Various places are reporting on the hot new trend of “bonnet books,” or Amish-themed romance novels, largely written by non-Amish women for non-Amish female readers. Titles such as Beverly Lewis’ A Cousin’s Promise and Cindy Woodsnall’s Sisters of the Quilt are suddenly making a splash on the New York Times bestseller list.
What’s the appeal? These books “essentially, are romance novels for modern women who want to live vicariously through an Amish character’s modest romantic transgression against her religious community.” In Amish romance novels, the supposedly rebellious characters typically remain extremely sexually conservative, perhaps experiencing a single kiss over the course of 300 pages.
Are the writers of these books exploiting the Amish? It’s arguable; many rely on free consulting sessions with Amish citizens who happily provide fact-checking and suggestions on how to depict Amish life. Others may wonder, do these books depict too romantic and idealistic a vision of a community in which women’s rights scarcely exist? But, none of that matters to people like the “250 non-Amish [who] recently gathered in Pennsylvania Amish country to “[snap] Ms. Woodsmall’s photo with cellphone cameras.”