Imagine a scene: the sun sets upon a little Amish community out in Lancaster, PA as a young man named Abram steers his horse and buggy back from the fields after a hard day’s work. His neighbor, Mary, sits next to him as she twirls the ribbons of her bonnet between her fingers. Suddenly, the front wheel of the buggy hits a rock on the path, and Mary is tossed over into Abram’s strong arms. She stares up into his deep blue eyes before recoiling from his grasp. He ducks his face beneath the bill of his cap in order to hide the scarlet blush that is emanating from beneath his beard.
That was my god-awful attempt at writing Amish romance—a multimillion-dollar genre that has been taking the romance world by storm for the past two decades. Although I am by no means a proficient Amish romance novelist, there is a clear formula that pervades these stories: quick glances, curls of blonde hair unfurling from beneath bonnets, long descriptions of hardworking men tending the fields, and convenient buggy crashes that toss the protagonists into each other’s arms (yes, buggy crashes are one of the most common tropes used in this genre).
image via vannessa chapman
Anyone looking for hot and steamy Amish trysts will have to look elsewhere. The characters that populate these books are as platonic as can be. There’s no kissing, no hand-holding, and certainly no sex. However, beneath the facade of chastity lies an unwritten lust that has romance readers devouring these books by the hundreds.
So who are these authors and consumers of Amish romance? Certainly not Amish folks. The truth is that these books are predominantly produced and read by Evangelical Christians. “These are readers who love romance but want a clean read they don’t have to hide from their kids,” Shannon Marchesea, a senior editor at evangelical publisher WaterBrook Multnomah, told Newsweek.
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Perhaps there is a certain desire amongst Amish romance readers to escape the technology-saturated hellscape of the modern world. Following today’s current events can make anyone want to be a Luddite. One might imagine an idealized Amish community where men and women respect each other’s boundaries and sex-scandals are nonexistent. This utopic vision of an Amish community has a certain allure to it.
But is this belief in the purity of Amish communities legitimate? Authors of Amish romance typically cater to the preconceived notions that their readers have regarding Amish folk. The stereotypical Amish person, in all their chaste simplicity, provides a bastion of potentiality to romance authors with a talent for writing repressed sexual yearning. Since it’s not Amish writers who are creating these books, these Amish communities have no say in how they are being represented in this genre. The reality of the Amish experience is subsidiary to the biases of the reader who wants to see their own personal desires reflected from beneath the hood of a bonnet.
Featured Image Via Women.com