Judging books by their covers

Summer is by far my favorite season…until right about now, in the middle of July. It’s hot. My local pool is inevitably closed for maintenance. Everything seems to slow down. There’s a long, long slog to Labor Day and my next day off, and I definitely can’t afford a vacation. The air feels like soup when you walk outside. Hot soup. Have I mentioned that it’s hot?

Anyway, my point is that I don’t have much patience or energy at the moment for anything other than superhero movies, TV binges (currently: Star Trek Deep Space Nine and The Handmaid’s Tale, which I will finish) and very, very light reading. So it felt like a really good time for a very light sort of post. Let’s judge some covers!

I don’t know about you, but so far 2017 has seemed pretty excellent on the cover design front (which really means that 2016 was excellent, because these things take a while, but still…) I’ve been seeing a lot of new things that make my jaw drop. If I immediately want a print of a cover to frame and hang on my wall? Well, that is a damn good cover.

So let’s dive in!

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

This cover is just so happy. I haven’t had a chance to read When Dimple Met Rishi yet, but even if I didn’t know a word of the blurb copy, I would want to. It’s so bright, and cheery, and I really love the placement/typography of the title. I really, really, almost instinctively hate the color orange. I don’t know why, I just do. But this cover pulls off the impossible and makes me love orange. I can’t get enough of it.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Compared to the relatively spare cover above, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue has a ton going on. And I love it. You have the formal image of the protagonist contrasting with the loud, busy text and random doodles. It really gives you a good feel for what the tone of the book will be. I looks different than a lot of what’s out there right now (though I have a feeling over the next year or so we’ll be seeing more covers that look a lot like this.)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

By using blank space so brilliantly, The Hate U Give packs a punch with its central image. I have to admit that I didn’t understand the title until I saw it spelled out on this cover. It’s an image that almost forces you to look, to engage. And the book is brilliant, too.

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

I want to talk about An Extraordinary Union not because it’s a beautiful cover (although I think it is), but because I can see what the marketing department was trying to do. (At least, I think I can. Indulge me.)

So,  An Extraordinary Union is a romance novel, full stop. It follows a very typical romance novel structure–two characters, POV traded back and forth, Happily Ever After achieved, etc. But while there are all kinds of different romance covers, you tend to have certain expectations. The torrid embrace, the smoldering glances.

This? This looks like a mystery.

I think this was very deliberately chosen to appeal to readers outside the genre. By packaging it this way, it sort of gives permission for people who avoid romance or even denigrate it to pick it up. And maybe it will be a gateway into the genre for some of those people. And for that I kind of love it.

Also, by centering Elle, the image shines a spotlight on a character who has spent her life underestimated, sidelined, and stereotyped. It shows you that she is without a doubt the hero and the center of this story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Soldier’s Scoundrel, The Lawrence Browne Affair, and The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian

(I’m going to cheat a bit with a 2016 cover on here, don’t mind me)

While the above was all about wrapping a traditional romance in somewhat nontraditional packaging, the reason I love Cat Sebastian’s covers is that they are very traditional romance covers…with one obvious twist.

I read a fair amount of queer romance. Most of it is being self-published or put out by relatively small presses. And as a result, a lot of covers are hodgepodges of stock imagery. Now, that’s not to knock stock imagery. Some of those covers end up being quite good. But the quality definitely varies and doesn’t always match the book inside.

The reason that these covers immediately jumped out at me is that they are very much traditional romance covers. You have the embrace, the smolder. The painterly quality. This is very much how the popular consciousness “expects” romance novels to look, only the characters on the cover are all men. Which is not something I’ve seen any other publisher do, yet.

I also love that each cover has a very specific pop of mostly-solid background color the ground the image of the characters.

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

When I first saw this cover, I’m pretty sure I made a happy squeaking noise.

I haven’t read the book yet (it doesn’t come out until the end of August), but everything about this cover just screamed to me. From the thumbnail.

I’m still not entirely sure why. It’s got pretty much the elements you expect of a romance novel that we’ve already discussed. Skinny girl, floofy dress, half-clad hero. Embrace, smolder, yadda yadda. But I think it’s something about the colors, and the lighting that give a very specific feel to this cover. It’s soft and dreamy and, well, romantic. I kind of adore it.

So, that’s a rundown of some of my favorite recent covers. What are some of yours? What elements do you think we’ll start to see on the shelves over the next few months?

 

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