Elmore Leonard said: I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ''full of rape and adverbs.''

Sunday, 2 December 2007


What's a girl to do?!

Two years after its debut, I'm considering picking up a Black Dagger Brotherhood book. I've been on a paranormal glut these last few months and think it's past time I experienced this much discussed series. Even though these days all I come across are bitter, disillusioned ex-Ward fans with dashed expectations and stony hearts, there must have been something there to stir such emotions, to cause such a backlash in the first place. Like Buffy after season 5. My anger and betrayal was that much greater because I loved everything before the travesty of season 6 so damned much.

JR Ward has four Black Dagger novels on AAR's recent top 100 poll. She has a string of decent reviews over at AAR and Dear Author. Sarah at Smart Bitches calls this stuff crack. At Teach Me Tonight, Sarah G Frantz mentions the BDB is her favorite paranormal series.

Perhaps I should stay away for my own peace of mind, but I'm hopelessly intrigued. I want to know what the fuss is about.

Which brings me to my current peeve.

The covers.

Over here in the UK, the books have been released with covers dissimilar to what I have come to associate with the series. I like the US covers (see above) and I particularly dislike the UK version. Take a look.

The UK covers are awful. Still don't believe me? Look again!

Unh. I prefer the US versions. They are bolder, more striking and relevant to what I imagine is the tone of the stories. I don't want to own six copies of the crappy UK editions. But in order to gratify my own fickle notions of what is right and good, I will have to pay significantly more to buy from the US (shipping is murderous). Am I being ridiculous? Are the differences minimal? Quite possibly.

In my quest to find better covers, I went to JR Ward's website. There, the German editions caught my eye. So much better!

As I dither and pontificate over what to do, I can't help but feel let down by my country. In the past, I've felt rather smug about our covers. Take Eloisa James for example. Where my US counterparts had to suffer the garish absurdity of this:
I could buy the infinitely more tasteful:
And poor Loretta Chase. Some of her covers are deadly. Look at the US Lord Perfect...
How civilized the UK cover looks by comparison!
It's maddening that something so very petty is going to take a huge chunk out of my (potential) enjoyment of the series. Also, not to beat a dead horse, but just why are romance novel covers so bad? I can't help thinking that the genre would be taken that much more seriously if the covers weren't quite so garish. It would certainly make the purchase of these novels easier for me.

Off to sulk.


Tumperkin said...

So with you on this. Another example is the Slightly series by Mary Balogh. Primary colours and garish lettering on the US covers; nineteenth century portraits on the UK ones.

I think the point you raise is actually quite an important one. You presumably experience the same as me: that a lot of romance novels you want to read are not available in UK bookshops at all. Is this in part because of the covers? Could be...

Meriam said...

Oh dear, you caught this whilst I was still figuring out the layout... it's really hard!

I don't know about the US, but I think some book stores in the UK harbour a certain snobbery towards romance that they don't to other genres. In my local Waterstones, whilst there is a sci-fi, fantasy and horror section, there isn't a separate romance area.

The library service I work with also has a superior (and possibly old fashioned) attitude to the genre. There are gaping holes in the romance stock. For example, we don't have any JR Wards - even though she is phenomenally popular, and paranormal romance is doing so well we would be guaranteed plenty of issues... shop talk!

Covers have a lot to do with it, imo. I've recently noticed my local library has bought new Foleys and new Baloghs, where before they had none. All with the aforementioned nineteenth century portrait covers. They look a great deal more 'respectable,' I guess.

RfP said...

I've always been lucky enough to live near a library well-stocked with romance. So I'm afraid my solution doesn't work for you. If a cover is hideous, I get the book from the library--and if I deem it a keeper, I spend the money on the more attractive edition.

Maybe there's an intermediate solution, though it's not perfect. Can you buy the first book in a cheaper local/used copy, and if you love it, treat yourself to the overseas edition?

That's very interesting that your local library has bought more "respectable" looking Foleys and Baloghs. I wonder if those purchases are due to the nicer covers, or if they're changing their policy toward romance. I know *I'm* choosy about covers, but I've never seen a library make those distinctions!

Kate R said...

One of my Laura Kinsale books had FABIO on it. FAAAABIOOOO.

That's sad.

Except I really want a good clinch cover for at least one of my books. The translations have them, but ooooo baby. I want the whole package: the hair flowing in opposite directions, bosoms--his and hers--heaving, heads thrown back, eyes closed. Then I'll know I'm a real rrrromance writer.

Meriam said...

The first real bodice ripper I read was Johanna Lindsey's Gentle Rogue - Fabio madness. Flowing tresses, heaving bosoms, man-titty galore. The works. I kind of loved it. Retrospectively.

RfP, my local library is not well stocked in the romance department. A load of categories and little else. I've been buying my romance for a looong time.

Nezha said...

I do find there is a lot of snobbery out there towards romance novels. In libraries and other places as well. I personally get moments when i'm really into them (i find it flows in cycles, lol)though i'm too embarrassed to admit this to anyone. I have a small collection of M&B that i keep well hidden away, lol.
Anyways, great blog and keep up the good work!

Meriam said...

Hi nezha. Are you in the UK? I want to make a huge generalisation and say that the UK has a bigger 'problem' with the romance genre than the US, as seen by the stunted content in libraries and bookshops, but to be honest I don't have enough evidence to back it up.

I started buying my romance novels pretty young because, other than categories, there wasn't much good stuff in the libraries nearest to me. No Kinsale, Chase, Stuart, SEP, Gaffney, Crusie (that's only changed in the last few years with regards to Crusie and SEP).

Who's your favourite M&B author? I'm thinking to try some.

Sherry Thomas said...

One of my Laura Kinsale books had FABIO on it. FAAAABIOOOO.

That's sad.

Only one? I have a whole trifecta of them. The Shadow and the Star, Flowers from the Storm, The Prince of Midnight.

Oh, Lord, what an improvement the UK version for Lord Perfect was. Had it been anyone else's name on the book, I would not even have picked it up. And even as a fan, I struggled with whether to take it home. It was just that fug.

Meriam said...

Oh, Lord, what an improvement the UK version for Lord Perfect was.

Want to know something terrible and sad, but true? I bought the US version. The UK edition was published at a later date and I couldn't wait that long. So, alas, I too own that bloody nightmare of a cover. It taunts me.

Good book, though. I might be the only person who preferred it to Mr Impossible.

Sherry Thomas said...

I too own that bloody nightmare of a cover. It taunts me.

The sad thing is, as terrible as that cover is, there's one that I hate even more: Captives of the Night.

Both are omg-my-eyes-are-bleeding awful, but whereas the man on the cover of Lord Perfect, over-oiled and stony-eyed he might be, could still pass for a lord--not the perfect kind, but rather the pox-ridden, fortune-wasting, maid-chasing kind--the creature who disgraces the cover of Captives of the Night, well, him is what we call trailer trash on this side of the pond. And not your ordinary trailer trash, but one with a meth lab AND a treasured collection of road kill recipes.

Oh, Loretta, what literary crimes did you commit in your previous life that you must be punished for them with such heinous covers in this lifetime?

Meriam said...

lol! On the other hand, you must have led a particularly unblemished existence: your cover is very pretty indeed.

Did you get any say in it? Or is it really just blind luck?

Sherry Thomas said...

That was total blind luck. I didn't even get a questionnaire about it.

I know. I always say in my previous life I was a pious virgin who gave up my purity to a rapacious lord to save my village. :-)

Jace said...

About the BDB UK covers ... my American reading buddy LOVES them but can't get them where she lives. So I bought her the first 3 books, as my bookstore brought in both US and UK editions. I myself prefer the UK covers too. ;)

Meriam said...

I myself prefer the UK covers too. ;)

Do you?! Even that green one? That one frightens me. Okay, I'm kidding, but I do much prefer the US covers. I don't know; they just seem cooler. I think it's because the clinch is less obvious, maybe? I am a bit prudish like that. Also, I like what they do with that sword/ dagger thing. It's a nice touch.

The German covers are very pretty, but quite possibly they lack some essential sexiness? In the aftermath of that debate on romance covers and marketing, I think I have a better appreciation of the value of a good clinch (although I still don't like it).

I ramble....

Jace said...

Ok, you got me ... the green one is awful, I admit. But 1 - 4 are nice. :) As I have access to either edition, I pick the nicer cover. *cackles* I'm still undecided about Lover Enshrined - well, I about 6 months to make up my mind. LOL