Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I don't read as much Christian historical fiction as I used to. Mostly because it's all horribly sentimental and so cheesy. Not to say I don't love historical romance fluff books--oh how I love historical romance fluff--but there needs to be some substance and relatable characters.

Part of my biggest problem with Christian fiction, at least with the stuff I've read that's aimed at women, is it thinks we're all kind of simple. At least 95% of it includes the following:
-a spunky heroine. Boy, is she spunky. Did I mention she was spunky?
-Her character flaws are things like "she's too honest" or "she isn't good at housework."
-a Manly Leading Man who is troubled, misunderstood and probably a heathen
-the book is historical, so random paragraphs of "interesting anecdotes" that have nothing to do with the plot will appear periodically; the author has to include her research on the native grasses of 1840s southwest Colorado somewhere.
-One or more people get saved, usually in one long section in the last fourth of the book where most of the "Jesus talk" is located.
-In this section, the spunky heroine speaks for about 3 1/2 pages, explaining how to accept Jesus. Or she and the unsaved person engage in a completely unrealistic "dialogue" about getting saved. Lots of Bible verses are quoted. Said person is saved.
-If it's the Manly Leading Man who is saved, he'll shed a few manly tears.
-they get married. and the peasants rejoice.

And let me say that I have absolutely no problem with Christian themes or people getting saved in books. I love Jesus and want everyone to love Jesus. But COME ON. We're adults here. Most of us have problems slightly larger than our parents not understanding why we're so spunky.

Then my sister loaned me this book:

I've read two books by Deeanne Gist before, and they were entertaining and a notch above other Christian-historical-romance-chick-lit. But Courting Trouble raised the bar.

Yes, there's a spunky heroine. And the premise seems predictable: Essie is 30 years old and unmarried in the late 1890s, so she's on a one-way train to spinsterville. She's decided she's through waiting for God to send her a man so she's going to land one herself. But the predictability more or less stops there. Every time I thought, "aha, I've got this figured out," Gist threw a curve ball.

Essie, the spunky heroine, makes mistakes. Huge mistakes, and they're not the easily-remedied kind. Nor are they the kind often seen in most Christian-historical-romance-chick-lit. I wouldn't have seen the ending coming, either, if my sis hadn't kind of hinted at it. I don't want to give away too much because I enjoyed being surprised throughout the book. It's like a thinking woman's Christian-historical-romance-chick-lit. The fluff and fun is still there, but Gist doesn't shy away from the weightier stuff, either. Yet somehow it never gets depressing or bogged down and remains compulsively readable.

This book isn't brand new, and the sequel is already out, called Deep in the Heart of Trouble. I just started it yesterday, so I'll let you know how it goes. But do check out Courting Trouble. I especially recommend it to all you single ladies out there.

1 comment:

Chad Aaron Sayban said...

I think that a lot of historical fiction writers fall into the trap of believe the label of "simpler times" meaning the people were simpler. If you read things written during that time, you find out that people were just as complex then and we are now. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written in 1885 and those are some pretty complex characters.

I'm glad you liked the book. You will have to let us know how the sequel goes.