If you were looking for Amish fiction in, say 2002 or 2004, your choice would have been limited to a handful of selections, most by Beverly Lewis or Wanda Brunstetter.
Today, you can have your pick of over 60 authors, and well over 250 titles.
In the opening pages of Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels, Valerie Weaver-Zercher describes the rapid growth of the Amish fiction market. In the early to mid-2000s, just a few books were published each year, sometimes just a single release.
The year 2007 saw a sudden jump, with 14 Amish titles issued that year. By 2011, the number had skyrocketed to 63 new novels, growing further to 85 new books in 2012.
“During both 2011 and 2012,” Valerie writes, “more than one Amish romance novel appeared on the market each week. In 2012, the rate was about one every four days.”
The sheer number of Amish novels was brought home to me in the comments of last week’s post on Amish fiction readers. Some of you described impressive collections of well over 100 Amish novels, or owning all the titles by a specific writer.
And as readers well know, these aren’t just tales of Amish maidens born and raised in Lancaster County. Valerie describes the variety:
You can read an Amish-themed romance set in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon, Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, Montana, Maine, Wisconsin, or Mexico. You can have your heroine young, youngish, or middle-aged, single or married or widowed. You can have her Amish, formerly Amish, soon-to-be Amish, soon-to-be-not-Amish, born Amish but adopted by the English, born English but adopted by the Amish, neighbor to the Amish, or snowbound with the Amish. Within inspirational Amish romance fiction, you can now find Amish historicals, Amish suspense, Amish Wild West adventures, Amish cozy mysteries, Amish quilting novels, and multigenerational Amish sagas (Thrill of the Chaste, p. 6).
And as Valerie elaborates, the diversity of Amish novels stretches well beyond this description.
Choosing Amish fiction
Besides being impressed by the amount of reading going on, this left me with one question. With so many novels available, how do Amish fiction readers choose which one to read next?
Do readers stick with a certain author? How important are friends’ or family’s recommendations? Does the cover influence the choice?
What about things like online reviews, the publisher, plot, or setting of the novel?