In his 2012 Relevant article, “Where Did Good Christian Fiction Go?“, Micah Levi Conkling claims that Christian fiction has been marred by the Left Behind series and Amish fiction, and is very difficult to find. So, in September, we’ve been seeking out Christian fiction to see if Conklin’s claims are true. Is there really no good Christian fiction out there anymore?
To start off, I want to define what Christian fiction really is. It’s not really a genre. Not really, because as you’ve seen if you have joined me in my search, Christian fiction comes in many genres. The two books I reviewed from the Thanksgiving Books & Blessings collection, Texas Tears and Mail-Order Misfire, are both western romances, and I also had the pleasure of interviewing the author of each, Caryl McAdoo and Davalynn Spencer respectively. My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest, Angela Hunt writes historical fiction, historical romance, heart-warming tales of love and friendship, and children’s books that can all be classified as Christian fiction.
Christian fiction is really a category that other genres fall under. The aforementioned Left Behind series might fall under the science fantasy genre, given it’s futuristic, alternative universe setting. As Christian novels can be so varied, let’s take a look at what they have on common like the portrayal of Christian lifestyles, and an underlying message of a loving God. A book in virtually any genre could be considered Christian fiction if it has these two components, even if the message is subtle and remains in the background of the story. According to the Christy Awards website, the award is “designed to nurture and encourage creativity and quality in the writing and publishing of fiction written from a Christian worldview and showcase the diversity of genres.”
In spite of Conklin’s claims, not all Christian stories boldly shove the message of God down the readers throat. (Many children, and adults as well, turn tail and run from a story that give a hard push to moralistic messages, as is discussed in this month’s “Growing Bookworms” post.) I think the message in good Christian fiction is delivered subtly, in small doses, giving the reader the option to take it or leave it while still being able to enjoy the story.)
Christian fiction really has a bad rep in some circles, where any story with no sex, no violence, no cursing, and no vice, it is believed that the reading of which might be comparable to eating white rice with no seasonings. Christian fiction, from my view, is a tale which portrays Christian beliefs and values in its character’s lifestyles. I think the historical may even be flavored a little more heavily with this, because in days of past Christian lifestyles were more prominent. That could explain why historicals and westerns, like those we’ve looked at here lend themselves so readily to the Christian aspects. I’m guessing that it would more difficult, although not impossible, to work Christian aspects into a futuristic work of science fiction or fantasy, but I have seen them worked into thrillers and mysteries, and they are easily worked into contemporary romance.
Most Christian fiction stories that I’ve read are heart-warming and inspirational, and I’ve walked away with a warm feeling at the story’s end, as if there might actually be hope left for this world, or for love, or humanity, depending on the individual story. In short, Christian fiction works are stories which are written for Christian readers. But you don’t have to be searching for something with Christian undertones to enjoy one if you come across one. A good, well-written Christian story lets the characters carry the reader through without being preachy and moralistic. The power of God shines through in the character’s lives.
Caryl McAdoo is the founder and creator Thanksgiving Books & Blessings collection two, which was just released this past week. Her Christian western romance, Texas Tears, is book three in that collection and its my pleasure to review it here today on Writing to be Read for this month’s Christian fiction theme. (You can also catch my review of book four from this collection, Mail-Order Misfire, by Davalynn Spencer here.)
Some of the transitions in Texas Tears were abrupt and unclear, and I found myself having to reread to determine who was speaking at times, or what setting we were in, but nothing some well placed dialog tags wouldn’t fix. The historical details are accurate to time and setting, and the story itself is heartwarming, with a delightful Southern twang.
Texas Tears is the story of two young girls, childhood friends and cousins, Miss Arlene Van Zandt and Miss Charity O’Neal, both hoping for their perfect dream man, with their sites set on one in particular. The same one, Hart de Vecchi. Hart seems content to be the wedge driven between the two friends while he tries to make up his mind, but by playing with the hearts of both women, he risks ending up alone.
A story of love, faith, and endurance. Texas Tears is everything a Christian western romance should be. I give it four quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
Mail-Order Misfire, by Davalynn Spencer is a Christian western romance that will touch your heart. The story is well-crafted and entertaining, with well-developed characters that you can invest in, and setting details accurate to time period for authenticity. You’ve got to love young Gracie as she takes on the role of matchmaker for her unsuspecting father. It expertly portrays the Christian values of the historic west with a flare that draws you into the story and won’t let go.
Etta Collier is recently widowed and desperately looking for a way to get out from under the predatory banker who wants to claim all that her William left behind in this world, including her! A well-intended letter from young Gracie Stidham requesting a mail-order bride for her father and mother for herself, provides the only answer in sight, so she packs a bag and leaves her previous life behind, setting off for Lockton, Colorado with hope in her heart, as well as a fear of what might lie ahead. The results are a true love story as Etta, Gracie and her father Burn, who is both the preacher and the sheriff, come to terms with the rather awkward situation her arrival stirs and learn to love one another.
Mail-Order Misfire is a thoroughly engaging western romance that emphasizes Christian values without being ‘preachy’ in the least. An well-crafted example of Christian fiction that I give five quills.
Mail-Order Misfire is book two of the newly released Thanksgiving Books & Blessings Collection, available now on Amazon.