The Seven Best Things About *Not* Living in a Historical Novel

Have you ever seen a person on the cover of a historical novel and thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to live in a story world like that?”

Me too.

For about five seconds.

After I came to my senses, I decided to make a list of a few things I appreciate about being able to read about historical heroines without actually being one. Enjoy!

One: I can wear sweatpants. (Also pants in general.)

Every now and then I get a twinge of longing looking at pretty dresses on historical novel covers. And then I remember that it would take forever to put on the corset and multiple layers of petticoats and the oppressive heat of that many layers and how did they even use an outhouse properly in those things? And I’m grateful for fleece leggings, sweaters, T-shirts, and jeans.

Downside: This may sound shallow, but the fact that I don’t have to lace myself into a day gown also means that the men around me aren’t obligated to wear suits. And a good-looking man in a suit…well, that might be a strong reason to get a time-travel ticket back to 1900.

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Two: No expectation of constant wittiness/feistiness.

Fictional women are all way better at witty comebacks than I am. Also romantic compliments. And confrontational speeches. And persuasive arguments.

Okay, fine, so they’re just better at talking in general. That said, because I’m not a historical heroine, there’s way less pressure to come up with something dialogue-worthy on the spot. So, that’s good, right?

Downside: Maybe stepping into a historical novel would somehow endow me with the ability to fire back quotable lines all the time. Who can say? That would be pretty great.

 

Three: No chance of becoming a mail order bride.

This is not a particularly viable method of conducting a romance today, which I’m grateful for. Like, I don’t even know what sort of advertisement would apply to me. “Hardworking pioneer seeking directionally-challenged woman who loves eating chocolate and is conversant in moving pictures about legendary super-humans”? Somehow I doubt that one ever existed in history.

Downside: I do like to imagine how that first conversation with my husband-to-be would go if I was a mail-order bride. “Okay, you like to bake, good. But what is this washer and dryer you’re talking about?” “When I asked for experience with chickens, I meant raising them, and anyway, I’ve never heard of Chick-fil-A.” “Sure, I’m very proud of my extensive library, miss. I have four whole books!” (At this point, I’d hop back on that stagecoach and ride away!)

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Four: Low chance of witnessing a murder, getting caught up in a scandal/scheme, fleeing an arranged marriage, or having my house ruined in a bombing raid.

Listen, I love these things in books. If every historical protagonist had a life as boring as mine, no one would read more than a few pages. (“Plot twist: she had yogurt and granola this morning for breakfast instead of a bagel. THE DRAMA!”)

That said, when you really think about it, a boring life isn’t so bad. Anyway, it’s way less stressful not to have an actual plotline.

Downside: Okay, I’ll admit it: every now and then I wonder, “What would it be like to race a carriage through the streets to reach a burning building in time to save a child’s life?” Come on, be honest. Don’t tell me you haven’t thought the exact same thing.

 

Five: I can vote.

Seriously, this took the U.S. way too long, but my pre-1920 counterparts will never know the feeling of participating in the democratic process. Yay, civic duty!

Downside: I’m not saying that I can’t stand political rants and clickbait and campaign ads on social media…but sometimes I get nostalgic for the days when your only contact with a politician would be a whistle-stop speech-giving tour. And you could throw rotten vegetables if you wanted. Hypothetically.

 

Six: No one actively hates me. (As far as I’m aware. If you do, feel free to let me know.)

Seriously, if I were in almost any fictional work, the odds of me having supportive parents, an undramatic romantic life, a circle of encouraging friends, and a healthy community would be very, very low.

I would have at least one of the following to add some drama: a stalker, an estranged sibling, an ex-fiancé (probably rich) who left me at the altar, a shadowy figure from my past, a nagging mother with unrealistic expectations, or a sworn enemy who wants revenge on me for complicated reasons.

So yeah…I’ll pass.

Downside: I’m not actually sure this one has a downside.

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Seven: Regular bathing.

This applies to both my personal hygiene (can you imagine how greasy my hair would be if I only washed it for church on Sundays?), and the general health and pleasantness of such activities as breathing in a public space. Train rides with the barely-washed masses couldn’t have been quite as charming as they seem in books.

And have you noticed that historical romance heroes and heroines usually smell nice regardless of the availability of bathtubs? Like another character will get close and smell a whiff of lavender and a hint of cinnamon, or fresh air and lemongrass, or rosewater and hope. Meanwhile I’m over here like, “You’re on a farm in Nebraska in 1873—if you don’t smell like sweat and lye soap, take me to the general store where you’re buying your perfume, lady, because I want some.”

Downside: There’s really no excuse for me not to smell nice in today’s world, what with indoor plumbing and all. But sometimes it’s just so hard to make time to wash my hair in my shiny, indoor, hot-water shower that any self-respecting 19th century gal would kill for, you know?

That’s my list, readers. What reasons do you prefer to live in today’s world while reading about people in the past?

Ask BHP: How Do You Decide on the Spiritual Content of Books?

Here’s a fun question from our Ask BHP mailbag for this month: “Why does Bethany House publish books that have very light spiritual content? I’m not being critical, just curious as to why some books are very faith-oriented and others only mention faith elements a little bit. How do you decide that as a Christian publisher?”

First of all, thanks to the person who asked this question (and ones similar to it), in a gracious way. I’m Amy Green, fiction publicist here at Bethany House, and I love talking about these sorts of issues, and I think it’s a fair question to wonder about.

As far as who decides the amount of Christian content, that’s pretty easy: the author shapes that based on the kind of story they want to tell.

Sometimes others, like beta readers or an agent, might guide them in a particular direction, and editors will as well once the manuscript enters the publishing process. For example, Bethany House editors might help authors make a certain character less “preachy” or point out an additional place a theme could be emphasized.

Because of this, each story is going to be different in faith content just as it’s different in every other way, like how often the authors intersperse humor or how they approach setting descriptions, historical detail, or chapter-ending cliffhangers.

An author who wants to write a book about the aftermath of a preacher’s fall from grace in the lives of his three children will probably have more noticeable references to faith than the author of a lighthearted comedy about a dogwatcher-turned-matchmaker or a fantasy novel set in a realm where people can turn into statues.

And here’s the thing: God can use all of those books* to reach people with powerful truths.

If you’re skeptical about this, we recently hosted a survey where people could share how a Bethany House novel had an impact on their lives. (Which you can still submit to, if you like.) I’ll admit that even I was surprised at how deeply touched people were by books that fit everywhere on the spiritual content spectrum. Reading our Christian fiction has led people to work to strengthen their marriages, feel convicted about gossiping, find hope during a family member’s illness, forgive a long-time enemy, and much more.

Besides that, some books with strong faith threads speak directly to a need in the hearts of Christians, or are given to unbelievers by friends who want to show a different perspective on their beliefs, while others are so accessible that we’ll get atheists leaving reviews like, “This is a great story—and I usually hate books with ‘God talk.’” I love seeing those reviews, and often (though not always!) they show up on books with a more subtle spiritual journey.

But back to the question. Here’s the thing: I think some people may have a specific mission in mind for a novel when they think that only a strong faith thread is acceptable in Christian fiction.

And I can see why they might think that, because mission matters. For example, the purpose of a church is to worship God, spread the gospel, and train believers to be disciples of Jesus. It probably wouldn’t be able to fulfill that purpose with “light spiritual content.”

However, the purpose of a fiction book written by a Christian could be lots of different things:
• Provide hope and laughter during a hard time.
• Reach a reader who might never open a Bible or nonfiction book.
• Illustrate a Biblical truth or parable in a new way.
• Show the destructiveness of sin on the world or in one person’s life.
• Give a picture of self-sacrificing romantic love that mirrors God’s love.

To me, these and many others are all perfectly valid aims for an author. Bethany House, as a Christian publisher, focus on stories that align with our mission statement, but we know there’s a place for good, clean reads or novels reaching mainstream readers with truth.

You’re probably not going to agree with every theological nuance of all of our fiction books—certainly many people leave reviews of our nonfiction books with disagreements large and small, and it’s just as true that fiction authors will approach faith and Scripture from different perspectives and traditions. And even if you would affirm every spiritual aspect of a book…it might not be your style or in a genre you’re interested in.

Not every Christian fiction book is going to be your book—a novel that has a deep impact on you or fills a need or finds its way to your keeper shelf of favorites. But we pray that all of our books will be someone’s book and impact them in a unique way.

What do you think, readers? Do you tend to prefer more or less spiritual content…or does it depend on the story?

*As far as I know, none of those books are real, but if you want to write them, they are now in Amy’s Yard Sale of Free Ideas. (Along with lots of crazy inventions and ridiculous get-rich-quick schemes.)

Prayer for Authors: October 2019

Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’m thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Prayer

Authors with Books Releasing in October:

Misty Beller
Mary Connealy
Tracie Peterson

Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”—1 Chronicles 16:11 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For times of growth and inspiration while seeking God’s face through prayer.
  • For good use of time, especially knowing what is and isn’t worth pursuing.
  • For those who read these books to be impacted by the truth inside of them.

As ever, we’re so thankful to have readers who join in praying for our authors and their books. Thanks for being a part of this with us!

October 2019 New Releases

Our trio of fantastic new releases this month are all historical romances set west of the Mississippi River, in Montana, Colorado, and California…all of them with mountains in the backgrounds of the covers to different degrees. Aren’t they beautiful? To see inside, just click on each cover to read an excerpt. Happy reading!

 

Hope’s Highest Mountain by Misty M. Beller
Hearts of Montana #1

Plot Summary: On her way to deliver vaccines to a mining town in the Montana Territory, Ingrid Chastain never anticipated a terrible accident would leave her alone and badly injured in the wilderness. When rescue comes in the form of a mysterious mountain man, she’s hesitant to trust him, but the journey ahead will change their lives more than they could have known.

 

Aiming for Love by Mary Connealy
Brides of Hope Mountain #1

Plot Summary: Growing up in Colorado, Josephine Nordegren has been fascinated by, but has shied away from, the outside world—one she’s been raised to believe killed her parents. When Dave Warden, a rancher, shows up at their secret home with his wounded father, will Josephine and her sisters risk stepping into the world to help, or remain separated but safe on Hope Mountain?

 

What Comes My Way by Tracie Peterson
Brookstone Brides #3

Plot Summary: Only while trick riding can Ella Fleming forget the truth about who she really is—the daughter of a murderer. Phillip DeShazer buries the guilt he feels for his father’s death in work and drink, and his guilt continues to grow the more Ella Fleming comes to his rescue. Will they be able to overcome their pasts and trust God to guide their futures?

 

Have you visited any states in the western part of the U.S.? (Living there counts too!) If so, which was your favorite?

 

Carol Finalists Giveaway!

Some of the Bethany House team are headed to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference today, and one of the highlights is the Carol Award ceremony on Saturday night. To celebrate with our authors who are finalists, we thought it would be fun to host a giveaway of those titles, pictured below.

A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette

Mind Games by Nancy Mehl

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright

Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

To enter, comment on this post with what you love about Christian fiction. We’ll pick two random winners for each book on Tuesday, October 1.

Love Comes Softly Through the Years

Hello, readers! I’m Brooke, the fiction marketing assistant at Bethany House, and I am posting on the blog this week while my colleague Amy Green is on vacation. 

Let’s talk for a moment about the year 1979. The price of a gallon of gas was still under a dollar and big hair styles were trending, but at Bethany House, one of our favorite 1979 things is Love Comes Softly. That’s right, the first edition of the well-loved prairie romance by Janette Oke was published by Bethany House 40 years ago! In celebration, we released a new paperback edition in August of this year, as well as a new hardcover (a special collector’s edition) that released a few weeks ago in early September. With these new editions, I’ve been thinking with nostalgia of the various cover designs of Love Comes Softly that I saw growing up.

Copy of Copy of #DescribeABookPlotBadly

Travel through time with me and take a gander at the Love Comes Softly cover designs through the years. I asked Paul Higdon, our art director, about the changes to the most recent cover – see what he has to say below.

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New in 2019:

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I asked Paul Higdon, art director for Bethany House, about the new cover design and why he and the designers chose this new direction.

“When you think of the prairie, the quintessential feel is the sun beating down on the prairie so that’s why we tended to go with yellow for the warm feel, and why we still went with warm colors,” Paul said. “Into the early 2010s, we had what we call the ‘big head’ trend, where the character’s head takes up most of the cover. This has trended away, and the new trend is a full-figure depiction of the main character. It looks more realistic, and that way you can still capture the setting to pull the reader in. It’s more modern.”

I hope you all enjoy the new cover design (and the story inside the covers) as much as I do!

#DescribeABookPlotBadly

51152198_2055104334570014_2023964099418783744_nHello, readers! I’m Rachael Wing, the copywriter and “Instagram guru” at Bethany House (right). Amy Green is currently travelling the world and living her lifelong dream of searching for elves and Hobbits, so I’m taking over the blog this week!

If you grab a Bethany House book and flip to the back, you will find the recommended titles—or as we call them, the back-of-book ads (BOBs for short). As the company’s copywriter, one of my main responsibilities is to write those short descriptions. I take what has been written by the authors and editorial department for the books’ short summaries (which appears on Amazon and other retail sites), and have to summarize that in 360 characters or less . . . including spaces. Counting the fiction titles only, I write approximately 20 of these every four months—but counting our nonfiction divisions, I spend over a week writing  approximately 60 of these—so as you can imagine, there is always writer’s block involved, and they don’t always turn out poetically.

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Inspired by the old Twitter trend #DescribeAFilmPlotBadly and my personal work struggles, I decided to intentionally write terrible short synopses about some of my favorite classic stories to give you an idea of how my first drafts usually turn out—and hopefully a good laugh!

 

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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Broody uptown boy falls for feisty downtown girl, and his knack for throwing money at problems softens his terrible manners.

 

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Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare: Family drama! Slacking servants! Two teenagers are great at falling in love but terrible at coordinating death plans.

 

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Les Misérables by Victor Hugo: Police officer with the greatest thirst for vengeance and the worst tracking abilities hunts the same criminal for years. Also includes a very detailed description of the French sewer system.

 

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: A lonely monster with thrifted body and a murder complex is desperate for the perfect girl.

 

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Boy-next-door loves his neighbors so much that he ends up settling for the worst sister.

 

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: Old lady cannot properly handle her breakup, so she keeps her grudges. And her moldy wedding cake.

 

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Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss: Children are taught about peer pressure through a strange creature who learns why it’s important to accept odd food from annoying strangers.

 

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The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien: A group of diverse dudes decide to cash in on a jewelry return in exchange for the fate of the world.

 

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: The classic case of falling in love with your boss, who “forgets” to tell you about his crazy wife in the attic.

 

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Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery: The uplifting story of a girl who poisons her best friend, can’t dye hair, and has questionable fashion sense.

How would you describe some of your favorite classic tales?

September 2019 New Releases

As the seasons change, we’re excited to introduce you to some new fiction, perfect for a cozy fall day. (Or any other day, really.) This month, we have two books exploring the Amish way of life and two more that take you back to turn-of-the-century America. We hope you enjoy this preview of our September releases. As always, you can click on the cover to start reading the first chapter of each book!

 

The Timepiece by Beverly Lewis
(Releases September 17)

Plot Summary: In this continuation of The Tinderbox, when young Amishwoman Sylvia Miller’s world is upended by the arrival of Englisher Adeline Pelham—whose existence is a reminder of a painful family secret—Sylvia must learn to come to terms with the past while grappling with issues of her own. Is it possible that God can make something good out of the mistakes of days gone by?

The Spice King by Elizabeth Camden
Hope and Glory #1

Plot Summary: Gray Delacroix has dedicated his life to building a successful global spice empire, but it has come at a cost. Tasked with gaining access to the private Delacroix plant collection, Smithsonian botanist Annabelle Larkin unwittingly steps into a web of dangerous political intrigue and will be forced to choose between her heart and her loyalty to her country.

 

Diamond in the Rough by Jen Turano
American Heiresses #2

Plot Summary: Fulfilling a bargain made with her wealthy grandmother, Poppy Garrison accepts an unusual proposition to participate in the New York social season. Forced to travel to America to help his cousin find an heiress to wed, bachelor Reginald Blackburn is asked to give Poppy etiquette lessons, and he swiftly discovers he may be in for much more than he bargained for.

 

An Amish Christmas Kitchen by Leslie Gould, Jan Drexler, and Kate Lloyd

Plot Summary: This cheerful and heartwarming Amish novella collection captures the heart of the Christmas season with a trio of heartfelt stories from bestselling authors Leslie Gould, Jan Drexler, and Kate Lloyd. All three tales feature a unique Amish recipe perfect for the Christmas table!

What’s currently on your reading list, everyone?

Prayer for Authors: August and September 2019

Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. (And yes, I was on vacation over August 1, so we’re catching up with two months of authors this time.) I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’m thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Prayer

Authors with Books Releasing in August and September:

Elizabeth Camden
Jan Drexler
Leslie Gould
Angela Hunt
Beverly Lewis
Kate Lloyd
Nancy Mehl
Judith Miller
Dani Pettrey
Lauraine Snelling
Jen Turano
Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”—John 6:37-38 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For lots of wisdom when thinking through how to allocate time and energy.
  • For good connections and relationships with readers, other writers, publishing staff, booksellers, and many others.
  • For readers who are searching for comfort, truth, or encouragement to find it in these novels.

We here at Bethany House are so thankful for all you do to encourage authors along with us by lifting them up in prayer. Thanks for taking a moment of your day to do so!

Book Cover Lookalike Fashion

Have you ever stared at a novel and wished the beautiful dress on the cover could be yours? Well, we’ve got some good news…they can be! Or, at least the closest modern lookalikes we could find. Last year’s post matching covers with contemporary dresses was so popular that we decided to revisit the bookish fashion runways again to find some modern counterparts to the historical dresses on a few of our 2019 covers. Enjoy!

 

So, the colors are reversed on this one, but we love how the punchy purple of this midi skirt matches the shirt Abigail is wearing in More Than Words Can Say, and the floral necklace hints at the pattern in the material. Although this outfit is dressy enough that you probably wouldn’t want to knead dough while wearing it.

 

The sweater (or “jumper,” if you’re British) that gives a punch of color to The Number of Love‘s cover is updated here with a wine-red sweater dress, and even a necklace reminiscent of the Art Deco style of the era of this novel.

 

Picture this one paired with a purple-striped scarf, but the flowing lines and powder blue of this breezy dress feels like what a modern Rivkah from Until the Mountains Fall might wear (although the current-day sandals aren’t nearly as practical for walking long distances).

 

We loved how the sleeves of this navy semi-formal dress matched Flight of the Raven (okay, maybe they’re a tad less dramatic, but we can’t all be royal dreamwalkers like Selene). The pop of white around the collar imitates the accent color as well.

 

The shade of pink is slightly off—blush vs. peach—but we loved how the lace and bow details on this dress made it seem like an updated version of the gown in Between Two Shores, though with fewer petticoats.

 

From the silky red of this flared dress to the black lace overlay details, we think we’ve found the lookalike for the one Verity is wearing on her cover, although, of course, the length would have been scandalous in the 1700s.

 

Which of these dresses would you be most likely to wear, readers?