Sunday, May 15, 2011

Book Review: "The Hidden Flame" by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke

Summary from Abigail loses everything and is left with little promise of a normal life. When she discovers the Messiah and joins his followers, she also discovers new meaning and purpose. Maybe she does have a future after all. But increasing persecution is scattering the burgeoning group "to the ends of the earth." And Abigail may have given her heart to the wrong man.

Two suitors desire the lovely Abigail's hand in marriage. One is a successful Hebrew merchant and widower looking for a mother for his children. On the other side is the Roman soldier Linux, who is captivated by her winsome charm and could offer the sanctuary—maybe even the love—for which she yearns. But her heart has been captured by neither of these. Stephen, one of the leaders of The Way, has a character and a faith that move her deeply, but his outspoken preaching has marked him for assassination. Will her faith and courage withstand a heartbreak beyond comprehension?

And then a glimmer of hope appears, one she never would have foreseen.

As I've stated before, I'm a big fan of biblical fiction because I feel that there is more to the story than just what is written in the Bible. I feel that if the author does sufficient research to make sure what they are writing about is historically and culturally accurate, there is no reason to confine the characters to only what is written in the scriptures. That being said, I was looking forward to reading this second book in the new series from Bunn and Oke. As a huge Janette Oke fan, I'm honestly not sure what parts of the book she contributed to but I am a sucker for anything that has her name on it.

While the main focus of the story is on Abigail, it really is a different take on the story of Stephen, the first martyr. If you don't know Stephen's story from the Bible, he was stoned to death for his beliefs and the person holding the coats of the stoners was Saul, who later became Saint Paul. The authors take the framework of this story and wrote a lovely narrative around it focusing on the lives of the early believers and their day to day relationships. Pretty much the story of the first part of the book of Acts comes to life. The main character Abigail is a young woman who is one of the early Christians and helps out Martha (sister of Lazarus). Her story shows her growing in her faith as well as finding love.

If there's a flaw in the story, it's that I felt too much time was spent on the suitors that the reader knows Abigail does not want to be with. The men are both likable and there's nothing wrong with them but Abigail does not love either men so it feels like time is wasted on these characters only to have them go their separate ways. I appreciated the romantic tension but I don't really like getting invested in a character if they are not going to be a part of the main focus of the story and ending.

Overall this is a good biblical fiction story with a nice mesh of romance and historical fiction blended together. It's the second book in the series and while you probably could read it alone, I would suggest reading the first book to fully understand the characters, setting and culture.

The Hidden Flame by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke is published by Bethany House (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Other books in the Acts of Faith series that I have reviewed

The Centurion's Wife
(Book 1)

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