View Full Version : Romance novels set in Amish country pick up the pace

08-09-2010, 12:51 PM
Romance novels set in Amish country pick up the pace

By Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY

It's plain and simple: The Amish inspirational is one of the fastest-growing genres in romance publishing.
For many readers today, it's all about the bonnet. In our sex-soaked society, nothing seems to inflame the imagination quite like the chaste.

In popular series such as Beverly Lewis' Seasons of Grace, Wanda Brunstetter's Indiana Cousins and Cindy Woodsmall's Sisters of the Quilt,the Amish fall in love while grappling with religious taboos and forbidden temptations.

And it all happens in über-quaint settings brimming with hand-sewn quilts, horse-drawn buggies and made-from-scratch Pennsylvania Dutch specialties such as shoofly pie.

"It's a huge, huge, huge trend," says romance blogger Sarah Wendell, co-author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels.

Who are the Amish? In a 21st-century world, the strictest among them live a 19th-century lifestyle. They are a religious, Christian-based farming community that shuns most modern conveniences such as phones and TVs, and they travel by horse and buggy. They marry among their own faith; the women wear bonnets and modest, drab clothing, the men wear brimmed hats and grow their beards. Children are taught in one-room schoolhouses, and education ends in the eighth grade. Traditional courtship rituals include "Sunday evening singing" group gatherings, where boys and girls can meet. Premarital sex is verboten.

So what is their appeal to modern readers? Remember when Kelly McGillis' modest Amish beauty enraptured Harrison Ford's homicide detective in the 1985 hit Witness? His tough contemporary cop, who pretended to be Amish to protect the widow Rachel Lapp and her young son, saw a whole new world when he lived amid the closed community of barn-raisers and farmers.


For many readers, the novels' appeal is what they don't include — things like graphic violence and profanity. "A lot of people say I just want to get away to a place where it's quiet, where people are thoughtful and respect each other, where they go to bed when the sun goes down," says Steve Oates, vice president of marketing at Bethany House, which publishes Lewis.

Another thing Amish inspirationals lack: sexual content. Even the Marquis de Sade might blush at some of today's more frisky romance covers, but combine romance and Amish? Forget "bonnet rippers" with bearded love studs and rocking buggies — a shy girl in a white cloth cap is the traditional inspirational jacket fare.

For Beverly Lewis, pushing the envelope means writing about an unmarried Amish woman letting her hair down in front of a man. But with 12 million of her Amish novels in print, she hardly lacks for fans. "Discretion can be pretty powerful," says the Colorado writer.

Interesting. I don't read romance novels but I can relate to the idea of liking a genre because it isn't sex-drenched and full of tweener gutter-talk.

USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2010-08-09-religiousromance09_CV_N.htm)