Sunday, February 12, 2006

Covers: The good, the bad and the fugly

Covers are probably one of the major deciding factors that I use when buying books. Obviously the author, reviews and the back blurb also factor in, but a good cover is like icing on the cake (mmm, cake).

I’m pretty fussy when it comes to covers. I know what I like and I certainly know what I don’t like. I never vote in the Cover Contest over at AAR, because I usually find all the covers hideous LOL.

Historical Romances

I refuse to buy a historical novel with a clinch cover. Especially if the cover have any (or all) of the following:
  • A hero with a billowing shirt
  • A hero with a billowing shirt unbuttoned down his chest showing man titty
  • A hero with no billowing shirt at all
  • A heroine with a dress with sleeves falling down her arms
  • A heroine in a dress showing an alarming amount of boob (often it is difficult to decide who has the bigger tits, the heroine or the hero)
  • A heroine with long flowing locks that defy gravity and manage to float in the air around her
  • A hero and heroine in a decidedly uncomfortable pose
Which is why the books with these covers will probably not find their way onto my bookshelf.

1. Is it just me, or is the guy decidedly jaundiced looking?

2. No shirt? Check. Man titty? Check. Flowy locks on horse? Check.

3. There’s snow on the ground and it must be freezing, but that doesn’t stop our stalwart hero from discarding his shirt for a cape! And I love the fact that the heroine has a shoulder baring dress teamed with long gloves. You know, keeping your hands warm is so important, you don’t need to worry about your neck or anything.

I don’t like pastel covers with flowers or houses/gardens or pearls or stars either. Too bland, boring and generic. And pearl necklaces** have a different connotation for me so I snigger whenever I see a pearl necklace on a cover.

**It’s sex related.

The two covers below caught my attention because they are nicely coloured, well photographed and have a slight mysterious quality (it’s the headless thing I guess).

Romantic Suspense

I’ve noticed that the recent trend seen on many romantic suspense novels known as The Running Couple (TRC) has disappeared. Books by Suzanne Brockmann, Linda Howard and Iris Johansen usually have/had covers with TRC.

I’m glad to see TRC go, it was unimaginative, stock-standard and cliche. Now TRC is slowing being replaced by The Shadow Couple (TSC).

I really don’t like these covers either. It’s just a modern version of the clinch cover. I think they’re trying to portray a more atmospheric, moody, and therefore suspenseful feeling. But they just don’t work for me. I find them dull, wishy washy and (ha!) shadowy which is hard on my poor myopic eyes.

Contemporary Romance

I usually find that most contemporary romance covers either feature flowers or scenic views. Nora Roberts has really ugly covers that never work for me.

So twee. Yawn.

I like the covers below, they’re whimsical and fun, which is exactly what the stories are.

Chick Lit

Chick Lit books tend to have fun, quirky and cool covers. Though I’m over the cartoony covers, which I find are hit and miss.

Without knowing anything about the authors, or reading anything about these books, just from looking at the covers below, I’d buy these books.

The second one especially, looks hilarious.


Many paranormal books have covers that are darker, edgier (you know, to like mirror what’s inside LOL). I find a lot of paranormals have a male cover model. In the examples below, this is a bad thing.

The cover model on Dark Need looks too much for Tom Cruise for my liking. I don’t want to read a book where I’m constantly reminded the hero looks like a jumped-up little midget with a god complex. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s book features one of the least attractive men I’ve seen. And he has stringy and frizzy hair. Eeuw.

If you’re going to have a male model on the cover of a paranormal, let them be more along these lines...

The cover model on Master of the Night is one gorgeous man: strong face and luscious lips... lovely. The Helen Kirkman cover appeals because I’m intrigued by the tattoo and the medallion (and okay, I also appreciate a hunky chest LOL).

So, what are some of your cover loves and hates?

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26 comment(s):

Blogger Random Musings Of My Life said...

I agree with you as well about the romance novels. Actually to be honest I will not buy a romance novel period. They are all the same and after reading even one, all the stories seem to run together.
I too like the tattooed man/mysterious books with no face idea.
And the cover with the roller skates I would buy that one for sure.
I have added you guys to my links I love your site!

2/12/2006 03:15:00 AM  

Blogger Bawdy Babe said...

Gasp! Hummm Random Musings really glad you like the blog, but we are all avid romance readers, so I must take issue w/ your statement that all romance novels are alike.

While granted there are alot of cheesy romance books out there, there are also many, MANY good ones too. So I ask you please to keep an open mind in regards to the romance genre, cause there are lot of kick ass good books out there. Peace.

2/12/2006 09:33:00 AM  

Blogger jaxieknight said...

omg... I saw Sherrilyn Kenyon's book yesterday! Although I would have like to read what was inside, I have to agree with you with the guy. His eyes have it, but I am not a "no-wash, greasy" hair kinda gal.
I also love the tattoo on the guy of Kirkman's novel, but the necklace has to go... didn't they realize that us girls rather see the goods than some big medal hanging around his neck???
The books that will not find their way on my book shelves are those that have couples accompanied by some big horse. I don't think the jacket designers understand that a third party isn't necessary
just in time for vd (not the disease)
I found these books online that had me laughing so had I thought I would drop my laptop (apologies for anyone who bought them):
Bob thinks he knows how you can sexually enslave your man!

2/12/2006 10:00:00 AM  

Blogger Malicious Strumpet said...

Tart - you rock! :) The Sherrilyn Kenyon book is a really good read. But bad, bad, bad, bad, BAD cover art. But that's the way with most of her books, I find.

The thing about the hair is that it actually does factor into the book. But, if I'm not mistaken, Wren is a blond, not brunette as shown on this cover. That is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves about cover art. WHY do they always have to mess with the author's description of the guy.

I would prefer no faces on the cover. Despite your comment about pearl necklaces (GASP! I'll never be able to look at those covers the same way again!!), I prefer pearls and flowers to some people who look NOTHING like the characters described in the book (or, for that matter, the characters I've imagined).

Great article!

2/12/2006 10:59:00 AM  

Anonymous Ann said...

Random Musings, try romance! The Book Bitches have great recs. They've gotten me hooked on more than one author. They know their stuff.

Tart, LOL. You crack me up!
I won't read a book with ugly hero on cover. I can't concentrate if I can't get the cover image out of my head! I am a huge 'judge a book by the cover' kind of gal. If the cover is hideous I won't buy it unless it comes HIGHLY rec'd.
I'm with Malicious Strumpet, the less people on covers the better.

Great post!

2/12/2006 11:07:00 AM  

Blogger Bawdy Babe said...

Lordy Tart I wish you would write more often. You had me at mmmm cake. Funny, funny girl.

I can look past the cover and enjoy the book, but I know that thats not easy. Esp if you travel w/ a book and read in public. A great example of this Julia Quinn books, such a good writer, such bad covers. The only other time I felt uncomfortable w/ a cover was Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner, great book, but the title drew more than a few eyebrows.

2/12/2006 11:39:00 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tart, another great topic!

But you may have to forego your refusal to buy a "barechested" cover. Eloisa James TAMING OF THE DUKE cover has a gorgeous, barechesunderopenbillowing shirt and I think is extremely enticing:)

Check out Karen Marie Moning's covers, especially her SPELL OF THE HIGHLANDER. Positively delicious;)

I agree about these covers with a silly, half-naked couple, cavorting on the cover.

And who wants to sit on an airplane reading a book with that on the cover!


2/12/2006 12:08:00 PM  

Blogger Aviatrixt said...

I highly recommend anything Laurie Notaro writes (The Idiot Girls Series).

Love your blog. Really. I am book obsessed.

Drop by mine sometime!

And really, speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno (sp?) would be hotter if he got rid of that silly flavor saver on his chin. He's got some nice legs, though.

2/12/2006 12:29:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tart, I think your blog has a bit of an Andy Rooney flair,lol. Well done!!

Just wanted to add acouple thoughts:
I'm starting to prefer a cover with models in full period dress(historicals). We all know what a muscular chest look like, but put him in evening attire with his lady, showing just below the eyes
(Liz Ccarlye had a few) and you have a very sexy cover.

Contemporary covers don't do much for me, although SEPS MATCH ME... was very well-done. I look at the author and recs on these covers more than the artwork.

Have you noticed the mat finish they've been using lately? Nice.



2/12/2006 01:34:00 PM  

Blogger Random Musings Of My Life said...

Ok retraction to previous statement.
Please list ONE book and I will go out today and purchase said book and then review said book.
I can not say I have never read a romance novel, I look at the bookshelf and there is a Nora Roberts Time and Again book that I started and ..well..I started it so thats good right?
I love Nicholas Sparks and not just because "The Notebook" I enjoyed his books way before that. I just like the stories, some a little romantic, I think the idea that Love can happen any where and in any situation is magical.
I look forward to your recommendation.
And I promise to have an open mind as to not be banished from Book Bitches forever.

2/12/2006 03:45:00 PM  

Blogger SAM said...

"..jumped up little midget with a God complex.." LMAO!

2/12/2006 05:27:00 PM  

Blogger SAM said...

"..jumped up little midget with a God complex.." LMAO!

2/12/2006 05:28:00 PM  

Blogger are you asking me to dance? said...

Please list ONE book and I will go out today and purchase said book and then review said book.
That's a lot riding on one book ;-). And I suck at recommendations, especially when I'm only allowed to have one, but there are some great reads out there, after you've shuffled through the bad.

"The Notebook" - that's not a romance novel? I've only seen the movie, which I thought was overly sentimental and predicatble, and it looked an awful lot like a romance to me (though, there is the possiblity that it's on loosely based on the book, of course).

As for covers, I stay away from anything with half-nekkid people on them (I don't mind the boring covers at all *g*) or faces (with the exception of the PB of Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light, but it's a YA book). I've also been known to buy more than one copy of a book if I like the different covers (as in McKinley's Beauty).

2/12/2006 08:19:00 PM  

Blogger Tart said...

Hmm, I see I'm the only one that doesn't like those flowery, pastely, crappy covers LOL. Oh well, I'm contrary by nature :D

Oh man Miss Random, you've surely challenged us wee Book Bitches LOL.

Just one romance novel to read and review? I'll bet you $20 all four of us bitches will give you four different books LOL.

We need to work on a Romance Novel Conversion Kit and in it would be a few classic romance books that we think you'll love.

In my kit I think I'd have:

Judith McNaught - Something Wonderful & Almost Heaven

Judith Ivory (well, anything by her LOL)

Loretta Chase - Lord of Scoundrels

Jennifer Crusie - Bet Me

Susan Elizabeth Phillips - Heaven, Texas

2/12/2006 09:42:00 PM  

Blogger Vicious Trollop said...

I second all of tarts recs.

I would say:

Bet Me- Jennifer Crusie
Something Wonderful, Almost Heaven and PARADISE (my fave ever) by Judith Mcnaught
Heaven Texas and Lady be Good (my first romance) Susan E. Phillips

But I think we should take a vote, and give you just a top three (that will be sooo hard lol) Working on a post for this :D

RM, e-mail me at I have something for you :D

2/12/2006 09:51:00 PM  

Blogger Gina_Marie said...

I have to agree with most of your comments, Tart.

Let me see, what covers do I like? I have to say that I do like many of Nicolas Sparks' covers (although I have never read any of his books- I'll remedy this by picking up The Notebook). I have really liked the makeover of Judith McNaught's books. They look more... respectable if you will.

2/12/2006 11:09:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

OOOh, I was so curious to see what the bookbitches would rec!

I'm getting the JM recs tomorrow to see what I've been missing.

Hell, I've been reading romance forever and only in Nov discovered Jenny Crusie:)

You'll never go wrong with HEAVEN,TEXAS and LADY B GOOD!


2/12/2006 11:17:00 PM  

Blogger jaxieknight said...

Speaking of some hot covers...
OMG!!!! I was scurring around Amazon for some new vampire books to read.
Ok gals...
Go over and visit Amazon and let me know what you think of the covers:
Young Vampires in Love
Nibbles 'n' Bits
by Mardi Ballou

Maybe you'll even put them up on TBB site for all the gals to see!

2/13/2006 12:17:00 AM  

Blogger Grace said...

I completely agree with you about the covers. I tend to steer away from covers that have heroes/heroines half naked and hanging off each other. And sometimes I'm guilty of putting said book back onto the shelf because my dislike for it is that strong.

I remember when my friend Holly and I were talking about book covers some time ago, she mentioned a particular book by Nina Bangs. After seeing it's cover, I immediately told her that I wouldn't be caught dead reading that book in public. LOL. Here is a link to her book: Now you can probably see why I'd never buy that book. LOL. I know, I'm being very book cover fussy but I can't help it!

Personally, I far prefer books which have covers similiar to the last few that you've posted up, like JC's and SEP's books. Those are great and I wouldn't think twice about picking them up at the bookstore.

Vicious Trollop, I'm glad to see another fellow Paradise lover! I love love LOVE that book and love Matt Farrell even more. *dreamy sigh* The things I'd do to have a Matt for my very own..LOL.

2/13/2006 02:22:00 AM  

Blogger Harlot said...

Tart, excellent article! You know, i never really noticed The Running Couple and The Shadow Couple lol. You are so right. :P

RM, i second the Judith McNaught recs. My fave of hers are SOMETHING WONDERFUL (hist) and PARADISE (contemp). Also anything by Judith Ivory. Fantastic author.


Susan Elizabeth Phillips - IT HAD TO BE YOU and THIS HEART OF MINE :D

Are you asking me to dance? LOL Love your name! :P
Anyway, you mentioned J Donnelly. Have you read her novel THE TEA ROSE? Lovely book.

2/13/2006 07:32:00 AM  

Blogger Bawdy Babe said...

Book recommendations can be a little scary as really, its all so subjective, but these are a few of my favorite reads, in no particular order, which are all available at your local library:

Promise of Jenny Jones, Silver Lining, Prairie Moon, I Do I Do I Do, Wives of Bowie Stone by Maggie Osbourne

Courting Miss Hattie, Garters, The Love Charm, by Pamela Moresi

Hummingbird, The Gamble, Morning Glory, Small Town Girl, by LaVyrle Spencer

Open Season, Kill and Tell, Mr. Perfect, Game of Chance, Dream Man, After the Night, Shades of Twilight, Touch of Fire, Duncan’s Bride by Linda Howard

The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanowich

Crazy for You by Jennifer Cruise

Knock Me off My Feet, Take a Chance On Me by Susan Donovan

Heaven Texas, Lady Be Good, by SEP

Phantom Waltz by Catherine Anderson

The Lightkeeper, Home Before Dark, by Susan Wiggs

I do suggest however that you look up these books on Amazon and see which appeals to you most, as the books I mention vary greatly in the romance genre from American western to contemporary, thriller and comedy. Enjoy!

2/13/2006 11:48:00 AM  

Blogger Bawdy Babe said...

Oh good lord, how can I forget Judith Ivory! Sleeping Beauty is a classic. One of the best writers in romance.

2/13/2006 11:51:00 AM  

Anonymous jess said...

haha love your site..but i have to say that sherrilyn kenyons unleash the night is a great book. i totally agree with you on the historicals. i can't read a book with a cover like that :)

2/13/2006 09:06:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must tell you- rollerskating cover is a perfect match with the contents. Absolutely hilarious. In fact, your writing rather reminds me of Laurie Notaro's.

2/14/2006 10:14:00 PM  

Blogger Dog Phace Blue Hand said...

Banana Yoshimoto's covers are always intriguing. Why do we never see the cover of Sisters by Lynne Cheney?

2/19/2006 09:20:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heyy! ahah I love your sense of humour. I agree with you on all those bad covers.. they all scream CLICHE to me. Recently, I checked out the top 100 list on AAR, and saw Lord of Scoundrels as first. I would really like to read it.. but the cover turned me off so much! >_<" I am still eager to find it, but I do wish there was an alternative cover. xD

I really like the cover of Two Little Lies. =) And you know the cover of Gone With the Wind? The orange one with Macmillan Publishers. It has Rhett in an unbuttoned shirt, and Scarlett in a dress falling off her arms.. but somehow I really like it. ^^" It has a much different atmosphere to the three book covers you`ve mentioned above.

8/13/2006 05:00:00 AM