Amish fiction remains a big draw in an era of 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

Old-fashioned romances based in Amish communities – a subgenre that began in the late '90s – draw readers hungry for wholesome stories and simple values.

Writer Beverly Lewis inspired an interest in Amish fiction in 1997 with her bestselling novel 'The Shunning.'

As the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy – along with various copycat titles coming in its wake – continues to dominate the sales charts, books on the opposite end of the spectrum are still selling well.

How opposite? Try quilting bees instead of handcuffs.

Amish fiction, a literary genre that began in the late 1990s and has sold well ever since, features romances more old-fashioned in their values than E L James’ S&M story – books that keep the reader outside the bedroom door. The genre kicked off with Beverly Lewis’s 1997 book “The Shunning,” which featured a heroine who longed for a life outside the Amish community. The title has since sold over a million copies. Since then, writers like Jerry Eicher, Marta Perry, and Sarah Price have all penned tales of girls in Amish communities looking for romance.

Vice president of marketing for Christian publisher Bethany House Steve Oates says that he thinks the appeal of Amish fiction for many readers is the return to simpler values.

“The books are aspirational,” Oates told Deborah Kennedy, who published an interesting survey of the genre in Salon this month. “It’s the ‘I wish my family were like this’ kind of thing.”

And while sales have slackened over the past couple of years, the genre is still a big draw.

“If you put a head covering on the woman on the front, you’re going to sell a lot more copies,” Oates said.

Author Lori Copeland started out writing racier romance novels like “A Taste for Temptation,” but switched over to Amish and Christian romances in 1995. Bodice-rippers and more conservative romances can co-exist just fine, said Copeland.

“Some want the rich, decadent flavors to sweep them away from the ordinary world,” Copeland told USA Today. “Others like to be swept away but find sugar and cream a little rich for their personal values…. The Christian market and my personal faith values allow me to write … wholesome stories about men and women of faith falling in love.”

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