Maggie Robinson

Jan 21
Cover Up

For every exquisite Candice Hern, Eloisa James or Lauren Willig book cover, there must be at least fifty cheesy clinch ones—a muscle-bound half-dressed guy in the snow with a wild-haired woman climbing him, her bodice falling tantalizingly toward her navel. I wonder where their mothers are to tell them to button up, it’s cold outside. You’ve all read people complain about covers and state their preferences on other boards and blogs, so this post isn’t going to be like that. Nor are we going to whine about the tacky titles, with sin and wicked paired with some peer. Well, maybe we will just a little.

We’re also going to laugh. Click onto this delightful site. Then come back to get serious. When I shop at Wal*Mart, I frequently turn books over in my cart so people can’t see what I’m reading. I am ashamed. In Wal*Mart ! Center of all things cheesy and tacky! I love romance, both reading and writing it. In order to indulge myself, I sometimes feel like I’m walking through fire. Why is my favorite genre marketed the way it is? It must work, because cheese and tack are almost all that’s on offer. So I grit my teeth and spend my $6.99.

Would men buy beer if the cans were covered with little pink elephants? No matter how tasty, I think not. But yet we’re forced the spend money on something we know is good but has “You are an idiot” written all over it. I venture to say there’s not another thing you purchase that assaults your dignity as much as a romance novel. If you can think of something, let me know.

I won’t say one word about e-book covers. At least nobody sees them but you.

Rant over. Here’s the burning cover question—bare chest or neatly tied cravat? Be honest. I’ll tell you I’d rather have the half-naked man if he’s standing alone. That way I know he’s all mine.

The cheese stands alone, the cheese stands alone, hi-ho the derry-o, the cheese stands alone.

No cheese at the Romantic Inks auction, just tasty romantic protein!

15 comments to “Cover Up”

  1. terrio
     · January 21st, 2008 at 12:50 am · Link

    For some reason I have never been embarrassed by book covers. I’m pretty sure I was the only girl carrying them around my Catholic HS and just never cared. But if I had to choose, I do think the neatly tied cravat just looks better.

    I also like the ones that don’t have people on them at all. Balogh’s and Garwoods are usually simple and tasteful with no silly clinches.

  2. Gillian Layne
     · January 21st, 2008 at 10:29 am · Link

    Long may Queen Mary rule!

    Those women look way, way up and arch their necks all the time cause then they have no double chins or chicken necks, don’t ya know…

  3. Elyssa Papa
     · January 21st, 2008 at 10:49 am · Link

    I say this: Bring back the man titty.

    I’m sick of covers with the woman’s naked or nearly naked back.

    And I like looking at the men on the cover… and then I grouse about how the male models are U-G-L-Y. I mean, have you seen those guys lately? They look like they’ve been hit by the ugly stick way too many times.

    Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn have had two tasteful covers for their last ones. I think it depends on what level of an author you are… though I wish the art department would listen more to what the authors wanted on their covers.

  4. TiffinaC
     · January 21st, 2008 at 1:11 pm · Link

    I just love nekkid men… I’m a perve! And the more nekkid…sigh… I do not like half dressed women on my covers, it screams lesbian, which I am not, if I was reading f/f I would expect two naked chicks in whatever position.

    If I can’t have hot nekkid man (I do wish they’d include ALL the bits on erotic covers (of a man, I don’t want to see some blown up boobs on a woman sheesh) then I like the covers to be pretty.

  5. Maggie Robinson
     · January 21st, 2008 at 2:43 pm · Link

    Terrio, you are fierce. I’m tucking my books underneath the Wonder Bread.

    Gillian,I know for me personally it’s time to start wearing turtlemecks full-time. Summer’s gonna be hell.

    Ely, isn’t it strange indeed when all the books have a similar cover? Most recently, the woman’s back, and then there are the all-blue and all-red men.

    Tiff, pretty is good, and very hard to come by. Naked is easier, but as Ely pointed out, some of the guys are butt-ugly, even if we only see their pecs.

  6. Janga
     · January 21st, 2008 at 3:26 pm · Link

    I hate, HATE, HATE the covers of most romance novels. I think they just confirm for many people all the worst stereotypes of romance novels. And perhaps I care too much about what people think, but I am embarrassed to go through checkout with some of the covers. Many of them I will not read outside of my home.

    Maybe they could put Tiff’s full frontal males on the stepback and something artistic or scenic on the cover and make everybody happy.:)

  7. Ladytink_534
     · January 21st, 2008 at 4:15 pm · Link

    I think the romance industry might finally be catching on because thankfully some of the newer covers I’ve seen aren’t so bad now. Take Brenda Joyce’s original covers for instance, they make some of those look tame! Now some of the old books are getting a new look and they are fabulous!

    I honestly think half of the reason the romance genre is ridiculed is because of the cover art.

    I don’t really care for the bare chests (especially the ones where the guys are really furry, blech!) nor the pole up their butt dressy ones either. I find I lean more toward the ones with abstract art or ones where you can’t see the faces.

  8. Maggie Robinson
     · January 21st, 2008 at 6:18 pm · Link

    Ladytink, Janga and I both hope you’re right! I do think there’s been some improvement. I love the fine art covers.

    Janga, I agree. We’ll get nothing but scorn until the covers don’t look like porn. Ooh, I’m rhyming and that’s your job, LOL.

  9. MsHellion
     · January 21st, 2008 at 9:45 pm · Link

    What runs a close second to the humiliation in buying cliche covered romances?


    The makers of feminine products whose catch phrase is now: HAVE A HAPPY PERIOD. Who have so many “types” of protection, they give Trojan a run for their money. Women are asked to choose the product with the right “symbol” in the corner: diamonds, clubs, hearts and spades. (What is this? Advertising for Texas Hold’em?)

    Never mind the “wings” which is the source of many and varied jokes.

    Would I rather go through a line buying books with mullet-mad marquesses on them? Or would I rather buy a package that says, “Have a Happy Period?”

    It’s a coin toss.

  10. MsHellion
     · January 21st, 2008 at 9:47 pm · Link

    Like Terri, I packed my books, cliche covered and all, all through high school. It never bothered me UNTIL some wretched boy would wrest the book away from me and start reading from the middle of the book, invariably finding the love scene and the “throbbing manhood”–my face would burn brighter than fireworks.

    Now I don’t blush at all. Now I just beat them with the book.

  11. Maggie Robinson
     · January 22nd, 2008 at 9:22 am · Link

    Hellion, have a happy period? Huh. Nigh on to impossible. I am envisioning you beating boys with books right now, and I like it. 🙂

  12. irisheyes
     · January 22nd, 2008 at 10:36 am · Link

    I HATE the typical half naked man romance covers also. I think they have a lot to do with why this genre is not taken seriously.

    I know we’re taught to not judge on appearances, but the honest truth is that we all do at times. And those covers just scream “this is worthless porn and there is nothing of substance in here!”

    I prefer the tasteful covers with scenery myself. And, Maggie, I go through the self check-out (but you still have to hide it under the wonder bread til you get it in the bag!)

  13. Maggie Robinson
     · January 22nd, 2008 at 10:49 am · Link

    LOL, Irish. My store in Maine doesn’t have self-checkout yet. And what does it say about me that I buy Wonder Bread? It’s my husband’s favorite, alas. I like crunchy grainy bread. Really, I do. Good, healthy stuff…just like romance novels!

  14. Tessa Dare
     · January 22nd, 2008 at 12:55 pm · Link

    You know, I think about this a lot lately, now that I’ll be getting some cover art of my own.

    It’s definitely true that covers with people draw my eye, both in stores and on my own shelf. Esp. the people with faces! I actually love a good clinchy stepback – it’s the best of both worlds, IMO. You get the sexy scene inside and the tasteful cover for the world to see. For example, I love the stepback for Beware a Scot’s Revenge, by Sabrina Jeffries. It’s depicts an actual scene from the book, and it’s gorgeous. I think EJ’s Affair had a fab cover too – the ornate costumes on the outside, the blowsy-hair passion on the inside…which made sense, considering that scene with the hair.

    I don’t know…I used to run from the clinches, but I’ve learned to appreciate the good ones. The best clinches give me a sense of the h/h in their setting, a starting place for my own imagination. What bugs me to no end is when the clinch models bear absolutely no resemblance to the characters, though.

    I used to be embarrassed by them, because they’re such a declaration to the world: “I READ BOOKS ABOUT LOVE AND SEX.” But lately, my thoughts are more like, “Yeah. I do read books about love and sex. Love and sex are important to me. Deal with it.”

    But some are just… beyond tasteless and into laughable.

  15. Maggie Robinson
     · January 22nd, 2008 at 7:22 pm · Link

    Very insightful, Tessa. I can’t wait to see your covers! I know you’ll keep us posted as to how that progresses.

    I agree, step-backs are great. I don’t mind clinches too much as long as there’s not climbing or excessive dishabille. I thought The Devil in Winter clinch was awful because the female model absolutely did not look like Evie (a drag queen, maybe). And when they can’t even get the hair color right in some artwork, it’s sad.