As we’ve noted many a time in our cover-cranky series, romance covers are being redesigned into solid colored paperbacks with a “belt” of illustration in the middle, be that a flower or a house or a landscape. Much to our sadness and yet joy, the days of the beefy-chested man-titty clinch cover are coming to an end, it seems.
However, a good number of covers are moving toward the more-expensive but still lovely stepback image. I am a huge fan of the stepback (until something sticky gets between the cover flaps and I can’t look at the image any more) because they often feature some truly luscious artwork. (EDIT: Let me clarify. By “sticky” I mean something gooey from a candy wrapper in the bottom of my purse, or when I splutter lemonade all over my book laughing out loud at some historical anachronisms. No masturbatory impressions were meant by the previous sentence!)
Some of the covers below are stepbacks; others are previous versions of rereleased paperbacks. But all of them have one element in common: the hair. Specifically, the Man Hair.
We asked RWA President-Elect Gayle Wilson why some art departments thought we wanted our visually depicted heroes to have breasts bigger than ours. I must amend that somewhat-rhetorical question to now include, “Why do some art departments think that the longer the hair, the sexier the heroine and the hero?” This question especially applies to historicals- am I the only one who gets a little case of the squicks when contemplating the idea that bathing didn’t happen all that often, so those long, shining locks were probably more than a little in need of some Prell?
Sarah: If you search “romance hair” or “romantic hair” you get prom designs, like this one – but I rarely see an elegantly braided and coiffed hairstyle on a romance novel cover, despite the number of descriptions contained in the novel itself of the able abigail styling the heroine’s tresses into some braided, elegant upsweep for one ball or another.
Candy: When I look at that hair, I feel like I’m looking at one of those mazes on kid’s placemats in restaurants. “Help Little Red Riding Hood Get Out of the Forest!” Except this maze is hairy. And highlighted.
Sarah: But instead of an upsweep, you get the long, tangled hair – almost as if the size of the hair is some feminine indication of sexuality. My hair is down past my shoulder blades, and I’m visibly pregnant, so I must be driving the men on the subway into a orgiastic frenzy. But this chick? All I want to do is get her a comb.
Candy: If the stupid cow goes into battle with hair flowing in the wind like that, she’d get killed in no time. Hair: It Makes A Convenient Handle! Unless… maybe before a battle, she oils it heavily, the way Greek wrestlers oiled their bodies in days of yore to make it more difficult to get a grip?
*distracted by images of hot, nekkid Greek men, all oiled up and…*
Wait, sorry, wha? Oh, yeah. Hair. I agree with you, Sarah. She seriously needs a comb.
Sarah: Same with this chick – got tangles? And what’s up with the uber-short Brad Pitt hair? That might be the most accurate depiction of historical man-hair on a cover yet.
Candy: Long-ass hair, floating in the wind, dislodging all the lice that no doubt reside within…. MMM, romantic.
And fuck that dude’s hair. What’s with his creepy skin-tone? Hot damn, that’s a tan gone badly, badly wrong. Something about his face also makes me think of Planet of the Apes. Like, if Cornelius shaved off his monster ape sideburns, that’d be the face underneath it.
Sarah: I mean, really, what’s she saying here? Your hair is better than mine! I bow to you! I am unworthy! Let me just state for the record here, the man titty with long hair look? I am SO over it.
Candy: The only thing that comes to mind when I look at that dude is “I’m too sexy for my hair, too sexy for my hair…”
Great, besides a sinus headache, I now have THAT SONG stuck in my head.
*shakes fist at sky*
Sarah: Today, monsieur, we are going to style zee hair for zee romance cover. We have zee new style, a hot, hot tres sexy coif we call ‘Zee Hasselhoff.’ Zee bitches, zey will do ze swoon, non?
Candy: Oooh, look! The missing Hardy Boy brother, Gaylord Hardy! The one with the embarrassing predilection for disco circuit parties and chunky gold jewelry!
Sarah: Attention, attention. Federal law now prohibits the use of any and all mullets on romance novel covers. Repeat, due to changes in federal penal code 6969.13, any and all mullets depicted on romance novel covers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Candy: WOW. A perfecta of bad hair: Bad 80s bleach job for the lovely lady, and a mullet with elevated bangs for the be-titted lord.
Sarah: First, this is Beatrice Small’s Intrigued, which is a good name because I am seriously intrigued by that hair. Is it a wig? Is it a toupee? And is he so frustrated at the state of his hairdo that he’s yanking the heroine’s arm off? “You will give me your hair so I can get extensions as long as my man-titties are big, hear?”
And here’s the most awful part: on me? That hairstyle – HIS I mean – would not look too bad. It’s about time for me to cut my hair for donation anyway, so you think if I bring this picture to the hair salon they’ll give me the ‘Intrigued’ haircut? Or will I cause mass hysteria as all the stylists collapse in convulsions?
Candy: Once again, I’m amazed at the preponderance of green eyeshadow in historical times. Just goes to show that bad taste spans history.
And that guy’s hair. Wow. Now we know what happened to the evil toupee that possessed Homer Simpson in The Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror IX.”
Edit: Hang on! I know where I’d seen that hair before! Behold!
The Russian mob boss guy from The Boondock Saints! Man, that toupee gets around. It’s the Paris Hilton of nasty wigs!