Amish romance is a literary subgenre of Christian fiction featuring Amish characters, but written and read mostly by evangelical Christian women. An industry term for Amish romance novels is "bonnet rippers" because most feature a woman in a bonnet on the cover, and "bonnet ripper" is a play on the term "bodice ripper" for stereotypical romance novels.
The first commercially successful Amish romance novel, according to writer Valerie Weaver-Zercher, was Beverly Lewis' The Shunning, published in 1997 by Bethany House. Most Amish romance novels are written and read by evangelical Christian women. The three most successful authors of Amish romance—Beverly Lewis, Cindy Woodsmall, and Wanda Brunstetter—have sold over 24 million books.
The genre has proven lucrative for publishers, many of which are Christian publishers, such as Bethany House, Thomas Nelson, and Zondervan. In addition, over 150 Amish fiction e-books were self-published between 2010 and 2013.
While primarily written for and marketed to adult readers, some young adult Amish romance titles have been published as well. According to a September 2013 Library Journal survey, Amish fiction is the most commonly carried subgenre of Christian fiction in public libraries, although the survey did not distinguish between Amish romance and other Amish-themed literature.
Most works of Amish romance have protagonists with socially conservative values, especially chastity, who engage in romance in ways which are socially and religiously acceptable in their communities. Similar works may also feature other religious minorities, such as Mennonites, Shakers, or Puritans. Similar to many mainstream romance novels, Amish romance novels rely on the portrayal of sex and most other forms of physical intimacy. "Despite the suggestion by some that the appeal of Amish fiction must lie in the arousal of coverings coming off, or suspenders being suspended — hence the coy industry term 'bonnet rippers' — most Amish novels are as different from Fifty Shades of Grey as a cape dress is from a spiked collar."
Reactions to works of Amish romance among the Amish themselves range from baffled (by things like deadly buggy accident themes) to repulsed (by evangelical notions of personal relationships with Jesus Christ which are inconsistent with the Amish view of salvation).
Some[who?] argue that the non-Amish authors fail to understand Amish theology and how it differs in key areas from mainstream Christianity. They thus present characters who may appear Amish but who maintain an evangelical Christian worldview. For example, a character might proclaim an assurance of salvation, rather than a "living hope" of such as the Amish do. Amish specific beliefs such as non-violence, non participation in government, and an unwillingness to proselytize may be glossed over or not mentioned. Evangelical themes, such as sexual purity, are substituted.
- Weaver-Zercher, Valerie (21 March 2013). "Bonnet Rippers: The Rise of the Amish Romance Novel". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
- Weaver-Zercher, Valerie (6 June 2013). "Why Amish Romance Novels Are Hot". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- Miller, Lisa (2 December 2010). "Books: Amish Romance Novels". Newsweek. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- Kennedy, Deborah (1 September 2012). "Amish fiction: Put a bonnet on it". Salon. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- Riess, Jana (2010). "Agents Help Christian Novelists Success in Soft Market". Publishers Weekly. 257 (10): 8.
- Reffner, Julia M. (7 November 2013). "Christian Fiction Sees the Light". Library Journal. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
- Weaver-Zercher, Valerie (2013). Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9781421408927.
- Weaver-Zercher, Valerie (June 2013). "It's Hip to be Plain". Sojourners.