Saturday, January 14, 2012

DRIVING THE BUGGY

I was introduced to something last night that, at first, I thought was a joke.  I was having dinner with my friends Colleen, Anton, and Maureen, and over the largest bowl of guacamole I'd ever encountered in all my thirty-five years, I was introduced to the romance sub-genre 'The Bonnet Ripper'.

This only came about because I was regaling them with the details of my bizarre train trip across America and how I had seen a number of Mennonite women on the train reading what looked like romance novels.

That's when someone, I forget who, chimed in: Bonnet Rippers!

It looks as if the 'Bodice Ripper' has been co-opted by the religious set.   I thought TWILIGHT was the penultimate of all the no kissing, no sex until marriage literature, but apparently I was wrong.  It seems that the Amish and Mennonite Bonnet Rippers have all the angst and overheated emotion of the Harlequin universe, but without any of the sex.  Totally trumping Twilight - cause they made with the disastrous sexy sex, ya know. 

I, for one, am very curious to read one of these books because there is only so much 'throbbing member' action a person can take before they start to feel kind of pervy.  I know this for fact because when I was thirteen years old I read one hundred Harlequin Romance books in two very short weeks.

This was the summer my family moved from Orlando, FL to Los Angeles, CA.  It took my sister, mother and me two weeks to do it.  (We took our time, stopping at all the roadside attractions like we were - unintentionally - retracing Lolita and Humbert Humbert's path across America.)  Along the way, we made a pit stop in Huntsville, AL to see my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.

That's when I discovered my Aunt Carolyn belonged to the Harlequin Romance Book of The Month Club.   Always a voracious reader (of anything I could get my hands on) and my Aunt Carolyn knew this, giving me a black garbage bag full of Harlequin romances to read along the trip.  There had to have been over a hundred of those suckers straining to get out of their plastic bag prison and I obliged them all by reading every one of'em.

As we drove across the country, I would read two or three of the books in a sitting, depositing them in the drawers of the motels we stayed in at night - kinda like soft core pornographic Gideon Bibles.  It was a strange time in my life...REM's Out Of Time playing through the headphones of the boom box I'd brought with me, the words 'throbbing manhood' swimming on the pages of the books in front of me. 

A very odd time, indeed.

I don't know how all of this really ties into Bonnet Ripping, I guess it does somehow because it definitely got the synapses in my brain all fired up.

Heck, the next time you see me I may be wearing a bonnet.  I hear those Amish men are pretty amazing at 'driving the buggy'. 

Wink, wink.





32 comments:

  1. Haha you are hilarious. I may or may not have read a few stacks of those when I was that age as well!

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  2. The ultimate cross over title would be "Cassidy: Amish Vampiress of the Tribulation."

    (stolen from elsewhere online)

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  3. "As we drove across the country, I would read two or three of the books in a sitting, depositing them in the drawers of the motels we stayed in at night - kinda like soft core pornographic Gideon Bibles."

    -You had me rolling here! I think most women went through that romance novel phase (I was a fan of Kathleen Woodiwiss myself). I think it was our version of sex-ex growing up. heh. Of course I also ended up being gay and turning away from the genre but... I still remember it fondly.

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    1. Lesbian Bonnet Rippers maybe?? A sub, sub, subgenre?

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    2. Sounds interesting ^^

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    3. If you write one I'll read it!

      Actually, a few years ago a friend introduced me to some lesbian parodies of the Nancy Drew books my sister used to read in her teen years, and I read due to being a voracious reader and there not being much else about. Got me wondering if there are similar take offs of the 'Sweet Dreams' and similar teen romance books.

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  4. My sister reads these ridiculous books. About 5 years ago, she checked out and became one of the head in the sand, religious right, Stepford moms. It makes me sad for the intelligent, independent woman she used to be. At least Harlequin romances do not pretend to be high literature. These "bonnet rippers" are actually considered to be great intelligent fictions by the those who read them.

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  5. Ha ha ha... oh my. Have fun with that! Enjoy reading about all the various "Rumspringa" activities ;)

    And oh my... @Darrell - Amish Vampiress of the Tribulation?!? I'm dying to check that out

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  6. It's not only those 'Amish' men that are pretty amazing at 'driving the buggy'. Some of us UK men have some serious buggy driving skills as well. Wink, wink. Hehehe.

    Love your blog Amber, your sense of humour, your insight, your candour. :)

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  7. Hi, Amber. First blog comment. BTW, I just finished reading/listening to Serpent's Storm and I'm looking forward to the new soon-to-be-released Callie book.

    Anyway, about the content of your blog. I am a librarian in rural Louisiana (with our own large Mennonite community, come to think of it...), and the patrons in my library tend to like Christian inspirational stories no matter what their religious backgrounds. When I came into the profession a few years ago, that was one of the big learning experiences as far as public taste. I hadn't given much thought to these until a few weeks ago, and since then I've listened to 2 audiobook collections of Amish romances.

    I've read a variety of romance novels since I was in junior high. (I've also become disenchanted with much of it, but that's a separate issue.) The "bonnet rippers" if the samples I read are any indication of how they are in general aren't bad. They can be sweet and sincere.

    During the same time I was listening to the audiobooks for Callie 2 and 3 and these Amish stories, I was also listening to this one particularly porny urban romance. I'm not prudish, but it was so embarrassingly badly written for the many sex scenes that were there. Instead of being "in the moment" and wrapped in feeling that romance tries to do, as a reader, I was kicked out of the moment and wondering "THIS is sexy?!"

    But on the positive, I took inspiration from that to try to better my own writing.

    Wrapping up the "bonnet rippers"... it's been a popular sub-genre for a while with no immediate signs of decline.

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    1. Julie, your post only makes me want to read one of the bonnet rippers even more :) I could use a little sweet and sincere in my life these day!

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  8. Best Blog Post Ever!!! Lol, That had me putting a pillow over my face to muffle the laughter! (lol, In a good way, i swear that was a compliment) I think 12 or 13 was the age when my older sisters friend introduced me to harlequin books. It was the most confusing and educational time of my life!

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  9. Oh crap, I nearly squirted my drink out my nose - hilarious!!

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  10. "As we drove across the country, I would read two or three of the books in a sitting, depositing them in the drawers of the motels we stayed in at night - kinda like soft core pornographic Gideon."

    This made me laugh loud enough that my cat was concerned for me. It also makes me want to make care packages for all of my future road trips to leave behind in the drawer next to the Bible containing things like awesome books/drawings/a single earring that I found during my trip. I once found a book jammed behind the radiator of an apartment I had just moved into and I pulled it out to reveal that the previous owner had left it there with a note inside informing the next tennent that it was her favorite book, and she hoped the next person enjoyed it as much as she did. The book was Ammonite by Nicola Griffith. Something about that delivery method made me feel all warm and squishy inside.

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    1. Tiny, are you aware of BookCrossing (http://www.bookcrossing.com/)? Not something I'm into myself but a number of my friends are. The idea is that you register the a book with the site and get an ID code which you put in the front of the book, with a note and the URL of the site (they have templates for stickers for this purpose) then leave the book somewhere (I believe you can also register on the site where you are leaving the book). When someone finds the book they can enter the code and where they found it. They can also make a journal entry for the book, maybe a review. The idea is that you and anyone who knows the code can track where the book has been, you get an email whenever someone logs finding a book you registered.

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  11. ok.... you have to stop posting while I am at dinner...seriously... I was at Dos Gringos drinking a "Leapin' Lizard" while checking Blogger - noticed a post that just came up and decided to read. Well, since I was with a friend, I decided to skim (I have a photographic memory, so skimming usually enables me to get 96% of whatever i am looking at). As I began to read the last paragraph, I took the finishing gulp of my Leapin' Lizard yummy drink...however, it then landed all over my best friend's shirt because i ended up spitting it out as i read the end of the last paragraph... I then felt so bad that I tossed my phone and started "towel-drying" my friend, not realizing that I was actually (unintentionally of course) feeling her up in the process. My face then turned as red as my Arizona State U shirt and it remained that way throughout the span of dinner.

    So this genre is on my next list to go and find. I have to...even if I read bits and parts between all the cell mutation, disease mutation and virus mutation stuff I have to study in microbiology! When I was younger, I was this goody goody Christian girl (well, everyone thought I was) but I couldn't physically get my hands on any other literature other than Christian or classic lit. So I had read a couple Christian Romance novels - ha! talk about an interesting genre...it sounds like this new one you just found out about! When I was about 18, I started getting Lesbian romance novels - and my god they are freaking graphic! I tell everyone that the only way I learned how to "be" with girls is because of The L Word, fan fic and lesbian romance novels. (Yea, you needed to know that...ha! babble....)

    My one girlfriend and I left one of our Lesbian Erotica books in a Motel 6 in Cleveland, OH. I have thought about going back just to see if it's still there.

    Ok, so before I admit anything MORE, I'm gunna scat! lol... My overwhelming desire to talk and type can tend to get me in trouble.... lol

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  12. The whole Amish thing has totally hit the Christian book stores! One thing that hasn't been mentioned in the comments that might shed some light on the whole thing is this: The Amish/Mennonite community is obviously very different than the ones that we all live in. Plenty of people enjoy learning about different cultures and this is just one way to do it. I'm not sure why people find them so compelling but I guess it's just interesting to see how other people choose to live.

    And thanks for the shout out to Huntsville! I love this place.

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  13. I too spent the summer of my 13th year reading bodice rippers. My mother was quite the fan. I've heard of the Amish stories but not read any yet. I'm actually quite intrigued now, lol.

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  14. I'm ashamed to say i never read a romance novel in my life, but you're making me want to. Maybe i'll start with the bonnet ripper and work my way up to, ahem, throbbing manhoods and whatnot...?

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  15. This reminded me of the day I discovered "Sweet Savage Love" in the bathroom after moving in with my dad and step-monster when I was 12. Having received no sex education from my charismatic christian mother, the "pulsating member approaching her venus mons" was a poor, but titillating substitute that I relished. Never got into the romance genre--I went straight for the sleaze and all the nasty rape fantasies that came with it. Just goes to show you what a childhood among the religious right will do to you.

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  16. My old girlfriend had a jones for Bodice Rippers. I used to riff on this by picking up a book, turning to a random page and 'reading' out loud: "Her fingers trembled as she undid her blouse and let it fall to the floor!"

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  17. I'm wondering what happens now when you hear R.E.M. Is there a Pavlovian connection with the romance novels?

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  18. Joe aka AmberAddictJanuary 15, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    When was I at university within one of the modules I was taking we looked at the phenomenon of the Harlequin romance novels or Mills & Boon as they are known on this side of the pond. (It’s the same company different brand name is all) Despite being written off as trash by some their popularity remained undiminished even today with what seemed to be ridiculously high number of them sold each year. This was an eye opener for me a reminder that it’s people who decided what they want watch/read etc. regardless of what the critics say. This sounds like a really obvious statement to make but as a student at the time I was trying view and judge everything with a critical eye and view only quality texts. Yes I was a very pretentious and annoying but I’d beaten odds and made it to university something I never thought would happen so I was trying to impress I calmed down by my second year. After the lecture my friend Emma said we would write one each, send them in and see if either of them gets published. We never did but your blog got me thinking maybe I missed out on a career writing romantic fiction? LOL It is the first time I’d head the term “Bonnet Ripper” though if you find one let us know what it’s like.

    Even with my cold you made me laugh out loud picturing 13 year old Amber leaving Harlequin novels in motel rooms for people to find it seems like such an Amber think to do! :o) I wonder if someone is reading your blog right now thinking so that’s why there was a Harlequin novel in my room. LOL

    PS you’d look so cute in a bonnet Amber!

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  19. I used to work in a public library (best job ever ever ever. Ever.) and we used to get what seemed like a trillion of those romance novels every year. At the end of donation season, it was the job of all the student assistants to weed through them and throw out the ones that weren't circulating. Usually those times of year were hellish for our manager because she's constantly have to scold us for reading them aloud to one another and cracking up way too loudly. But that rarely ever stopped us from discovering just exactly what cowboy/pirate/single dad/millionaire Fabio was doing with his lady love in the blackberry patch.

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    1. I think the old book readings should make a come back in the tea parlors.

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  20. Haven't heard the term "Bonnet Rippers" but I definitely know ladies who are into the chaste Christian romance novels. The covers were always too frilly for me to even touch in the bookstore. But I know at least some of them were geared toward the plain-dress communities (of which there are many - not just Mennonite). Supposedly these romances are intended to encourage young ladies to look for good character in a prospective husband (and, of course, abstain until marriage).

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  21. That's funny, I live in Huntsville.

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  22. Does make you wonder...what is the equivalent of a "bodice/bonnet ripper" for naturists?

    Not nearly as pervy as I intended it to sound...

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  23. Er... you can erase the above as far as the second sentence/paragraph; I meant to say MORE pervy than I'd intended it to sound. Just so we're clear.

    Just because I'm a dirty old man doesn't mean I don't have standards.

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  24. Interesting article....

    www.justladiesdriving.co.uk

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