This article originally appeared in the February 2012 RA News Newsletter. Sign up for this and other newsletters.
Remember Harrison Ford's hunky detective character in the 1985 movie, Witness? It's hard not to recall his character's intense chemistry with a vulnerable Amish widow whose son is in danger after witnessing a murder. (Collective sigh.) With Beverly Lewis's later tale of forbidden love, The Shunning, the Amish romance market really took off.
Amish romances appeal to fans for many reasons. There's the allure of a society isolated from modern life's techno-infested, high stress culture. Some readers are attracted to the simplicity of the characters' well-defined, albeit traditional, gender roles. Others enjoy the stories' depictions of community, and a closer connection to nature.
These romances -- playfully nicknamed "bonnet rippers" for their sweetness -- have no love scenes, steamy or otherwise. The innocence of Amish protagonists who fall for an "Englischer," or outsider, makes the stakes of their taboo love that much higher. If "shunned," they risk the loss of family, friends, community, and even their religion.
While popular in the inspirational market, Amish romances also boast a large readership outside this niche. As in other fiction novels, Amish romances have many subgenres. For example, there are Amish contemporary romances; historical romances; romantic suspense; and yes, even Amish chick-lit. Whatever the setting or plot, however, these romances focus on faith, hope, and love. Amish romances have a perk for readers advisory librarians -- they can be recommended to young adults without any qualms.
The list below represent works by the most popular writers of Amish romance. Since these books tend to be written in series, the first book of the series has been chosen. The name of the series is in parentheses.
The Amish Midwife by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould
Amish nurse-midwife Lexie Jaeger wants to know about her biological family, but her only clues are two locks of hair and a letter about property in Switzerland written a hundred years ago. (Women of Lancaster County)
Beside Still Waters by Tricia Goyer
Living in the shadow of two sisters killed in an accident, Marianna Sommer struggles when her Amish family moves to Montana, away from their community, away from Aaron Zook. (Big Sky)
The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Carrie Weaver wants to elope with baseball pitcher Solomon Riehl, although that means leaving her Amish community. When her father dies, Carrie has to settle for a marriage of convenience to Daniel Miller so her little brother, a hemophiliac, won't be raised by their horrible stepmother. (Lancaster County Secrets)
Fall from Pride by Karen Harper
When someone begins to burn down the barns featuring Sarah Kaufmann's artwork, she falls for arson investigator Nate McKenzie. Will Sarah choose Nate and be shunned…and will she survive long enough to make that decision? (Home Valley)
A Gift of Grace by Amy Clipston
Rebecca and Daniel Kauffman, who are unable to have children, suddenly inherit two teenaged girls when Rebecca's sister, Grace, is killed in a car crash. Unfortunately, Grace left Amish life behind long ago, and the fact that the girls are Englischers puts a strain on Rebecca and Daniel's marriage. (Kauffman Amish Bakery)
Hidden by Shelley Shepard Gray
The only place Anna Metzger can hide from her abusive, politically powerful boyfriend is her friend Katie Brenneman's Amish Bed and Breakfast. However, Katie's brother, Henry, doesn't like the idea of having Anna live with them, even if she does dress Plain. (Sisters of the Heart)
Katie's Redemption by Patricia Davids
Katie Lantz leaves her Amish community, and ends up penniless and pregnant. With her baby due any day, Katie returns to her childhood home, but she finds that her family has moved, and Elam Sutter, a carpenter, and his mother live there. (Brides of Amish Country)
The Keeper by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Twenty-one-year-old Julia Lapp is supposed to marry Paul Fisher, someone she's loved since childhood. But now Paul wants to delay their nuptials. (Stoney Ridge Seasons)
A Man of His Word by Kathleen Fuller
Moriah Miller's husband, Levi, leaves her and their Amish way of life while she's pregnant. Levi's twin, Gabriel, loves Moriah, and wants to marry her, but she only sees him as a friend.(Hearts of Middlefield)
Murder in Plain Sight by Marta Perry
Attorney Jessica Langdon defends an Amish teenager accused of murder, but her chances of success aren't good until she earns the trust of his community. Who better to give her a crash course on the Amish way than Trey Morgan, a local businessman?
Operation Bonnet by Kimberly Stuart
Nellie Monroe finally gets her chance to be a "real" private investigator when ex-Amish Amos Shetler asks her to find his former love.
The Outsider by Penelope Williamson
It's 1886, and Rachel Yoder, an Amish widow raising her son alone in Montana after her husband was unjustly hanged, finds wounded gunslinger Johnny Cain on her property. A stunning classic.
Patchwork Dreams by Laura V. Hilton
(Amish of Seymour)
Becky Troyer comes back from rumspringa pregnant, and despite her best efforts, is shunned by her community. Although pledged to another, Jacob Miller, the Troyer's new handyman, finds himself quite taken with Becky.
Plain Proposal by Beth Wiseman
Will Miriam Raber accept a proposal from Saul Fisher, even though he's thinking of moving outside their community? (Daughters of Promise)
Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
When a dead newborn is found in an Amish barn, Ellie Hathaway, a big city defense attorney, investigates the homicide. This is a family obligation -- she and the alleged murderer, an 18-year-old Amish girl, have the same great-aunt.
Sarah's Garden by Kelly Long
Amish gardener Sarah King falls in love with Grant Williams, an Englisch veterinarian new to their area. Now she has to decide between Grant and her family. (A Patch of Heaven)
The Storekeeper's Daughter by Wanda E. Brunsetter
Romance is the last thing on Naomi Fisher's mind. Since she's helping raise seven brothers and sisters, tending her widowed father's store, and running their home, she has no time for love. (Daughters of Lancaster County)
A Stranger's Wish by Gayle G. Roper
Englischer schoolteacher Kristie Matthews moves in with an Amish family to be close to the school. However, a key given to her by a secretive elderly man leads to a mystery that might cost Kristie her life. (Amish Farm)
Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo
Kate Burkholder grew up Amish, but the Slaughterhouse Killer and his reign of terror made her lose her faith. After establishing a career in law enforcement, Kate's recruited to be the Chief of Police in her small hometown, where a corpse has been discovered in an icy field. (Kate Burkholder)
The Thorn by Beverly Lewis
Hen Kaufmann left the Old Ways and married the wrong man. Now she sees her younger sister, Rose, going down the same path. (Rose)
A Time to Love by Barbara Cameron
When Jennie King, a reporter covering the plight of children in war zones, is severely injured by a car bomb, she moves in with her Amish grandmother to recuperate. Jennie's youthful love, Matthew Bontrager, now a widower, lives next door with his three children. Old feelings rise to the surface, but Jennie's not Amish, and Matthew is. (Quilts of Lancaster County)
A Wedding Quilt for Ella by Jerry S. Eicher
Ella Yoder's hopes for the future disappear when her beloved fiancé, Aden Wengerd, dies from a ruptured appendix. Feeling that life must go on, her family is insistent that Ella marry Jacob Miller, their young bishop, but Ella asks for six months to work through her grief. (Little Valley)
When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall
Paul Waddell, a Mennonite, is still considered an Englischer by Hannah Lapp's Amish father, so he forbids the young couple to marry. As if this isn't enough, Hannah becomes the victim of a brutal assault, and she's blamed for it. (Sisters of the Quilt)
A Widow's Hope by Mary Ellis
When Hannah Brown's husband dies, she takes their flock of sheep and moves from Pennsylvania to Ohio, eventually falling for farmer Seth Miller. However, the sheep interest Seth more than their owner, and Hannah has to find a way to capture his attention. (Miller Family)
Wild Horses by Linda Byler
After Sadie Miller's Amish family moves from Ohio to Montana, her father is in denial about her mother's symptoms of mental problems. Although Sadie finds solace in her job as a cook at Aspen Ranch and the wild horses that roam the area, she's unsettled by the two men who have shown up in her life. (Sadie's Montana)
The Wounded Heart by Adina Senft
Amelia Beiler, a widow and mother of two, is trying to raise them while operating the family business. Things look up when Eli Fischer expresses interest in her business…and her. But a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis sets Amelia's world on end, and she doesn't know where to turn. (Amish Quilt)
In a way, Amish-themed romances are a dream for a readers' advisory librarian. They appeal to a broad cross-section of readers, and are appropriate for both teens and adults. Innocence and forbidden love...a truly ageless theme.
Retired library manager Shelley Mosley has coordinated several moves, renovations, and re-carpetings…and lived to tell about it.