You’ll have to excuse me, but I’m going to “lower the tone” a bit now and talk about male cover models. The topic is fresh in my mind, as I’ve just attended my first ever RT Booklovers Convention in Kansas City, Missouri – a very interesting experience!
In the 1980s when I first started buying historical romantic fiction, most of the ones I liked came from the US – Johanna Lindsey, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Shirlee Busbee, Catherine Coulter to name but a few. They all had covers with a couple in a clinch, the woman usually looking adoringly up at a bare-chested man (more often than not various versions of the model Fabio or his clones) and I became used to that. It didn’t bother me as I would have bought the books no matter what was on the outside, but I thought it was a trend which would quickly die out and be replaced with something else.
Not so – the half-naked men covers are still alive and well, particularly in the US where they seem to be the norm for a lot of romance genres. They just seem to be a bit edgier these days.
This was made clear to me at the RT Convention. The first things I saw upon arrival were lift doors with such book covers on them and key cards with a picture of a man’s naked torso. And a lot of the covers of books for sale during the convention (and in the goody bags) still featured men in various states of undress. Whether they were Regency rakes, cowboys or shapeshifters, none of them seemed to own a jacket, let alone a shirt!
In the UK, I hear a lot of disparaging remarks about these types of cover, but are they really so bad? Ok, they’re a bit clichéd, but then so are the “headless” Tudor women of the historical novels over here. They fulfil a function, which is to tell the reader what kind of book is inside the covers and I, for one, don’t mind having a bit of “eye candy” as a bonus. Granted, most of them are not my type and I prefer to use my own imagination to picture what the hero looks like. But very occasionally you come across one who really makes you sit up and take notice – that can be nice :-)
The RT Convention is known for its cover model pageants and for always having such men present. This year was no exception (apart from the fact that they didn’t have a pageant and most of them were a lot older than I had thought!) and they seemed like a nice bunch. Friendly, smiling, always willing to chat or have their photo taken, and happy to take part in anything the organisers asked of them. They took their duties seriously and were trying their best to make everyone enjoy the convention. They even dressed up for the Freaky Friday party and danced the night away with everyone else. And these days they seem to be very savvy – a couple of them had tables at a romance fair, offering their photos for sale to authors who are self-publishing. So not just the male equivalent of bimbos but businessmen as well!
So – love them or loathe them? I’d love your take on these covers, because it seems to me they are here to stay.