Christian Historical Fiction

Marie Burton

Christian fiction is a publishing genre with its own distinct publishers, and Historical Christian fiction is a subset within that. You can find these books on this site tagged Inspirational. Other faiths are also tagged here, but you’ll quickly see that the Christian fiction is numerically dominant. Distinct publishers who specialize in this genre are Bethany House and Revell.

The sub-genre requires a basic faith in God. You don’t have to be any particular denomination of Christian to enjoy these stories, but you will need to believe that God exists. The novels take you on their historical journeys, whatever they may be, and it is as a side note that you find the characters have doubts, beliefs, and questions regarding faith and morals. Of course, every book is different and there are novels with a more in depth view of God or spirituality. Themes of sacrifice, passion, sin or faith-under-fire often feature in the stories. Bible quotations can be important: sometimes a new chapter begins with such a quote. Some of my favorite books this year are from this sub-genre, as they offer dramatic stories set in eras I want to learn more about. Christian historical fiction can easily mix with other sub-genres, as some may have a bit of mystery or suspense built in, and some work as historical romance (without the bodice ripper stigma). What you won’t find are tawdry sex scenes or explicit violence, but instead you’ll get your drama and history with a bit of inspirational insight.

I first came to appreciate Christian Historical fiction because I felt I couldn’t read one more novel about yet another King, Queen, or other noble person. I found this genre to fill an entertainment gap for me, and the quality of writing along with complex storylines has been superb thus far. Many of the novels can follow a certain formula regarding the faith aspect, but as with any other novel the stories are indicative of the author’s creativity and the other themes they present. Very generally speaking, popular settings are of the American pioneer or Western setting as well as later periods such as the aftermath of the American Civil War. Alternatively, there are stories ranging from the high seas (Mary Lu Tyndall) or those with the Regency era (Kaye Dacus) that have been put on many readers’ favorites lists. Two much loved and prolific Christian historical novelists are Janette Oke and Stephen Bly, the latter a Christy Award winner. The Christy awards were inspired by another forerunner of Christian Historical fiction, Catherine Marshall, and her 1967 novel Christy. The annual Christy Awards are presented to Christian fiction authors in several sub-genres, including Christian Historical fiction.

Some authors at the top of my own list are Julie Klassen, Deeanne Gist, Ann H. Gabhart, Tamera Alexander and Amanda Cabot. And if you are worried that these books can be a bit preachy, they’re not. Christianity and prayerfulness are more an underlying theme – and the reader can either see a deeper meaning, recognize certain lessons to be learned, or choose not to. Give them a try!

Marie Burton (author of this guide) is addicted to historical fiction, coping with the fact she can’t seem to enjoy reading anything that isn’t set some time long ago.