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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.

About the Author

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.

Reviewss

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

- Marilyn Dahl - Shelf Awareness

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.

- Femonite

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.

- Melanie Springer Mock - Mennonite World Review

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

- Choice

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.

- Mennonite Quarterly Review

Thrill of the Chaste is a well-written, well-researched, and very readable study of this fast growing fictional subgenre, and Weaver-Zercher sheds much light on the importance of these texts for understanding contemporary American culture... A major contribution to literary analysis, this book will fascinate all who have wondered about the Amish and why so many people want to read about them.

- Karen M. Johnson-Weiner - Yearbook of German-American Studies

Weaver-Zercher has made a significant contribution to the field with a very comprehensive and scholarly approach to the "bonnet fiction" phenomenon of the 21st century... Thrill of the Chaste is of interest to anyone working with reader-response theories, the uses and functions of popular literature, and the commodification of culture and cultural products. Weaver-Zercher's book is importantly about the history and evolution of the genre; however, the most significant contribution that the book makes is its examination and evaluation of the publishing industry that is both meeting and creating demand for the genre.

- Lorie Sauble-Otto - Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature

Articulate, relevant and beautifully written... [ Thrill of the Chaste] is very accessible to those who will give themselves to it. Those who choose to read it will undoubtedly find themselves more discriminating readers.

- Pauline Stevick - Brethren in Christ History and Life

In this comprehensive book, Valerie Weaver-Zercher explores the recent phenomenon of Amish "bonnet fiction"... In well-written, engaging prose, Weaver-Zercher argues convincingly that this genre is production-drive in nature.

- Beth E Graybill - Nova Religio

Timely and engaging... Thrill of the Chaste is an eminently readable book... This is a welcome text for a number of fields; we will, indeed, be writing about it for some time.

- Robert Zacharias - Conrad Grebel Review

Weaver-Zercher's energetic and witty study reaches beyond an examination of the popularity of Amish fiction for individual readers.

- Dawn LLwellyn - Journal of Contemporary Religion

Endorsementss

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.'

- Julia Spicher Kasdorf, author of The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life

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.

- Suzanne Woods Fisher, author of Amish fiction and host of Amish Wisdom

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.

- Lynn Neal, Wake Forest University
Johns Hopkins University Press
Young Center Books in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies
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