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Sizzle in the Stacks: Amish Edition

Group of Amish people

After reading those strange werewolf romances for the last edition of Sizzle in the Stacks, I needed something more wholesome, and what could be more so than the safe and quiet world of the Amish? These popular romances are often written by and for evangelical Christian women who want books with a religious message, clean content, and an idealized and homogenous setting, free of the concerns of modern American culture. The Amish part can sometimes be secondary. Some Amish romances are not entirely accurate depictions of the culture, but many authors make an effort at authenticity with glossaries or using theological ideas as plot points. Some authors are even popular with actual Amish people. To me, this subgenre is a little on the bland side. It’s like a nice big serving of mashed potatoes—comforting and easy to digest, but not the most exciting. If you’re a fan of comforting reads, here are a few Amish romances you might enjoy.

 

Anna’s Crossing by Suzanne Woods Fisher

This blend of romance and historical fiction portrays an Amish migration to America from Germany in 1737 aboard an English ship, The Charming Nancy. Anna is a 19-year-old girl reluctantly making the crossing as the group’s interpreter. She advocates for her people, many of whom are terrified of the voyage and sickened by the overcrowded, smelly cabins below deck. The ship’s carpenter, Bairn, is the victim of most of her demands for more water and fresh air. He admires her beauty, but tries to keep his distance since he’s not a believer. As they get to know each other, Bairn finds her intellect and bossy tendencies more and more charming. Anna shares some of her religion’s ideas with Bairn, making him admire her even more, because of her good-heartedness and common sense. Despite that, he reluctantly decides they can never be together because of how different their backgrounds are. But is that really true? This novel combines historical fact, genuine suspense, and a sweet and slow-building romantic plot that is made all the more appealing by an inventive twist. There is no heavy-handed moralizing, the characters are all well-developed, and Anna is a delightful heroine.

These selections are from An Amish Market, containing 4 short novellas by different authors all set in Amish country:
 

Love Birds by Amy Clipston

Ellie’s father and brother have both passed away, and her other siblings have all started their own families, leaving Ellie and their mother alone to run the family farm. Ellie takes a part-time job at a gift shop to help her mother with money. Her late brother’s friend, Lloyd, has been helping with some of the farm work, which she’s happy about because she’s always liked him. She thinks since he’s a few years older he doesn’t really notice her, but of course she’s wrong about that. They start hanging around together at church youth gatherings, even though Lloyd isn’t strictly a youth anymore. Just when it starts going nicely between them, Ellie discovers Lloyd’s big secret: he carves beautiful lifelike birds out of wood. Ellie’s boss has been looking to revitalize his shop by selling unique Amish crafts, and these birds would be just the ticket. What Ellie doesn’t know is that Lloyd’s dad disapproves, seeing this hobby as a prideful waste of time. When Ellie has her boss ask about selling the carvings, Lloyd’s dad is incensed, and Lloyd stops talking to her. The situation seems beyond repair and Ellie doesn’t know what to do. This charming little story uses a simple plot and characters to show how the Amish interact with the modern world while maintaining their traditional beliefs and concerns.

A Bid for Love by Kathleen Fuller

Hannah makes butter and sells it at the town market and Ezra is one of her favorite customers. He doesn’t talk much, but he’s always nice to her and she has a little crush on him. But under her mother’s gentle pressure to get married, Hannah realizes that Ezra probably isn’t interested in her. Deciding to put feelings aside, Hannah focuses on a big auction benefiting a local medical clinic that serves the Amish. She immediately falls in love with one of the beautiful quilts. She loses the auction, but Ezra buys the quilt from the winner and gives it to Hannah, just because he sees how happy it makes her. But it turns out he accidentally gave his mother’s precious quilt to the lady who was collecting things for the auction. This quilt is very important to his family and he has to get it back. So he buys it again, this time it from Hannah, who’s very confused. Since Ezra is trying to avoid embarrassing himself, he doesn’t tell her any of the reasons for his bizarre actions. Once they clear up what the quilt means, everything falls into place, and Hannah understands why Ezra bought so much butter from her! Like many romances, the conflict here is resolved with a cute, simple conversation.

Sweeter Than Honey by Kelly Irvin

Isabella’s family just moved from an Amish community in Tennessee to another in Texas, and she feels out of sorts. She’s in her rumspringa, the age where young Amish people are allowed a bit more freedom to decide if they want to be baptized and become full-fledged members of the church. A local “English” (non-Amish) girl is friends with many of the Amish teenagers and invites Isabella out with them one night. Isabella is dismayed to find herself in a noisy smelly pool hall, and decides right there that she will never go to such a place again, and that’s the end of her adventuring! It’s all right though, because she’s more of a homebody and is just happier around her family. One person she meets makes her a little uncomfortable, but in an interesting way—Will, the guy who runs the town store. He’s a few years older, and at first he seems a bit dour and harsh. Even though they find themselves looking at each other a lot, and even though he was nice enough to give her a ride home from that unsavory pool hall, she isn’t sure about him. He has a complicated romantic history (that is, for the simple world of the Amish romance novel) and has had a case of hurt feelings before. She’s stunned to find that he likes her back, but he’s reluctant to let his feelings get hurt. There’s a little more grit and suspense in this story, but not enough to be distressing.

Love in Store by Vanetta Chapman

This story is a bit different from the others in this anthology. It’s more of a mystery, and the two main characters are in their 50’s. David is good natured widower who’s recently moved to be closer to his daughter and her family. Stella is a grouchy old maid living with her sister, a widow whose grown children have all moved away. They work at the main local business, an Amish farm/tourist attraction. Some strange things start happening there, and the manager asks David to investigate who is playing pranks of increasing severity. David asks Stella to help him keep an eye out for the culprit, since she’s more familiar with the comings and goings on the farm. They find their thoughts returning to one another with increasing regularity as they investigate. Thought Stella thinks she could like David, she feels worthless and unlovable because she was never able to have children, something that’s so important in Amish culture. This is why she grew that tough outer shell, so men who might be interested in her would stay away and no one would be disappointed. But David won’t give up on her, despite how curmudgeonly she is. As they come closer to solving the mystery, they realize how it’s all right to be a little unconventional, even in their very conservative environment.

These stories are all very sweet, cozy predictable. For more realistic portrayals of Amish people and culture, check some of these nonfiction materials:

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