A new Amish romance novel is flying off the shelves — but its content is buggy-ing out the traditional conservative church community.
Lifelong community member Linda Byler, 65, penned “Tapestry of Love” (literally — in a notebook) after beginning her writing career at an Amish newspaper.
The second novel in her “New Directions” romance series chronicles the romance between two traditional Amish youngsters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and has sold close to a million copies, the Daily Mail reported Saturday.
But Byler has gotten blowback from some community elders who claim the success of her tome is fueling sexual abuse, she told the outlet.
“They are very tame books,” Byler said, dismissing comparisons to the sadomasochistic “Fifty Shades of Grey” novels, which shocked and titillated readers just over a decade ago.
“There’s nothing unclean in them. There is some touching, my publisher said it would have to be discreet, and a little bit of a kiss,” she said, adding there was no sex in the book.
Byler began newspaper reporting when her husband went bankrupt and later transitioned to publishing books for children before writing about the amorous side of Amish culture, where premarital sex — not to mention divorce, cars, electricity and cellphones — are verboten.
Her books have increasingly become popular in the conservative US Bible Belt and other Christian communities, and Byler said she has earned a lifetime of money for her and her husband.
However, she claims she is being unfairly blamed for recent publicized cases of sex abuse in the Amish community.
“In the last 10 years or so, romance novels have become wrong in the community,” Byler told the Daily Mail.
“Romance novels are looked down upon by a lot of the younger generation -— they look at them negatively on account of a lot of molesting and troubled people in facilities where they go to get help.
“But there’s a bit of it [Amish sex abuse] and you know, when these things come to light, they blame the romance novels.”
Byler said the 250,000 members of the Amish community have gotten even more conservative in recent years.
“Touching is looked down upon in this day and age, but it wasn’t in my day. Sex before marriage is a no-no, of course. But we have pregnancies.
“We have couples who “loved each other” before marriage. There are single mothers, but they are not shunned — they are accepted in the community,” she explained.
Byler did not reveal exactly where she lives, but said she is from the “Old Order,” the most conservative type of settlement in the sect.
She has seven children, three of whom decided not to join the church or left after previously agreeing to join, and the mom admits the strict rules are not for everybody.
“People who are not from the Amish community and join — we never say no, but it never works out. You almost have to be born into the culture. Otherwise, it doesn’t work. It is too restraining for outsiders.”
Despite her scandalous commercial success and family full of defectors, Byler said she has avoided being “shunned” by the community.
“When Amish people are shunned, in rare instances elders won’t break bread with them at the same table, won’t work with them and won’t worship with them under the religion’s centuries-old practice of shunning,” she told the outlet.
“In stricter settlements, shunning can break apart families, cutting off all contact between parents and their children.
“I mean the shunning is very different from how it used to be-there’s no pride in it. You feel ashamed, something wrong, but it fades. You’re still a respected person within your community,” she explained.
Byler’s inspiration does not come just from chores, prayer and horse-and-buggy rides — the successful novelist even gets ideas from reality TV, but only when she visits her daughter in Florida, of course.
“I watch TV every summer when I go on vacation to the beach. I do enjoy the reality show ‘The Alaskan People’ — it’s about people who live in the frontier,” she said, referring to Discovery Channel’s “Alaskan Bush People.”
“I’m 65 years old, so I’m not a fan of the Kardashians. I don’t look down on them or judge them. They just seem to be all about themselves. I’m not into that.”