The Hidden Flame is the second installment in Davis Bunn and Janette Oke’s co-written New Testament times historical fiction series Acts of Faith. In the first book, The Centurion’s Wife, we were brought into the mystery and contention surrounding Christ’s death and resurrection as the Roman centurion (the fictionalized Alban) who believed in Jesus for the healing of his servant wed Leah (Pontius Pilate’s fictionalized adopted niece).
The Hidden Flame picks up the New Testament seamlessly, and we re-enter the story at the wedding feast of Alban and Leah. Being driven from Jerusalem by the retaliatory intentions of King Herod against Alban, the newly wed pair flees the city and is relegated to the cast of supporting characters.
The focus of this second installment in the series switches to a sweet young believer named Abigail, the sister of Jacob, Alban’s young charge. Imbued with a sweet, generous, and giving spirit, Abigail’s story leads us through the opening scenes of the explosion of growth the Church experienced following the giving of the Holy Spirit, and the beginning of persecution against those who preached the resurrected Messiah.
In the midst of growing turmoil amongst the ruling powers in Jerusalem, Abigail is vigorously pursued by two men – both deeply unappealing due to their lack of belief. Ezra is a rich and influential Judean merchant, and Linux, a friend of Alban’s and serving Roman soldier. This storyline may seem to thrust The Hidden Flame firmly into the realm of historical romance, but it doesn’t.
I deeply appreciate Bunn and Oke’s conservative and historically authentic portrayal of Jewish courtship and wedding customs throughout the series. Abigail is never approached directly by her suitors, and is appropriate guarded and sheltered by the men in her life who are in a position to speak on her behalf.
I found The Centurion’s Wife somewhat slow-moving, but that isn’t the case with The Hidden Flame. I’ve grown to deeply appreciate the lack of sensationalistic writing in The Acts of Faith series, making it one of my favorites. I’ve definitely added the series to my list of ‘must-reads’ as additional titles release. The authors are careful to depict Christ-like behavior in the lives of those with transformed hearts and diligently hold true to the historical facts of scripture while adding authentic cultural detail.
The only grumbling I can bring up about this title is the authors’ tendencies to have important conversations taking place behind the scenes ,where we as readers are unable to see it taking place. Many times important revelations are not disclosed or told on the page; we only discover that the characters have learned certain important pieces of information when that knowledge appears in their thoughts or dialogue.
Amongst the supporting characters we’re familiar with from the scriptures we find the practical and faithfully steadfast Martha; the passionate and immovable preacher Peter; and Stephen, the Church’s first martyr with a gift for teaching and ministry. Gamaliel, Ananias, Sapphira, Saul, and others make their way into this story. With both authors featuring a writing history that includes longer-than-your-average-trilogy series, I’m excited to see how far they will follow their series of fictional early Christian women through history.