What You Need To Know About The When Calls The Heart Book Series

The TV drama "When Calls the Heart" has spawned a loyal fanbase (named "hearties") since it premiered in 2014. In its ninth season, Hallmark Channel announced in a press release that the series averaged nearly 3 million total viewers and became the most-watched original scripted series of 2022 on entertainment cable. And when you get to know the storyline and cast, it's easy to see why.

Per TV Show Pilot, "When Calls the Heart" takes us back to 1910 and follows the life of a Canadian schoolteacher named Elizabeth, played by Erin Krakow. According to Rotten Tomatoes, she leaves her privileged life behind for the small town of Coal Valley, leading to "culture shock." The show serves drama in a heartwarming package, keeping fans hooked.

The series has welcomed seasoned cast members including soap star Jack Wagner and "Full House" alum Lori Loughlin (before she left the Hallmark Channel), as noted by IMDb. For those who just can't wait to get their "When Calls the Heart" fix, now's the perfect time to read the book series that inspired the Hallmark show.

The original series spans six books

Before "When Calls the Heart" was a hit TV series, it was the name of a book by author Janette Oke. According to Good Housekeeping, Oke followed up the original book with five more to create a full, page-turning series. The Hallmark version has aired nearly 100 episodes, expanding beyond Oke's storylines, but there's still a lot of turn-of-the-20th-century drama packed into the books, making them a must-read for fans of the show.

The first book introduces Elizabeth's character and her move to a small town. For viewers of the show, the story is quite similar to its early seasons. The second book, "When Comes the Spring," follows Elizabeth one year after she started teaching in the Canadian West. By this point, she is planning to marry but must pack up and move north with her beloved. The third book in the series, titled "When Breaks the Dawn," catches up with Elizabeth after her move — but this time, she must face yet another move, creating anxiety and instability in her new married life. "When Hope Springs New," the fourth installment, follows Elizabeth in a more isolated location, triggering new challenges and spotlighting the state of her marriage yet again. 

The fifth book, "Beyond the Gathering Storm," shifts away from Elizabeth and instead looks to the lives (and hardships) faced by her children. Finally, "When Tomorrow Comes" builds on the fifth book, focusing on Elizabeth's daughter, Christine, as she navigates heartbreak.

There are key differences (and a few similarities) between the books and the TV series

Fans of "When Calls the Heart” are quick to point out on websites like Goodreads just how different the book and TV versions are, noting that many of the characters and plot lines diverge. Another difference might also be how religious the two versions are.

According to The Gospel Coalition, author Janette Oke is known as "the mother of evangelical romance novels." Her books, including the "When Calls the Heart" novels, showcase religious themes like conversion and divine experiences. However, the Hallmark series toned down Oke's evangelism, choosing to only loosely keep the morals and attitudes that would have been common in the early 20th century.

Another difference may be in the classic writing style favored by Oke in "When Calls the Heart," which was first published in 1983. For fans wanting a fresh approach to the stories while waiting for Hallmark to release new episodes, Oke and her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan, released a three-book series called "Return to the Canadian West," according to How To Read Me. The books, released around the same time as the TV series premiered, follow a schoolteacher named Beth who moves to the Canadian West and faces new challenges and culture shocks along the way — sound familiar?