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For the Jane Austen fan bored of the bland selection on the fiction shelves at your local Christian bookstore or church library, consider the classics below, all written by Christians during the Victorian Era. These novels (and more), which I analyze in depth on my blog, pack intellectual and theological punch – and enough time-period drama for even the Downton Abbey addict.

1. Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore – This tale of forbidden romance on the wild, rugged moors is sure to please any Jane Eyre fan. But with guns, outlaws, highway robberies and horse-riding men of brawn you might want to pass this English western onto a male in your life once you’re finished with it (or vice versa). (And somebody ought to tell John Eldredge and co. about this one.)

2. Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell – Can a congregation overcome scandal? Or are sinful secrets better kept quiet? Read this little-known Victorian Mary Magdalene story to find out. This book, however, is definitely a secret better not kept.

3. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell – Why read historical fiction when you can read novels written by eyewitnesses from that very period? The smoke, grime and grinding cogs of industrial Manchester come to life in this story of murder, mystery and romance.

4. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte – A disastrous marriage, a harrowing escape and a mysterious woman with a past. Thought the Victorians were prudes? This novel fearlessly tackles alcoholism, marital abuse and adultery – waters today’s Amish and other G-rated Christian Harlequins fear to tread.

5. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope – This novel unfolds a romantic comedy with many hilarious mishaps and misunderstandings, all amid the setting of the stuffy and magisterial Anglican church in mid-19th century England. Trollope tackles absurdity, immorality and superficiality in the church without fear, always with a dose of humour, and even sometimes with outright buffoonery.

Have you ever heard of any of these novels, and if so, where from?
Do any appeal to you?
Do you prefer contemporary Christian novels or the classics?
Leave a reply below.

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