Kensington first dipped into the Christian marketplace in 2014 by selling a few Amish romances to big box stores such as Walmart and Target. The titles sold well, so the following year, Kensington decided to launch a marketing program, which it named Kensington Bouquet, to grow the company’s list and help readers find uplifting stories.
Now, Kensington publishes inspirational fiction and nonfiction across several genres in its Bouquet program, which has grown from those handful of romances to more than 30 titles in 2020.
“The majority of the authors in Kensington’s Bouquet program are crossover authors, only in reverse,” says Vida Engstrand, Kensington’s director of communications. “Rather than starting in the Christian market and crossing over into mainstream, we started them in the mainstream and crossed over into Christian.”
“Our goal is to provide uplifting fiction with a strong faith content,” says Alicia Condon, one of Kensington’s editorial directors. “Books in our Bouquet program don’t shy away from real-life issues that might make them controversial in a more traditional Christian market.”
Kensington’s editors have brought in authors with high commercial appeal such as Davis Bunn, who in 2020 will publish Tranquility Falls, the latest in his Miramar Bay series, and Laura Bradford, who previously wrote Amish cozy mysteries. Bestselling author Melissa Storm makes her Kensington debut in April 2020 with The Sunday Potluck Club, a series starter about four female friends.
Amish romance remains a staple of the program and includes novels by Charlotte Hubbard, Jennifer Beckstrand, Amy Lillard, and Sarah Price. Recently, the program added big-name authors Shelly Shephard Gray and Loree Lough to the category.
Other authors new to the program include Rachel J. Good and Patricia Johns, both of who made their names writing for Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. Good’s series for Kensington, Unexpected Amish Blessings, kicks off in March 2020 with His Unexpected Amish Twins, while Johns debuted with The Bishop’s Daughter in May.
“Readers wonder what life is like in farm country, how people live with no electricity, and what problems the Amish face by staying separate from the world,” Good says. “Many readers yearn to escape the chaos and stress in their lives by immersing themselves in a simple, peaceful world—one that offers warmth and hope, where people and relationships are valued more than material possessions.”
Echoing those sentiments is Lillard, whose latest romance, Loving Jenna—a series starter that features neurodiversity in its romantic pair—publishes in March 2020. “In these fast-paced times, it seems as if the world is too big and spinning out of control,” Lillard says. “Since the Amish can be our neighbors and live without electricity, cars, and internet, maybe there’s hope for the rest of us.”
Also launching a new Amish series is Lough, who is a bestselling author of more than 115 novels. All He’ll Ever Need—a romance about an Amish widower drawn to his son’s Englisher doctor—kicks off the A Little Child Shall Lead Them series. Lough hopes readers will “find respite from personal challenges” in the book. “My goal is to introduce readers to characters they can identify with,” she says. “People who celebrate life’s highs as they cope with the lows.”
While Good, Lillard, and Lough’s forthcoming novels are contemporary romances, Virginia Wise’s When Love Finds You—the second book in her Amish New World series—is a historical set in America’s first Amish settlement. “I’ve combined two popular inspirational romance genres: Amish and western/ frontier,” Wise says. “This combination creates a powerful setting with plenty of drama and the key elements readers love and expect from Amish romance.”
Whether set in Amish Country or a beachside community, the present or past, the books in Kensington’s Bouquet program are successfully engaging readers looking for uplifting and hopeful stories. “The appeal of these books is the sense of community and kindness that’s present despite the conflicts the characters are dealing with,” says Selena James, one of Kensington’s executive editors. “Readers know they’re guaranteed a sweet romance that will be heartwarming and entertaining.”