Boy Meets Girl, Fans Meet Jesus?

As Christian romances make their way to theaters, their writers are seizing opportunities for evangelism.

This spring, Someone Like You, based on the Christian romance novel by author Karen Kingsbury and produced by the newly formed Karen Kingsbury Productions, was released in theaters across the US and Canada. The movie—a tale of grief, romance, and a secret frozen embryo sister—grossed about $5.9 million.

Kingsbury’s accomplishments as an author and movie producer are impressive and, in many ways, singular. Over 25 million copies of her books are in print. Someone Like You was a New York Times bestseller.

But Kingsbury isn’t alone in her success. Female writers—romance writers in particular—dominate the Christian fiction market, claiming eight spots on the top-ten author list in 2023.

Since the mid-20th century, opportunities for these women who write—first in Christian bookstores, then on television, and now in movie theaters—have been expanding in response to growing audience demand. Along the way, these evangelical women have gained a kind of religious authority, crossing over from sentimental fiction to biblical interpretation and theology. Hidden behind paperback covers and movie posters picturing prairie scenes and happy couples, these texts deliver serious evangelistic messages for Christian women to consume and share with others.

The roots of Christian romance can be traced to authors like Grace Livingston Hill and Eugenia Price. But the genre as we understand it today really began with Christy (1967), Catherine Marshall’s story of a young woman in the Great Smoky Mountains. As secular romance novels became more sexualized in the 1970s and ’80s, women began to look for faithful alternatives. With Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly …

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