Plain Perfect, by Beth Wiseman

plainperfectTitle: Plain Perfect

Author: Wiseman, Beth (Author’s Website)

Genre: Christian romance

Bibliographic: Thomas Nelson, 350 pages, Paperback List Price $14.99, Mass Market Paperback List Price $7.99, Audiobook List Price $19.59, Audiobook CD List Price $27.99, ISBNs 9781595546302, 9780718030964, 9781410418487, 9781418569082

Publication Date: September 9, 2008

Rating: ★★★☆☆ /♥♥♥♡♡ (The rating scale is here).

Appeal Factors: Chaste, engaging

Why I picked it up: I have never read any Christian romance before, and the library used book sale had this for a dollar.

S.I.A.S.: Lillian Miller visits her Amish grandparents to get back to the simple life, but her feelings about Samuel Stolzfus are anything but simple.

Summary: Lillian Miller’s life is too complicated, and so she decides to get back to her simple roots by spending a summer with her grandparents, who she hasn’t seen in seventeen years. When Lillian’s mother, Sarah Jane, was eighteen years old, she found herself unexpectedly pregnant and decided to leave the Old Order Amish community where she’d been raised. Sarah Jane’s parents, Irma Rose and Jonas, are thrilled that Lillian is coming for a visit — even if they’re a little worried that she’ll have some trouble fitting in.

Lillian flies from Houston to Philadelphia, then takes a bus to Paradise, then decides to walk to her grandparents’ farm. It’s a bit more of a hike than she’d expected, however, and she soon finds herself missing a shoe and lugging a suitcase through miles of farmland. She is thrilled when a man drives up in his buggy and offers her a ride, and even more pleased to learn that her rescuer, Samuel Stolzfus, is a friend of her grandparents. As she gets to know her grandparents, Lillian also gets to know Samuel better. They come to realize that there is a mutual attraction between them. Nothing can ever come of it unless Lillian decides to study the Ordnung and become Amish herself — but their affection for each other is impossible to ignore.

Evaluation: I feel like I should preface my evaluation by saying that I am an avid romance reader but I am not a Christian. With that in mind, I feel justified in my opinion that this book was a little bit boring and a little bit unbelievable. The author did a good job of developing the relationship between Lillian and Samuel, but I’ve been conditioned by other romances, and I personally feel a little bit disappointed when hand-holding is scandalous. I really, really enjoyed watching Lillian and David (Samuel’s son) bond and get close, and thought that David was very believable as a character (which is somewhat surprising for an eleven-year-old boy written by an adult female author). The only thing in the book I really struggled with was Sarah’s transition from atheist to Christian to Anabaptist. There’s no way she picked up the nuances of the Ordnung that quickly, and it seems like she rushed to commit to the lifestyle.  (In particular, her change of opinions about  women’s rights seemed false, to me.)

The setting seemed fairly realistic, especially the scenes where the Amish interact with the English in Paradise. I think there’s a tendency for people to think that the Amish are fully sequestered from the rest of society, and that’s not true. It’s nice to see Plain people interacting with outsiders without them being tourists (or without the Amish being a gimmick).

I would certainly recommend this to people interested in chaste romance, Christian romance, or Amish romance — it is a pretty good book, even if it’s not to my personal taste.

SignificancePlain Perfect is the first book in the “Daughters of the Promise” series, all of which take place in the same community. It is also apparently fairly accurate — Beth Wiseman apparently gave it to an Amish person to review ahead of time to make sure it was respectful.

Readalikes: Sarah’s Garden, by Kelly Long.  A Simple Faith, by Rosalind Lauer.  When the Soul Mends, by Cindy Woodsmall.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some of the ways the Amish community gathers to help each other? Have you ever experienced similar support in your own community? What are the disadvantages to a close-knit community like this?
  2. David always believed that Samuel and Lillian would marry, but Irma Rose was less sure. How is the faith of children different from the faith of adults?
  3. Why does Samuel react so strongly when Lillian tells David about her past? Was Lillian inappropriately honest? Where is the balance, when you’re trying to protect a child?
  4. Why did Sarah Jane leave the community upon finding out she was pregnant? Why did she wait so long to return?
  5. Why do Irma Roas, Jonas, and Samuel react the way they do to Rickie’s visit? Why does he behave the way he does towards them?

Lists and Awards:  None.

Professional Reviews:  I couldn’t find any!

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