Tyrades! By Danny Tyree
I had never really thought about such books existing, but the May 8 “Newsweek” reports that Amish romance novels are big business, accounting for as much as half of the inspirational fiction market and involving dozens of new titles each month.
Forgive me, but I’ve been ignorant of this genre (affectionately known as “bonnet rippers”), because I’ve been busy with my day job, where I work hard, getting sweaty and callused and — stay back, ladies! I’m happily married! And (deal breaker alert) I don’t have a beard! *Whew*
Only a tiny percentage of Amish novels are written by Amish writers, and the bulk of the audience is non-Amish (mostly evangelical Christians age 40 and up); but a goodly portion of Amish folks do read them, often with a mixture of bemusement and disgust over errors made in the books.
Face it, you don’t need to be writing Amish romance novels if you have scenes of a young Amish farmer kneeling in prayer to give thanks for the apps on his new iSuspenders. Or if you think the Amish divisions include Old Order and Online Order. Or if you assume a “pole barn” is one that has been subcontracted to a builder named Wolczynski.
A recurring comment from non-Amish readers of Amish romance novels is that it’s nice to have a book that can be left lying around without one’s being embarrassed if the kids pick it up. Sure… there’s nothing embarrassing about Little Johnny announcing, “Hey! Mom is fantasizing what it would be like if Dad wasn’t a lazy &%$# who spends all weekend watching his streaming sporting events.”
Fans of Amish romance novels are ebullient about details being left to the imagination, and about the delayed gratification of the chaste lovers. Too bad the patience doesn’t extend to readers’ own daily lives. (“What do you mean you sold the last copy of my favorite series and won’t have any more for a week??? How about I sling you across the clothesline and beat you?”)
Some casual non-Amish readers worry about the conformity of the Amish communities (“Be sure to black-and-white inside the lines, students”) and chafe at the lack of privacy in the courtship rituals of the characters. Then they go on Facebook to reveal “should’a stayed in Vegas” details of their wild weekend.
Some people embrace/respect Amish values and others reject them; but deep down, people have a lot of things in common. Women of Amish or non-Amish background could just as easily be overheard remarking, “I think eight is the perfect, manageable number” — although one would probably be talking about children and the other just might be talking about STDs.
It’s good that mainstream Americans can be exposed to virtues thought long-gone: abstinence before marriage; lifelong commitment to God, spouse and community; humility; honesty; hard work and the rest.
But because of overuse of certain themes and situations, Amish romance novels may one day burn out. That’s why writers are starting to widen their horizons beyond that genre. Look for a buggy load of books such as “The Fault In Our Jars,” “Clear And Present Woodpile,” “The Fall of the Outhouse of Usher,” “The Graven Image of Dorian Gray,” “It Takes A Village (To Shun A Child),” “Oh, The Places You’ll Not Go” and “A Brief History of —Time To Go Back To Work!”
©2015 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”. Danny’s’ weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.