A review site for conservative, libertarian, center-right readers. We'll tell you what's good, what's bad, what's so-so, and what you'll like even if you have to stumble past liberal tropes to get to a good story
by Libby Sternberg
The romance genre includes a wide variety of love stories from sweet to sizzling.
At the sweet end of the spectrum is the “inspirational romance”—stories that include a nondenominational Christian faith element and are free of cursing, sex and violence.
But readers who fear being preached at should take heart. Inspirationals don’t evangelize. If anything, many of them read like, well, regular books, telling a story of characters struggling with life and love. But these characters believe in God and acknowledge their beliefs, usually in thoughts. In some ways, then, they remind me of older books where faith was an accepted part of life and storytelling, not something pushed to the background or off the page entirely, the way it is in so many contemporary offerings.
Within the inspirational romance category is a sub-genre that’s had great success in recent years—the Amish love story. Maybe that’s because of a longing for the simpler life that the Amish represent. Where I live—Lancaster, PA—Amish stories fill book displays in grocery stores and other venues. Also where I live, however, real stories involving the Amish make the news, and they’re not always pastoral, peaceful tales.
Author Patricia Davids is to be congratulated for not sugar-coating Amish life in her 2011 inspirational romance The Farmer Next Door. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell readers that I copy edited this book for the publisher. However, as a copy editor, I read a lot of books, and it takes a really good storyteller for one to stand out for me. The Farmer Next Door was such a book.
Davids tells the tale of two wounded Amish souls struggling with life and faith. Her characters, Adrian Lapp and Faith Martin, both wrestle with past heartbreak and, to one degree or another, what their sorrows say about God and God’s mercy.
Both are grieving—he’s a widower who lost both his wife and child; she’s a widow who is shocked and sometimes ashamed to realize how much she enjoys being free of her abusive husband. Yes, you read that right—abusive. Abuse happens even in Amish households, and Davids acknowledges this, without wallowing in it.
As these two feisty survivors find their way to each other and back to God, Faith must also work with a social worker as she attempts to win custody of her orphaned six-year-old nephew who, until this point, was raised outside the Amish community.
It was this part of the story that raised it above the level of just any Amish romance. Davids dealt with the problem of integrating an “Englische” child into the Plain community in a straightforward and frank way, not dancing around real issues of conflict.
For example, children are only educated up to eighth grade in Amish communities (and not held truant, thanks to the US Supreme Court ruling Wisconsin v. Yoder, of which HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appears ignorant, but, that’s another story and another blog post). And children are often put to work in farm fields in Amish households, sometimes resulting in serious accidents.
Davids has her character Faith wrestle with the implications of these changes for her nephew, giving the book a refreshing verisimilitude instead of a pat resolution.
Speaking of resolutions, yes, Adrian and Faith will have their HEA (romance parlance for “happily ever after”), but not until they confront their inner struggles, finding their way to reconciling pain with their vision of a merciful God.