Romance Novel Covers: An art and a science

Image: RT Bookreviews

Image: RT Bookreviews

I just stumbled upon two awesome articles from Publisher’s Weekly on the topic of romance covers, plus an article shared by Katherine Ashe that appeared in Women’s Health Magazine.

For those interested in the branding and marketing that goes into the design and selection of a romance novel cover, Anatomy of a Cover: Romance Novels 2015-2016 is a great read. It covers several different romance publishers as well as their process as to how they arrive at the strategy and final decision for covers…ultimately, what will sell as well as make the author happy. They also touch a bit on author personal branding, which I found incredibly interesting.

Body of Work: Romance Novels 2015-2016, another Publisher’s Weekly article, looks closer at the actual process of the cover artwork – from casting requirements to model chemistry to what to expect at the photo shoot. They talk with romance cover photographers and I thought the story about how one of the male models landed the gig (it involves nuzzling) was absolutely adorable and captures the essence of why we all love romance.

Katherine Ashe also posted a photo to her Facebook page after being interviewed by Women’s Health Magazine on the importance as well as the recent changes of the romance novel cover.

And since we’re covering all things romance covers, RT Bookreviews just posted a cover breakdown of Lisa Kleypas’s Marrying Winterbourne, her next book. I can’t even begin to describe how much I am looking forward to this book…I think it promises to be better than the previous book in the series. Fingers crossed!

No matter how you approach romance covers – it’s clear that a lot goes into creating a memorable masterpiece that captures the heart of the love story and the loins of the reader. Have a favorite romance novel cover? Share in the comments below and tell me why!

 

Romance Authors Expand Their Story Worlds

Hi readers! It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write, lots of great things brewing over here. However, I received two amazing email updates from some of my favorite authors and just had to share!

Lady Bridget's DiaryThe first comes from Maya Rodale, who is launching a new series with the first book, Lady Bridget’s Diary, coming out in February. I can’t wait! I’ve written about how Rodale has incorporated transmedia elements into her writing and previous series and it looks like she’ll continue to do that with this new series. So for those of you who love to live in the world of your favorite characters, you are in for a real treat!

As part of her recent newsletter she shared the latest edition of the London Weekly, her fictional regency newspaper, which includes the juiciest tidbits teasing her new book and series. It’s a fun, quick read that will leave you rubbing your hands together in greedy anticipation of being formally introduced to Lady Bridget early next year. Remember to pre-order from Amazon to get the book delivered immediately on release day!

The Rogue Not TakenAnother author who is coming back to the romance scene with a new series is fan-favorite Sarah MacLean. Her Scandal and Scoundrel series kicks off this December with the first book, A Rogue Not Taken. This road trip romance re-introduces us to two characters who made brief appearances in her Love By The Number Series, Sophie Talbot and Kingscote, “King,” the Marquess of Eversley. If you can’t wait until December for the book release, MacLean is giving her readers a little something to whet their appetites – a romance roadmap illustration, which shows all the major stops along the way for Sophie and King. WARNING: This map does contain what I consider to be some spoilers or plot points, so if you like the surprise of not fully knowing where the characters go and encounter, you may want to wait until after you read the book. I allowed myself to read the first few bullets, but then decided to stop because I love living in-the-moment with MacLean’s characters and plot.

December Releases

Some of my favorite authors are putting out December releases that you may want to pre-order including Stephanie Laurens who is releasing a new historical adventure series with The Lady’s Command. Tessa Dare also has a new novella out, perfect for a Christmas read, Lord Dashwood Missed Out, from her Spindle Cover series.

New Favorites

The Madness of Lord Ian MackenzieEarlier this fall I decided I wanted to go on a Scottish Highlander binge. To be honest, it was inspired by Tessa Dare’s When a Scot Ties the KnotCaptain Logan MacKenzie may be one of my favorite heroes. Ever. So I highly recommend.

Back to my desire for more Highlanders in my life – I ended up doing some researching on Goodreads and rolled the dice on a new author (to me) Jennifer Ashley. She has an eight book series featuring one the most fabulous Scottish families I have ever read about, The Mackenzies. The first book, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, first had me a bit nervous if I was going to like the hero. Not because he is unlikeable, but because he is a very different kind of hero. That’s all I will say besides the fact that you WILL fall in love with Ian Mackenzie. The series is still going strong too, so I highly recommend you start reading now!

Happy Reading!

Review: The Tempting of Thomas Carrick by Stephanie Laurens

The Tempting of Thomas Carrick - Stephanie Laurens - Review

It’s been a while since I’ve been back in the world of the Cynster Clan. I’ve missed them. A big fan of the original series (and you can read all about THAT here), I was so thrilled to hear that Stephanie Laurens was fulfilling every fan’s wish by writing the next generation of Cynster stories. I love even more than she started with Lucilla, Richard and Catriona’s daughter.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I was so enamored by the original family that I wasn’t sure how I’d feel moving onto the love stories of grown their children. However, when I read By Winter’s Light, Stephanie’s holiday novella, I knew that I was going to really enjoy reading Thomas and Lucilla fall in love.

Below is the book description (albeit a shortened version) and my review follows!

Book Description via Amazon:

Thomas Carrick is a gentleman driven to control all aspects of his life. As the wealthy owner of Carrick Enterprises, located in bustling Glasgow, he is one of that city’s most eligible bachelors and fully intends to select an appropriate wife from the many young ladies paraded before him. He wants to take that necessary next step along his self-determined path, yet no young lady captures his eye, much less his attention…not in the way Lucilla Cynster had, and still did, even though she lives miles away.

For over two years, Thomas has avoided his clan’s estate because it borders Lucilla’s home, but disturbing reports from his clansmen force him to return to the countryside. Duty to the clan leaves Thomas no choice but to seek help from the last woman he wants to face.

Strong-willed and passionate, Lucilla has been waiting—increasingly impatiently—for Thomas to return and claim his rightful place by her side. She knows he is hers—her fated lover, husband, protector, and mate. 

Lucilla sees that Thomas has yet to accept the inevitability of their union and, despite all, he can refuse her and walk away. But how can he ignore a bond such as theirs—one so much stronger than reason? 

Review

I remember being a young tween and wishing I could look into a crystal ball and see what life had in store for me. As someone who likes to plan and organize I would have felt reassured to know that good things awaited me in the future. Alas, while I did not have that luxury, our heroine, Lucilla Cynster, does. Since she met Thomas, and perhaps for a time before that, she has always know he is hers. Never wavering in her confidence, Lucilla takes advantage of the close proximity and unfortunate situations that bring Thomas back to his homelands and his clan in Scotland. Although resistant to Lucilla and his growing feelings, Thomas quickly recognizes the immediate chemistry and continues to tempt them both while bonding over trying to solve the unexplained and slightly bizarre happenings plaguing the Carrick clan. Of course, working together gives the couple ample opportunities to resist (and then to relent) to temptation, both physically and emotionally.

What I found so intriguing about this particular story is the confidence Lucilla has that Thomas is her one and only and that she is responsible for helping lead him (and them) down their destined path. This, of course, backfires, because who their right mind (man or woman) wants their life to be picked out for them without a say in the matter? But what was truly interesting was the difference between Lucilla and Thomas’ feelings. For example, with her unshakeable confidence and inner knowledge telling her Thomas is “it”, Lucilla’s path to love seems a bit easier from the outside. She’s open to falling in love and fully expects a partnership like the one her parents share. She is more concerned with how to help Thomas come to that realization than about examining whether or not he really feels the same way (or could feel the same way). It of course leads for a great plot as Lucilla has travelled so far down the road of love only to look back and see Thomas several paces behind. Thomas, on the other hand, has a long way to go before admitting he’s in love or even in like. Traumatized by his parents death at a young age, Thomas doesn’t expect, nor want, to fall in love with his wife. It’s an absurd idea. His fears are the main block between recognizing and accepting that the chemistry he shares with Lucilla is only an indication of so much more. With so many heroines and heroes across the romance genre doubting themselves and their feelings, it was a refreshing change to see a heroine who absolutely knew what she wanted, what was destined, and what would make her happy…

…Of course the fall for Lucilla when things don’t work out the way she intended (at least at first) is that much harder…and make the love shared between them that much sweeter.

I also have to say – that this book included some of the longest steamy scenes I’ve read in a while. So if you enjoy the steamy, this is definitely a book for you!

Personally, Marcus, Lucilla’s twin brother, stole the show for me. He is such an interesting and contemplative character and I can’t imagine spending all this time investing in a space and in a community and knowing that it’s not your final place – and he handles it with such grace – as far as we know! I’m also dying to know who is really behind all the attacks within the Carrick clan. Stephanie is letting that mystery linger until the next book, which is out in April.

Also – if you haven’t take the time to appreciate the cover art work – please do! I really loved the cover and inside artwork for this book.

Overall, Stephanie does a great job reintroducing us to the Cynster clan, while still letting us know that the next generation is going to be vastly different than the last. She breathes life into these characters and their stories. Considering we’ve moved from the Regency to the Victorian era, I’m really interested to see how these stories evolve for the London cousins and the rules by which they live and love.

Nora Roberts Coming to a Small Screen Near You

Cousin O'Dwyer Trilogy

Have you heard the news?! One of my favorite authors, Nora Roberts (isn’t she everyone’s favorite? The woman is an icon.), has had her latest trilogy opted for a small screen series. Whether it’s a mini series, a TV show, or something else – we don’t have all the details yet. But, it’s so exciting! I remember when Nora’s lifetime movies came out a few years ago…although they could never compete with the books (when can movies or TV EVER compare with books?) I still really enjoyed them. There’s something about having a visual to set the scene and bring some of your favorite love stories to life.

Anyway, Omnifilms has secured the rights to the Cousin O’Dwyer Trilogy. Think smooth Irish brogues, magic, and a united purpose for good to triumph evil. Seriously, I can’t wait.

As much as I love reading my romance novels, I also love to see authors have their work expanded into other mediums. It’s just another way to enjoy the story and create a new experience, and as a reader, I really love that I can extend my relationship with that story even longer and into another channel. I don’t have to quite say good-bye forever, right?

The romance writing industry has undergone some great shifts since it’s inception. From the type of stories told, to the characters brought to life, to exploring different gender, sexuality, social, and universe cultures – there is so much to adore about this genre. So, join in me congratulating, Nora, and here’s to hoping everything moves quickly so we can enjoy these fantastic books again soon!

Challenge Accepted: 31 Days of Romance

31Days

One of my favorite authors, Sarah MacLean, is hosting a 31 days of romance series. Basically, she’s recommending romances that she loves – one per day for the entire month of December.

I love romances, but I am guilty of sticking to my list of a dozen or so romance authors. However, there are dry spells in my yearly calendar of new releases (yes, I keep a Google Doc) and sometimes it’s good to not only branch out in terms of authors, but also genres. Which is why I’m throwing down my imaginary gauntlet. 31 romances? Challenge accepted. 

I don’t expect to read a book a day, although I really wish I could. Jobs, husbands, holidays – they are just get in the way, right? Ha.

But I will read each book and provide my thoughts. I remember when I took a writing course with Sarah, almost a year ago I think, and she assigned us books to read and study all the time. The first was Jennifer Cruises’s Bet Me and I was totally convinced I was going to hate it.

First, I usually prefer historical romances. Oh, I love me a good contemporary (Nora Roberts, Lisa Kleypas, Bell Andre – you make my heart sing). However, Bet Me featured a type of heroine in Minerva (Min) Dobbs that I hadn’t spent a lot of time with. Min isn’t your typical beautiful, thin, graceful heroine. She’s real. She’s got curves and insecurities and attitude. And never in my life had I read a romance that included so many eating scenes and where the enjoyment of food became so central to the book.  It was a huge wake up call to all the different (and amazing) romance stories out in the world. And while I prefer to imagine myself in a fashionable ball gown waltzing the night away, there is just something about Min that stays with you. Maybe because she’s literally someone I could know. Maybe because I actually can relate (I’ve got curves, insecurities, and love to eat…I mean, have you seen my Instagram feed? #FoodLoversParadise). And maybe that’s why I’ve stayed away from those types of romances…because it hits a little too close to home and I want the fantasy. But there is nothing quite as sweet as reading about someone just like you falling madly in love. So Bet Me comes highly recommended.

The second book Sarah recommended was Lily Everett’s Sanctuary IslandAnother contemporary, but it seemed a bit more familiar to me than Bet Me. But that’s where Sarah got me again. In Sanctuary Island the hero (and he really is a hero) is incredibly disfigured after a terrible accident. I had read romances in the past that featured a hero with some kind of disability, although slight. I love my alpha males. This was really the first book that featured a hero that needed healing in a completely different way. I really fell in love with this book and ended up reading it’s sequel Shoreland Drive Additionally, reading this book opened me up the Survivor Series by Mary Balogh – each of her heros suffers from a great tragedy or illness and yet fights to find love. I’m not sure I would have read these books without having first read Lily Everett – so thank you, Lily and Sarah.

And so this is why I’m excited to embark on the 31 days of romance challenge. Some of the books I’ve read and may re-read because it’s been so long, but I’m looking forward to expanding my romance horizons just a little bit more. Won’t you join me? 🙂

Review: Wallflowers Series by Maya Rodale

Wallflowers

I just finished reading Maya Rodale’s Wallflowers trilogy – a historical series set (mostly) in 1820s. I love a great historical trilogy and these hit the spot. What’s interesting about this series is there is a contemporary element as Rodale has three modern day novels about the “author” of the historical Wallflowers series. I haven’t read those yet, but the concept is really interesting and also has a touch of transmedia storytelling to it (more on that below). But first, the reviews!

The Wicked Wallflower

The Wicked Wallflower - Maya RodaleThis might have been my favorite book. The series starts out as three friends, Ladies Emma, Olivia, and Prudence despair of being the only three graduates from Lady Penelope’s Finishing School for Young Ladies of Fine Families to not have wed by their fourth season. Adding to their panic is the school’s 100th anniversary ball that is only a few weeks away. Determined to not be the outcasts on their way to securing (the most) unflattering school history record, the girls scheme and plot to land husbands. The problem? They’re known as notorious wallflowers and are labeled as London’s Least Likely.

In this first book, we watch Lady Emma announce her marriage to the Duke of Ashbrooke in the popular The London Weekly newspaper. Of course, this all comes as a surprise to Duke Ashbrooke who has never met Lady Emma nor proposed marriage. Thanks to a bit of too much sherry and her devious friends, Lady Emma faces the decision of utter humiliation when the Duke denies the marriage or of even larger humiliation of attending the school ball husband-less. To Emma’s delight (or maybe horror), the Duke plays along with Emma’s scheme for reasons of his own.

Redeemed rakes are some of my favorite heroes, and this book doesn’t disappoint. Reading Emma and Ashbrooke fall in love (and the hilarious ways they go about it) is pure entertainment and quite a delight. What I really enjoyed about Emma is that despite (or perhaps because of) being a wallflower, not only does she believe in true love, but she also has a strong mind and wit. I enjoyed her kind nature, her spirit, and her unshakeable belief in HEA for her and her friends. Additionally, I love when the hero has a purpose and passion outside of the heroine (multi-dimensional characters for the win!),which Ashbrooke does with an invention that will change the world.

This book puts the series off to a great start and builds a wonderful cast of characters that soon are the stars of their very own love stories.

Wallflower Gone Wild

Wallflower Gone Wild Maya RodaleShortly after Emma’s story wraps with a HEA, we see Olivia have her chance at marital bliss…to Lord Radcliffe, otherwise known as the Mad Baron. Rumors swirl that the Viscount murdered his first wife and has now returned to town to claim a second victim. To put off her would-be-husband, Olivia and her friends scheme once more and come up with deplorable and completely unladylike scenes to assure Lord Radcliffe that Olivia is certainly not the biddable, docile, and perfect English wife he thinks her to be.

The only problem? Lord Radcliffe is not only innocent (sort of) in his first wife’s murder, but he’s put up with far worse than Olivia’s attempts to dissuade him from the match. What we come to realize is that Lord Radcliffe feels an instant spark for Olivia, which soon ignites to full passion which is quickly followed by full-blown love. Despite not getting what he thought he had bargained for, Lord Radcliffe couldn’t imagine a more suitable wife. Which of course completely terrifies Olivia. But as Olivia roams about town wearing too much make-up, drinking too much wine, and causing tongues to wag amongst the ton, she starts to question everything she really knows about the Mad Baron…and if he is truly mad at all.

I really enjoyed Olivia’s antics because as a young lady myself once, who doesn’t want to break the rules and shake things up (even if we don’t really want to break the rules, right?).

What a Wallflower Wants

What a Wallflower Wants Maya RodaleA slightly darker turn than the previous books, as the last wallflower, Prudence gets ready to attend her school’s ball… alone…and as the only unwed lady in the school’s history. We learn quickly that there is a reason behind why Prudence so readily embraces being a wallflower…a secret that no lady should ever have to keep. However, her burden is slowly lifted and trust in men quietly repaired by Lord Castleton, who Prue meets while stranded due to a unflinchingly long storm outside of London. (How did she get there? You’ll have to read to find out!) Slowly, Lord Castleton and Prue develop feelings as he helps reclaim not only her body, but her soul. However, Lord Castleton has a secret of his own (as many of the best heroes do). One that could destroy himself and most definitely bring harm to Lady Prudence…for Lord Castleton is not who he says he is.

I applaud Rodale for taking on such a serious topic that many ladies of the time faced and for having Prue learn to love herself and another despite over coming a terrible thing in her young life. It was delightful to watch Prue grow and conquer her fears because fighting for love is the worthiest fight of them all.

I really enjoyed this entire series and was a little sad to have them end…the good news? Rodale has expanded her story world through the use of transmedia storytelling, which I teased at the beginning of this post. Stay tuned because a full exploration of The Wallflowers as a transmedia experience is coming soon!