Cover Comparisons: JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood

Sharp-eyed reader Sandia alerted us to the fabulously odd differences between the US and UK editions of the Jh.Rh. Whard Bhlahck Dhaggher Bhrotherhood series. Somehow, the US readership totally lucked out in the covers for these books. The UK…? We’re really sorry.


Sarah: The US Dark Lover cover: brilliant in its simplicity. Maybe she’s taking a bite out of his crime, or maybe she’s nuzzling his carotid, but the female position of power, coupled with the sword and the bleak red tones make this a cover done marvelously well.

And then the UK cover: we’re wet and very sleepy. Nothing is scarier or sexier than sodden, soporific swimmers. RUN, or they’re going to yawn at you. Eh. Maybe.

Candy: I do admit that I like the US version quite a bit. The tattoo, the power inversion (the woman is usually in the position of vulnerability on romance novel covers), the red monochrome, the fact that there’s no vampire titty in evidence—très sexy. (Would that there were such a power inversion within the story, but the heroine’s kind of a doormat of a Mary Sue. A doormat who experiences fabulous orgasms, of course.)

The UK version isn’t half bad. It’s somewhat cheesier, mostly because I don’t like the font for Ward’s name, but I like the female model’s sad, contemplative look. I’m not sure why she looks so mopey, though. Perhaps she’s mourning the mangling of “revenge,” “torment,” “sadist” and “fury”? Or grieving for the wanton slaughter of Hs?


Sarah: The US Cover: blue, ethereal, sexy, and somehow manages to make the Adam’s apple rather sultry.

The UK cover: What the crap is this? It could be a vampire novel. It could be a commercial for Cialis. It could be he just saved a bunch of money on his car insurance by switching to Geico. It could be she has no discernible body fat and a complete lack of underarm wattle. But whatever it is, the image composition is limp and ineffective, two words the Brotherhood would be mighty peeved to have applied to them.

Candy: The US Cover: same schtick as Dark Lover, and I still like it, for all the same reasons I like the cover for Dark Lover.

The UK cover: Generic and rather forgettable, but lookit, these are romance novel covers, and my standards are shockingly low. This cover isn’t making my eyeballs burn, and for that, it gets a pass.


Sarah: The US Cover: I confess I like the solid color with the soft focus necking couples better than the greyscale black and white photography, but it’s still pretty darn sultry.

But the UK cover? Not only have I seen that piece of stock photography before, but in terms of the scale of hawt, it’s like tea left on the windowsill all day. Still, it’s marginally better than the rest of the UK set.

Candy: The US Cover: Except for the fact that I want to say “OM NOM NOM NOM” every time I look at it, it’s OK. It’s starting to verge into generic romance cover with the sharper focus and the male in the biting position and a yuppie haircut.

The UK cover: The models look like they need a bit more food and a bit less working out, but this is true for most commercial models. Again, generic and unoffensive, but not especially memorable.


Sarah: The US Cover: Suntan lotion commercial!

Which goes perfectly with the UK cover, which features a Lands’ End swimsuit models preparing to go wild. Nice bathing suit.

Candy: The US cover transitions nicely into Romance Novel cheese. O-Face? Check. Dude nuzzlin’ on neck? Check. Wind-tossed hair? Check. Sunless bronzer all over this piece, son? Check. They like the sunless bronzer so much, they done poured it alllllll over the cover.

The UK cover, on the other hand, transitions nicely into JC Penney Sunday Coupon Page. Nothing says sexy like a wrinkly strap on a bra only your grandma could love.

Also: poor Ana Gasteyer. Her post-Saturday Night Live tenure has not treated her well.


Sarah: The US Cover: Nicholas Brendon necking a check. Nice.

The UK Cover: Emergency memo to art department!  “Boner” is not the same as “boney.” “Vampire” does not mean he has puncture marks in his own cheeks. “Cystic Acne” does not say romance hero. And we won’t even mention the mullet.

But for the love of Escalade, the hero should not be thinner than the heroine. I’m well aware of the overpopulation of beefcake on the romance cover, but come on now. Too far in the other direction is just as bad. Especially when the Bhrotherhood is each and every one of them as big as a damn house.

Candy: The US cover: I like them so much better when I can’t clearly see the facial features. This guy is cute, but the patchy facial hair? Makes him look like he’s 18 or so, and about as threatening as a cooked noodle. And I’m all about the sweet heroes, really I am, but that’s just not the look that’s representative of the hypertrophied masculinity of the BDB.

The UK cover: Holy shit! That dude looks terrifying.  He makes me think of leeches. Also, the spots on his face look like PLAAAAAGUE. Never have I felt the herpes emanating so strongly from a cover before. Look, when I say I want the male models to look a bit threatening, I didn’t mean “scare me with the possibility of contagious social diseases.”


Sarah: The US Cover is still rocking that sexy ethereal look that I think totally scores.

…while the UK Cover is continuing with the “Lands’ End Swimsuit models go wild” theme, this time featuring Heather Locklear in a nice halter top, possibly faille. Nothing says vampires like swimsuits, apparently. That must make them easy to spot in the UK. Man in a Speedo walking down Edgeware Road? He’s a vampire, looking for the werewolves in London. 

Candy: US cover: Something about the lifeless, mannequin-like look on both models is freaking me out a bit, actually. Again, by romance novel cover standards, this cover ain’t too shabby, but these two in particular fall squarely in the uncanny valley for me.

UK cover: Um, I envy her sports bra? Otherwise, the two of them look about as vigorous as the models in the US cover, though this time it’s because they took too much Xanax before deciding to make out, not because they’re android experiments gone wrong.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    dillene says:

    Okay, so we’ve had lovers enshrined, awakened, revealed and unbound.  What past-tense, passive verb shall next befall our hapless brotherhood?  I’m really holding out for “Lover Audited” or “Lover Punk’d.”

    PS- the dude on the latest cover looks like a caveman.

  2. 2
    moom says:

    As my friend put it when I linked him the last cover ‘Man in a speedo walking down edgeware road is attempting to provoke Allah’ or at least Allah’s earthly servants.

    Yeah, those contrasts are a bit wtf, and why couldn’t they afford actual live ones for the UK covers?

  3. 3
    katieM says:

    I thought the last British cover featured two women!?!  I’m surprised the US covers are better than the British.  Usually the US has the sucky covers.  Although, all the US covers are pretty much the same.  The publishers found a formula they like and they are not about to risk a change.

    Security Word: however71.  Hmmm

  4. 4
    Christine says:

    I actually like the UK cover for Lover Awakened better than the US one.  The couple resemble Bella and Z more so.  The guy’s profile is pretty hot.  Way hotter than the yuppie hair cut dude on the US cover.  That is so NOT a Brother look.  No way.

  5. 5
    karmelrio says:

    As a whole, I have to agree – the US covers rock.  Ward lucked out in the cover dept.  I’m not embarrassed to carry these books in public. 

    The UK cover of “Lover Unbound” makes me think … “Lover Infected” or “Lover Anorexic.”  WTF. 

    And the male model on the cover of the UK version of “Lover Enshrined” looks as badass as a pre-transition John Matthew.  Very bony, very ethereal.  I think I could take him – and I weigh 110 lbs.

  6. 6
    Chicklet says:

    I’m really holding out for “Lover Audited” or “Lover Punk’d.”

    If they did that, I would actually read this series.  *g*

    Now, all I can think of is other possible titles:

    - Lover Downsized

    - Lover Electrocuted

    - Lover Defenestrated

  7. 7
    Mary says:

    The male model on the US cover of Lover Enshrined looks like he’s napping on the female model’s shoulder. Which leads me to a few questions. Is this supposed to scream SEXY to buyers? Or were they going for the “you’ve just sexxorred your man so good/hard/fast/insertyourownwordshere he’s out for the night” look?

  8. 8

    Something about the lifeless, mannequin-like look on both models is freaking me out a bit, actually. Again, by romance novel cover standards, this cover ain’t too shabby, but these two in particular fall squarely in the uncanny valley for me.

    To me, it looks like her back is to the camera, and her head’s been pasted on it backwards. Her throat looks more like a nape. Doesn’t it?

  9. 9
    Nadia says:

    The dude on the cover of the UK “Unbound” looks like he’s giving her a raspberry on the neck.  Perhaps that helps bite-marks heal quicker?  Hmm.  But he’ll be perfect for Lover Exfoliated.

  10. 10
    amy lane says:

    Shouldn’t the anorexic social disease guy have a skull trim and be on the cover of Lover Awakened?  Just sayin’… 

    (btw?  I’m gonna need therapy now that I’m thinkin’ ‘bout vampires in speedos… thanks.  Thanks so much.)

  11. 11

    The UK stock photo for Lover Unbound was, IIRC, the original photo they were using for US Lover Revealed (but then they realized a bunch of other people were using that same photo, so they changed it. I primarily remember it because the chick had fangs, and they looked great (better than the second version of LR’s cover)). The US version was zoomed in, so you didn’t get the pits on the guy’s face.

    I don’t mind the UK covers; they’re still better than other covers that have been featured here. Overall, though (except for the weird mannequins in the last US cover) I do prefer the US versions.

  12. 12

    To me, it looks like her back is to the camera, and her head’s been pasted on it backwards. Her throat looks more like a nape. Doesn’t it?

    That’s what it looks like to me, too. I don’t think the tattoo-design and the flat color beneath it is helping; there’s no suggestion of a chest, so it just looks like a back.

  13. 13
    fiveandfour says:

    My family and I had a debate awhile back about which was the female and which was the male on the US Lover Eternal cover.  They finally got me straightened out.  I wasn’t sure if it was just me that had that issue and liked the cover even though both parties appear relatively androgynous.

    That guy on the UK Lover Unbound makes me think heroin addict.  Regardless of whether it’s drugs or disease, that ain’t a good place to take your audience’s thoughts when attempting to lure them in for a purchase. 

    I always find it interesting that books for situations like this get different covers in the first place.  I mean, my assumption would be that the UK is culturally close enough to the US to be able to use the US cover and achieve the desired sales when we’re talking about a series on vampires.  (So far as I know, when a movie’s promotional materials are created, the same ones are used internationally and that seems to be working all right.)  I suppose the only way to know would be to poll UK inhabitants and ask them which they prefer.  As a USer, I can say I definitely prefer the US covers more.  Or perhaps copyright issues come into play?  Though again, seems like if a cover could be designed for international use from the start, that kind of thing wouldn’t be an issue.

  14. 14
    Claudia says:

    Put a wig on the UK V and you have Phury in all his junkie glory :D I hate the US LEn cover.  Cormia looks like a mannequin and Phury screams “70s porn star”/apeman to me.

    Actually, I’m curious why Lisa Gardner’s blurb changed only for LU. Is the series still new after six books?!?

  15. 15
    Erastes says:

    Perhaps the marketing teams really have it right, because as a Brit, I do like the UK non-Vaselined covers better

  16. 16
    Esri Rose says:

    Actually, movie posters usually are different for different countries. I think everybody’s art department wants to get their hand in, or something.

    “Uncanny valley”… Thanks for my new term of the day!

    The very first cover really did it for me. After that, the impact was lost. Go figure.

  17. 17
    Esri Rose says:

    Oh, and Nadia, way to go on “Lover Exfoliated.” I’m still sniggering over that one!

  18. 18
    plaatsch says:

    something about the lights and shadows and cheekbones on the US Lover Enshrined cover makes me think of Frankenstein’s monster in Young Frankenstein (Frahnk-en-steeeen!)

    All of them are pretty much six of one, half dozen of the other IMO. Except the dozy chick on the UK Dark Lover (zzzzzz) and then it took me a few minutes and closing one eye then the other to even figure out where the people were in the UK Lover Eternal. Sort of a Rorshach approach?

  19. 19

    …there’s no suggestion of a chest, so it just looks like a back.

    Yeah, and her clavicles look more like scapulae.

  20. 20

    I’m with Erastes on this: I’m from the UK and I also prefer the UK covers. I think it might have something to do with the colours and the fact that the UK covers aren’t divided in the middle, but I also prefer the people on the UK covers.

  21. 21
    willaful says:

    As if I wasn’t having enough issues with Furry, that newest cover shows him as looking about 14 years old.

  22. 22
    Cora says:

    The Ward covers are not Piatkus Books’ (UK publisher of Ward and lots of other US romances authors) best effort, but in general I prefer UK covers to their US counterparts. The Piatkus covers for the J.D. Robb books are stunning and they have done a fine job with most Roberts novels as well.

    Plus, UK covers are generally matte, which is much better than that annoying glossy finish on many US covers, which only gets covered in fingerprints anyway.

  23. 23

    Well, I’m not a Brit. So is it a surprise that I like the US covers best? I think the UK covers are uniformly awful. Do we have a large enough sample of Brits to say there’s a cultural think going on here?

  24. 24
    Piper Struemph says:

    Does anyone else think Ted Dansen was the model for Lover Enshrined?  Something about this cover has screamed Cheers at me since I first saw it…

  25. 25
    Kay Webb Harrison says:

    The next BDB book is “Lover Avenged”; it promises to be Rehvenge’s story; it is due out in mid-2009.

  26. 26


    You got me thinking…

    -Lover Circumsized
    -Lover Decapitated

    And the US cover, LE, girlfriend looks like she’s been doing too many shoulder shrugs with the 20lb weights.  She’s totally got a case of Hulk-neck going on.  Of all the covers, it’s definitely my least favorite.

  27. 27

    I guess I should have specified Lover Enshrined rather than just using initials since their are two LE books in the list.

  28. 28
    ev says:

    Lover Emasculated?

  29. 29
    Joanne says:

    Is that Heather Locklear on the UK cover of Lover Enshrined?

  30. 30
    Claudia says:

    I bet Rehv can lift 20lb weights with his barbed wire…

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