I will be the first to admit that I know almost nothing about the Amish. My knowledge is limited to Devil's Playground (2002), which I was forced to watch in high school, and my friends' reviews of Amish romance novels because prior to now, I had never actually picked one up myself. My romance book club is doing this 50-category challenge designed to broaden our reading horizons, however, and one of the categories is "Amish romance." Conveniently enough, I found the first three books in the Amish YA romance "Temptation" series for sale for $3.
I wasn't going into this book with high expectations. Based on the summary, I was expecting something a forbidden romance sketched along the lines of TWILIGHT, only instead of being a vampire, the love interest was Amish. My suspicions were on fleek: Rose and Noah fall in love on sight and the entire novel consists of their being tortured of never being apart of the other's world unless they give up their own forever. Fine, okay. I was cool with that, and hoping to learn about the Amish community and maybe enjoy a fluffy but unrealistic love story shared between two teens.
Instead, I got a pretty unhealthy, almost emotionally abusive relationship between two horribly unlikable characters, with a side order of misogyny, slut-shaming, and bad life choices.
Noah is attracted to Rose but isn't happy with her the way she is. There's always a qualifier: that she's too wild, that she needs to be changed. He expects her to give up her entire way of living to convert to being Amish so he can marry her, when they've known each other for only a few weeks, and he's not afraid to criticize her or put her down in order to rationalize his thoughts.
She shouldn't be alone in a public place like this. It wasn't safe or appropriate with all the men around here (96).
Somehow I'd have to curb her impulses and make her listen to me. But it was for her good - I'd heard all kinds of stories about what happened to women out there among the English (98).
Pretty much every woman in this book is just awful, except for Sarah, Noah's sister. The jealous Amish girl who wants to court Noah calls Rose a "hure." Rose's brother, Sam, calls his father's girlfriend"some ho you picked up at a bar" (163). Rose refers to her father's girlfriend as "Her" and "Dad's plaything" and emotionally blackmails her father about his guilt over the relationship (their mother's dead) to leverage getting a new puppy and sneaking around with her boyfriend. Hypocrisy? Oh, I think so. But it isn't just her father's girlfriend who gets the flak. Rose calls her brother's girlfriends "bimbos" and "Barbies" many, many times. It's really disgusting.
The abusive relationship
Noah makes Rose feel bad about herself in an attempt to sway her to his way of thinking. He implies that she dresses too slutty (not in those exact words - he couches it in good intentions, saying that his family would think better of her if she comports herself well); wears too much makeup; and even says that he wouldn't want her to cut her hair.
"But you would never cut your hair short, would you?" His face was serious again and his voice sounded frustrated for some strange reason (172).
"I think English women are too willing to make battles out of things they don't need to." He was hard-faced again (173).
"You shouldn't put yourself into the kind of situation that could get you into trouble - or cause the others to think poorly of you" (211).
It's also pretty damn clear that he sees her family as the enemy, an obstacle.
Shaking his head, [Rose's brother] said, "It's ridiculous for you to expect Rose to give up her freedom so she can be with you. Dude. It ain't going to work. I'm just warning you." I didn't like what he said. I suddenly say not only my family as an obstacle to a marriage with Rose but also her family, and especially her older brother. I had underestimated his interest in the matter (191).
When she fights him about converting to being Amish, he slut-shames her.
"What's the problem, Rose? Is it that you don't want to miss out on driving a car or going to your rock concerts? Or maybe you can't stand the thought of never being able to dance for all the English men again" (259).
Then it gets disturbing. He starts thinking about ways to force her - and her family - to marry her to him.
But as much as I wanted to do it, I couldn't physically force her to submit to me (277).
He considers impregnating her to force a shotgun marriage.
Another idea had briefly penetrated my brain - getting her with child. My folks and her dad would be forced to allow us to marry (277).
By the way? Rose is sixteen.
But Noah thinks the baby idea is a great one, and proposes it to Rose, who gets upset. When she refuses, he has this to say:
"I don't see any other way for us to be together. So if you don't want to try that option, and you don't want to become Amish...then I guess it's over between us" (281).
Rose tries to date someone else after they break up, but isn't attracted to him the way she is to Noah. Likewise, Noah considers courting Ella from his community - the girl who called Rose "hure" - but is repulsed by their kiss and ends up ditching her and their families early.
When he goes to rescue Rose from a party she's miserable at, he gets into a buggy crash with a semi and ends up at the hospital. Rose is so distraught at the thought of losing him forever that she immediately gives in to all his terms, agreeing not just to converting to being Amish but also:
"I'd even go through with the - you know - baby idea you had, if you think it would help" (352).
The book cheerfully ends with Rose getting sent off to live with another Amish family to prepare for her conversion to Amish life.
I really tried to read this with an open mind. I was amenable to "Amish TWILIGHT," even if it ended in marriage. Hell, I wanted to like the book - I'd bought books 1-3 in the series, so it would be pretty miserable for me if I didn't - but I couldn't. It made me angry and frustrated. Rose was such an awful character. Noah was an annoying, manipulative character. The treatment of all the female characters was abhorrent. The Amish weren't portrayed very favorably, either, in my opinion, with Noah's parents being portrayed as hypocrites; the Amish girls as oppressed victims; and the other Amish boys as creeps (two of them express their intentions to sexually assault Rose). The only characters I really sympathized with in this book was Sarah, Noah's sister, and Rose's father, Dr. Cameron. They were the only truly likable characters in here.
Your may very well feel differently, and if that is the case, I respect you for it. However, if the quotes I provided upset you or annoy you, you should probably find a different Amish book to read. I'm still trying to decide whether or not I want to read the second and third books in this series. What do you guys think? Should I continue?