Covers Covered by Carol
The Romance Hero
March 11, 1999
I've heard comments from quite a few romance readers in response to the premiere issue of Covers Covered by Carol. Some of us have even exchanged cover images back and forth. As you might expect, there is wide disagreement over many issues when it comes to covers. However, there is one item that virtually all romance readers agree upon. They do not want to totally lose the images of people on the romance covers and, most especially, do not want to lose the image of the romance hero. Many, many readers are vehement on the subject of losing him and a beautiful him, at that! If you have any lingering doubts about whether the readers notice how good looking the romance hero is on the covers, put them to rest. Boy, do they notice!
From the determination that they wanted the hero, we moved into a discussion of how he should be represented. In this column I'll lay out some of the questions that came up since the last column about the depiction of romance heroes.
A Classic Portrait
Why can't the hero be shown as he is on the cover of Jane Ashford's The Bargain, where he is fully clothed and the image appears to be a beautiful portrait of him as might hang in his study? I liked this cover too and agreed with the reader that it solved embarrassment issues over carrying these covers around that readers have mentioned.
"Why does the heroine have to be depicted on covers at all?" asked many readers. After all, women readers get no thrill out of seeing another woman with her dress falling off. I did not hear from any male readers and I would suppose if there are any arguments to be made for the half-clad heroine, it would likely come from them. Some readers do, however, like having the heroine on the cover as long as the hero is also there taking up as much or more image space. I believe I found only one fan of their being in a clinch position and she admitted she read all of her books at home. Readers who carry their books around with them at the work place, or on public transit to work, object the most strenuously to the clinch cover. Most of these readers will compromise if given a stepback. It solves any embarrassment problem yet lets them have their "people" covers. This cover of Loretta Chase's Captives of the Night is a clinch cover, but at least the woman is not in a submissive position.
I expected to receive many comments about the covers of series romances, but only received one. That reader was satisfied with both the models and the covers and didn't agree with my assertion that covers for these books are reminiscent of Young Adult novels. I would like to hear from more of you about these covers. These covers always have either the hero alone; the hero and heroine together or a baby with some other combination.
I asked this reader whether she thought the sometimes controversial themes of series romances are in effect disguised by the innocuous covers. That might be the case, she said, but it doesn't bother her. To illustrate this point, look at this of Paula Detmer Riggs' A Perfect Hero.
This is a marvelous book which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, everyone on the cover - mother, father, and their triplets, are threatened by a neo-Nazi terrorist and his cult at large in a Pacific Northwest college town. The father is a government agent and the woman, an executive at the college, who gave birth to the triplets as an unwed mother. This is a prime example of a controversial storyline disguised by a cover that doesn't hint at the gravity of the plot.
A New Look
Although many readers, myself included, are pleased with the new covers Avon is putting on its contemporaries, they don't want to see the day arrive when the hero is eliminated from the cover of romance novels. They do not want this modern look to sweep the whole romance market and also feel they will get sick of them if they do. They very much appreciate Avon's spending the money though to give them some original, new images which they are currently enjoying very much (such as Susan Andersen's Be My Baby). Many readers will admit to buying some of the Avon contemporaries almost solely based on those new covers! They are just thrilled to be treated as if they are readers of intelligence and wit for a change.
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