The Cover Judge

I’m a put the cart before the horse kind of gal in my obsessive need to preplan everything, so when I say to you that I’ve spent hours dreaming about what my cover will look like for the book I haven’t finished yet, know that I’m telling the truth. For as procedural as I can be, there’s something magical about the idea of my name on a cover.

But I’ve got very particular ideas about what kind of cover I want. It’s that thought that has led me to consider self-publishing, for the freedom in being able to make those decisions for yourself. I love what is known in the romance community as the “clinch,” a couple together in a compromising position. The sumptuous fabrics on the woman’s half-off clothing and the sheer romance of it all, there’s nothing better.

While I might not choose every book based on its cover, it does make a difference in the method of delivery I choose. For anything outside of the genre I write in–regency romances–I’ll automatically buy it in Kindle unless I’m desperately in love with the cover (Divergent, I’m looking at you). But for regency romances, the covers are usually so perfectly scrumptious that I’ve now expanded to three half-shelf bookcases just to fit all of the paperbacks. There’s something so utterly tangible and wonderful about a new paperback romance novel.

Last year was what I’d consider one of the best years for romance novels. For me, it was when I really started to immerse myself in the genre of modern romance, devouring every modern regency I could get my hands on. I read across the specter too with paranormal and suspense, but 9 times out of 10 I’d go for the romance. I was learning how to become a better writer–as I’ll always be learning–and there were certain covers that made me feel inspired to write just by looking at them.

So without further ado, I bring you my top 5 Historical Romance Covers for 2012.

Forever a Lord

Harlequin, December 18th

  I. Delilah Marvelle – Forever a Lord

I was already a huge fan of Delilah’s writing after reading Forever and a Day, but when I saw the cover for Forever a Lord I knew that this was one that not only did I need it in paperback, but I couldn’t wait around to buy it from used and risk damage to the spine. Harlequin is known for their excellent historical romance covers, and Forever a Lord is no exception.

For starters, the rich colors on this cover are visually pleasing. The orange of Imogene’s dress compliments well with her golden hair and the gold of the wall. It’s almost baroque looking in the background, elaborate yet elegant. I love the pose of the hero and heroine, with him lifting her up in his arms and the spiral staircase in the background. The details are exquisite and suit Delilah’s writing style.

One of the most important things in a cover is how well it compliments the characters at hand. As Delilah’s story is billed as one of redemption–quiet, sweet Imogene teaches bareknuckle boxer Nathaniel that he can put aside his demons and be loved–the combination of softness and strength is perfect. She’s in his arms, protected from the world around her, looking at him with such love in her eyes.

II.  Jillian Stone – An Affair with Mr. Kennedy


Pocket Books, January 31st

I love this cover so much that as I was typing this post, I had to order the book in paperback from Amazon. That’s the definition of a good cover! Jillian Stone’s series is billed as a sensual, mysterious look into the dashing and dangerous world of Scotland Yard. The intrigue is high and the unconventional characters battle tough stakes before reaching their happily ever after.

Stone’s cover conveys that and more. The hero has his hand on her waist and the distance between them is so miniscule you can practically feel the heat between them. The heroine’s pink, ornate dress is an exquisite compliment to his polished, debonair suit. There’s a storm brewing in the distance and the brick wall the heroine leans against speaks of downtown London.

Everything about this cover screams suspense and romance. It’s wonderful, and I hope that some day I have just as great of a cover for my own historical romantic suspense novel.


Pocket Books, September 18th

III. Karen Hawkins – How to Capture a Countess

If you know me at all, then it should be no secret why I love this cover. There’s pink AND shoes front and center! I saw this book in Target when I was already over my book budget in September (when I actually believed in crazy things like budgets for books) and experienced an extreme moment of book lust.

Imagine my excitement when I managed to snag a free copy of it at the Fall into Romance Festival. This book sits at the top of my to-be-read list. I’ve not yet read Karen Hawkins,  but if I were going to base on the cover alone then I’d be certain to buy. The appeal of this cover, outside of those elements that I intrinsically adore, is the sheer cuteness of it. From her surprised face to his intense look, it’s all over adorable. It’s a sort of clinch position with his hand on her leg, but it’s unusual in that instead of reaching for the closures of her dress, etc, he seems to be rubbing her foot. Her one shoe is on the ground. I love this pose because it is the hero trying to do something sweet for her. I think it works with the “battle of the sexes” thing that Hawkins has going on, because it’s them in an intimate moment and the feelings between them are obvious.

Clearly, he doesn’t need help learning how to capture a countess.


Avon, June 26th

IV. Katharine Ashe – How to Be a Proper Lady

There are so many great things about this cover that it’s hard to know where to start. It is of course visually stimulating, with that lovely bit of man chest on display. The pastel color scheme pops and is very romancey. Everything is pretty and pleasing to look at.

But what I really love about this cover is the daring nature of the heroine. The emphasis is all on her–she’s the one who gets her eyes displayed, an actual face to the model. She’s whispering something sinful in his ear, with no sense of shame. Instead of it being the usual clinch position with the woman’s clothes being removed, the heroine is actually removing the hero’s shirt. We don’t see that often in romance novel covers and it really fits with the theme of the book. Viola is fighting against society’s dictates, and it’s fitting that she’d get a cover that showcases her rebelliousness.

Katharine Ashe’s heroines are bold and fierce. Of all of her covers, I think this is the most fitting tribute to her style.


St. Martin’s Press, September 25th

V. Valerie Bowman – Secrets of a Wedding Night

Sexy, funny and sweet, Valerie Bowman’s writing deserves a cover that is all of those things. Her debut novel Secrets of a Wedding Night hits all of those qualities and then some. The gorgeous background is eye-catching, the midnight blue hinting at the fateful night in which the well-guarded wedding night mysteries shall all be revealed to women. The white script font, dipping down to touch the hero like the soft brush of his lover’s lips, is feminine but attention-getting. I love St. Martin’s covers because they tend to use more unusual typefaces and don’t all look the same.

On that note, it is the attention to detail that really sold me on this cover. The dress looks period-accurate, with the empire waist and long flowing gown. I like that it isn’t overwrought with unneeded extravagance–the beauty of the cover is allowed to stand on its own. That makes little embellishments like the garter on the heroine’s leg stand out more. The clinch position is here–as in all the covers I’ve highlighted–but it’s more of a sweet nature hinting at what’s to come.

We were very lucky to have Valerie Bowman visit the Tearoom last year. You can check out her interview here .

Do you have a favorite cover for 2012? Share it with me below!


24 thoughts on “The Cover Judge

  1. Great post Erica. And lovely covers! For me, while I like pretty sexy covers, they aren’t the most important factor in making a decision of whether or not to buy a book. But I totally understand the impulse to have a particularly lovely cover is paperback so you can ogle them. 🙂 Some of my favs? Maya Rodale’s Tattooed Duke,

    Tessa Dare’s A Week To Be Wicked, and Carrie Lofty’s Starlight

    They are all so pretty!!! 🙂

    • Carrie Lofty’s Flawless cover almost made the cut until I realized it was 2011. I LOVE the covers for her books but neither are clinches so I didn’t include Starlight. It’s so beautiful though.

      Maya Rodale always has amazing covers. I can’t think of a single one of her covers I haven’t loved.

  2. Oh, they’re all beautiful aren’t they? (I can say that b/c I didn’t design my cover, the wonderful artists at St. Martin’s Press [cover artist: Danielle Fiorella] did it!) I also really loved the cover of Manda Collins’ How to Dance with a Duke!

    • I liked Manda Collins’ cover, but I felt like it didn’t have much to do with the book in itself–kind of like how yours has the garter on it to signify a wedding. But it was still pretty!

      St. Martin’s has such nice covers.

  3. Erica you pegged the big ones I would have taken too and Lisa, I agree. But no one has posted any of the good highlander cover art. What about Jennifer Ashley’s The Seduction of Elliott McBride?

    I’m also quite fond of Meredith Duran’s cover for At Your Pleasure:

    • I’m not a big fan of the “man with chest” covers. Not sure why, you’d think I’d love ogling him.
      Meredith Duran has AWESOME covers (and equally awesome writing). At Your Pleasure is gorgeous and it’s an example of my second favorite pose–the lady sitting seductively.

  4. I have to admit I’m not a big fan of clinch covers, but then I started reading romance in the 80s when they clinches mostly involved Fabio and fuchsia color schemes. In fact, I specifically asked not to have a clinch cover, and I’m really happy with the result. I do like the covers you picked out for this post, though. They’re sexy without being embarrassing. Here’s one cover from this year that I really like:

  5. I haven’t read any of the books you cited (I’ll have to remedy that), but something about the cover of An Affair with Mr. Kennedy just grabs me! My favorite to date, though, is very simple…but I can’t seem to figure out how to post it. Another time, then 🙂

  6. Thank you for your post, Erica. I too dig romance cover art. Among your faves, the one I like best is the cover of “Forever a Lord”. Plenty of drama for us drama queens!

    Two other outstanding 2012 covers: “Her New Year’s Fortune” by Allison Leigh, Harlequin Special Edition; and “Ready for Her Close-Up” by Katherine Garbera, Harlequin Desire.

    Of course, I go for covers in which there’s a lot going on. But I also like other kinds. All I ask is that the cover art convey honestly what the book is about, and that we can see all of the models’ heads.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. These are the the covers that lured me to new historical romance after I read all of the books in my local library:

    Sexy! 😉

    I also hunted down used copies of these two titles after Pocket reissued them with traditional clinches. Moody, sensual, and elegant!

  8. I have to say that after the title, the cover’s art (even before knowing the author) is a big deciding factor on whether or not I read a book. I really like saucy, risqué, intriguing titles, since that’s what usually grabs my attention and compels me to pick a book up, so if the cover art is not as empowering as the title, I tend to skip over it pretty quickly. Which I’m sure I’ve passed up a lot of very good books by doing so!

    If anyone knows me, they’ll know that I’m a bit of a softie for historical fictions with a bit of science-fiction twist to them.. which is why Lucy Weston’s The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer, certainly snagged my attention. (I’m fascinated by the Tudor family, as well!) I took one glance at the cover of it and I didn’t hesitate on buying it:

    And then I was also on my way to Kentucky earlier and we had a layover in Dallas that was INCREDIBLY long. Some goober (me) didn’t bring anything to read for the flight, and after an excruciatingly boring flight from Houston to Dallas– though thankfully relatively short– where I literally sat watching the wall of the bulkhead in front of me, I decided I was going to hunt down a book in the Dallas airport. Much to my luck, there was a nifty bookstore with books that seemed to have been released not too long before, and I managed to drag my Mom over to the store with me. Of course, when I pack to go somewhere, I cannot pack lightly. (It’s out of the question! I take about 4x the amount of clothes needed, just in case I have to go somewhere fancy, in case I decide to wear a different shirt, etc.) Mom was moaning and groaning about me picking up these hard-backed books because eventually she would be the one to lug them all around, as it’s hard for me to manage a wheelchair and luggage at the same time. She had the brilliant idea of scoping out the books, then buying them on my iPad for me to read on the plane. I read on my iPad all the time, but for some reason it didn’t click in my mind as to how great of an idea that was, as it’s always habit for me to carry an actual book during flights in the past. That was what led me to Venom, by Fiona Paul. It seemed really mysterious, and the cover was gorgeous!

    • The Venom cover is gorgeous! I love covers that feature masks, like Robyn DeHart’s new Entangled release A Little Bit Wicked.
      Lynn Shepherd’s the Solitary House (the US version at least) has a similar scroll like the Elizabeth Tudor one. The colors on both that you posted are very rich and completely draw your eye to it.

  9. I like the cover of SHannon Stacey’s All He Ever Needed. In general I think Carina Press has some wonderful covers.

  10. Pingback: Romance Book Club: McKettricks of Texas: Austin

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