Monday, August 09, 2010

Amish Novels Continue Their Growth

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 ├╝ber-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.

With Amish inspirationals, which are shelved under "religious fiction" in bookstores like Barnes & Noble, "readers get to peer inside the Amish community, and it is not like our own community," says McDaniel College English professor Pamela Regis, author of A Natural History of the Romance Novel. "Simplicity is a hallmark of that community, and simplicity is powerful."
USA Today


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