Thursday, September 29, 2011

Unwrapping: Romance Covers

Do we really judge a book by its cover? Do we worry that others judge the book we are reading by its cover? Do we really care? Some of us might but we shouldn't.

Let's take a little trip through time and look at how covers have changed through the years since Avon, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishing began publishing modern romance as we know it today. Just as Romance novels have changed through time so have their covers.

Modern Romance came into its own with a beautiful novel by the Queen of Romance, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER, published in April of 1972. Yes, folks that's almost 40 years ago. Although Ms. Woodiwiss is no longer with us her extraordinary works still are, thank goodness.

I wish I could share the original cover with you but my copy is far too ravaged by time and handling to display well but I do have an original cover of SHANNA to show you.

          Soon after Ms. Woodiwiss began delighting us with her wonderful novels, another young writer came along to astound the readers with her talent, Johanna Lindsey.  In 1977, her first novel CAPTIVE BRIDE was published by Avon. Ms. Lindsey is no longer with Avon but we still love her work.  Would it surprise you to see the original cover is mild in comparison to today's covers just as Ms. Woodiwiss' cover was?

Mind you, these were probably considered racy in the 70's!

   As the years passed and critics began to call Romance Novels such things as 'bodice rippers' - something even my dear hubby likes to call them - in addition to denegrating name calling, they proclaimed them formulaic and predictable. None of this mattered to those in the know, the readers. The books may have been read in secret, only at home or on vacation where  no one knew the reader from Joe Schmo but they were being read -  by the millions!
By 1986, the covers were beginning to show the stress put on the industry and the covers became even tamer. Tamer! - you might be asking if they could they be any tamer.
An example of just how tame the covers became is Johanna Lindsey's

      How about that for tame? Mind you, it's a beautiful cover but we don't really buy the book for the cover, now do we? Or do we?  That has yet to be decided. The prose inside are what matter and this cover was much more respectable. Right? Well, hold on to your socks. A few years later, a model came on the scene who really shook things up when he became the model most desired to grace the next generation of Romance Novels.  Fabio!

     Now that's a cover! Johanna Lindsey's GENTLE ROGUE, the first of the Malory Series, published in 1990 featured Fabio and Romance covers had come into their own. Or so we thought. Although, Fabio graced many a cover depicting men of all type, within one short year, those tanned pecs and that long hair had been relegated to hiding beneath a flap that showed a demure cover. It's not that we mind but what's the difference really? [rolling eyes]  An example is Johanna Lindsey's PRISONER OF MY DESIRE published in 1991. It has a beautiful cover but the real eye candy is beneath the cover.

                                                              Turn the cover and ....

      Now tell me, please - what was wrong with this being on the cover for all to see?  [sigh]

      Over the years, covers have changed and evolved according to societal expectations, I suppose.  One has to wonder if the amazing covers featuring handsome desirable men had become distasteful or was it because the reader was embarrassed to be seen reading something with an incredibly handsome, usually bare-chested, man on the cover? 
      Covers today vary from subdued to downright sexy. I'm curious -  if you're passing a stand containing a collection of Romance Novels and you see one copy of GENTLE ROGUE bearing the cover shown above with Fabio gracing it and one copy of the same wonderful book bearing the cover shown here:

Which would you purchase?

Next time, we'll take a look at what kind of covers grace our shelves in the 21st Century.
Talk about needing a wrapping ...  Happy Reading!


Tracey said...

I LOVE THE COVERS!!! Bring them on, I brandish them proudly!!!

Amy Valentini said...

Hi Tracey! Hurray, another proud reader. Thanks for visiting and hope you'll come back often ... more covers and talk of romance to come. : )