In the past I have tended to avoid Christian fiction. It always sat uncomfortably with me for some reason. I liked to keep my Christian and my fiction reading very separate, thank you very much. I struggled to see how it could be done well and since many covers look like a discreet version of Mills and Boon, I was unconvinced.
Yet over the years there have been some wonderful exceptions to this rule, such as Gilead and The Hammer of God. (Surely these must actually be classed as Christian literature, but perhaps that is another discussion.)
So my mind has gradually opened up to the possibilities of good Christian fiction.
The best was Redeeming Love, a retelling of the story of Hosea. Set in California in 1950, Michael Hosea answers a call from God to marry Angel, a high class prostitute who has only known betrayal and loss. His call from God is to love her with an unconditional, persistent love. It draws you in from the beginning and carries you along as you wonder whether Angel can ever truly respond to Michael's love.
I really enjoyed the Mark of the Lion Trilogy too. It follows the life of Hadassah, a Jewish slave girl and Atretes, a German warrior made to be a gladiator. Thus quenching my thirst for novels about Ancient Rome as well as a fascinating story line with realistic characters, I devoured these three large books in a few weeks. As I read them I was increasingly impressed with Rivers' ability to show the challenges of being a Christian or a Jew in a land of open, sensual pagan worship. My understanding of the tone of Paul's letters to the churches of Rome and Ephesus was enhanced by the portrayal she gave of those cities. Yet at the same time, the character Hadassah who truly believed yet was too frightened to speak of her faith also spoke to me directly of my own situation at many times. They were interesting and challenging books.
Finally, I read The Atonement Child. This is the story of Dynah, a bible college student, engaged to a would-be minister, whose life is broken apart by rape, from which results pregnancy. Dynah is crippled with uncertainty and indecision about what to do, when all around her are suggesting that termination is surely possible and the right thing in such a circumstance. Rivers has taken on a hard topic here and she has done it with sensitivity and awareness.
But this book pointed out some of my hesitation with Christian fiction. It is predictable. You know what the ending of each book has to be. You wait to see how it unfolds, but you know where it is going. I will keep reading Christian fiction and welcome any recommendations, but will also definitely keep reading other fiction, for it keeps me guessing just a little more.