I really wanted to avoid writing this, but I can’t. I was so pleased that Mills and Boon/Harlequin took criticism onboard and decided to revise the titles and covers of their category lines.
In July, I went to the RNA Conference at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich. I really enjoyed it. During that conference, we got a preview of the new covers from Mills and Boon. No doubt they’ll find their way across the Atlantic sooner or later and morph into Harlequin. I sat in horror, staring at the screen, hoping that my reaction wasn’t typical. I love these books, they’ve given me hours of enjoyment but I’m really glad I read on my Kindle these days.
Almost every review I’ve done, I’ve commented on the titles, which I really disliked. “The Billionaire’s Pregnant Virgin’s dog,” or other, more preposterous titles. Couldn’t stand them, and sometimes they even contained spoilers. But the covers? I didn’t mind them, thought they were fine. Even enjoyed some of the buff male models who were holding the heroine tenderly in their arms. A little judicious airbrushing made them less realistic, more general.
Titles? So far, an improvement. Perhaps their title generator ran out of possibilities, or perhaps management realized that we are reading the books despite the titles, not because of them. But well done on reforming them, and thank you.
The new covers? I’m just glad I read my books mostly in digital format, because I don’t have to look at them. Honestly, they’re not good, at least, I don’t like them. I want to emphasize that I’m not discussing the contents here. Some of the books I’ve really enjoyed in the last month have had some hideous covers. If anything drives me away from print, this will be it.
Judge for yourself:
Give me the old covers back, please. Or at least the old pictures, the heroes and heroines in clinches, on beds, dancing, obsessed with each other, not with me. I want to be an observer, not a participant. Not these awkwardly posed, over made up people. I’m not interested in them, I want them to go away.
I quite like the dual idea in the Presents line, the little indication underneath of the story’s setting. And it provides a nice panel for the title and author’s name. But the main photographs, where do I start? The models all look like vacuous bimbos. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the actual models are nothing like that. But the poses they’re in and the way they’re often draped over the heroes, makes me squirm, especially since they’re not paying the poor guy any attention. Some are giving the camera arch looks and almost all of them are staring out of the cover, to the cameraman. No, they’re not looking at me, inviting me in. I don’t want to be invited anywhere by a woman. I’m hetero, and I want my heroine obsessed by the hero, not by me. The Modern covers are probably the worst, but then, that’s my favorite line, so maybe I’m biased. The woman on the cover above has, by the look of it, just discovered kohl and wants the world to know but in her excitement forgot about lipstick. She looks as if she’s just remembered that she’s left something in the oven. She doesn’t seem particularly enamored of the hero. She isn’t even looking at him.
That goes for the hero, too. I don’t like them, either, for the most part, because they don’t look as if they have any character. Just people dressed in something appropriate, in obvious poses. They’re often obscured, blurred, looking away or only part of their faces show. Are we supposed to identify with the heroine, and keep the hero as a creature of fantasy? I guess so, though I don’t identify with any of the heroines on the covers that I’ve seen so far. I tell you what. Just give me a picture of David Gandy in a state of undress, and I’ll be happy.
Seeing the features up close of the heroes and heroines is, for me, off-putting. Because in my mind, they might not look like that. I don’t want to superimpose the images I have in my head with the sharp, detailed pictures on the cover. No, my heroine doesn’t look like her, so who is she?
No more airbrushing, no more artistic skims over photos. I don’t like that, either. And I get the feeling, though I haven’t been able to find absolute confirmation, that they’ll be coming to the States, too. Harlequin won’t want the extra expense of producing two separate sets of photos.
There are a few other details. Farewell, Silhouette. Now we just have “Desire.” Although I haven’t seen the American versions yet. Such a shame, I think, because it kept that line separate from Modern and Modern Heat (Presents in the States). The covers are RED. Let me repeat that. They’re RED. You can’t miss them. They’ll leap off the shelf at you. But, sigh, the same kind of photos. But of all of them, I like them the best.
Historical – what history? A woman with modern makeup, wearing a modern bra, with hair that would have made a medieval knight withdraw in horror (unless the heroine is meant to be a prostitute-I haven’t read this one, but they were the only medieval heroines to let their hair flow free). Blaze has now gone black, which doesn’t really do it for me, even with the big red rose. It just doesn’t say “passion,” and the greyscale photo is positively twee. Intrigue has gone retro, by the look of this cover, and also very boring.
Colors are changing in some lines. Medical and Intrigue have different colors within the lines, but the logos are the same, i.e. the cross for the Medical stories and the circles for Intrigue. Cherish is a new line, which incorporates Romance and Special Moments – the less sexual lines. The heroine looks about forty (again, I haven’t read this one, so she might well be) but she’s in sharp focus, something I don’t like. At least they’re not staring at me, but I do wonder what they are looking at. Maybe a sports game? He looks a bit pained, so perhaps her team is beating his?
The Modern covers are probably the worst, but then, that’s my favorite line, so maybe I’m biased. The woman who has, by the look of it, just discovered kohl and wants the world to know but in her excitement forgot about lipstick, looks as if she’s just remembered that she’s left something in the oven. She doesn’t seem particularly enamored of the hero. She isn’t even looking at him.
These covers are begging for a caption competition.
I had a book out recently, and I love the cover. As it happens, it’s a genre that could just pass as a Mills and Boon – a contemporary romance with a larger than life hero and a feisty heroine. I love this cover, I have to admit.
An indication of the setting, a nice picture, not too detailed of the hero and heroine, who are heavily into each other, not into me, and a hint as to the hero’s dilemma (he’s had an eye operation that went wrong).
Anyway, covers are so subjective. So my opinion might not be yours, and part of this exercise is to find out what you think. My reaction is no, just no. But you might love them. Do you?
Lynne Connolly, http://lynneconnolly.com