...Yes, this is still a blog about romance novels and to prove it, I'm going to go Covers Crazy.
As I might have mentioned here and there, I'm a huge Goodman fan ("ever since I picked up My Reckless Heart eight years ago..."). Like any self-respecting fan, I've made a concerted effort to read the Collected Works and, Goodman being obliging enough to have started out in the early 80s, that makes it a grand total of twenty-eight full length novels, with another due out in September.
Out of those twenty-eight, I've three left to read (Velvet Night, Violet Fire and Scarlett Lies - there's a whole topic on titles right there), and last week I bought these remaining books. Glancing over what I own already, I couldn't help but think how, over the course of a quarter of a century, Goodman's covers encapsulate the many make-overs and questionable face-lifts historical romance has endured as a genre.
From the traditional bodice ripper of the eighties and early nineties, I've picked some of my favourite examples
I don't know if it's the passing of time, or knowing what comes later, but I have a certain fondness for these covers. The garish colours, the shirtless hero with his wavy mane; the loosened bodice and heaving bosom... it's very old school. Also, say what you will, the covers had some relevance to the story: each of the above depict a scene, or a location in the book. Again, knowing what follows, I appreciate these little details.
Come the mid-nineties, something happens. I'd love to get my hand on that memo, because, half-way through the Dennhey Sister's series, the covers go BLAH.
It's like they vomited birds, flowers and ribbons all over the books and the result - whilst still garish - just becomes a little sad and uninspiring. I wonder what happened in this period to bring about the change - market research, re-branding the genre to move away from the now unpopular 'bodice-ripper' connotations? In any case, between 1994 and 2000, the covers are of this ilk.
Titles, too, change. So the first two Dennhey novels are tempestuously entitled Wild Sweet Ecstasy and Rogue's Mistress and the last three are sweeter - Forever in my Heart, Always in My Dreams, Only in My Arms (mid-series!)
The Hamilton Series in 2000 heralds another change. The front remains twee, but the back cover gets a makeover. The Clinch is back!
Wavy hair? Check! Bosom? Check! Canoodling? Check! Of course, it's a lot more tender and whimsical - less wind-blown-high-seas-adventure-with-forced-seduction and more rose-tinted-let's-make-gentle-love-and-talk-about-our-feelings. Still, there's a sense that change is afoot.
Which is why the next three are a puzzle. The first three books of Goodman's well received Compass Club series get some of the blandest covers I have ever had the privilege to own. And the last one - in a complete change of style, goes retro.
Note, the title changes too. I begin to wonder if Zebra gives a crap about consistency.
The next three books - 2005 onwards - though not part of an official series, are nonetheless connected in time period (regency), location and characters. The first two continue the latest full body clinch...
... but not the third (remember, same author, same publishing house, books linked by time, theme and characters)...
If His Kiss is Wicked, possibly Goodman's most successful book to date, has a cover that departs dramatically from those before it. We all know hot men sell, and this cover appears to have done the job. It's in keeping with a general trend I've noticed, one that either decapitates the heroine or cuts her out of the picture entirely.
You'd think Zebra would be sticking to a successful formula. Think again.
The Price of Desire is due out in September, and they've opted for the Headless Heroine.
The titles shift 'subtly' once again. 'Wicked,' 'Sinful', 'Forbidden:' from emo, we're moving onto something a little more sexy and dangerous.
Spanning almost twenty-five years, Goodman's books provide an interesting record of the trends the genre - and a publishing house in particular - have undergone in that time. It would be interesting to compare with the backlist of an Avon author, just to see if it follows the same general pattern, whether changing the look and tone of a series mid-way through it is normal, and what influences affected those changes.