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Available May 2011
Mary Jo Putney's riveting Lost Lords series unleashes a high stakes royal plot—which may prove easier for Damian Mackenzie to handle than his own unruly desire...
He's a bastard and a gambler and society's favorite reprobate. But to Lady Kiri Lawford he's a hero—braver than the smugglers he rescues her from, more honorable than any lord she's ever met, and far more attractive than any man has a right to be. How can she not fall in love. . .?
But Damian Mackenzie has secrets that leave no room in his life for courting high-born young ladies—especially not the sister of one of his oldest friends. Yet when Kiri's quick thinking reveals a deadly threat to England's crown, Damian learns that she is nowhere near as prim and respectable as he first assumed...and the lady is far more alluring than any man can resist...
Praise for Loving a Lost Lord
"Intoxicating, romantic and utterly ravishing..." —Eloisa James
"Entrancing characters and a superb plotline. . ." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Will leave readers smiling, breathless, and anxiously awaiting the next adventure. . ." —Library Journal, starred review
"Romance at its best!" —Julia Quinn
They’re here! Romance fiction cover art has been invaded by hordes of headless heroes and heroines. All we see of the ladies are their torsos and limbs, usually clad in elegant gowns. As for the men, they come in two styles: shirt on and shirt off.
But what you won’t see are their faces, or at least their eyes. The top edge of the book cover chops these figures off at the neck, mouth, or nose. If not that, then we can’t see their faces because of positioning or shadows.
This trend has become so common that with some romance publishers and imprints, it’s difficult if not impossible to find cover figures with their heads intact. Why?
It seems rather counter-intuitive. In taking pictures with cameras, we’re warned not to leave off the tops of our subjects’ heads---let alone part or all of their faces. If we do, it means we need to aim better.
In portraiture---in photography, paint, or another medium---we’re told that an important objective, perhaps the most important one, is to reveal character, personality, attitude, emotion. How can we do that if we can’t see the figures’ faces? Especially the most revealing part, their eyes.
What’s more, to many romance readers---including, surprise surprise, yours truly---this trend seems creepy, ugly. A big turnoff. A major fail.
Okay, those are the cons. What are the pros?
To the best of my knowledge, romance publishers and their art departments haven’t discussed the matter with potential customers. But one point is glaringly obvious.
Cover art isn’t designed to please the eyes of readers, or anyone else. It’s designed to sell the books.
How do headless cover figures carry out that purpose? In discussing this topic on various websites and blogs, I’ve noticed that two ideas keep popping up.
One goes like this: If the faces, or at least the eyes, are missing, readers must use their imaginations to fill in the blank. A book buyer can picture a headless hero as the man of her dreams. The headless heroine, of course, becomes the buyer herself. She can custom tailor the cover art to fit her romantic fantasies.
By implication, she can do the same to the whole book. The boundary between the fantasy of fiction and the reader’s reality becomes thinner, more permeable. This is a trend we see in various pop cultural media, genres, and formats.
The second rationale is: If a buyer can’t see the emotions of the cover figures, she can’t be turned off by emotions that aren’t conducive to her selecting the book at the moment she sees the cover. If, say, she’s feeling down, and is in no mood for fun, a happy couple would cause her to give the book a pass. She’s looking for cover figures whose mindsets mirror her own.
Alternately, another buyer in the same state of depression might want to read something that will lift her out of it. She’s not interested in gloomy cover figures. A happy couple would be just what the doctor ordered.
But if both buyers can’t see the cover figures’ faces, they must provide the emotions on their own. The first can envision a man and a woman in a tense, sullen, dramatic mood---like her own. She’ll buy the book.
Likewise, the second buyer will envision a couple with smiles, even laughter, in a cheerful mood---unlike her own. She’ll buy the book.
If the artist had shown the figures’ faces in either mood, the publisher would make only one of these two sales. By rendering the figures inscrutable, it makes both.
In short, headless romance cover art makes great business sense.
But I still hate it!
Now let’s turn the discussion over to you. What do you think about this trend? Love it? Hate it? Both? Neither? Can you can think of a reason for or against it that I haven’t covered?
You’re welcome to state whatever you feel about this topic. Thanks!
Mary Anne Landers
I’ve been thinking a lot about romance genres lately, especially my own reading habits and how I tend to “binge read” in certain genres. I’ve been on a real tear for the past year or two, reading loads of historical romances, especially those set in Great Britain. Most of these books are set in the Regency period because that’s what is popular in publishing right now, but I’m not tied to one particular period in terms of my reading habits. I’ve always held a fondness for books set in England, being a true Anglophile, but I’m starting to wonder if I’ve reached a saturation point with Regency historicals.
Don’t get me wrong: there are more wonderfully written Regencies being published than I will ever manage to read in my lifetime, and I’m sure that several dozen will make it onto my must-read list as long as they are being published. But I’m becoming just the slightest bit bored with ballrooms, London, the ton and handsome dukes/earls/ne’er do wells. No, I’ll take that back – I don’t think I’ll ever be bored with handsome dukes/earls and especially the ne’er do wells! And well-written Regency novels will probably always keep me up late into the night turning pages as fast as I can read them.
This whole train of thought reminds me of my eldest son and his cereal choices (bear with me here!). Son #1 would establish a favorite cereal and eat only that for breakfast for weeks, even months at a time. Savvy mom that I am, I’d stock up when that cereal was on sale, cashing in coupons with a self-satisfied pat on my back about the money I was saving and the well-stocked pantry I was creating. This was all well and good, but at some point, this same son would announce that he was now indeed tired of this cereal and had switched to a new favorite. Argh! Sometimes the rest of the family would still eat the cereal, other times our local food banks benefitted from his change of favorites.
This brings me to my original thought, believe it or not! I have stacks of unread Regencies on my bookshelves, and several dozen downloaded on my e-reader, yet there have been times lately when I’ve longed for something different. I have several paper and electronic books on my to-read list that are not Regencies, and that has been where my mind has been drifting lately. Switching back and forth between genres will break up the monotony, and will certainly help motivate me to get more books off my shelves.
I’m excited to see that the romance novel publishing world is talking about the return of the historical western romance. That’s another favorite genre of mine, including authors such as Dorothy Garlock, Linda Lael Miller, Lorraine Heath and many others. Several summers ago, I won a huge box of historical westerns on eBay and spent the summer binge-reading books with covers featuring fierce looking Native American warriors clutching gorgeous women, or gun-toting lawmen doing the same. I’m happy to see new historical western titles starting to pop up in our Eye on Romance database, and plan to start adding them to my to-read and review list. Just as soon as I finish all those Regencies!
Romance readers are everywhere! Publishing industry statistics indicate that the market for romance novels is thriving, and is, in fact, the fastest and largest growing segment in publishing. This is great news for fans of the genre, as it should mean that we will have more new authors, new books, new series and new delivery mechanisms to ensure that our thirst for the next great novel for the keeper shelf will be satisfied.
With the popularity of e-readers increasing daily, it’s a little harder to “see” what people are reading these days when you are in a public place. I’ve recently travelled cross country, spending time in airports on both coasts, and noticed that many people were reading on their e-readers or Ipads, and some with better eyesight than I were even reading on their Iphones. Because it was a red-eye flight, most people plugged into their Ipods or the on-flight system and slept, but I listened to the lovely voice of Richard Armitage reading a Georgette Heyer novel. What better way to spend 5 hours in the sky?
While I am travelling, I spent time with my daughter who is in grad school in New Jersey. She plays piano for a Lutheran church not far from her school, and I accompanied her to services last Sunday. Between the two services, I sat in the fellowship hall drinking coffee and keeping quietly to myself. A group of ladies 15-20 years older than I sat next to me, and I couldn’t help but hear their conversation. It concerned the casting for the movie based on Janet Evanovich’s highly successful “Stephanie Plum” series, and I leaned over and answered their question, telling them that Katherine Heigl had been cast in the role of Stephanie.
After a few moments of debate about Heigl’s suitability for the role, the discussion quieted down. I couldn’t resist the temptation, and leaned back over to ask *the* question about the series: “Ranger” or “Joe.” For those unfamiliar with the series, Stephanie has two love interests, both very different, both very sexy and appealing. The group of grandmas twittered, laughing nervously, but one looked right at me and said confidently “Ranger.” “Me, too” I replied, and we laughed. The others joined in with their preference, and we joked for a few moments longer before they got up to go home to Sunday dinners and family afternoons.
You see? Romance readers are everywhere, even in coffee fellowship halls in Lutheran churches in southwestern New Jersey!