The Hidden Flame by Janette Oke and Davis Bunns is a significant improvement upon the first book in the series, The Centurion’s Wife. A story of love, vengeance, miracles, and deception during the dawn of Christianity,
The Hidden Flame is less predictable and uses more natural language than its prequel. While many of the characters are the same as in The Centurion’s Wife, this story focuses on Abigail and Linux instead of Leah and Alban.
Abigail’s beauty is so striking that men notice little else when they see her. Her face has charmed two very different men, neither of whom Abigail would choose if she had the right to choose her husband. While she tries to hope in the Lord to protect her, she often relies instead on her injured leg to make her distasteful to men who only care for outward appearances.
Linux is in turmoil over the new ideas given him by his friend Alban. Should he follow his natural inclinations for revenge, indulgence, and political power? Opportunities to see a life-long dream have finally appeared, just when he wonders if perhaps those dreams are misguided.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the Jewish community are becoming increasingly hostile towards the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, and people in Jerusalem fear the possibilities of riots that would attract unwanted Roman attention. Hints of a new violent Jewish factor, the Zealots, only add to the fear.
Literary and Historical Content
The language in the Hidden Flame is a little stilted at the beginning, but by chapter three the story has progressed enough that any awkwardness fades to the background. In fact, the writing style seems more natural with every chapter of the book until it isn’t a distraction at all.
The plot line is a little predictable, particularly to those who have read a lot of Christian fiction or are familiar with the first chapters in Acts, but it is not overly so, and the overall story is quite enjoyable.
The historical content is a clear strength in The Hidden Flame; detailed information regarding geography, political leaders, social customs, and more are integral to the story, greatly influencing the plot and character development.
As is common in Janette Oke’s novels, the plot is highly dependent upon the spiritual development of the main characters. Some characters reject revealed truths about the Jewish Messiah, others accept them, and still others deepen in their spiritual development as they learn to be ever more dependent upon God for daily decisions. Theology is sound, if not necessarily profound, and some of the topics prompted me to personal reflection, which is always a plus. The story also prompts a renewed interest in the stories in Acts and reflection on what life would really have been like for the first century church.
Overall, I was very pleased with this book, finding it to be a vast improvement upon the first book, and I am looking forward to the next installation in the series. It is important to read The Centurion’s Wife first in order to follow the first several chapters of The Hidden Flame; however, if you read the The Centurion’s Wife and didn’t enjoy it, I encourage you to give the series another chance by reading this book.
4 Stars – Recommended for General Audiences
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