Romancing the New Evangelical Woman

Master of Arts
Baylor University
Publication year

Here's the abstract:

This project examines women’s Christian historical fiction romance novels in order to understand the evangelical identity and the rise of the Christian Right. The chapters are interlocking essays that could be published as separate articles. Chapter One identifies the emergence of the marketplace phenomenon of Christian historical fiction romance novels within the evangelical print media marketplace and argues that these books should be taken seriously within historical scholarship. Chapter Two reanalyzes the source material of the first chapter through the lens of women and gender theory to amplify the voices of women within the research. Chapter Three utilizes the theory in Chapter Two to analyze Family Values from the perspective of women as they helped cement the rise of the Christian Right. This thesis adds new sources and angles of analysis to the scholarship on the rise of the Christian Right.

The initial chapter focuses on "The Beloved Invader by Eugenia Price (1965) and Christy by Catherine
Marshall (1967)
" (11). I'm not sure whether these would be considered "romance novels" in the sense that I've been using when creating this database: Fenske observes that "The Beloved Invader concludes with Anna no longer a wife or a mother, following the deaths of her son and Anson, demonstrating the emphasis of the plot on Anna’s growth in understanding of Christian grief. The book concludes happily because, in the face of all her suffering, Anna has found peace with God" (68) and though "A southwest newspaper, The New Mexican, emphasized the love story within Marshall’s book" (34) and the novel concludes "With Christy choosing Dr. MacNeil" (107) it's unclear whether there is a central love story. Christy was described at the time of its publication as follows: “With illegal stills, typhoid epidemics, family feuds, there’s plenty of material for drama here, and Mrs. Marshall’s story is exciting. It’s unfortunate that she tends to the sentimental and trite too often. Nevertheless, this should be a big best seller with the ladies who like true-to-life romantic, inspirational reading” (31).


In the third chapter

Section two looks at the issue of abortion through Christian romance novels to access the voices of women instead of placing emphasis on male-dominated policy. This section traces issues of women’s suffering in childbearing as well as abortion within Christian romance novels from the rise of neo-evangelicalism, through the Roe v. Wade decision, to the solidification of the Christian Right on issues of abortion in the 1990s. After reviewing this issue from the perspective of women, this section argues that Christian romance novels demonstrate a space for a sympathetic evangelical response to abortion. Due to the female authors’ closeness to women’s issues, their perspectives show that the inclusion of women’s voices within the conversation of abortion demonstrates a significant dissonance from male-centered political conversations on the topic. (5)