I found Janette Oke in grade school when I would spend part of my summer at Grandma's house. She didn't have cable, a VCR, or any toys to speak of. What she did have was The Price is Right every day at 10AM and Janette Oke books. My sister hid out in Grandma's guest room and read the entire Loves Comes Softly series, and eventually so did I. Though I preferred the Canadian West series. I read her on through the early to mid-90s, and then Broadened My Horizons as it were. (I went through a historical fiction (Civil War) stage, a crime novel stage, a suspense stage, a lawyer book stage, realized I wasn't sleeping as well as I used to and fell back to classics and Christian Fiction which had grown by leaps and bounds while I was reading blood and gore.)
Some time in this beloved mess of a story I Became A Writer and my writerly friends would scoff at "prairie romances" and their "formulaic" plotlines and "predictable" endings. And I, being a follower of the worst sort thought there might be something to what they said. After all, most of the prairie romances I read, I read in middle school.
So it was, I confess, with a little trepidation that I took up The Hidden Flame by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke. I honestly don't even remember requesting it, though it came in the mail, I presume for review (and I probably did request it). What have I gotten myself into? I asked myself. I don't have time to read this. I don't have time to read anything. But if I did request it, I needed not only to read it, but also to tell you, my lovely readers about it. What if it was a formulaic prairie romance re-written to look like a first century church historical novel?
I needn't have feared. Mercy me, it was scary good. Scary good. The kind of good that makes you want to give up sleep to read it. (Which I believe I remember doing with the latter Love Comes Softly books. Maybe my writerly friends were getting too big for their britches?) And, OK, maybe I say this too often, and maybe God is working on crud in me, but this book really struck a few spiritual nerves in me, too. Made me want to strive to trust and obey. And re-read Acts. And read this book's predecessor The Centurion's Wife. It was rather most excellent. So, if you are hankering for something new and different and historical and spiritual, you have found your book. Though you may want to start with the first in the Acts of Faith series.