"Will Jonas find the truth? Or will he reach out to his faithful Leah who must face the rumors and the horrible truth alone? Will Sadie repent of her sins or face a severe shunning?"

Obviously, if I was going to read one "bonnet book," as the popular Amish romance subgenre's known, it was going to be the one where Sadie Ebersol steals her sister's non-Amish boyfriend and gets shunned by the community. I picked up Beverly Lewis' "Abram's Daughters" series on a whim, and two hours later, I was, to various teenagers' irritation, still parked in front of Fantasy reading avidly. There's a reason Amish romance is getting big.

In a way, it makes total sense. What makes, say, Regencies so appealing? The transport to a different world - and a world that, unlike our own, is rife with rules and strictures and instant plot tensions. Often - including the few I've read - they involve an Amish girl falling for an outsider (like a Mennonite), a classic Witness-esque plot device. And because there's no sex (a tender kiss or a crooked bonnet is as hot as it gets) the books can cross into the lucrative Christian and youth markets, too. Although the "Sisters of the Quilt" series is always prominently displayed in my local urban bookstore, according to the WSJ, some of the plain people like them, too - which is surely a testament to their authenticity (or at least how few mass-market books Amish women are allowed to read.)

Of course, it's not all rosy. Says the Journal,

Beth Graybill, director of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, said many Amish novels present a distorted, soap-opera version of Amish life. Outside authors exaggerate the wild activities during Rumspringa, the period when Amish teenagers experiment with technology and worldly distractions, from about the age of 16 until they decide to join the church or leave the community, Ms. Graybill said. Buggy accidents, and romances between Amish youngsters and outsiders, are also far less common than the books suggest, she said.


Well, sure. But there are also far fewer Italian magnates marrying their pregnant secretaries, or ranchers hiding their love for neighbors, or sardonic lords winning beautiful virgins in games of chance, than in mainstream romance novels. It is, after all, fiction, and fiction for a lay audience. It seems like the authors are at pains to get the details right, and if readers are suddenly Amish "experts" the way suddenly everyone knew everything about the LDS after Netflixing one season of Big Love, well, it's still probably more than they knew before. It's easy to mock the goofiness of the genre - and seriously, can Hasid bodice-ripping be far behind? - but the appeal is elemental and obvious. Is it romanticizing the way of life? Maybe. But that's why they call them romance.

They're No Bodice Rippers, But Amish Romances Are Hot [Wall Street Journal]