I’ve read another Amish novel. One that runs pretty close to an Amish romance. Okay, so it is an Amish romance. But it also has bandits, epidemics, kidnappings, and a murder or two.
Perhaps there’s a publishing genre called speculative Amish romance?
The book in question is The Captive Heart by Dale Cramer. It’s the second in the Daughters of Caleb Bender Series, the first being Paradise Valley.
I will read anything Dale Cramer writes, novels like Bad Ground, Sutter’s Cross, and Summer of Light. Levi’s Will is an Amish story, but more about a young man breaking away from the Amish order and joining the army in World War II. It’s based upon the story of Cramer’s own father. And Summer of Light, well, let’s say I laughed and cried at this story of a man finding himself.
Like its predecessor Paradise Valley, The Captive Heart is based upon the true story of Amish families who left Ohio in the early 1920s, fleeing from the state’s compulsory education laws, and settled in Mexico. This is the Mexico just past its revolution, and it hasn’t really left the revolution behind. Gangs of revolutionaries have turned themselves into gangs of bandits, and they roam the mountains and plains looking to pillage and plunder.
The Amish, of course, are pacifist. Cramer plays that pacifism against the violence of the bandits, and surprising, unexpected things happens.
That’s the larger story within which two romances develop. First is Rachel and Jake; Jake’s family had decided to stay in Ohio but Jake is able to come to Mexico eventually with another family as a kind of indentured farm hand. But the focus is Miriam Bender, the settlement’s schoolteacher and at 20 beginning to face the possibility of an unmarried life. Miriam finds herself pursued by a young Amish man while she’s attracted to her father’s hired man Domingo. But a romance with Domingo risks banning and separation from her family.
Cramer tells a good story. He builds suspense – and a growing sense of dread – at what is going to happen. The characters come alive with their hopes, dreams and struggles, not the least of which is the struggle of maintaining their faith in the face of a very harsh, very brutal reality.
The Captive Heart is a fast, enthralling read. I will even say I’m anticipating the next book in the series. I may not have converted to the cause of Amish romances, but I have converted to the cause of Amish romances as told by Dale Cramer.
My review of Paradise Valley.