Spirited Heroines

- by Charlotte Hubbard

Back in the early 90’s when I was first publishing racy Western romances I was totally into writing heroines who let nothing stand in their way, who insisted on living life to the fullest, and who, truth be told, didn’t really need a man.

We called them spitfires, referred to them as feisty and unconventional, because they overcame their circumstances on their own terms in an era when men ruled the world. But since these were romances, we created equally stunning heroes to show these little ladies what they were missing.

Through the years, and through the various genres I’ve written, I’ve maintained my way with the women, so to speak. My heroines have spirit, partly because I like my readers to believe that they, too, can overcome odds but mostly because spirited women are a lot more interesting to write about! They lead out-of-the-ordinary lives we all wish we had the nerve to aspire to.

But once you put a prayer kapp on a heroine, declaring her Amish, all that spunky stuff goes away, jah? These women must be submissive and adhere to the teachings of the church. They must obey the men they live with.

Not in MY Amish books, they don’t!

Well, at least they don’t just say “jah” and go along with whatever they’re told. Readers of Amish romance/fiction understand that Old Order Amish women must behave modestly, abhor any behavior that draws attention to them or allows them to excel above others, and yes, “submit and obey” to their men: Amish men are the heads of their families. But, as in most marriages, Amish women are the necks that turn the heads!

To me, this allows for a great deal of individual spirit. Amish folks no more fit a given stereotype than, say, Jewish people or Presbyterians or any particular religious or ethnic group. Amish people get angry, they rebel against authority, they go behind the rules, they have their dreams and desires and quirks…just like the rest of us! They’re human.

So when I was concocting my Home at Cedar Creek series, my editor and I were both keen on having Abby Lambright, a mainstay/recurring character, break the Amish mold a bit. In ABBY FINDS HER PURPOSE, we discover that Abby has chosen to remain single because the man she loves has no clue about her feelings—and she runs her own sewing business and lives in her own little home, rather than in her older brother Sam’s home, now that her father is dead. I based this detail on a real Amish gal I heard of in Jamesport, MO, who has her own home—so it does happen!

My upcoming book for this series, ROSEMARY OPENS HER HEART, is about another spirited young woman. Widowed and in her twenties, Rosemary Yutzy has chosen to live with her father-in-law Titus to keep his household running (he lost his wife around the same time his son/Rosemary’s husband died in a hunting accident) and to help him raise his 12-year-old daughter, Beth Ann. So far, Rosemary’s snug in her rut, fitting the Plain mold…but along comes Matt Lambright, flashing his brown eyes and falling backside-over-teakettle for Rosemary and her toddler, Katie.

Oh, but Rosemary runs! Doesn’t need a man, thank you, and is quite comfortable baking pies for a local café and being the mainstay of her family. Lo and behold, Titus partners with Matt, combining their sheep flocks, and Rosemary is in a big pinch: she has some property she could build her own home on . . . has the opportunity to bake pies in her aunt’s bakery in Cedar Creek and support herself that way . . . but she believes God is bringing all these changes into her life for a reason. And in Amish fiction, this is the spirited part: God’s will rules. The challenge, of course, is to truly follow God’s will rather than superimposing your own desires on life and believing God is guiding you!

Like Abby, Rosemary shows her unconventional side—her “I don’t need a husband” mindset, as she defies Titus’s insistence that she should marry Matt. She has created options for herself—has the opportunity for a steady income from baking pies, and has that property she can either build on or sell for the money. So when Matt comes on like a runaway train, she walks away! Refuses the conventional wisdom that her little girl needs a new dad, and that she needs to be a wife again. But then God, and her late husband, whisper to her and her attitude begins to change.

ROSEMARY OPENS HER HEART…so of course, in the end, she allows Matt to court her. But Rosemary accepts his proposal on her terms, and she insists on having it all: yes, she will marry him, but she will also run the baking business she has dreamed of from their new home! It’s Matt who says “jah” and who learns to respect Rosemary’s need for a bit of independence.

So while I’m now writing faith-and-family Amish stories instead of guns-and-thunder Westerns, my women are still running the show. For more info and excerpts of stories in both of my Amish series, please check out my website: www.NaomiKingAuthor.com. I’ve recently gotten contracts to continue these series well into 2015, so I look forward to writing about several more inspiring, spirited women!

One comments

  1. I like that about a spirited Amish heroine! I hail from the Christian Speculative circles, and spirited heroines tend to be … lacking. I’m always glad to find one, but nobody seems to be able to reconcile “submissive” with “spitfire”. So I like seeing how you did it. Gives me clues for my own work! (My heroine’s a catgirl. No problems with spirit there!)