Cover Makeovers: Johanna Lindsey

A little while ago, Bookslut ran a very entertaining feature on children’s book covers featuring wizards, complete with various makeovers. I figured we here at Smart Bitch Central could

shamelessly rip off this idea

pay homage to this idea and talk about some of the classics of our genre and how their covers have evolved. First up on the chopping block: that doyenne of hearts and savages and thunder and savagely thundering hearts, Johanna Lindsey. For extra bonus funtimes, swap around the titles and covers. Hell, swap around the individual words! They’re astonishingly interchangeable. Brave the Wild Rogue! A Heart so Savage! Gentle Thunder!

Savage Thunder

This cover, perhaps more than any other, is THE classic Lindsey cover. It has that red-haired chick in a mildly creepy supplicant pose, suggesting that Humjobs Are Imminent—or maybe that crotches will be bashed with fatal force against foreheads. Difficult to tell sometimes. It has some kind of random animal freaking the fuck out in the background. And it has Fabio. Wearing Uggs. With hair dyed black—presumably because that makes him look Indian—and flowing in the wind, except in this case, the wind seems to be coming from below and directly behind him. A thundering savage, indeed. I read this book when I was seventeen years old, and to be honest, I can’t remember a goddamn thing about it other than the sex-on-a-horse scene (she wakes up! On horseback! And she’s coming like a rocket! And then they have crazy screaming balls-out sex on a galloping horsie!) and the cover. Hey, I was a horny teenager. What the hell do you expect me to find most memorable about a Johanna Lindsey novel?

And the re-make? Let’s take a look, shall we?

What the hell? From Little Blowjob on the Prairie to Little House on the Prairie. Surreal. Also, deeply deceptive of its contents. Much as the previous cover makes me cringe, it at least accurately conveyed what you found within. That cover smacks you on the face and proudly proclaims “Feisty redhead heroine alert! You’ll probably want to smack the shit out of her before the book is over! Lots of sweaty, dirty, OMGHOT sex! Indian dude with massive chip on his shoulder! There will be lots of yelling, both when they argue and when they screw like horny, horny weasels!”

The new cover says, rather sedately, “I am a family saga. There are two sisters. And lots of descriptions of the brutal winters. One of them marries a preacher who turns out to be an alcoholic. The other one—the plain one—injures her leg, loses her faith in God, and finds her faith again when she adopts a starving urchin.”

This cover’s much less embarrassing to cart around, but I gotta say, I kinda prefer the old one.

A Heart So Wild

Ahhh, the When Vampire Cowboys Go Gay cover. So much love. So much gauntness.  So much inexplicable posturing—I mean, tango is sexy and all, but why in the fuck are they practicing right by a roaring campfire? One of the classic conundrums of our time.

We go from that bit of pulp camp to:

Ah, yes. I remember this phase of Johanna Lindsey covers. For a while, all her reissues had these huge, lurid flowers on them, and then they were plain with the occasional paint splatter in the background—I like to think of them as the half-assed Jackson Pollock phase of Lindsey covers. They were by and large inoffensive, but also boring as hell, though if I remember correctly, these often had mantitty-licious stepbacks. If I had to choose, I’d say this one makes me less embarrassed to cart around in public, but this isn’t by any means a good cover.

Brave the Wild Wind

If there’s one thing you can learn from this cover, it’s that you can stick two hot, mostly-naked people in a raging torrent of radioactive goo, and it STILL won’t make it sexy. Years from now, the woman’s going to be popping out two-headed kittens and children with their organs on the outside of their bodies, and she’ll be sobbing with regret into her oatmeal. Why did she take that modelling job in college? Why? Whyyyyy?

We go from that piece of strangeness to:

Holy bloated pink horsies, Batman! That horse is straight from a “Where Are They Now” special on My Little Pony. After the Saturday Morning cartoon series, after the insane merchandising, after the mobs of adoring girls, obscurity hit Chocolate Stallion hard. He developed a nasty coke habit, was forced to get a bleach job, and started posing on romance novel covers. How the mighty have fallen.

This re-issue manages to be both more discreet AND more hilarious than the old one. That takes talent.

Gentle Rogue
The cover change for this book is perhaps one of the most whiplash-inducing re-work of all time. But as with all things, you can basically categorize it using a LOLCat dichotomy.

That up there? Visible Buttsecks.

The new cover?


Invisible Buttsecks.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for next week, when we take on Catherine Coulter. Try not to pee yourself with anticipation.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Teddy Pig says:

    That is such a crime. I loved the original Lindsey covers.

  2. 2
    AmandaG says:

    I remember the sex on horseback scene.  Hot stuff when you are young and horny. lol

    I admit that while the reissued covers might be less embarrassing to read in public, part of the fun of trashy romance novels is the campy covers.  I’m on the bench with Teddy.  I love the original covers.

  3. 3
    KCfla says:

    *coming out of lurk mode*
    OMG- the horseback scene- I agree it was wonderful stuff for the hormones back then!

    Perhaps they feel like more people will read them if the covers are not quite so “Hot”? Personally I think it’s a stupid move. They certainly don’t display what the books are about at all. Then again many authors have books whose covers don’t have Fabio-et-al on the covers and they still sell.

    As a reader what I hate most about this is that I’m never really sure whether or not this is a re-issue, or one I’ve read before. Taking the time to figure that out is not always something I have. Expecially at the store with 3 kids in tow!

    (And thanks to the “Bitches” for a wonderful site about books that have cheered- and sometimes depressed me- for years! I hope my comments will be welcome in the future.)

  4. 4
    Teddy Pig says:

    You know, There are literally tons of very tastefully done covers of books I have not read or cannot ever recall reading but I sure have read a Johanna Lindsey or two.

  5. 5
    SB Sarah says:

    CFfla – your comments are always welcome! As are your compliments to the site!

    I have to say, the whole “cover redesign” issue makes me ask myself, and I don’t yet have an answer really, a very troublesome question: “What should romance novels ‘look like’?”

    Mysteries have a whole mess of visual elements that can be employed to convey content, and the same is true for a lot of other genres. So how then did romance get stuck with rearing horses, man-titty, and O-faced women? That’s certainly not the only thing inside the cover of a romance novel.

    So if one is trying to update romances, do they go with historical anachronism like the Woodiwiss cover with the Choo shoes, or do they go with “Romance = Dudes on a dock” a la Lindsey?

    Like I said, I still don’t have an answer. Perhaps this ought to be the focus of this year’s SBTB Cover Art Contest, eh, Candy?

  6. 6
    Lorelie says:

    Sarah, I think the problem is that it’s pretty much impossible to convey “emotional journey in which one or more characters find redemption and both find love” in one still image.

    And I swear, I keep staring at the original “A Heart So Wild” cover and for the life of me cannot see the last letter in Heart as a T.  It’s got two R’s, seriously.  Is it just me?  Am I seeing stuff?  (Or not seeing?)

  7. 7
    Candy says:

    Lorelie: it’s not just you. I made fun of that in the original cover snark of that image, actually. It was the terrible font; the lower case T and R looked interchangeable.

  8. 8
    Babz says:

    I personally like Karen Marie Moning’s reissued Highlander covers with Nathan Lane as the model. Cover says there’s a kilt wearing man inside, title says romance, but it’s not in your face. There’s a certain mystery with the hidden eyes too.

    And Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter books from PIATKUS publisher. Now that I think about it, PIATKUS makes great covers imho. Check it out.

  9. 9
    Claudia says:

    It’s nice to see the horse from the first cover can still get work :)

  10. 10
    Cara says:

    Aw hell, you had to bring up the sordid My Little Pony history, didn’t you?
    Next it’ll be on E! True Hollywood Story. Can’t we give the horsie a break?

  11. 11

    I love that the reissued Savage Thunder shows a lovely home on a perfectly calm day. Blue skies, faint breeze. Neither savage nor thundery. Huh.

  12. 12
    --E says:

    In all fairness, I think I should point out that the “sailors on a ship” cover for Gentle Rogue is from a different publisher than all the others. The Avon Books reissue paperback has a house on it. (Part of the “pastoral house” series of reissue covers.)

    You guys totally left out the era of “single flower centered on pastel” covers, and the “single iconic object (e.g. a key, a spur) on dark jewel tone” covers!

    I’m so sad that Avon isn’t her publisher anymore. The folks at Pocket are giving her blah “women’s fiction” covers. Whatever else you want to say about the evolving Avon covers, they never imitated what other people were doing.

    I don’t know what’s up with those Severn House hardcover editions. I wonder if that’s found/recycled art?

  13. 13
    anonymous reader says:

    Personally, I hate the clinch covers. I feel I must hide them from my kids, my husband, the world. To me, they are embarrassing.

    And, no, the clinch cover is *not* what the book is about. It’s not about the sex only. That’s what bothers me. It cheapens the book, to me. It is about romance and relationships.

    I don’t mind flowery covers or covers with horses or candlesticks. As long as it seems ‘romancey,’ I will understand what is contained inside. I don’t need to see some hulking model with a mullet and a woman with double D breasts in a dress two sizes too small to be interested in picking up the book.

    But maybe I am the only one?

    **Although I do much enjoy the snarky cover days on here**

  14. 14

    I think the new covers could mislead the readers.  At least with classic Lindsey you knew exactly what you were getting.  I hate to think someone picks up one of these expecting Patrick O’Brien or Little House on the Prairie style books and gets a rude surprise.

    And I cackled, loudly, over the “My Little Ponies” cover.  So good to see they’re still getting work, despite the tabloid stories.

  15. 15
    Scotsie says:

    The first thought that flashed into my head with the final cover remake was “WTF is Horatio Hornblower doing there?!”

    If only … if only …

  16. 16

    Funny, as a reader, I always loved the more abstract covers. I hoped I would get one when I became published. But there seems to be a gap between what we say about the clinch covers and what we buy. (“We” being romance readers as a whole.) Clinch covers sell. There’s just no denying it. I’ve heard from editors at big houses that they wanted the “classier” covers, authors wanted them, readers said they wanted them… and sales dropped like crazy when they tried them for a year or so. Big names written in big letters sell themselves regardless, but for the rest of us…

    I think that for the die-hard historical-romance-only readers, the clinch cover is a great way for them to quickly identify the book and mark it as a sexy read. The same may not apply for those of us who read all sorts of different genres, but then maybe we are not the bread and butter of the industry.

    Pubs go where the money is. They’re not out to degrade us or continue the campaign of disrespect perpetrated against romance authors and readers. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) The money is, apparently, in clinch covers. So in the end, I was damn happy for mine. Damn happy. It’s uber-clinchy, practically not readable in public, and noticeable on a shelf of thousands.

  17. 17
    Carrie Lofty says:

    I saw this with Lisa Kleypas’s Only With Your Love. First cover? Gettin’ it on with Candy’s favorite coke-addled historical rock stars. Truth in advertising! Tasteful reissue cover? Swans! Deceptive! For lo, there be zero swans.

  18. 18
    Sarabeth says:

    I will just say that I enjoyed this post. The last cover is definitely Patrick O’Brian type of book cover.

  19. 19
    Liz C. says:

    I don’t remember reading any of these Johanna Lindsey books. I do remember reading Paradise Wilde (reissue had a giant purple flower on the cover) which I could not stop thinking about. It directly led to my insomnia the summer I read it. I can’t even remember why it kept me awake. Just that it did. So thanks, Johanna Lindsey, for causing me many sleepless nights 5 years ago.

    I probably laughed more than necessary at visible and invisible buttsecks.

  20. 20
    Teddy Pig says:

    Hey Victoria Dahl!

    When is To Tempt a Scotsman hitting eBook?

    I want it.

  21. 21
    Teddy Pig says:

    and it’s little clinch cover too.


  22. 22
    Arethusa says:

    Hate clinch covers. Hate ‘em, hate ‘em. Fine to snark at but not to actually buy with my own dollars.  (Only Emma Holly could get me to sadly trump to the cash counter with steroid man on the cover :(.)

    I’ll take boring master & commander covered Lindsay (and even pink horse on speed) over heavily made-up blow jobs by the fire with a rabies infested animal in the background.

  23. 23
    Sarabeth says:

    Oh, now I’m giggling over master and commander coupled with invisible buttsecks. How to explain that to children!

  24. 24

    Darlene, I totally agree that the 2nd Gentle Rogue cover is absolutely misleading. Looks like men playing mens games whatever those games might be. *Cue the owl* I can’t imagine it sold well.

    Teddy Pig, I wuv you. I’m gonna email my editor today and ask about the e version. I expected it to be out by now, since Lord Sin’s was out around the same time as the paperback, and Kalen and I are in the same line. I’ll let you know! (But if you’re going to buy the ebook, I’ll have to send you a cover flat to flash on the subway and/or bus.)

  25. 25

    I blame supermarkets.  I’ve yet to see a romance book featuring a sexy couple pose in those places…it’s all picturesque countryside settings or big fancy calligraphy.  They look out of place over top the latest US mag cover lamenting on the poor health of Janet Jackson now that she’s an outrageous 155 pounds. 

    As for “Gentle Rogue’s” second cover…I’d hit that, if I were a ‘historical novels’ fan. :/

  26. 26
    timepiece says:

    The thing that cracks me up about the original Gentle Rogue cover is that they also used Fabio as the model for another book in the same series (The Magic of You).

    Now, had the two characters been brothers, you might have said to yourself, “we’ll call it a strong family resemblance.” However, the two characters were brothers-in-law. Who hated each other. And yet evidently, they look identical! (well, that could explain part of the hate).

    Yes, I know, the cover art people don’t take these things into account, but it makes me laugh anyway.

    Ha! my check word is series59

  27. 27
    Natalie says:

    The only thing I remember about any of the Johanna Lindsay books I read as a teenager is the sex on a horse scene.

  28. 28
    --E says:

    Sometimes I think publishers and readers both lose track of the purpose of a cover. The clinch covers are successful because they correctly identify the contents. The book may be about more than just sex, but there will be hawt sex in that book.

    Those landscape or iconic covers…it’s hard to tell. Maybe there’s sex, maybe there isn’t. The cover blurbs become the only way to be sure.

    About the only guaranteed code on romance covers any more is if there’s a woman standing alone in a modest clothing in a field, it’s not going to have sex scenes.

    If she’s standing alone in her underwear or corset, then it’s erotica.

  29. 29
    MamaNice says:

    Savage Thunder – w/ the submissive redhead and Fabio as Chief Tight Pants was my first romance novel ever. I was 14, stuck babysitting for 3 snotty little boys…and after I put the brats to bed I found that book on the coffee table and began to read. WOW! After that, every time I went over there to b-sit I searched for that book to read a little more (and re-read that horse sex scene)- I was hooked.

    Personally, my fav horse sex scene of all time is from Kinsale’s Prince of Midnight.

    My ver word is “put 19” I can figure out how they put it in there while on a horse…it’s getting it to stay there that has me confounded.

  30. 30
    Elayna says:

    You know I don’t think I ever grew out of Johanna Lindsey.  I probably should have but I still have all of them on my shelf and I am ashamed to admit well worn and still well read.

    Some of the reissues have the boring plain covers and then you get the clinch cover on the inside or on the spine (and usually the palid heroine is trying to suck the oversized hero’s belt buckle from an uncomfortable looking angle)

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