Treasures Of The Heart
by Tina Runge, historical (1999)
Jove (A Quilting Romance), $5.99, ISBN 0-515-12680-2

Move over, you Thunder Hawks and Brave Bears and other Noble Savages, make way for the Noble Amishman! Tina Runge's romance, set in the Amish community of Prosper, paints Amish life in such beautifully rosy hues that if I can't live without TV and an Internet connection, I would've moved over to Indiana to get me some Amish neighbors.

I know, it's hard to write a romance in some non-WASP setting. Put in any less-than-perfect aspects and the ultra-sensitive community of readers would pan you as racist. But then again, it doesn't do much favor to one's credibility to write off a certain ethnic group as if they're angels on Earth either. The result is utterly unconvincing characters with totally bland personality. It's like watching Touched By An Angel with the preachy goodness factor cranked a hundred times over.

Good, perfectionist, and self-sacrificing (oh, the pristine adjectives grow weary after a while!) Amanda Glosser lets herself be fleeced by Amish man Josiah Miller. Okay, maybe not "fleece" - heaven forbid an Amish man be any less than perfect - Amanda realizes that she may have paid more than what the quilts she bought from Josiah are actually worth. But she understands how Amish people need money to survive, after all, poor people they are, and besides, Josiah sure is one cute dude. And heaven forbid an Amishman for cheating for cheating's sake. Our noble hero needs money for his lil' bro's prosthetic leg. See? Conscience cleared. Let's get on with the juicy stuff.

Amanda has a nasty suitor Leon who makes crude advances to her beauteous form (and we know Leon, being not Amish, must be scum) abetted by her father (also not Amish, and we know hence that he's scum too). So our devious heroine decides to get closer to Josiah via his sister Mary (why, you cunning woman you... what? You have no ulterior motives in mind by befriending Mary? Bummer.).

Oh, and did I mention that there's a treasure map in one of the quilts Amanda bought from Josiah?

This could've been a fine inter-cultural romance, but the author plays it safe by only skimming the potential conflicts that arise. Oh yes, Josiah's people would shun him if he gets involved with Amanda, but you know how the Amish are, at least in Ms Runge's story. After seeing what a Good Woman our heroine is, it's nothing but open arms. But oh, by all mean, feel free to crank up the nastiness on the non-Amish side of the border. Amanda's father is a total nincompoop, and Leon, who smells bad, has bad teeth, speaks like Donald Duck on a bad day, and probably has bigger breasts than Amanda (so why is Daddy so eager for her to marry Leon?).

Oh, and Josiah and Amanda. Yawn. They generate as much breathless, undying, heaving-bosom passion as an episode of Cooking Italian Pasta. Josiah is in his twenties, but it seems he has never noticed women until Amanda. Oh, I forgot. Amish people aren't tainted by Impure Thoughts. Either that or Josiah's so deep in the closet he doesn't know it (Josiah, you should go rent Witness - Harrison Ford in that movie is a total hunk). And Amanda - er, there's a big loophole about her personality. This woman lives on an Amish county, and she doesn't know a thing about Amish culture? She doesn't recognize several key people in Josiah's community who - during the story - let it slip that they have been clients in her shop before? Minnie Mouse alert.

So with bland characters, bland and simplistic depictions of an ethnic group, and ridiculous villians, Treasures Of The Heart ends up more juvenile and na´ve than the convincingly romantic and passionate romance it aspires to be. A total strike-out.

Rating: 52

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