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Thrill of the Chaste

, 344 pages

17 halftones, 1 line drawing

March 2013



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Thrill of the Chaste

The Allure of Amish Romance Novels

Browse the inspirational fiction section of your local bookstore, and you will likely find cover after cover depicting virtuous young women cloaked in modest dresses and wearing a pensive or playful expression. They hover innocently above sun-drenched pastures or rustic country lanes, often with a horse-drawn buggy in the background—or the occasional brawny stranger. Romance novels with Amish protagonists, such as the best-selling trailblazer The Shunning by Beverly Lewis, are becoming increasingly popular with a largely evangelical female audience. Thrill of the Chaste is the first book to analyze this growing trend in romance fiction and to place it into the context of contemporary literature, religion, and popular culture.

Valerie Weaver-Zercher combines research and interviews with devoted readers, publishers, and authors to produce a lively and provocative examination of the Amish romance novel. She discusses strategies that literary agents and booksellers use to drive the genre’s popularity. By asking questions about authenticity, cultural appropriation, and commodification, Thrill of the Chaste also considers Amish fiction’s effects on Amish and non-Amish audiences alike.

Valerie Weaver-Zercher is a writer and editor whose work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Mennonite Weekly Review, and elsewhere.

"The promise of the cover is borne out by the content: an engaging analysis of 'bonnet rippers' and their audience."

"Weaver-Zercher’s book is a fascinating read, that raises some questions about this increasingly popular genre, but also tries to add complexity to our understandings of how Amish fiction functions."

" Thrill of the Chaste is an entertaining read... [Weaver-Zercher's] light, engaging voice makes her ideas accessible. I found myself caught up in her rich, often humorous descriptions... Weaver-Zercher redeems the genre and its readers."

"The unusual subject of Amish romance is treated engagingly in this crossover book... Highly recommended."

"Weaver-Zercher’s book-length exploration is not only a groundbreaking contribution to an area that deserves more study, but also an excellent read, as all-consuming and hard to put down for this scholar of American literature and popular culture as Amish romance novels are for their devoted fans."

"As Valerie Weaver-Zercher tracks the sources, emergence, and sudden rise of Amish romance fiction, she looks deeply at the writers, readers, and cultural changes that conspired to create the phenomenon. She writes with passion, principle, and wit, raiding academic disciplines to create a more-than-intelligent analysis of 'bonnet books.'"

"Readable and engaging, Thrill of the Chaste studies the exploding subgenre of Amish fiction from every angle: Why is it so popular? What are readers seeking? Do these stories truly reflect the Amish? What motivates the authors? The publishers? Sometimes hard-hitting but always fair, Weaver-Zercher's fascinating book is a must-read for anyone interested in the plain life."

"The scholarship is sound—the author deftly incorporates theoretical, historical, and sociological research into her extensive study of the genre, its producers, and its readers. The prose is both lovely and lively. Quite simply, a delight to read."

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