As you might know if you’ve spent much time on my blog, I’m a big romance reader. But interestingly enough, I’ve never really cared much about romance covers. If I were to do a post all about cover love (like this one I did about books I read for the cover), it’d mostly feature YA or other fiction books, but definitely no romance. But there are a lot of gorgeous romance covers coming out lately, so I figured I’d share some of my newfound excitement with you!
If you’re interested in some of the history of romance covers, that isn’t what this post is about, but I’ve still got you covered. I recommend checking out The Steamy, Throbbing History of Romance Novel Covers over on Jezebel and The Origin of the Romance Novel Clinch Covers on BookRiot. I really enjoyed both reads and think they’re a great starting point for falling down the rabbit hole of romance novel cover history.
Anyways, there are a couple of things that inspired me to write this post. For one thing, I went to an upcoming release preview at KissCon where they had a bunch of absolutely stunning covers. Historically, I’d notice a pretty cover here and there (like A Rogue by Any Other Name and A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean), but generally didn’t pay much attention to them. I don’t hide them anymore like I did when I was a kid who didn’t want anyone to know I read romance, but I don’t advertise them or get excited about new covers. That’s been changing lately, though, and how could it not with this new slate of covers?!
I’m a massive fan of Alyssa Cole’s and I think the Reluctant Royals series has some of the most stunning covers. I especially love the colors and patterns of the heroines’ dresses and how they’re brought out in the background tone of the cover. And of course, who doesn’t love a classic clinch? It’s such a staple of the genre, and I love seeing it incorporated in different ways.
Seriously, I will never not be a sucker for a pretty, sweeping dress, which is why I love the cover of A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian so much even though I’m not sure the heroine would ever wear something like that. I also especially love the dresses and feel of the cover for A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian, plus how great is it seeing two women on the front of a romance cover? My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh is another one I love for the colors on the cover, especially since it does such an interesting job combining two gorgeous colors on one cover. And I kind of like the different font!
Speaking of gorgeous colors, I really love the soft color combo on the cover of Tessa Dare’s upcoming book, The Wallflower Wager (which is so good and you have to preorder!!). And it has another great clinch! Though the clinch on the cover of The Rogue of Fifth Avenue by Joanna Shupe is probably my favorite of all of these, and I especially love the blue and burgundy color combo. It makes for such a stunning cover! And last but not least, One Fine Duke by Lenora Bell also has an incredible cover. It’s another great clinch, and I especially like the field of daisies (which are relevant to the story!). It’s just so beautiful.
On the flip side, the other thing that inspired me to write this post is that I recently read and reviewed the Psy/Changeling series by Nalini Singh, and oh my but are those covers bad. I’m generally not a fan of the covers that are male-focused (give me a pretty dress or a good clinch any day), so I was never going to love these, but I especially hate the odd poses or claw marks or spots and things. It’s just so cringey to me, and the covers probably kept me from picking up this books a lot earlier than if they’d been almost anything else. If you’re a fan of these covers, though, I’d genuinely like to know what you like about them! I know publishers used those covers for a reason, but I’m not the target for them.
It’s interesting to me that with her new Psy/Changeling series, Singh is getting much different covers. I can’t say I especially like them either, but they’re a huge step up from the old ones. I appreciate the use of a single color on the whole cover and think the overlay of an outline of a couple on top of an image is kind of neat, but they’re not all that exciting to me. They just seem rather generic.
Now that I’m on the topic of covers, I also have some thoughts on the new trend towards illustrated covers that I want to share. I actually have really mixed feelings about them. They’re fun and a really smart marketing move to bring people into the genre who think they like rom coms but don’t like romance, but I can’t help but see them as a bit of a repudiation of the genre and its history. We shouldn’t have to trick people into reading romance! But if these covers get someone to pick up a romance that they might not have read with a more traditional clinch, isn’t that a good thing at the end of the day? To get more romance readers? Idk, it’s a tough thing for me. Plus they’re more expensive when they’re in trade paperback rather than mass market, which is definitely a bummer, and they don’t fit nicely on my shelves with my other romances. But as long as we don’t move completely away from the more traditional covers, I’m happy to have a mix of both.
Focusing more on the fun aspect, though, there are definitely a few that I want to call attention to because I’m a big fan! I think The Kiss Quotient might be my favorite of these types of covers. It’s such a great color combo, and the division symbol is such a fun nod to the story (and not something we often see on romance covers!). The Bride Test is a great cover, too, again drawing on a fun color and font combo with the fun airplane heart. I also love the cover for Red, White & Royal Blue and how the colors of the font match their words, especially against the pink backdrop. And the guys’ outfits and posture are great, and I like how they’re interacting with the title. Such a fun cover. And last but not least, I really like the cover for Get a Life, Chloe Brown. I like the font and the position of the couple, who are just too cute. It makes for another really fun cover. I’m also excited to see that we’re going to get at least one illustrated historical cover! Bringing Down the Duke is the only one I’ve seen so far, and I think it’s so fun! I love the big colorful font and the graphic color choices for the horse and riders.
I also wanted to flag an awesome fan made cover for The Soldier’s Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian that I saw on twitter. Major shoutout to Decoy Ocelot for this phenomenal cover! I love it so much more than the cover the book currently has.
Anyways, what are some of your favorite romance covers? Are you more likely to pick it up if it’s illustrated? Let me know in the comments!
6 thoughts on “Let’s Talk: Romance Covers”
I agree that the Reluctant Royals series has fantastic covers! Even with the novellas. I will say that I actually love the cover for Wolf Rain, though. I know it’s nothing special, but I just love the color so much. Haha. I do think the new Joanna Shupe has one of the most gorgeous covers though. That color combo! And the clinch pose. So cute! I really like the pose on the Blitzed by Alexa Martin cover too. It’s gorgeous. And I like the bright pink of The Right Swipe. Idk. Mixed feelings all around on trade romance cartoon cover paperbacks, but they are fun so I’ll give them that. Haha
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I think the color choices can make or break the new Psy Changeling books, actually, because you’re right that Wolf Rain has a great color, especially compared to Silver Silence and Ocean Light.
The Right Swipe is an interesting one because I LOVE the color combo and all the marketing that goes with it, but the cover itself is kind of underwhelming? But the art department really nailed it for Mia Sosa’s new cover, The Worst Best Man. I wrote this post before the cover was released or I would have for sure included that here!
I don’t hate the old P/C covers. The thing to keep in mind: the older paperback covers for the series are from over a decade ago*. Book covers in general have gone through multiple changes in the interim and romance covers have gone through even more cycles as the romance cover-type life span seems to move faster than publishing in general.
The thing about the original Slave to Sensation cover (purple man I think is what Nalini has often called it), Visions in Heat, and Caressed by Ice as well as the next several books in the series is they do their job to convey the books are (a) paranormal, as symbolized by the somewhat monochrome color scheme and (b) romance, per the man-chest covers. You don’t have to see Nalini’s name or read the blurb to know they are paranormal romance. Nowadays those things are conveyed by different types of cover art and colors because like all genres the cover style for paranormal romance has evolved in the past 12 years.
I think what confuses long-time readers about the new crop of cartoon covers is that we remember the last main batch of cartoon covers that were used to convey a book was Chick Lit which—more often than not—would have been classified as women’s fiction and not romance as they so often did not have a HEA. Whereas these newer covers are geared more toward readers who are new to the romance genre as a way to draw them in with cute covers they don’t have to be embarrassed to be seen with. So while a long-time reader may look at a cover and base their expectations on the older criteria and then has to stop and remember that is not what a cartoon cover means in today’s market. Our expectations are coming through that filter of over a decade ago. Whereas newer readers don’t have the previous “definition” of cartoon covers to bog them down.
What irks me is the way mainstream media fawn all over books with the cartoon covers but won’t give the “romance” type covers the time of day when these books are all easily classified as romance. But that’s a whole other topic.
While I am not a huge fan of the older covers in the P/C series, I actually like the ones for Slave for Sensation, Caressed by Ice, Blaze of Memory, and Bonds of Justice. But I have been reading romance since the early 80s and these don’t qualify as “bad.” To me, if you want bad you have to look as the early days of digital book publishers in the early 00s. The P/C covers have images recognizable as people and legible font so they automatically qualify as good in comparison – lol.
* the Slave to Sensation one shown above is from the 10 year anniversary reissue (2015/it was more the 10th anniversary of when the books sold then when it was first published in 2006). I actually prefer the original.
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Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed post!
That’s a really good point about how the Psy/Changeling covers do a good job indicating what type of book they are, and that the conventions for them are from more than a decade ago. I’m so new to them that I forget how long ago they were originally published! And I totally believe that they were better than a lot of other books on the market at the time.
And yes, as fun as some of the illustrated covers can be, there are a lot of issues surrounding the expectations of what kind of book you’re going to get with them, and I think publishing is going to have to come to a consensus on that soon or risk alienating a lot of readers. In addition to the issues surrounding their past connotation with chick lit/women’s fiction, I think a lot of people just expect a fun, light read with not that much explicit sex, and oftentimes that’s not what they’re getting despite the covers. It definitely reinforces how important covers are to readers when they’re picking up a new book.
Also, I completely agree with you on how irritating it is that the illustrated covers are seen as more socially acceptable than the traditional covers are! But agreed, that is definitely a rant for another day 😉
I like low key but colorful, where we can’t see the characters faces. The cartoonish ones can be charming but it’s a bit weird when you have some innocent-looking cover for a book that’s full of smut like Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey, lol.
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Yeah, I definitely think there are some issues with the expectations that the illustrated covers set, and what we’re actually finding in these books. It makes early reviews that much more important so people know for sure what they’re getting into.
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