry Washington, Robert Townsend and a few more. So, I convinced Gwen to stick around. After all, she could find a story, at least one, at a film festival. But imagine my surprise when I stumbled—it was early morning, and to my surprise, coffee was hard to be found despite Starbucks being a sponsor—into an author I’ve admired for years. This lovely author, also caffeine deprived, was there to attend the screenwriting master class and the first showing of a BET movie. Tiffany Don't Tell a SoulL. Warren has been writing for over 10 years under her given name for adult novels and as Nikki Carter for her young adult series. Warren’s latest book, Don’t Tell A Soul (Dafina, February 2013), will be out in February 2014 as a mass market paperback but is currently available in your library or as a trade paperback. Don’t Tell A Soul continues to follow the lives of the three main characters from Warren's inspirational best-seller What a Sista Should Do. The women are older but not necessarily wiser. Each woman’s life has changed dramatically over the years: new marriages, lost money and prestige, and ex-husbands cluttering up the scene. Through Warren’s exquisite voice, you get a real glimpse into their world as you cheer them on to a new understanding of themselves, their families and what comprises their faith.

ReShonda Tate Billingsley was a special guest at the festival. As a producer for the yet-to-be-released BET film Let the Church Say Amen, based on Billingsley’s 2004 novel, she also had a part in the movie. So I got to talk with a writer, producer and actress all in one sitting. That was exciting. And the film was shown to a standing room only audience later that day. From the comments I heard, it was a great adaptation. The scheduled run date hasn’t been announced, but it is supposed to be shown later this year. If you join ReShonda’s mailing list, you’ll be sure to get the dates and times. Her latest book, A Family Affair (Gallery Books, August 2013) is a heartbreaking tale of sacrifice, secrets, mother-daughter relationships and uncovering the truth. Be sure to read with a least one tissue in hand since, yes, you might cry—but in a good way. 

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As we were waiting for our morning panel to begin, the conversation turned to faith-based romances. It wasn’t really too much of a stretch as everything at MegaFest was about faith, with a little family on the side. But the faith aspect has stuck with me. A romance is pretty simple when you boil it down to the essentials: girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy and lives happily ever after (or seems to). The only differences are the location or setting, which add color and depth to the relationship. It might be a small town romance featuring a sheriff and school teacher; in space with a captain and mercenary; or an Amish farmer and an outsider—but the basic structure remains the same in terms of the romance. And as a long-time romance reader, I like it when the bad people are appropriately punished, or as my daughter Gwen prefers, become the hero of the next book in the series.

Why are sweet romances and faith romances so popular now? Is it the simple basic romance trope mixed with a definite redemption? The bad guys or gals always get their just reward, the couple is united and faith is an essential background. As we say in Texas, it’s something to ponder.

Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com, a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors an annual author reader tea in June, a readers conference in November, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.