When I was a kid it annoyed me that so few books mentioned characters who went to church. I went to church. Most of the people I knew went to church. Weren't we worth writing about?
I suspect when I was a kid I simply wasn't drawn to, or introduced to, those sweet Sunday school books that would have filled that gap. Perhaps that's just as well. But now I read the Sunday-school-sweet books, all grown up, plus many others where characters do go to church but don't feel the need to tell the world--or is it where authors do go to church but don't feel the need to tell the world?
I guess the question still remains, are people like me worth writing about--are we worth reading about? And the truth is, I really don't want to read about me; I want to read about someone interesting, or at least someone in a story that's interesting; I want a fiction to draw me in and make me think before it spits me out. There'll have to be facts in that fiction if it's going intrigue me--true facts I mean, not political or spiritual misinterpretation. Faith or church might indeed be among those facts. But there'll have to be space for me to contemplate, or else I'll feel like I'm trapped in that Sunday school with no escape--no chance to be entertained or to grow.
All of which led me to ponder, what made me like some of the following books more than others? What might make you like them? Find yourself a coffee and see if any of the following would work for you.
Where Love Restores by Donna Fletcher Crow is a perfect blend of historical romance with Christian history and teaching - definitely a novel rife with real faith as well as fiction. The story takes places in England (with many scenes in a very believable Cambridge - the place where I studied math rather more recently). A maligned younger son tries to find meaning in his well-ordered (or resignedly disordered) life against a backdrop of Wilberforce's fight against slavery. A beautiful love story, wise, entertaining and educational, Where Love Restores offers serious Christian romance, best enjoyed with some rich and complex four star coffee.
Vain Pursuits by J.B. Hawker is much more light-hearted (though darker); a rolicking mystery adventure (second in a series) with two sweet ladies (of a certain age) traveling Europe, getting caught up with international crime, and pondering, in one case, the balance of faith and fun that falling in love with possibly the wrong man might entail. Faith allows the coincidences of a guiding hand, and informs the romantic dialog. It's not overwhelmingly religious, but the book is probably best read by Christian believers with a sense for adventure. Enjoy this Christian cozy mystery with some lively 2star coffee.
Stuck In The Neighborhood by Tracy Krauss is the second novella in another contemporary Christian series. A short story in its own right, it introduces readers to another character's culture, and another world behind the scenes of a neighborhood. The story portrays the very real struggle of a young woman trying to please everyone and forgetting to please herself. It's honest, faithful in a very non-preachy way, and appealing, and I'd love to read more. Enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.
Second Chance Grill by Christine Nolfi is an enjoyably feel-good blend of contemporary drama and romance (first of a series), with occasional (very sweet) swearing, occasional (perfectly low-key) bedroom scenes, and an underlying honesty as a young girl's medical bills soar out of control. It's not a particularly Christian book, but its character mention church and do occasionally pray. It's Christian-friendly and a fun novel for anyone looking for something more than romance. Enjoy this thought-provoking tale with an interesting brew of three-star coffee.
Second in another series, with rather darker themes, is Paralyzed by Alana Terry, a story where a protagonist suffering from PTSD finds out that not all dangers are inside her head. There's a very overt Christian thread in this story, as the character prays, ponders why prayer isn't answered, and speculates about her relationship to God. The antagonist's motivation isn't too clear, but the promise of salvation shines through some unlikely characters, backstories and situations. Enjoy with a dark five-star coffee.
Both Second Chance Grill and Paralyzed feature characters with medical training. I'm still trying to figure out why that training seemed so much more convincing in Second Chance. Like the faith, it was much less overt, so maybe I'm more convinced by both faith and science if they lie below the radar of the story, except in the Where Love series where faith is such a large part of the character's lives that it has to claim prominence. Except in exceptions?
Finally, here's a short story with no faith subtext at all. Capital Partners by Libby Fischer Hellmann is a tale which denies all chance of redemption as two rich, married women take offense at their husband's secrets. Short and dark, enjoy it with a short dark five-star coffee.