Weaver-ZerchersmallerYou wrote an entire book about Amish romance novels? I didn’t even know there was such a thing.

Eighty-five new Amish romance novels were published in 2012 alone; that is about one every four days. (And I arrived at those numbers using a very conservative definition of “Amish romance novel”; depending which books you count, that number would be much higher.) In 2002, only two new Amish romance novels were published. On a recent Christian fiction bestseller list, five of the top ten titles were Amish. And the top three novelists of Amish fiction have sold over 24 million books.

thrill of the chaste book jacketSimple Life or Soft Porn?

So wherein lies the cache of the fictive Amish Mädchen on the shelves and in the imaginations of contemporary readers? By what means have the Old Order Amish, who comprise less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the U.S. population, catapulted to literary stardom, so that novels about them repre­sent 15 percent of the top religious fiction titles sold by Barnes & Noble and 30 percent of a Christian bestseller list? What, exactly, is fueling the thrill of the chaste—this wildfire popularity of Amish romance literature and the virtues it contains? And what does it reveal about fiction, the Amish, and the rest of us?