Hair Today

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?

Think her name is Muffy?

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.

Fire! Fire!

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.

That costume is seriously unflattering, chica.

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.

I think her finger is caught on his man-titty.

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*

Think that chain pulls on his chest hair?

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.

I'm totally intrigued - does he use Finesse?

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!

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    er… what’s a mullet? I thought I knew, but now I’m a wondering.


  2. 2

    <style, a hot, hot tres sexy coif we call ‘Zee Hasselhoff.’ Zee bitches, zey will do ze swoon, non?

    Can’t… breathe… laughter… pee… pants…

    Worst thing? I have this book. And I ripped the front cover off because I could NOT stand to look at it.

  3. 3
    fiveandfour says:

    Personally, I’m quite impressed that you were both able to (mostly) contain your comments on the Intrigued cover to the hair. 

    Because, my God, that’s one squick-inducing picture.  The way the heroine is shoving her butt into the hero with the posture of a cat in heat, the unnatural pose of the heroine in general with her neck back and twisted, her left arm in a death grip and yet posed like a ballerina in getting ready for a leap, the fact that, I’m sorry, that dude is one unattractive guy – he looks like the kind of substitute teacher that kids take one look at and decide to disrespect for the remainder of the day, and the dress – was she stitched into the damned thing? – granted my home ec class was decades ago now, but I still recall that when you see wrinkles like that it’s time to take out the seams a skosh. 

    And to get back onto the topic of hair, yeah that’s one bad ‘do on that man.  It’s GOT to be a put on for the picture because can you imagine seeing that while walking down the street in real life?  My mind is pushing itself into the farthest reaches of my cranium just contemplating the thought.

    I do have some thoughts on hair length and sexual attractiveness (like, have you noticed, that most successful big-name Hollywood actresses have long hair?), but I’m still shuddering over the Intrigued cover and can’t get them to line up nicely for presentation to the public just yet.

  4. 4
    fiveandfour says:

    what’s a mullet?

    It’s that look Billy Ray Cyrus perfected of hair short on the sides and long in back.

  5. 5
    Vicki says:

    That guy on the Dark Gold cover looks like every Preppie Asshole Boyfriend from every early-90’s movie. *shudder*

  6. 6
    Candy says:

    Christine: Mullets are the best of both worlds. Short in the front, long in the back! For more isntances of these atrocities, check out .

  7. 7
    Robyn says:

    I’m worried about Dark Gold man. It’s gonna hurt like heck when that cape chain rips his chest hair out…

    And Just Beyond Tomorrow? Note the location of the quiver. She’s probably got arrows stuck in that wild mane from three battles ago.

  8. 8
    Vicki says:

    >>It’s gonna hurt like heck when that cape chain rips his chest hair out… < <

    Oh, OUCH!  You gave me the heebie jeebies with that one.

  9. 9

    I have visited Mullets Galore. I must now go wash my eyes with bleach while screaming “Gods Damn You, Billy Ray Cyrus!”

    Be back in a bit.

  10. 10
    SB Sarah says:

    Aaah. The Mullet. Business up front, but a party going on in the back!

    Perhaps our website should come with one of these emergency eyewash stations.

  11. 11
    Bam says:

    Long hair in the olden days? Concerns me. Because those people didn’t wash their hair like everyday, right? Plus it’s not like they had lice shampoo or anything. So lice galore? Like in elementary school? When I was in the first grade, I had a bowl cut, but this dirty kid gave everyone lice and my mom wanted to shave my head. Thankfully, my grandmother intervened.

  12. 12
    SB Sarah says:

    OK I can’t believe I am sharing this, but back in the day I worked at a camp for little kids, and one time we had a bit of a lice outbreak – it happens with little kids, I am told.

    Anyway, we had to bring in these women who are Nit Pickers. They sit and comb through hair and pick out the lice and the nits, strand by strand. They don’t advertise; it’s all word of mouth, but someone knew someone who knew someone who knew these ladies, and damn if they didn’t spend hours pickin’ nits. They were amazing and kind and the kids got to hold special dolls just for the pickin’ – and it took HOURS.

    And that job shot to the top of the list of Jobs I Cannot Ever Consider.

    Right after Romance Novel Cover Model and Sanitation Worker During August.

  13. 13
    Angela H says:

    The Memory of Love man looks like he got a little carried away with the blusher.  Either that or he has scarlet fever.

    Maybe the Intrigued dude has a ponytail (or perhaps “queue” is the more historically accurate term) and it’s just tucked away and not visible in the picture.  Not that a ponytail or queue is any better in my opinion.  Coz’ that is otherwise a seriously bad wig and the cover stylist needs to rethink his or her profession.

  14. 14
    Candy says:

    Sarah: Your kids were lucky. When there was a lice outbreak at my primary school in Malaysia, all the affected kids got a petroleum wash.

    Yup. Hair. Washed with petrol.

    Hey, it killed the lice, right?

  15. 15
    Gabriele says:

    OMG, the first one. In my twenties, I had hair almost as long as that lass, but it never flew around my like a glorious (and unnatural) aureole. In fact, I kept it braided most of the time, and finally grew so tired of washing, drying and combing the mess that I had it cut down to shoulder length.

    Way more practical. And it makes an aureole

    And if she uses that bow, she should wear a leather protection over her boobs.

    As should most of the men on those covers.  :-P

  16. 16
    Wendy says:

    The hairiest cover art I’ve ever seen was on the stepback of A Well Pleasured Lady by Christina Dodd.  Damn, the heroine looked like a red-headed Cousin It.

    Unfortunately my Google Image searching has turned up negative.  Trust me though – the stepback is really hairy scary.

  17. 17
    fiveandfour says:

    Perhaps our website should come with one of these emergency eyewash stations.

    I remember seeing one of those for the first time as a kid in a shop class and wondering what it was for.  Now that I presume everyone’s wearing goggles and there isn’t much need for them in schools any more, I think the emergency eye wash manufacturing industry will be damn happy for the business.  (Or perhaps you can set up a virtual station there on the sidebar with a counter for the number of times it gets used—so we’ll have even more ways to amuse ourselves here at SB when we should be working.)

  18. 18

    Sweet merciful gods, Candy. That edit was just genetic hysteria inducing nasty.


  19. 19

    OMG that edit is priceless. Screw the “graphical standards” about nudity, we should start campaigning against mullets and Russian Mob hair on covers.

    *shivers, looking back at picture* Oh, uck! That’s like a Muppet on steroids, man. And not even a good Henson Muppet- a cheap knockoff Muppet on cheap knockoff steroids.

  20. 20
    Vicki says:

    I’m pretty new here, but what is it with the head-thrown-back thing? Is it like the bitch-wolf exposing her neck to the dominate male as a sign of submission? Gives me muscle spasms just looking at it.

  21. 21
    SB Sarah says:

    That is the Neck of Ecstacyâ„¢.

  22. 22

    Maybe it’s just me, ‘cause I’m grown up and like grown up men who look like men, not girly-boys, but will we ever see a cover with a sexy guy with a

    high forehead?  You know, where the hair is kinda waaaay back there?  Where’s Jean-Luc Picard when we need him?

  23. 23

    Maybe she got her locks of love tangled in something and the gentlemen are helping her to free them by pulling on her arm?

  24. 24
    Robyn says:

    “Neck of Ecstacyâ„¢.”


    Sarah, got another no way in hell job for you. A friend of mine was a product tester for toilet paper. Each little square was numbered, and she doled it out to research subjects. They had to RETURN EVERY SHEET after using it. And she had to count them.  :ahhh:

  25. 25
    Vicki says:

    >>but will we ever see a cover with a sexy guy with a

    high forehead?< <

    Mmm. Liam Neeson. Of course, the cover artist would add some ridiculous mane of flowing hair and then it would just be Michael Bolton in a poofy shirt.

  26. 26
    Amy E says:

    Sweet Mother of God!  The mullets!  The mullets!  Oh, I shouldn’t have clicked the link…

    curls into fetal position beneath desk, rocking, whimpering, rocking…

  27. 27
    Stef2 says:

    Shoot, I’m just kinda wowed by the fact that a cover model has actual hair on his chest.  At least, it looks like actual hair.

    Incidental Pointless Side Note:
    I sat by Christine Feehan at the booksigning at RT in April, and she has got to be one of the warmest, nicest women I’ve ever met.  Her daughter was helping her, and as soon as she and Christine discovered it was my first booksigning, they both began handing me autograph stickers.  They bought my book – that was humbling and kinda cool!  She was gracious and attentive to every single fan who stood in a long line to get one of her books.

    I came home and bought three of her Carpathian books and read them all within 2 days.  Bought more, but haven’t read them yet.  I’m not sure I’d ever read a vampire novel before that.  But I don’t recall that my cover had any hairy mantitty.  Bummer that.

    Stef, the ramblin’ rose tonight…

  28. 28
    Maureen says:

    You have given me a good laugh early this morning.  I have always looked at these pictures and wondered why they put these half naked people outside in the middle of nowhere.  Where are they anyway?  But it seems that the publishers have heard your complaints because they are now chopping off the heads.

  29. 29

    They may just be shaking out the gunk rather than the lice. Medieval haircare included rubbing it with a mix of honey, oil, alum and quicksilver. Reckon any self-respecting louse would move out of that mess rather sharpish. Probably onto the tidier head of some guy sporting the trendy “reverse mullet”. That’s short on the top, longer at the sides and puffed over the ears. Oh hold me back.

    There is the historical association: male long hair = virility. From Samson to those wacky Merovingian reges criniti (“Cut my head off, but no, don’t take the hair!!!”) to Fabio, the legend continues. Which begs the question, do flowing locks counteract the girly aspects of man-titty, or enhance it? Or are they subliminally evoking the unbridled passion one is guaranteed to find beneath these covers?

    As for those of us with a fancy for the follically-challenged, I think Suzanne Brockman once wrote a hero with a receding hairline, but he never made it onto the cover (sniff).

  30. 30
    Anna Lucia says:

    Ah, so much to say….

    The mullet link sent my virus checker into apoplexy – you have been warned.

    When you don’t wash long hair, its greasiness balances – if you don’t wash it, you don’t have to wash it.  Eventually.  But as soon as hair powder comes into the equation *ickyickyicky*

    The neck?  I am paying my physiotherapist good money to prevent my EVER doing that much damage to my vertebrae again…

    The archer flaming hair bint?  The first time she fires that bow she’d be bald….  breasts you can avoid, flying locks are a ticket to whiplash.

    Have you ever checked out the UK covers for the Feehan books?  Interesting comparisons…

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