Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Never Judge A Book By It's Cover

These days I don't get a chance to really read and fully experience the joys of a paper back historical romance. And by fully experience I'm not talking about the smell of paper and ink, although that is nice, nor the less enjoyable flipping of pages while doing alternating hand holds trying to fight off carpal tunnels.

No, I'm referring to the covers.

Princess Buttercup (my kindle) is of the old school first model of kindles. When you look up a book on Princess Buttercup the picture of the cover is the size of a postage stamp and I pay it no heed. A book purchased opens to the first page. I would have to scroll back to see the cover and rarely take the effort unless a random bought of curiosity over takes me.

The only time I see the cover is if I later look it up online and the covers often give me a giggle.

This month I've been on a paper back historical romance kick and I forgot how much I get a kick out of romance covers.

I was barely out of leading strings before I started stealing grandmas salacious novels. At the time ambiguous covers were making head way, often putting the depicted love struck couple on the inside page out of view for public reading, but ...

Ms. Mason had some great covers but they were nothing compared to the captivating wonder that was....

Original Johanna Frikkin  Lindsey

If you've never seen these I'd take a moment to Google image search Original Johanna Lindsey book covers. My girlfriend has many of the originals and we revere them like they are mint condition Mickey Mantle trading cards.  

The above is one of my all time favorite Lindsey covers. The story is pretty fantastic also, but I remember being so spell bound by this cover. Like many of her books, it was later re-released with an ambiguous cover that authors like Julie Garwood and Jude Deveraux have always used. 

I appreciate the ambiguous cover in that it does not distract from the actual story itself. Some times the cover is so provocatively well done I find myself staring, transfixed, like a boy with his first naughty magazine. 

Luscious, accurate and they really do get busy in the garden.

Then there is the mismatch covers. From erotic contemporary to romantic sci-fi, we've all seen the covers that make us stop half ways through the book just to compare and contrast all the vast differences of the cover form the actual contents like it's a Highlights hidden picture puzzle.

The Carpet Doesn't Match The Drapes Syndrome

The above Lynsay Sands cover is a mild example.The hero is close enough but the heroine is actually described in the book as having pale white skin, black hair and melon size breasts. She's barely five foot tall and extremely curvy. Her mother refers to her as gluttonous.

Covers always have heroines that look like they're on a hunger strike when in the book they're at least a size fourteen and don't get me started with sci-fi alien heroes.

No, Randy the part time male model that works at the hardware store does not look other worldly, let alone like a seven foot bald orange and black male of the Pandean race from the planet Orm. <palm to forehead>

I once read a book where the cover was an angelic looking black haired man and a blond with gloriously long locks. In the book the man had regular brown hair, was quite hairy, had a mustache and the heroine had cropped red hair.

There was also a pirate book where the cover had a whip cord muscled man with his long black hair pulled back, standing feet apart on the bow of a ship. He was a sexy looking pirate but alas, the pirate in the story had thick corded muscles, broad shoulders and golden blond hair that barely brushed his shoulders and of course was sprinkled over his manly wide chest.

Why the subterfuge? Why not just default to the ambiguous cover?

Many authors don't get to choose their cover and I always wonder why the person choosing the cover didn't read the blasted book.

A prime example of this is the Eloisa James head scratcher. Ms. James covers are known for not only being enchanting but also pretty accurate. I was not the only one stumped when halfway through reading A Duke Of Her Own I realized our heroine, poor Eleanor, doesn't only get thrown over by two dukes and suffer constant criticism from her own mother, her rival Lisette is the one featured on her book!

 Lisette is a whimsical thin blond. When reading the book, and building the picture of Lisette, you actually will get a mental image of the girl on the cover even if you have never seen the cover!! 

Eleanor has chestnut colored hair that's likened to rich brandy. She's also quite full bodied and it wasn't until the second time I read the book and mentally disparaged the cover that I realized that man is supposed to be Villers! Villers of course is a very large man with long black hair he wears tied back. 

Many WTFs were given the week following this book's release.

Everyone wanted to know why Lisette was featured on the cover of Eleanor's book. Ironically A Duke Of Her Own is my all time favorite Eloisa James novel. Maybe that's why I feel such umbrage on Eleanor's behalf.  

Paperbacks may be a dying breed but romance/erotic novel covers are alive and well for the moment. The more Amazon polices literature based on it's cover the more we will be seeing the ambiguous covers. Take a moment to appreciate the cover of whatever book you are reading!

* * * *

While searching out the history of romance novel covers I didn't find anything terribly useful or interesting but I did find this thesis I'm currently reading on the Effects of Romance Novel Readership On Relationship Beliefs, Romantic Ideals and Relational Satisfaction.

 I wouldn't have honestly given it a second glance had it not been written by a woman so I'm giving it a go. 


Now I bid you ado with some Fabio!!



  1. I just HAD to comment on this post. I made me laugh and remember trying to hide those book covers from my friends. Nothing says trashy novel like a half naked heroine hanging over a muscle man. The mismatched cover is pet peeve. It sends the wrong message from the publisher to the reader. Its like they don't think we're smart enough to realise they don't match.

    1. I remember the days of hiding my book behind a book, or hoping it comes in hard back so I could take off the cover. Many a book were not taken to the doctors office.